Before diving in to this post, a quick note: The conference that was the proximate cause for me trying to organize my thoughts on the topic of the Dead Sea Scrolls said to come from Cave 1 took place a couple weeks ago (“On the Origin of the Pieces: The Provenance of the Dead Sea Scrolls”). My presentation is now available online at the Lying Pen website, along with all the other presentations. If you do watch my paper, please keep in mind that I view talks like this as an opportunity to raise questions and think through issues, and not necessarily as presenting final conclusions to any particular problem.
Now, back to the questions. In this series of posts (see part 1, part 2, and part 3), one of the questions I have been trying to answer is: Which of the purchased scrolls that we call “Cave 1” pieces can actually be connected with the material recovered from Cave 1 in controlled excavations by de Vaux and his team? Today I want to look again the scroll of Isaiah bought by Eleazar Sukenik (1QIsab).
The scroll was one of three purchased by Eleazar Sukenik from the dealer Faidi Salahi in 1947. It was published in 1955. Seven additional small pieces of the scroll were published in DJD 1 as 1Q8. These pieces are sometimes described as having been excavated by de Vaux’s team. For instance, the editors of DJD 32, the re-edition of the Cave 1 Isaiah scrolls, made the following claim in 2010:
“While Sukenik was working on the main part of 1QIsab, those seven additional fragments were found during excavations in Cave 1 by Lancaster Harding and Roland de Vaux, under the auspices of the Jordanian Department of Antiquities. They were published in the first volume in the DJD series in 1955.” (p. 22)
But the editors of DJD 1 are quite clear that these fragments, collectively published as 1Q8, were not excavated. They were purchased in 1950:
“…parmi les fragments édités ci-après, les ensembles nos. 8 (Isaïe), 20 (Apocalypse de Lamech), et 28 (Annexes à la Règle de la Communauté) ont été achetés à un marchand d’antiquités de Bethléem.” (p. 43)
The Bethlehem dealer would no doubt be Kando, to whom this purchase is attributed by John Trever.
In more recent times, other fragments of 1QIsab have been identified in photographs from the Shrine of the Book (identified as “SHR” in these discussions). In 1988, Emile Puech identified a small portion of Isaiah 44 from Sukenik’s scroll among these photographs. In 2002, Eva Jain made a new reconstruction of Sukenik’s Isaiah scroll and identified several more fragments from the scroll among the pieces recorded in photos in the “SHR” series. So now a couple questions: First, I assume that the pieces in the “SHR” frames were part of the batches of material obtained by Sukenik in November and December of 1947, meaning that this “new” material was also purchased and not excavated. Is this correct? And second: Are these SHR series photos available anywhere online?
In 2009 Peter Flint and Nathaniel Dykstra identified several more such “SHR” fragments and placed them in position in the roll as reconstructed by Jain. These authors also placed one PAM fragment from the frame 40.543. But this piece had already been published (but not placed) as fragment 7 of 1Q8, and thus was also part of the 1950 purchase from Kando. So, again, unless I am missing something, there is no connection between Sukenik’s Isaiah scroll and the material excavated by de Vaux’s team.
Barthélemy, DominiqueandJózef T. Milik, Qumran Cave I, DJD I (Oxford: Clarendon, 1955).
Flint, Peter W. and Nathaniel N. Dykstra, “Newly Identified Fragments of 1QIsab, Journal of Jewish Studies 60 (2009), 80-89.
Jain, Eva. “Die materielle Rekonstruktion von 1QJesb (1Q8) und einige bisher nicht edierte Fragmente dieser Handschrift,” Revue de Qumrân 20 (2002), 389-409.
Puech, Emile. “Quelques aspects de la restauration du Rouleau des Hymnes (1QH),” Journal of Jewish Studies 39 (1988), 38-55, at 55, note 40.
Ulrich, Eugene and Peter W. Flint, Qumran Cave 1, II: The Isaiah Scrolls, Part 2: Introductions, Commentary, and Textual Variants, DJD XXXII (Oxford: Clarendon, 2010).
This past semester, for the first time in a long while, I taught a few sessions on New Testament textual criticism. I tried to refresh myself on some of the changes in the field in the last couple decades. I’m well aware that I don’t have an especially strong grasp of the details of the Coherence-Based Genealogical Method (CBGM) that is being used by the Institute for New Testament Textual Research to produce the Editio Critica Maior of the books of the New Testament. So, I wanted to take the opportunity to brush up on this somewhat technical methodology.
One of the confusing things about the CBGM is the definition of terms. A major point on which I still lack clarity relates to the Ausgangstext, the “initial text” that is the outcome of the application of the CBGM. In Wasserman and Gurry’s helpful glossary, the “initial text” is defined as “the hypothetical witness from which all the extant witnesses derive.” To me this sounded quite similar to what we would call the “archetype” in classical textual criticism (although in the framework of the CBGM what is at issue are immaterial witnesses rather than material manuscripts). But I see now that Klaus Wachtel draws a sharp line between the “initial text” and the “archetype” in the following way:
“…the definition of the term ‘initial text’ must be carefully distinguished from the archetype of the tradition, on the one hand, and from the original text of the author, on the other. The archetype of the tradition was a real manuscript, the copy by which the transmission started that put forth the manuscripts we have―and many more that are lost. The original text of the author predates the manuscripts we have by more than a century in most cases. The initial text is the hypothetical reconstruction of the text as it was before the archetype of the tradition emerged. The initial text is the result of methodical efforts to approximate most closely the lost text of the author based on all relevant evidence, not excluding any trace of transmission predating the archetype.” (“Conclusion” to The Textual History of the Greek New Testament: Changing Views in Contemporary Research, SBL Press, 2011)
I think I understand what is being argued here, but I am not quite clear on–I’m not sure exactly how to say this–how far behind(?) the archetype one can go with “traces of transmission that predate the archetype.” I suppose it would depend upon the quality of the “traces”–in this case references to NT passages in the texts of early Christian authors (which, themselves have material manuscript histories with which we must deal). If I understand correctly, then, the “date” of the initial text will vary from book to book (or even from passage to passage?) in the New Testament, depending on the quality of (the texts of) the available manuscripts and “traces of transmission preceding the archetype.”
