Some Observations on the Updated EES Statement on P.Oxy. 83.5345

Thanks to Stephen Goranson for noting that the Egypt Exploration Society has posted an updated statement regarding some of the questions surrounding P.Oxy. 83.5345.

There is a good deal of helpful and interesting information in this update. For now, I’ll just comment upon a a few points.

“The identification of the fragment as Mark was made in 2011 by a researcher working for Professor Obbink, then one of the General Editors of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri series. Professor Obbink decided he would himself prepare the text for publication.”

First, congratulations to the (unnamed) “researcher” who in 2011 identified the piece as belonging to the Gospel According to Mark. Well done. A pity the researcher was not able to publish the manuscript her/himself.

There is also some new (to me, anyway) information about the cataloguing process:

“EES records include a photograph and brief record card for each papyrus awaiting publication, which were prepared to assist the General Editors in selecting papyri for future volumes. The cards were created without detailed study of the texts and without access to today’s online search tools. The record card for 5345, created by Dr Coles in the early 1980s, is marked ‘I/II’, suggesting a late first- or early second-century date. He did not identify it as Mark. This is not surprising because the clearest link is a word on the abraded side which would not have been legible on a quick inspection.”

I was unaware of the card+photograph system. This is useful to know. I find the particular treatment of this fragment quite interesting. It is surprising to me that a codex fragment dated “I/II” did not receive more immediate attention, even among the great riches of the Oxyrhynchus collection.

Second, it’s good to get the corrected inventory number: 101/14(b). I’m not aware of other published pieces with numbers especially close to this one. The only one that comes to mind is P.Oxy. 71.4804, a fragmentary leaf from a papyrus codex containing the Gospel According to John assigned to the fourth century, which is 101/157(e).

Third, there is some curious information regarding Dirk Obbink:

“Professor Obbink insists that he never said the papyrus was for sale, and that while he did receive some payments from the Green Collection for advice on other matters, he did not accept any payment for or towards purchase of this text.”

The “other matters” for which payments were received from the Green Collection would seem to involve the purchasing of manuscripts, if I correctly understand the account in Moss and Baden’s Bible Nation (p. 40):

“Despite appearing in Green Collection publicity materials, promising graduate students positions at Oxford partially funded by the Green family, and consulting with the Greens on acquisitions, Dirk Obbink refused to comment on the subject, claiming that he is ‘not involved in the study of [the Green] collection.'”

There is also some strangeness with regard to non-disclosure agreements. According to the new EES statement:

“The EES has no knowledge of, and has never seen, the NDA which Professor Daniel Wallace says someone required him to sign about the unpublished Mark fragment. Professor Obbink too says he has no knowledge of it. …Professor Obbink says that he did show the papyrus in his rooms (where it was temporarily for teaching purposes) to Scott Carroll, but to no-one else except some Oxford students.”

This statement sits somewhat awkwardly with Dan Wallace’s own claims:

“Later in 2012 I did get the opportunity to see the manuscript. I was allowed to see it only after I signed a non-disclosure agreement. From that point on, I have essentially kept my mouth shut (though I was also asked not to take the blog down, since that would only raise more questions). What struck me about the fragment especially was that in Mark 1.17 instead of αυτοις ο Ιησους the papyrus did not have ο Ιησους.”

It would be helpful to know with whom that non-disclosure agreement was signed as well as the exact circumstances of this viewing of the manuscript in 2012 (such information would of course need to be supplied by Wallace, not the EES). Given some of my own experiences in asking about unpublished materials in the Oxyrhynchus collection, I’m really quite taken aback at the way this particular unpublished piece was so freely paraded around (to, it seems, a particular kind of audience).

Along with everyone else, I’m happy to see more Christian material from Oxyrhychus published. It’s always exciting to see the new material. But even this updated statement from the EES leaves me feeling like there is a lot that was…unusual about the study and publication of this piece.



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12 Responses to Some Observations on the Updated EES Statement on P.Oxy. 83.5345

  1. Patty says:

    So what do you think Wallace saw? I think he signed a NDA with the Greens. What do you think?

  2. Greg M. says:

    If Wallace signed an NDA then it seems to me that Obbink would have known. The only way that he might not have known would be if the fragment was out of his hands at some point. Why would this have happened? Would EES be ok with such valuable fragments being lent out? What is their process for lending out one of a kind fragments? But, if that did not happen then how could Wallace have seen the fragment and/or signed an NDA without Obbink knowing? Then the question is: if Obbink knew about the NDA with unknown persons then why doesn’t EES? Between Wallace and Obbink and EES someone is lying at worst and being very disingenuous at the least.

  3. Possibly, perhaps, maybe–though I do not know–a Green-associated Oxford student showed Wallace. Might be peculiar that the EES did not name the student and/or “reseacher” who identified Mark.

  4. JoshuaJ says:

    I’m starting to think there never was any NDA at all and that Wallace never actually saw the manuscript prior to its publication. There are so many things in Wallace’s story that do not square with this most recent response from EES.

    What is striking about Wallace’s own statement on his blog is his claim that he was initially authorized and even encouraged to disclose the existence of FCM in his debate with Ehrman in order to make it “go viral”, but that he later signed an NDA in order to see the fragment that precluded him from saying anything “about when it would be published or whether it even exists.” So he was initially authorized and encouraged to disclose the fragment’s existence in hopes of creating widespread publicity, but later not allowed to speak about the fragment’s existence per the NDA? This makes little sense, unless Wallace means to suggest that the counterparty to his NDA was not the same person/group who initially told him about the fragment and encouraged its disclosure.

    Whatever the case, the version of the story offered by Wallace does not at all square with the responses from EES.

    • Patty says:

      According to Bible Nation, the GSI had Jennifer Larson and her students who studied a papyri sign a NDA. I agree with you about Wallace though.

  5. Wallace’s statement is not impossible, as I tried to suggest above.

  6. It is quite unlikely that some student would have free access to something in the custody of Dr. Obbink “in his rooms”. Moreover, there are other discrepancies in the statement from EES. The unnamed “researcher” is most probably Dr. Scott Carroll, his tweets at that time force me to think so. And from his tweets, it is clear that there was no “Green associated student” in Oxford at the time of identification of the fragment as Mark. Ultimately the question we need to ask is Did an Oxford Papyrologist deceive Christian Apologists?

    • According to Scott Carroll, as reported by C. Moss and J. Baden (May 25 this year), in 2011, when he first saw the ms, “[Obbink] showed me with great excitement what he said was a late-1[st] but not later than an early 2nd century papyrus of Mark 1.”
      If that is the case, then it was already identified as Mark, by someone other than Carroll.

  7. Pingback: Still more on P.Oxy. 83.5345 | Variant Readings

  8. Did Dan Wallace see the ms itself in Oxford or a photograph?
    Did Dirk Obbink tell Wallace directly that it was for sale?

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