I am pasting below an e-mail I and several other people received this afternoon from Mike Holmes regarding P.Oxy. 5345, the so-called First Century Mark and other Oxyrhynchus fragments allegedly sold by Dirk Obbink:
“Dear Bart, Roberta, Brent, Jill, and Elijah,
I am sending you this note because (1) we are all members of the SBL panel scheduled to discuss P.Oxy. 5345, otherwise known as “1st c. Mark” (FCM), at the SBL Annual Meeting in November, and (2) earlier this year I acquired some additional information regarding this document—information that I feel obligated to communicate to you, in your capacity as fellow panelists.
You will recall that in the aftermath of the publication of P.Oxy. 5345 in mid-2018, one of the lingering questions centered around the role of the Green Collection (owned by Hobby Lobby Stores) in the matter. Given that the Egyptian Exploration Society (EES) repeatedly (and rightly) affirmed that the fragment has never been for sale, why did representatives of the Green Collection seem to think that the Collection had acquired the fragment?
The answer is relatively straightforward: Prof. Dirk Obbink sold it and three other allegedly early Gospel fragments to the Green Collection, the result of negotiations that began in early 2012 and continued into early 2013, when a purchase agreement was executed.
Accompanying this email is a file containing two items. The first is a redacted copy of the purchase agreement between Prof. Dirk Obbink and Hobby Lobby stores, which documents the sale of four Gospel fragments—one each of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, each allegedly dated “Circa 0100 AD.” The second item is a photograph of a list written by Prof. Obbink himself (and in the photograph held down by his fingers) that specifies the contents of these four fragments: Matthew 3.7-10, 11-12; Mark 1.8-9, 16-18; Luke 13.25-7, 28, and John 8.26-8, 33-5. The two items together document the fact of the sale and the identity of the items sold.
In the agreement Obbink clearly asserted (in item 1) that he was the owner of the property described therein. The fragments in question, however, were and remain the property of EES. This is certainly the case in regard to the Mark and Luke fragments, which were published in The Oxyrhynchus Papyri, vol. 83 (2018) as P.Oxy 5345 and P.Oxy 5346, respectively. It is almost certainly the case in regard to the Matthew and John fragments: an EES representative has confirmed to me that EES also possesses fragments of Matt 3.7-10, 11-12 and John 8.26-28, 33-35.
It is worth noting that the Green Collection, though having received title to the fragments (see point 10 of the purchase agreement), never took physical possession of the fragments. Instead, in accordance with other terms of the agreement (see points 10.1-10.2) the fragments were left in Obbink’s custody for research and publication (the intended venue of initial publication being specified in 10.3).
It seemed advisable to consult with the EES about the FCM matter before sharing the information mentioned above more widely, so earlier this month I met in London with representatives of the EES and discussed with them its significance and implications. I am now sharing it with you. You, in turn, are free to share with others or post in your blog (a) the information contained in this letter, and (b) the accompanying document. Please let me know if you have any questions.
The documents that Mike mentioned are appended below:
Wow. More analysis to follow in due course. . .