“…the solution to the misunderstanding about the use of the term ‘initial text’ is to distinguish the meaning from the referent. The term means ‘that text from which the extant tradition descends,’ a definition which allows it to refer to any number of historical entities including the author’s original text, the archetype, or some editorialized text subsequent to both. The benefit of this understanding is that it may allow those with differing opinions about the referent to nevertheless agree on the editorial text itself.”
I think I like this distinction, but I miss a definition of “tradition” in the sense that Gurry uses it here [[see Update below]], which seems different from the use of Wachtel, who refers to “the archetype of the tradition” in direct contrast to “the initial text.” For Gurry, it would seem that “tradition” also includes “traces of transmission predating the archetype.” But maybe I am missing something?
I wonder if it would be helpful to think in concrete terms: 2 Timothy. I think the earliest surviving material manuscript of 2 Timothy would be Sinaiticus (generally assigned to the fourth century), although I guess the earliest surviving immaterial text might be considered 1739, perhaps pushing things back to the time of Origen. Would the initial text of 2 Timothy that we could produce through the CBGM then be considered a text supposedly extant in the middle of the third century, with the exception of those passages cited in Clement of Alexandria, for which we could then say our initial text dates to closer to the end of the second or the beginning of the third century (on the assumption that our critical text of Clement is sound)?
Or am I misunderstanding something in the method?
Update 10 June 2020: Gurry elaborates via e-mail:
“Regarding what I mean by ‘tradition,’ I would include the entire extant textual tradition—so, yes, patristic and versional sources are included. That’s perhaps one distinction from the classically conceived archetype where a stemma codicum is usually limited to manuscripts as such. (Though there is discussion among classicists about how to deal with variants from outside the stemma.)
Re: 2 Timothy, I think you’re right. Although I think Mink would say that unless we have reason to think there is some disjunction between the author’s text of 2 Tim and our 2nd or 3rd century initial text, we are probably fine to assume they’re the same. But this is precisely the point on which the text critic needs to be explicit rather than implicit. The definition of ‘initial text’ does not prejudge the matter in the way the term ‘original text’ or ‘authorial text’ obviously would. That’s what I see as it’s main benefit though, frankly, I sometimes think the whole term is more trouble than it’s worth.”
When I was writing God’s Library, I was constantly confronted with how little I knew about several domains of knowledge that are important for the study of ancient manuscripts. One of these areas is the more technical chemical make-up of writing surfaces and inks.
This branch of manuscript studies has come into the news in the last few years in relation to cases of forgery, such as the “Jesus’ Wife” fragment and the fake Dead Sea Scrolls at the Museum of the Bible and other collections. One aspect of the media coverage of these episodes that has been troubling (to others and to me) is the rhetoric of “science” having detected the forgeries, when in fact a combination of various skills and bodies of knowledge contributed to the detection of the forgeries.
Over the last week, I went back through the Final Report (hereafter “the Report“) on the Museum of the Bible “Dead Sea Scrolls” produced by Art Fraud Insights. I wanted to think more about Emanuel Tov’s objections to the Report, briefly summarized in the National Geographic article that announced the findings:
“I will not say that there are no unauthentic fragments among the MOB fragments, but in my view, their inauthenticity as a whole has still not been proven beyond doubt. This doubt is due to the fact that similar testing has not been done on undisputed Dead Sea Scroll manuscripts in order to provide a baseline for comparison, including the fragments from the Judean Desert sites that are later than Qumran. The report expects us to conclude that abnormalities abound without demonstrating what is normal.”
I still do not agree with that (triple-negative!) first sentence. I have been convinced that these pieces are forgeries, but it is not because of the “testing” provided in the Report (the chemical analyses and so forth). Rather, again, it is the combination of several factors, starting most crucially with the lack of secure archaeological provenance. Beyond that, it is the kinds of arguments that Kipp Davis, Michael Langlois, and others have put forward about the irregularities in the script, suspicious correspondences with modern printed editions, the ink being inscribed on top of sediments on the writing surface, the ink falling into damaged surfaces or over the torn edges of fragments, etc. That is to say, it is not so much the chemical make-up of the ink or the accretions on the writing surfaces as it is the cumulative arguments about scribal activity and the unprovenanced nature of the fragments that makes the case for forgery. Nevertheless, there is an important point in the last sentence of Prof. Tov’s statement: We should have a better idea of “what is normal” when it comes to the materials analysis of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
The authors of the Report seem to have been relatively cautious when making comparisons between the MOTB fragments and the main corpus of Dead Sea Scrolls (“consistent…with other studied DSS fragments,” p. 110; “have been identified in a study of a Qumran scroll,” p. 122, etc., my italics). That is to say, they have not made broad generalizations but instead referred to specific studies. The studies cited in the Report vary in terms of their sample size.
