The Green Collection 1 Samuel Papyrus and Mummy Cartonnage

In the course of rooting around online for further insight into the early Christian papyrus fragments I have been discussing (here and here), I’ve followed in the tracks of others (like Brice Jones and Roberta Mazza) who were already going down this rabbit hole years ago. Today that path led to another papyrus in the Green Collection that travelled widely in the Passages exhibition. Unlike some of the other camera shy fragments in the collection, this manuscript appeared prominently in promotional materials. It is a papyrus containing the beginning of 1 Samuel in Greek. Here is an image published in the online version of The Oklahoman in May 2011:

1 Samuel Passages Exhibit

Papyrus containing 1 Samuel 1:1-5 in the Green Collection in 2011; image source: The Oklahoman

James Snapp posted a different image of the manuscript in February 2015 that was drawn from a promotional video (more on that below). Scott Carroll has mentioned this fragment on a number of occasions, describing it as “the oldest” papyrus of 1 Samuel (not an especially high bar since there are only a handful of other copies probably dating to the fourth century and later). But in a film clip from 15 May 2016, Carroll gives a succinct account of the origin of the piece (the video is a promotion for the Passages exhibition on the wretched.org website).

Carroll 1 Samuel Wretched Clip

Scott Carroll discussing a papyrus of 1 Samuel; image source: wretched.org

In the video, at about the 14:10 mark, Carroll describes the 1 Samuel papyrus as follows:

Carroll: “And so what you have in the back is a papyrus text of the very beginning of 1 Samuel. And, this I recovered from a mummy mask that I dismantled. Yeah! There were, there were seven chapters…This is the earliest text of 1 Samuel in the world.”
Host: “You found this?” 
Carroll: “Oh yeah, this is my research area. And uh, and underneath this, underneath the seven chapters that were recovered was Homer’s Iliad. So the classical Bible.”

Now, a couple things about this quotation should grab our attention. First, of course, is the claim that this piece came from a mummy mask and was found together with a portion of the Iliad. As far as surviving literary papyri go, the Iliad is very common, due to its prestigious place in Greek culture and education. According to the Leuven Database of Ancient Books, there are 1490 extant papyri of the Iliad (West cited 1543 copies in his 2001 study). Now, if we apply the “cartonnage” filter to the Leuven Database results, that number goes down to 31, all dated between the 3rd and the 1st century BCE. So, that gives us a plausible date range for a “typical” Iliad papyrus recovered from mummy cartonnage (and that fits perfectly with what we know about the use of inscribed papyri for mummy cartonnage more generally). So, does the papyrus of 1 Samuel, which was allegedly found together with the Iliad papyrus, also have a similar date? The handwriting of the 1 Samuel piece does not look Ptolemaic to me. I would hazard a guess of 2nd to 4th century CE (I invite any experts to weigh in in the comments).

That leads to my second observation/question: What does Carroll mean with his repeated reference to “seven chapters” of 1 Samuel? Are there more fragments of this work? Or does he mean seven verses? If so, that’s quite interesting. The face of the papyrus that is showing contains 1 Samuel 1:1-5 (at least the beginning of verse 5). Does the text continue on the reverse? The amount of text in 1:5b-7 doesn’t seem like enough to match the amount of text on the surface that is visible in the photo, but it does raise an interesting possibility: Is this piece supposedly a fragment of a codex leaf recovered from mummy cartonnage? Again, using the Leuven Database, we can see that there are 308 items tagged as “cartonnage.” When we filter those by the format “codex,” the number goes down to just one, LDAB 108863, a 9th or 10th century CE Coptic text that almost certainly was extracted from a book cover rather than a mummy. So, if the 1 Samuel papyrus is from a codex recovered from mummy cartonnage, it would be unique–unless, of course, the other codex fragments that Scott Carroll claims to have extracted from mummy masks are actually legitimate, in which case Scott Carroll would seem to be uniquely able to find mummy masks carrying codex fragments. Anything is possible, but I would like to add this papyrus (whose official inventory number I do not know) to the list of items for which I would like representatives of the Museum of the Bible and/or the Green Collection to provide detailed acquisition and provenance information.

