Some Answers on Fackelmann’s “First-century Mark” Papyrus

When I wrote my earlier post on a papyrus allegedly containing a draft of Mark’s gospel, I also did a bit of searching to see if anything new had come up with regard to Fackelmann’s alleged Mark papyrus. The only thing I came across turned out to be a quite interesting find. There is actually a recent (2015) biography of the Anton Fackelmann, the famous conservator of papyrus and parchment:Fackelmann Cover

The credit for authorship of the book is simply given as “ATON” (yes, all caps), but as the back cover blurb indicates, the volume was written by one of the elder Anton’s sons:

Fackelmann Back Cover
“…It is now his son, who as author with this book movingly ensures that his true and incredible story is preserved for posterity.”

The book arrived a couple days ago, and I’ve had a chance to skim it. There is a lot one could say about this book, but for now I’ll just say it’s clear that the son who wrote the book is the younger Anton, and I’ll focus on the matter at hand, the supposed papyrus of Mark. One of the last chapters is simply titled “Urmarkus.” In part, it repeats the details of the article published in 1986, but it does offer some further insight. The chapter begins by describing the elder Fackelmann’s deep desire to find a very early Christian manuscript in mummy cartonnage:

“…His greatest wish, to find an early Christian manuscript, led him to repeated journeys to the land of his various discoveries. The yearning for Egypt grew increasingly irresistible…” (Außerdem veranlasste ihn sein sehnlichster Wunsch, eine frühchristliche Handschrift zu finden, zu immer neuen Reisen in das Land seiner vielfältigen Entdeckungen. Die Sehnsucht nach Ägypten wuchs zunehmend unwiderstehlich…, p. 188)

This is both intriguing and odd. Intriguing because it suggests that elder Fackelmann was buying mummy cartonnage in Egypt well into the late 1970s, and odd because the elder Fackelmann would have already fulfilled his “greatest wish” with the discovery of a fragment of the Acts of Paul and Thecla, which is said to have been extracted by the elder Fackelmann from cartonnage earlier in the 1970s (see M. Gronewald, “Einige Fackelmann-Papyri,” ZPE 28 [1978], 271-277) and also was inherited by the younger Anton Fackelmann. But I digress. Back to the Mark papyrus:

“For more than two years, a palimpsest laid framed in glass and little noticed by him among all his papyri” (Ein Palimpsest lagerte schon seit mehr als zwei Jahren, hinter Glas eingebettet und von ihm wenig beachtet, unter all seinen Papyri, p. 190)

When the elder Fackelmann finally decided to look more closely at it (“in a quiet hour, just before Christmas”), he determined that the papyrus was to be dated at the latest in the middle of the first century AD, and he recognized the lower writing of the palimpsest as Christian. Then follows a digression that meanders from the Dead Sea Scrolls to the Rylands papyrus of the Gospel according to John. When we finally get back to the “Mark” papyrus, Fackelmann has figured out its identity:

“The fragment was apparently notes of an early Christian community in Alexandria related to Mark the Evangelist” (Bei dem Fragment handelte es sich offenbar um Notizschriften einer frühen christlichen Gemeinde in Alexandria aus dem Nahbereich des Evangelisten Markus, p. 194)

Having determined the contents of the papyrus, he decided what to do next:

As a pensioner and as a (still well-known) conservator of ancient manuscripts, Father was by no means so presumptuous as to publish this important fragment himself. His main problem was to find a prominent expert on New Testament manuscripts with similar saintly patience, who would be willing to devote himself to a text so difficult to read (Als Pensionist und als (immerhin namhafter) Konservator für antike Handschriften durfte sich Vater keinesfalls anmaßen, dieses wichtige Fragment selbst zu publizieren. Sein wesentliches Problem bestand darin, einen prominenten Fachmann für neutestamentliche Handschriften zu finden, der sich mit ähnlicher Engelsgeduld diesem äußerst schwer lesbaren Text zu widmen gewillt war, p. 196)

The elder Fackelmann is then said to have approached Father José O’Callaghan at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome for assistance in getting the papyrus studied and published, but their efforts were foiled by an unnamed papyrologist from Trieste, who was unimpressed by the papyrus and Fackelmann’s readings of it. Then follows a digression on the achievements in the field of medicine of the younger Anton Fackelmann (all narrated in the third person), and then the chapter ends on a somber note, with the death of the elder Fackelmann and the “Mark” papyrus fragment left unpublished!

Only at the very end of the book do we hear again about the fragment. In an epilogue that provides details of the lives of various descendants of Anton the Elder, the discussion of the younger Anton Fackelmann (again in the third person) picks up the story:

“The youngest son Toni, the doctor of internal medicine Dr. Anton Fackelmann, sees it as his most important task to keep the honored memory of his father alive for as long a time as possible. …The noble cause of keeping his brilliant father immortal for posterity, however, remained his main driving force. None could reproach him for maintaining the memory of his father, but in the wide field of ancient philology, he, as a physician, had no reputation to lose. First, he targeted the oldest Christian manuscript, which he named ‘Early Mark.’ He proceeded quickly and published ‘Early Mark’ together with the local professor of Greek, in accordance with his father’s ideas. The edition was made in the Athenian papyrological journal Anagennesis. The publication carries the surtitle, ‘In memoriam Dr. h. c. Anton Fackelmann.'” (Der jüngste Sohn Toni, der Internist Dr. Anton Fackelmann, sieht es als seine wichtigste Aufgabe, das ehrenvolle Andenken an seinen Vater für die Nachwelt möglichst lange Zeit lebendig zu erhalten. …Das hohe Ziel, seinen genialen Vater für die Nachwelt unsterblich zu erhalten, blieb indes seine wesentliche Triebfeder. Das Andenken an seinen Vater zu bewahren, konnte niemand verargen, auf dem weiten Feld der Altphilologie aber hatte er als Arzt selbst glücklicherweise keinen Namen zu verlieren. Als erstes nahm er die älteste christliche Handschrift ins Visier, die er „Urmarkus” nannte. Er ging zügig voran und publizierte den Urmarkus gemeinsam mit dem Professor für Griechisch seiner Kleinstadt gemäß den Vorstellungen seines Vaters. Die Veröffentlichung erfolgte in der Athener Papyrologenreihe ANAGENNESIS. Die Publikation trägt den Übertitel „In memoriam Dr. h. c. Anton Fackelmann“, p. 227)

And so we see that the younger Anton Fackelmann really was the author of the Anagennesis article (apparently with assistance from an unnamed professor of Greek). It seems likely now that O’Callaghan, who both had an affinity for finding early copies of the Gospel according to Mark and also happened to be on the editorial board of Anagennesis, was probably responsible for getting the article into print. So, at least those parts of the mystery are solved. But I definitely leave this book with more questions than answers.

About Brent Nongbri

Visiting Professor at Aarhus University
This entry was posted in Antiquities Market, Anton Fackelmann, Fakes and Forgeries, First Century Mark, José O'Callaghan, Mummy cartonnage, Schøyen Collection. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Some Answers on Fackelmann’s “First-century Mark” Papyrus

  1. Pingback: Anton Fackelmann: Conservator and Seller of Antiquities | Variant Readings

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