For the skins themselves, there is a foundational study that is based on a reasonably broad set of evidence:
J.B. Poole and R. Reed, “The Preparation of Leather and Parchment by the Dead Sea Scrolls Community,” Technology and Culture 3 (1962), 1-26
I have not found a statement of exactly how many samples the authors used in their study (at one point, however, they mention “forty scroll and leather fragments from Cave 4”). Reed had been given at least 51 small pieces of Dead Sea Scrolls skins that were thought to be uninscribed (just a few days ago Joan Taylor has reported her team’s discovery that some of the fragments were in fact not blank but contained legible text). There are perhaps about 900 different Scrolls represented among the surviving Dead Sea Scrolls fragments (though some of these are papyrus), so the Reed fragments are a small but not insignificant group. Reed’s collection of fragments has also served as a partial basis for several other subsequent studies:
Ira Rabin, “Archaeometry of the Dead Sea Scrolls,” Dead Sea Discoveries 20 (2013), 124-142 (this study also included the Scrolls at the Shrine of the Book)
Marina Bicchieri, Armida Sodo, Ira Rabin, Anka Kohl, and Giovanna Piantanida, “New Results in Dead Sea Scrolls Non-destructive Characterisation: Evidence of Different Parchment Manufacture in the Fragments from Reed Collection,” Journal of Cultural Heritage 32 (2018), 22-29
Ioanna Mantouvalou, Timo Wolff, Oliver Hahn, Ira Rabin, Lars Lühl, Marcel Pagels, Wolfgang Malzer, and Birgit Kanngiesser, “3D Micro-XRF for Cultural Heritage Objects: New Analysis Strategies for the Investigation of the Dead Sea Scrolls,” Analytical Chemistry 83, 16 (2011), 6308-6315.
Timo Wolff, Ira Rabin, Ioanna Mantouvalou, Birgit Kanngießer, Wolfgang Malzer, Emanuel Kindzorra, and Oliver Hahn, “Provenance Studies on Dead Sea Scrolls Parchment by Means of Quantitative Micro-XRF,” Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry 402 (2012), 1493-1503 (this study also included materials from the Shrine of the Book)
When it comes to other specific aspects of the skins and the ink of the Scrolls, however, it seems like we have a much more limited basis for comparison. These are the studies of non-disputed Dead Sea Scrolls cited in the Report (I have added the sample sizes for each study in bold):
Michele Derrick, “Evaluation of the State of Degradation of Dead Sea Scroll Samples Using Ft-Ir- Spectroscopy,” Book and Paper Group Annual 10 (1991), 49-65 (9 samples)
Yoram Nir-El and Magen Broshi, “The Black Ink of the Qumran Scrolls,” Dead Sea Discoveries 3 (1996), 157- 67 (11 samples)
Yoram Nir-El and Magen Broshi, “The Red Ink of the Dead Sea Scrolls,” Archaeometry 38 (1996), 97-102 (4 samples; there are only 4 Dead Sea Scrolls fragments with red ink)
Ira Rabin, Oliver Hahn, Timo Wolff, Emanuel Kindzorra, Admir Masic, Ulrich Schade, and Gisela Weinberg, “Characterization Of The Writing Media Of The Dead Sea Scrolls,” in Holistic Qumran: Trans-disciplinary Research of Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls (ed. Jan Gunneweg, Annemie Adriaens, and Joris Dik; Leiden: Brill, 2010), 123-134 (1 sample, plus samples of modern materials)
Harry Sobel and Henry Ajie, “Modification in Amino Acids of Dead Sea Scroll Parchments,” Free Radical Biology and Medicine 13 (1992), 701-702 (apparently 1 sample, cut into 3 pieces)
Arie Wallert, “Deliquescence and Recrystallization of Salts in the Dead Sea Scrolls,” in Archaeological Conservation and its Consequences (ed. A. Roy and P. Smith; London: International Institute for Conservation, 1996), 198-201 (not available to me for consultation)
Clearly, we could have a larger basis of evidence for studies of writing surfaces and inks, as it seems the holdings of Dead Dead Scrolls by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) appear to be a largely untapped resource in this regard. I asked Ira Rabin of the University of Hamburg about the prospects for such a broad study. According to her:
“It is crucial to obtain an overview of the composition of the writing surfaces and the inks of the majority of the material found in the Judean desert. I hope that one day the IAA will allow it. Admittedly, it would be a laborious and time consuming undertaking because it requires specific high-resolution equipment, expertise to run it, and a lot of patience. On the other hand, the information we would gain is of such tremendous historical importance that recognition of the forgeries would be a mere by-product of such knowledge.”
It would be ideal to have a database containing materials analyses not only for the Dead Sea Scrolls but for all ancient manuscripts. Several non-destructive technologies are already being used by different projects. At the University of Hamburg, there is “Understanding Written Artifacts” cluster (especially the project History of Writing: Black Inks and Writing Surfaces). The project has already built up a good deal of knowledge about materials used in the production of Jewish manuscripts:
Ira Rabin, “Building a Bridge from the Dead Sea Scrolls to Mediaeval Hebrew Manuscripts,” in Jewish Manuscript Cultures. New Perspectives (ed. I. Wandrey; Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter, 2017), 309-322.
Roman Schuetz, Janille M. Maragh, James C. Weaver, Ira Rabin, Admir Masic, “The Temple Scroll: Reconstructing an Ancient Manufacturing Practice,” Science Advances 5 (2019): eaaw7494
Another project, PAThs (Tracking Papyrus and Parchment Paths: An Archaeological Atlas of Coptic Literature), based at Sapienza University of Rome contains a component of technical ink research on Coptic manuscripts. Some of their results were published earlier this year:
Tea Ghigo, Ira Rabin, Paola Buzi, “Black Egyptian Inks in Late Antiquity: New Insights on their Manufacture and Use,” Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences (2020) 12:70
The organized accumulation of this kind of data is a very welcome development for all of us who work on ancient manuscripts. Of course, as forgers grow in sophistication, a database like this could become an asset for producers of forgeries, a kind of guide book for making more convincing fakes. But this is the nature of the symbiotic relationship between forgers and scholars: As forgers produce more advanced products, scholars must respond with even more exacting examinations of unprovenanced pieces (if they wish to use unprovenanced materials at all, a question that is looming on the horizon for all students of ancient manuscripts).