This entry was posted in Antiquities Market, Green Collection, Mummy cartonnage, Scott Carroll. Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to The Green Collection 1 Samuel Papyrus and Mummy Cartonnage

  1. Roy Kotansky says:

    3rd cent. CE, possibly first half, is my conjecture, from the skewed photo.

  2. Matthew Hamilton says:

    Read pages 4 and 5 of Passages: The Experience. Exhibition Guide. The 400th Anniversary of the King James Bible, by S.T. Carroll (Marion: Triangle Publishing, 2012).
    There the papyrus is noted as having 9 chapters, is dated to the early 3rd century AD, and the papyrus “had been pressed and sewn together and recycled for domestic use”
    Looks like there is the ongoing mix up of mummy cartonnage and non-mummy cartonnage

    • Thanks! I don’t have the Passages catalog, but I see now that a piece with very similar writing is described in the Verbum Domini II. The info there is a bit different. In Verbum Domini II, the inventory number is GC.PAP000416.1-.9. Is this the number given in the Passages catalog?

  3. Matthew Hamilton says:

    No inventory number is given. There are 2 photographs, 1 is of the cluster of fragments with I Samuel 1, the other is what appears to be the same fragments when the cartonnage was only partially dismantled. I will try to send you scans of these for your review

    • Graham Claytor says:

      I’m also seeing diaireseis on some of the iotas, a feature that really picks up in 3rd cent. CE. I don’t know why these people constantly confuse book and mummy cartonnage. On purpose?

      • Why mummy cartonnage mentioned so often? I don’t know, but it may sound more exotic and older. Or, if the following (noted in ETC blog comments) is true, because they have a lot of it. “Dr. Scott Carroll, PhD, will [on March 2, 2014] speak on the amazing rediscovery and acquisition of early Christian era Egyptian mummies encased in ancient Scripture text. According to Dr. Marshall Foster, Christian historian, this private collection has spent decades [[from before the law change??]] in a railroad boxcar….this discovery may exceed the Dead Sea Scrolls in importance.” Anyone know otherwise of this boxcar-load? It may be interesting whether any Green publications claim any specific mummy source.

  4. In the Catalogue of Verbum Domini II (2014) – yes I own a copy: amazing, I know… – there is a GC.Pap.000416.1-9 with a snapshot of fragments of 5 lines of writing very similar to these. All the pictures of the Catalogue are cut in a hilarious way in order to prevent any possible reading/understanding since the fragments were said to be assigned for research to the Green scholars. (Scholars and students who happily agreed to study and eventually publish UNPROVENANCED material, by the way. Really a praiseworthy initiative).
    The numbering 1-9 seems to imply various fragments (but who knows who catalogued the collection, it might in fact mean anything…). The piece is defined a codex leaf of 1 Sam 4-5 and is assigned to the late 4th early 5th century. (I would go for the fourth century myself…but hey, I do not want to make a favour to this crowd honestly…).
    Since the Catalogue dates to the post-Carroll Greenery era, unsurprisingly nothing is said about a cartonnage of any kind, a fairy tale that was abandoned for multiple reasons. I would be curious to see the pictures mentioned by Matthew Hamilton, if possible. As for what Scott Carroll says, I don’t understand why you even make the effort to engage with it: Indiana Scotty Jones does not have a clue about anything as it is clear from his speeches and his meagre list of publications. Many institutions and private collectors who bought through him will end in massive troubles (i.e. buggered. May I use this word on your blog Brent?).

  5. Pingback: 1 Samuel and the Green Collection’s “Cartonnage” | Variant Readings

  6. Pingback: “Ink & Blood” Back? (but with less ink?) | Variant Readings

  7. Pingback: More on the Curious Green Collection 1 Samuel Papyrus | Variant Readings

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