Breaking: EES Stolen Manuscripts Update

The Egypt Exploration Society has just released a statement regarding manuscripts owned by the EES but sold to Hobby Lobby. So, 13 such manuscripts have been identified. 11 of these 13 manuscripts are said to have been sold by Professor Dirk Obbink. The Museum of the Bible has agreed to return the items. The list is here:

Read the full EES statement here. More to come. Thanks to Mike Holmes for the tip.

This entry was posted in Antiquities Dealers and Collectors, Dirk Obbink, Oxyrhynchus Papyri. Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to Breaking: EES Stolen Manuscripts Update

  1. Robert says:


  2. Pattycake says:


  3. As if needed, another caution about buying mss without credible and legal provenance and ownership.

  4. James Dowden says:

    Curious that #9 is noted as “one part”. Did the rest of it not come from Oxyrhyncus then? 🙂

  5. D. Bradnick says:

    If Obbink sold 11 of the 13 manuscripts to the Hobby Lobby, then who sold the other 2 manuscripts? Or did Obbink sell them to a third-party, and then this third-party sold/donated them to MOTB? And if so, who is this third-party?

    • Michael Holmes says:

      Your first question basically one of the FAQ’s that will accompany the MOTB statement when it is available (soon, I expect), so I will quote both the FAQ and the reply here:
      “The EES statement identifies Prof. Obbink as the seller of eleven of the 13 items returned. Who sold the other two items to Hobby Lobby?” (reply:) “Khader M. Baidun & Sons/Art-Levant Antiquities of Israel. The exact circumstances of how those two items moved from Oxford to Israel are unknown to” MOTB.
      Mike Holmes

      • Thanks, Mike. I think at the very least this suggests the possibility of a link between Baidun and Prof. Obbink, and would make all other sales from Baidun potential sources of Oxyrhynchus materials, no?

      • D. Bradnick says:

        I appreciate your response. Thanks for the information.


        In the comment section of your June 25, 2019 post, I make a connection between Baidun & Sons and some items in the Carroll’s Belarus & the Bible exhibit, including a sheet from an Armenian Gospel of John. It seems possible (and at this point maybe plausible) that the non-Green fragments of P129 and P131 may have been sold by Obbink to Baidun and then sold to their current collection. It then raises several questions:

        1. Were other items on display in Belarus also from Oxyrhynchus, such as the papyrus of Exodus and the one of Aesop.

        2. What other unknown items are in this collection?

  6. Timothy Joseph says:

    It certainly is a positive step on the part of the MOTB to return these items without a legal fight.


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  8. James Dowden says:

    Whilst being aware of the irony value of trying to understand cataloguing systems of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri, I do find this part very curious: “The MOTB has informed the EES that 11 of these pieces came into its care after being sold to Hobby Lobby Stores by Professor Obbink, most of them in two batches in 2010.”

    Looking at the MOTB catalogue numbers, there’s a group of three:
    PAP.000120 (three fragments)

    And then a pair:

    If the parchment went with those, then that would be “most of” 11 – i.e. six. (2010 must have been quite a busy year for them to get from 122 to 377 though.)

    The rest look almost scattered (and presumably include the two items that went via that dealer in Israel), but I would be interested to know what PAP.000426 is, as it looks like there may be a third batch going on there:
    PAP.000425 (one part)

    It would be so helpful if the MOTB had an online catalogue…

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