In an earlier post working through some of the details in Ariel Sabar’s piece in TheAtlantic, I noted that it was news to me that Professor Dirk Obbink had incorporated his antiquities trading company (“Oxford Ancient”) in Michigan in 2012. The company name had been known since Mike Holmes released a series of documents said to be part of an invoice for the sale of four Oxyrhynchus gospel papyri by Prof. Obbink to Hobby Lobby:
According to these documents, the company was based in the UK in Oxford, with no mention of Michigan. Since I made that post about the Michigan connection, some colleagues connected with the papyrus collection at the University of Michigan have contacted me to express their doubts that Professor Obbink ever had access to unpublished materials in the Michigan collection.
In trying to learn more about all of this, I stumbled across a couple oddities–things that didn’t make much sense in the past but now suddenly look quite different.
Back in 2012, the archaeologist Dorothy King had been reporting on large numbers of papyri being sold on eBay from the Turkish seller known as MixAntik, a.k.a. Yakup Eksioglu, who, according to Sabar’s article claims to have been the seller of the Sappho papyri published by Professor Obbink. On New Year’s Day 2013, King reported that MixAntik was selling items that he claimed were coming from Oxyrhynchus. Now, according to Sabar’s report, Professor Obbink seems to have had a good working relationship with MixAntik. Sabar relates a story from Jerry Pattengale (so again, a story from a not-entirely-reliable source) of a visit to MixAntik’s apartment in London arranged by Professor Obbink, who is said to have encouraged the Hobby Lobby team to buy expensive papyrus manuscripts from MixAntik. The alleged connection between this eBay seller and Prof. Obbink does not look great.
But there is more. King reported in that same New Year’s Day post that MixAntik was claiming that some of his papyri were “located” in Michigan. At the time, this claim seemed baffling. King noted that this may have simply been a fabrication, a way of trying to avoid Turkish law enforcement. That could certainly be true. But of all the possible places in the world for a Turkish dealer to choose as a base of operations…Michigan? Seems a little odd.
But it brings to mind the stolen Oxyrhynchus papyri owned by California collector Andrew Stimer. Recall Mr. Stimer’s story of their acquisition:
“I acquired both of the manuscripts in the summer of 2015 from Mr. M. Elder of Dearborn, Michigan. He bought them the previous year, in April 2014, via a private treaty sale executed by Christie’s London.”
“Mr. M. Elder,” as Candida Moss established, was the business partner in one of Professor Obbink’s other antiquities trading businesses, Castle Folio. And Where is Castle Folio based? Oxford. At the same address as Prof. Obbink’s other business, “Oxford Ancient”:
So, for whatever reason, there does seem to be some kind of link with the antiquities trade in Oxford/London and the greater Detroit metro area. Strange stuff.
I continue to unpack various parts of Ariel Sabar’s informative article in The Atlantic. One of the things that originally piqued the curiosity of many of us about the Green Collection was their seemingly endless supply of “cartonnage,” a term used to describe both mummy casings made of waste papyrus and the waste papyrus that was sometimes use to stiffen the leather covers of ancient books (for the development of the term, see my earlier discussion). The Green Collection seemed to have a wealth of pieces, and Scott Carroll became famous largely by claiming to have extracted New Testament papyri from them. Even though it now seems that Carroll’s claims were just lies, the question of the source of all this “cartonnage” material remains. The Green Collection had both mummy masks and “other” cartonnage.
First the mummy masks. Mike Holmes had previously reported that the Green Collection had eight mummy masks, four of which had been purchased from Professor Obbink. Sabar’s reporting now significantly raises these numbers:
“…It was one of some 20 masks Obbink sold the Greens. A source who has seen the figures told me that on top of the $4 million to $8 million he charged for papyri, the family paid him $1 million to $2 million for a host of other antiquities.”
In addition, the article introduces another fact that may or may not relate to the masks that Professor Obbink allegedly sold to the Green Collection:
“Obbink had once kept hundreds of Oxford’s uncataloged mummy masks in his rooms, as a favor to the university, which was short on storage.”
This last statement raises a couple questions: 1) I wonder if this was the period of time when this sequence of Alamy photos was taken (the credits in the photos say that they were taken in 2005):
And 2) Were the masks in Professor Obbink’s care really “Oxford’s uncataloged mummy masks” or were they the property of the Egypt Exploration Society? Note the presence of the characteristic metal boxes used for EES items in the background of these photos. And while we’re on the topic of the background of these photos: The recycling of old wholesale cat food boxes is admirable from an environmental standpoint, but they might not be the best method for storing delicate 2,000 year-old artifacts. And the classification system (“HEADS”) does not seem sufficiently precise for differentiating among the artifacts:
It is also worth recalling that back in 2014, Scott Carroll stated that Oxford University was one of his sources for acquiring mummy masks.
While these masks constitute one side of the Green Collection’s cartonnage collection, Sabar’s article also offers some insight into the second related but different set of material in their collection–the “other” cartonnage. Among the purchases made by Hobby Lobby were oddly shaped masses of inscribed papyri. These were not parts of mummy casings. Nor do they look like parts of the papyrus pasteboard sometimes used to construct the leather covers of books (see more details about this phenomenon here). They were just randomly shaped wads of inscribed papyrus stuck together. Carroll once aptly classified them as “thingamajigs.”
As Mike Holmes noted in an earlier post, at least some of the Green Collection Sappho fragments that Scott Carroll pretended to remove from a mummy mask actually came from one of these nondescript chunks:
Sabar has uncovered some surprising new information in this regard. It comes, however, from a not-entirely-reliable source, Yakup Eksioglu, a.k.a., MixAntik, the Turkish dealer who is revealed to be the previous owner of the Sappho fragments.
