Thanks to Alin Suciu and Tommy Wasserman for pointing out that some of the manuscripts and facsimiles that Scott Carroll has been displaying over the last couple of years were part of an exhibition organized by Carroll’s Manuscript Research Group at the National Library of Belarus in 2018, complete with placards containing details that apparently relate to the current owners of some of these manuscripts:
The placards suggest that some of the manuscripts are housed at the “Museum of Christian Missions” in South Korea, which seems to be the Korea Christian Mission Museum near Busan at the southeastern tip of the Korean peninsula (thanks to A.K. for tracking down the website).
It is good to know where some of these manuscripts are now housed, but the question about where they came from lingers. Tommy also pointed out that at the website for another of Scott Carroll’s undertakings, the “Inspired” travelling exhibition, there are audio recordings for some of the lectures that took place in Hong Kong during Lent in 2017 (1 March – 13 April).
One of Carroll’s lectures for the occasion is entitled “Early Evidences for the Bible.” There are a couple offhand comments in this talk that are interesting in light of the many manuscripts that Carroll has displayed in talks in 2016 and 2018. At about the 8:50 mark in the audio file, Carroll describes some of his own work:
“I presently direct a research center in Michigan. . . .Items come to us from around the world that need definition and research done on them. So on an ongoing basis we’re working with things that come to us that are unknown items. Ah, we came to Hong Kong two weeks ago to set up the exhibit, and I was working on some items from a collection from Los Angeles. The, uh, just to give you an idea of what I do, the collection includes, uh, by our research, uh, the earliest text of the book of Romans in the world, the second earliest Greek text of Exodus in the world, one of the earliest texts of Ecclesiastes, one of the earliest texts of Psalms, and an early text of 2 Corinthians. In addition to that, Homer’s Iliad and Aesop’s fables. . . .I should mention there’s also a very early text of Esther that we’re working with as well.”
This list should sound quite familiar now, as pieces matching this description show up in a number of Carroll’s relatively recent talks online (here, here, and here). It’s hard to tell exactly how many of these texts Carroll intended to associate with the “collection from Los Angeles,” but at the very least “the earliest text of the book of Romans in the world” would appear to be in view here. Is Carroll referring to the fragment identified as a portion of Romans 4 (pictured here in his September 2016 lecture)?
But the chronology is a little awkward, because in this September 2016 talk, Carroll described this manuscript as follows: ““I got this, uh, two weeks ago. It’s the earliest known text of Romans chapter 4.” So, the acquisition date for this piece would be some time in August or September 2016, well after Lent. Perhaps the manuscript was identified in the spring but only purchased later, in August or September. One would like to take Carroll at his word with this kind of thing, but in still another talk given in October 2016 (that I will detail in a separate post), Carroll describes the same piece as follows: “Um, I received this one last week. It is the earliest text of the, um, Epistle to the Romans and is Romans chapter 9.” The accompanying slide shows the same papyrus (with the different chapter identification):
[Digression: In his 2018 talk, Carroll described this manuscript as being “a very early text of John.” To be honest, due to the quality of these photos, I can’t read enough of this papyrus to be able to securely identify the text, so I’m not sure what text it actually preserves.]
In any event, it’s hard to know the value of Carroll’s variations on “I received (or identified or discovered) the earliest copy in the world of [X] just this afternoon (or yesterday or last week).” He uses these formulations frequently.
What collection this “collection from Los Angeles” might be is also still a mystery. The Trismegistos collections database shows a number of collections in southern California, but I don’t know which (if any) of them might have been selling things in recent years.