“In a WhatsApp chat this February, Eksioglu told me that he was, indeed, the source for all the Sappho fragments—the 20 small pieces ‘discovered’ at Baylor, and the large sheet with the two new poems. The claim that they had come from cartonnage purchased at a Christie’s auction in 2011 was a ‘fake story,’ he said. When I asked why some of the pieces looked, in photos, like they had been embedded in cartonnage, he suggested that they had been staged: ‘This is a very simple method, you can do it by wetting.'”
As I said, the source is not entirely reliable. But what he says would go a long way toward explaining the bizarre “thingamajigs” Scott Carroll sometimes displayed. There was, for example, the strange cartonnage circle (said to have been bought from a dealer in Istanbul) that very conveniently had the first page of a codex of 1 Samuel right on top:
And then there was the “Demosthenes,” again, right on top of the clump:
If Mr. Eksioglu is being truthful about having manufactured these “cartonnage” clumps himself, then the question arises of where he got the idea to do so (it’s not exactly an intuitive thing to do with ancient manuscripts). And of course there remains the question of where he obtained all these papyri in the first place. Sabar’s article provides some clues there as well, but that is a separate post.
There really is quite a bit to digest in Ariel Sabar’s long piece on Professor Dirk Obbink in The Atlantic. Here are a couple additional interesting selections:
“Though it wasn’t publicly known, Obbink served as more than just an academic consultant to the Greens: Josephine Dru, a former papyrus curator for the Museum of the Bible, told me he was one of their biggest suppliers of papyri. From January 2010 to February 2013, Obbink sold the family more than 150 papyrus fragments—for a total of between $4 million and $8 million, according to a source who has seen the figures and described them to me as a range.”
It is known that Professor Obbink (legally) sold 9 Oxyrhynchus “Distribution Papyri” to Hobby Lobby in 2010. Professor Obbink is also alleged to be the source of 11 of the 13 stolen Oxyrhynchus items in the Green Collection (the other two stolen pieces are said to have been bought from Khader M. Baidun & Sons/Art-Levant Antiquities of Israel; how Baidun got them remains a mystery). That leaves (at least) some 130 pieces unaccounted for. Which pieces are these? Do they include the Green Collection “mysteries” papyrus? The so-called “unknown Aristotle“? If Prof. Obbink was in fact the source of these other 130+ items, where might these pieces have come from? This is another reason that the Green Collection / Hobby Lobby / Museum of the Bible needs to release the acquisition records for the items they are returning to Egypt so that the wider community of scholars can try to learn more about the networks of dealers behind them.
This leads to another interesting revelation in Sabar’s article:
“On April 10, 2012, three weeks before he parted ways with the University of Michigan, Obbink visited the county clerk in Ann Arbor. He filed paperwork for a new business, listing its principal address as Room 2151 at 435 South State Street—his soon-to-be-former office in the Michigan classics department. The company’s name, he wrote, was Oxford Ancient.”
Oxford Ancient, of course, is the business name on the invoice for the four Oxyrhynchus gospel papyri that Professor Obbink allegedly sold to Hobby Lobby. But the date of 2012 here seems noteworthy. I have to admit that I hadn’t thought that much about the fact that Professor Obbink’s time at the University of Michigan overlapped with his association with Green Collection (Michigan’s website lists Professor Obbink’s period of employment as only including the years 2003-2007). Or that his appointment at Michigan was specifically as Professor of Papyrology, which means that he very likely would have had special access to the extensive collection of unpublished papyri at Michigan.
Now, in my experience, the collection at Michigan is one of the most professional, collegial, and best run in the world. You really don’t get any sense of the type of exclusivity and secrecy that created the conditions for the undetected theft of unpublished Oxyrhynchus papyri from the Egypt Exploration Society’s holdings. But the years 2010-2011 would likely not have been quite normal in the papyrology rooms at Hatcher Library. It must have been a particularly difficult period, when the long-time archivist of the collection, Traianos Gagos unexpectedly and tragically died in 2010, leaving the collection without a permanent curator/archivist for a stretch of time.
That Professor Obbink was selling (legally acquired) papyri to the Greens already 2010 means that he was involved in the antiquities trade even before he established his business, Oxford Ancient, in 2012. I wonder if colleagues at Michigan were aware of Professor Obbink’s activities on the antiquities market?
Ariel Sabar has published a fascinating account of the saga of Professor Dirk Obbink and the Green Collection in The Atlantic. I encourage everyone to check out the whole story here.
For me, the most interesting new details have to do with the activities of Scott Carroll, especially his well known dismantling of a mummy mask at Baylor on 16 January 2012. Earlier this year, Mike Holmes presented evidence suggesting that Carroll had planted the famous Green Collection Sappho papyrus fragments in the mummy mask he took apart that day. This raised the possibility that he had also planted stolen Oxyrhynchus papyri in mummy masks. Sabar’s new research now confirms this, even getting a confession from Carroll:
“[Carroll] filled a sink in the classics lounge with warm water and Palmolive dish soap, plunged a mummy mask into the suds, and began swishing it around. Then he withdrew a wet fragment and presented it to awestruck students.
“He said, ‘Whoa, now take a look at this, and see if you can read it,’ ” recalled David Lyle Jeffrey, a medieval-Bible scholar and former Baylor provost who helped manage the school’s relationship with the Greens. The fragment turned out to be a piece of Paul’s Letter to the Romans. “The kids were bamboozled: ‘Wow! Wow!’ ” It was the kind of eureka moment any professor might hope to inspire in undergraduates.
Jeffrey might have been just as floored, were it not for something he’d noticed when students were first gathering in the room.
Before his demonstration, Carroll had discreetly set a piece of papyrus beside the sink, and Jeffrey had glanced at it. When Carroll withdrew the wet Romans fragment from the mummy mask, Jeffrey recognized it as the piece he’d seen beside the sink. Carroll, he realized, had only pretended to pull it from the mask. …
“When I told Carroll what I’d discovered, he acknowledged planting the Sappho and Romans fragments in the mask at Baylor that day. His aim, he said, was to teach students how to identify papyri, not how to dismount a mask. Unsure of what he’d recover from the mask, he decided to mix in some exciting pieces from the Green Collection. “At the time, I didn’t feel that it was duplicitous.”
Carroll’s comment is pretty breathtaking. One wonders what, if anything, he might actually “feel was duplicitous.” It’s also somewhat disturbing that Professor David Lyle Jeffrey of Baylor University knew about this deception from the start and remained silent until now.
This story just boggles the mind. It’s pretty remarkable to see this whole thing come crashing down in the way it has in recent weeks. Fake “Dead Sea Scrolls.” 5,000 papyri bought without provenance. And now stolen Oxyrhynchus papyri soaked in a sink in order to deceive students. What’s next?
I was reminded this week about one of the wonderful early Christian manuscripts that really didn’t get the treatment it deserved in my book God’s Library–the so-called Cotton Genesis. This small parchment codex was part of a collection amassed by Sir Robert Bruce Cotton (1571-1631) and his descendants. Cotton’s library, organized on a series of shelves each with a bust of a different Roman emperor, was moved the Ashburnham House in London in 1730. In a sad twist of fate, a fire destroyed or badly damaged much of the collection just a year later in 1731:
“Among the manuscripts that fared less well in the fire were those shelved under the bust of the emperor Otho. These included the so-called Cotton Genesis (LDAB 3242), a richly illustrated parchment codex containing the book of Genesis in Greek usually thought to have been copied in the late fifth century. It was badly burned and reduced to ‘a charred ruin.'” (God’s Library, 83)
Here is a sample of the “charred ruin”:
The fire seems not only to have burned away large portions of many leaves and discolored the remains, but also caused them to shrink significantly. David Casley, who was deputy librarian at the Ashburnham House at the time of the fire (and who saved the Codex Alexandrinus from the flames) discussed the damage to the Cotton Genesis in a report written in 1734. He noted that it was mostly destroyed and that “the Leaves of what remains, and consequently the Writing in a just proportion, are contracted into less Compass, so that they are now small Capitals.” More on the shrinkage below.
What drew my attention back to this codex this week was stumbling upon a very nice scan of a portrait of Robert Cotton with his hand on the open Genesis codex. The engraving was produced for the Vetusta Monumenta by the Society of Antiquaries of London. It was published in 1747, but the engraving itself is dated (1744). It is based on an oil painting that appears to have been produced in 1626, well before the codex was burned.
I knew of the existence of the oil painting and the engraving, which have been reproduced in connection with studies of the Cotton Genesis, but I had never seen a really good high resolution scan of either image before. I didn’t appreciate how detailed the engraving is. You can actually see the codex and its script quite clearly in the image:
But is the picture accurate? The Genesis codex had been collated and its variant readings recorded by John Ernest Grabe (1666-1711) in 1703 before the fire. At that time, the codex consisted of 166 parchment folia and a flyleaf bound (during Cotton’s lifetime) in a red leather cover with Cotton’s coat of arms. The text contained 250 illustrations. Already at that time several pages of the original codex were missing. There are no recorded measurements of the codex from that period of which I am aware, but in 1784 Thomas Astle printed a pseudo-facsimile of the text that gives a sense of the typical line length.
According to Astle, “the specimen here given, was made while the writing was in its original state, and before the parchment was contracted by the fire” (p. 70). But, as far as I can tell, no one seems to know how Astle got hold of this “specimen” fifty years after the fire.
Nevertheless, using this and other surviving data, Weitzmann and Kessler calculated that the original page size was about 33 cm high by 25 cm wide, a fairly large codex that was quite a bit taller than it was wide. Thus it seems that (unless Cotton had exceptionally large hands) the codex in the engraving is not depicted to scale (and the proportions also seem off). Strangely, the reconstructed pages drawn for Weitzmann and Kessler’s edition do not reflect the proportions that they themselves calculated. Rather, they seem to be scaled down to the current (shrunken) size of the fragments. Their drawings thus leave the impression of a more square-ish appearance than the codex seems to have actually had before it was burned.
How exactly the codex came to England is also something of a mystery. The manuscript is generally believed to have been in Venice from the first half of the thirteenth century through the end of the fourteenth century. It is argued that the illustrations in the codex served as models for the mosaics in the atrium of the Basilica di San Marco and for the illustrations in the Histoire Universelle (Vienna Nationalbibliothek, cod. 2576). Its arrival in England can be located at some point before 1575, the date of the death of Thomas Wakefeld [Wakefield], the first Regius Professor of Hebrew at Cambridge, whose signature was on the last leaf of the codex. How Wakefeld came into possession of the codex is not known, but a 2002 article by James Carley makes a good case that he probably received it from his brother, Robert Wakefeld, a fellow orientalist and also a known collector of ancient manuscripts. If that is true, it would push the date of the manuscript’s arrival in England back to 1537, the date of Robert’s death. Carley also offers plausible suggestions of how the codex might have come from Venice to Robert Wakefeld (either through the agency of either Richard Pace (c.1482-1536) or Reginald Pole, both associates of Robert Wakefeld known to have visited Venice and been in positions to acquire a book of the quality of the Cotton Genesis. But how the codex came to Venice in the first place is not known. Definitely still some mysteries here.
Carley, James. “Thomas Wakefield, Robert Wakefield, and the Cotton Genesis.” Transactions of the Cambridge Bibliographical Society 12 (2002), pp. 246-265.
van der Meer, Gay. “Sir Robert Bruce Cotton and his Illuminated Genesis Manuscript.” Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek (NKJ) / Netherlands Yearbook for History of Art 16 (1965), pp. 3-15.
Weitzmann, Kurt and Herbert L. Kessler. The Cotton Genesis: British Library Codex Cotton Otho B. VI. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986.
This is the third in a series of questions relating to the source of the first seven Dead Sea Scrolls to appear on the market in 1947. The first post dealt with the Genesis Apocryphon, and the second with the Thanksgiving Scroll.
Now I move on to some questions about the cave itself. The cave we call “Cave 1” is generally regarded as the find spot of the first seven scrolls that showed up on the market in 1947, which we have been discussing:
Rule of the Community (1QS) The Habakkuk Pesher (1QpHab) The Great Isaiah Scroll (1QIsaa) The Thanksgiving Hymns (1QHa) The War Scroll (1QM) A second copy of Isaiah (1QIsab) The Genesis Apocryphon (1QapGen)
What do we know about this cave? It is thought to have been “visited” on several occasions before being excavated by professional archaeologists. Here is an extract from John C. Trever’s outline of events relating to the discovery of the scrolls, The Untold Story of Qumran (1965), pp. 173-180:
1946, November – December (or possibly January – February 1947)
Ta’amireh Bedouins (Muhammed edh-Dhib, Jum’a Muhammed and Khalil Musa) happen upon Cave I near Khirbet Qumran and discover three manuscripts in a covered jar. They remove these and two complete jars.
1947, May or June
Ta’amireh Bedouins take [George] Isha’ya to cave. Later [when? — BN] Isha’ya and Khalil Musa secure four more scrolls, three of which they sell to Faidi Salahi, another Bethlehem antiquities dealer. The fourth scroll is kept by Kando.
Isha’ya takes Father Yusif from Syrian Monastery to visit Cave I.
Apparently during second truce [during the Arab-Jewish conflict] Isha’ya visits cave again and secures Daniel and Prayer Scroll fragments and a few others, which are turned over to St. Mark’s.
Isha’ya, Kando, and others “excavate” cave and secure many more fragments
Dr. O.R. Sellers and Yusif Saad seek to locate cave. Isha’ya demands payment, and negotiations cease.
1949, January 24
Captain Philippe Lippens elicits aid from Arab Legion to relocate cave.
1949, January 28
Captain Akkash el-Zebn rediscovers cave near Khirbet Qumran
1949, February 15 – March 5
Cave I (1Q) excavated. Fragments of about seventy scrolls recovered, and pieces of fifty pottery jars and covers.
So, the cave that was excavated by de Vaux and G. L. Harding in February-March 1949 was said to have been “rediscovered” after several visits by looters (and apparently “rediscovered” without the aid of any of the previous visitors). Here is how Harding summed up matters in the first volume of DJD:
“Then a Belgian observer on the United Nations staff, Captain Lippens, who had become interested in the story of the find, raised the question with Major-General Lash of the Arab Legion. Lash offered, …to send a small contingent of men to the area where the cave was believed to be located in order to try to rediscover it. This was done at the end of January 1949, and the cave was actually found by Captain Akkash el Zebn after only two or three days’ search. The discovery was duly reported back to headquarters, and I went down to examine the place. At first I was sceptical whether it could really be the right cave, but the presence of many potsherds and fragments of linen showed that it had at least been occupied and must be investigated. Accordingly on 15 February the Jordan Department of Antiquities in collaboration with the École Biblique et Archéologique Française and the Palestine Archaeological Museum started work there and continued until 5 March 1949.”
Harding was satisfied that they were in the right place by the evidence of occupation. His supposition seemed to be confirmed by the discovery of two small bits of the War Scroll (1Q33) among the fragments in the cave. And yet, the cave was very clearly a contaminated context, as Millar Burrows vividly describes in his account of the excavation in The Dead Sea Scrolls (1955, p. 34):
“Much recent evidence of depredation was found also. Mixed up with the ancient debris were found exasperating remains of the disastrous efforts of the treasure-hunters the previous winter. There were bits of modern cloth, scraps of newspapers, cigarette stubs, and even a cigarette roller bearing the name of one of the illegal excavators, which Mr. Harding returned to its owner.”
I truly love that detail about the returned the cigarette roller. But I am less happy from an archaeological standpoint. The fact that the site was so very contaminated decreases the value of 1Q33 as a connection to the find spot of the War Scroll. Harding’s quotation above certainly makes it sound like the excavators were looking for a single, isolated cave that had housed manuscripts, and they were happy when they found one fitting that description. But as we can tell with the benefit of hindsight, there were actually many caves in the region that held manuscripts (and jars and textiles, etc.). So, what was the potential for other depositions in the immediate vicinity of “Cave 1”?
Looking at a typical map of the Qumran caves, the obvious answer would be “Cave 2”:
Cave 1 and Cave 2 really are quite near one another:
So, now comes my first question. When we read about Cave 2 in the traditional story of the scrolls, it is described as not being “discovered” until February of 1952–e.g. in Trever’s timeline: “1952, February: Ta’amireh Bedouins discover Qumran Cave II (2Q) close by 1Q.”
First question: February 1952 is when archaeologists first learned of Cave2, but is there any actual evidence for the date when looters found it? Might it have been before February 1952?
When archaeologists did arrive at Cave 2, it was thoroughly picked over. In the words of one of the excavators, “signs of illicit digging were very much in evidence” (William L. Reed, “The Qumrân Caves Expedition of March, 1952,” BASOR 135 [Oct. 1954]). In his discussion of the excavation, de Vaux put matters more starkly: “The cave had been entirely emptied” by clandestine diggers (DJD 3, p. 9). Elsewhere (Revue Biblique 60, 1953, p. 553), de Vaux mentions two small manuscripts found in the spoils left behind by the looters.
Second question: Is it right to say that only two of the texts that we call “2Q” can actually be archaeologically connected to the cave we call “Cave 2”? And what are these two?
It seems at least possible that “Cave 2” materials could have been confused with “Cave 1” materials at some stage on their travels through the antiquities market. And to judge from the results of the survey of caves undertaken in 1952, there were at least a few other places in the neighborhood of Cave 1 that could have been sources for “Cave 1” materials. There are several other areas in the vicinity of Cave 1 that de Vaux identified as having been “utilized by the community at Qumran” (Archaeology and the Dead Sea Scrolls). These sites are highlighted in red in the map below.
In DJD 3, de Vaux noted the types of finds in these areas, which include “Qumran” style ceramics. So it appears again that Cave 1 is not the only possible source of some of the well preserved scrolls generally associated with that cave. And there is some further confusion in the early stories.
It is well known that Muhammad ed-Dhib changed his story about the date of the discovery. After relating to Harding and others in 1949 that he had found the first scrolls in 1947, in a later interview (conducted in 1956) Muhammad ed-Dhib claimed he found the scrolls in 1945. Once again Trever sifted the relevant evidence in an article and confirmed the date of discovery as spring 1947.
It seems to be less frequently noted that in the 1956 interview Muhammad ed-Dhib also identified a different place of discovery. As Trever pointed out in the article on multiple occasions: “His description of the entrance to the cave is clearly not that of Qumrân Cave I…Again he is not describing Cave I.” Trever was referring to the fact that Muhammad ed-Dhib’s account did not at all match the “Cave 1” excavated by archaeologists in February and March of 1949, with its distinctive rock formations and openings. Could Muhammad ed-Dhib have misremembered? Trever mentions a conversation he had with de Vaux:
“On May 15, 1958 I discussed the matter with Father R. de Vaux at the École Biblique in Jerusalem, and he told of sitting with adh-Dhib on a large rock within a few feet of the entrance to Cave I and listening to his account of the discovery…”
Sidenote: I wonder if this was the occasion of this photograph of Muhammad ed-Dhib at “Cave 1”:
What are we to make of the messy state of the archaeological evidence and these conflicting stories? In response to the suggestion by Weston Fields that some of the scrolls normally associated with Cave 1 might have been found elsewhere, the authors of a recent thorough and informative treatment of the assemblage from Cave 1 (Joan E. Taylor, Dennis Mizzi, and Marcello Fidanzio) dismissed the idea in a footnote:
“While Fields (2009) has done an excellent job in documenting the evidence, his final conclusions that there may have been scrolls from a different cave that has been confused with Cave 1Q seems unnecessary to us, and creates complexity as a result of affording weight to less reliable anecdotes.”
Unreliable anecdotes are one thing. But the seemingly widespread archaeological contamination at the relevant sites is not so easily brushed aside. When it comes to the first seven scrolls, we are dealing with looted materials, and as a result, unreliable anecdotes are all we have. That and a couple scraps of the War Scroll that were found in a thoroughly disturbed site in close proximity to several other sites that were occupied at the same time, potentially by the same groups of people.
So, third and final question (for today): On a scale of 1 to 10, how confident should we be that all seven of the scrolls on the market in 1947 came from the cave that we now call “Cave 1”?
I continue to pose a set of questions about the materials said to have been found in Qumran Cave 1. In the first post, I discussed the ambiguous status of the Genesis Apocryphon roll. This post will turn to 1QHa, the Thanksgiving Scroll.
The question here is more straightforward. I mentioned in the last post, that it was my understanding that the War Scroll (1QM) was the only one of the first seven scrolls on the market in 1947 that was also represented among the fragments that excavators actually found in situ in Cave 1 (in the form of 1Q33). Yet, in his thorough account of the early years of Scrolls research (The Dead Sea Scrolls: A Full History, 2009), Weston Fields on a couple of occasions states that portions of the Thanksgiving Scroll (1QHa) were also found by excavators during the 1949 campaign:
p. 103: “It is true that fragments found by Harding and de Vaux in Cave 1 connected the War Scroll and the Thanksgiving Scroll to that cave.”
p. 111: “The official excavation found fragments from Sukenik’s scrolls only. These were fragments of the War Scroll (1QM) and the Thanksgiving Scroll I (1QH). This means that the official Cave 1 was connected archaeologically to Sukenik’s scrolls, but not to Metropolitan Samuel’s.”
p. 113: “…there is no official archaeological evidence connecting Isaiaha, the Habakkuk Commentary, the Manual of Discipline, the Genesis Apocryphon, and Isaiahb with the “Cave1″excavated by Harding and de Vaux.65“
Endnote 65 offers some clarification:
“65. Even the two fragments of the Thanksgiving Scroll do not contain sufficient text to make a conclusive paleographic analysis of the connection between them and larger parts of the scroll. One must also allow for the possibility that the same scribe could have written parts of two scrolls which ended up in two different caves. On the other hand, as Sukenik points out, two scribes wrote the scroll. The second scribe began on line 22 of column 11. (See Sukenik, The Dead Sea Scrolls of the Hebrew University, pp. 18, 38-40 and figures 29 and 30)”
The reference to Sukenik is informative. At the time Sukenik’s edition of the Thanksgiving Scroll (1QHa) was published in 1954-1955, it was commonly believed that 1Q35 was a part of 1QHa, as the plates in Sukenik’s edition indicate:
But to the best of my understanding, this identification was rejected already in the early 1960s, which gave rise to the typical distinction between Sukenik’s large scroll (1QHa) and the excavated pieces designated 1Q35 (1QHb). And I don’t think there is any question here of scribal identity between either of the copyists of 1QHa and the copyist of 1QHb.
So my questions for today are: Has anyone since the early 1960s seriously believed that 1Q35 was a part of Sukenik’s Hodayot scroll? And if not, why was Fields, in 2009, presenting this view as if it was the scholarly consensus?