Green Scholars Initiative: Papyrus Series (Brill Publishing)

Most people know that Brill Publishing announced in 2012 that they would be handling the publication of the manuscripts acquired and studied by the Green Scholars Initiative. At that time, it was expected that the first volume would appear in early 2013. However, this has yet to take place. Many also are aware that the alleged first-century manuscript of Mark and other NT manuscripts from the 2nd and 3rd centuries are part of this same collection that will eventually be published in Brill’s series.

In correspondence with one of Brill’s editors, I was informed that they are currently planning to publish the first volume of the “Papyrus Series” by the end of this year, “hopefully” by the annual SBL meeting in November. It was not indicated to me which manuscripts would be appearing in this first volume, though the initial Brill announcement from 2012 indicated that the (then) planned initial volume would feature a 3rd-century BCE papyrus of a previously undocumented work of Aristotle.

So it appears that those of us waiting for the publication of the Mark fragment (and others) will be waiting quite a bit longer. Nothing appears to be imminent, unless they decide to release details in anticipation of publication.

First-Century Mark Fragment: Possible News

In recent weeks much of the scholarly world has been focused on news surrounding the so-called “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” fragment. However, a few details might be emerging about the alleged first-century fragment of the Gospel of Mark, which was first mentioned by Daniel Wallace two years ago. Two posts from the weekend are worth reading for possible information on the Mark fragment and others.

1) Brice Jones has uncovered a video in which Josh McDowell, the (in)famous Christian apologist, alludes to the Mark fragment (among others) in his discussion of retrieving manuscripts from ancient mummy masks. As has long been suspected, the fragment appears to be part of the collection owned by the Green Scholars Initiative. Another interesting tidbit from the video is that in March 2013, McDowell was under the impression that the Mark fragment would be published in November 2013. This would seem to indicate that publication might be imminent (emphasis on “might be”).

2) Over at Evangelical Textual Criticism, Tommy Wasserman has posted images of several of the fragments – be sure to read the comments for further info.

EDIT: As I stated in 2) above, the comments at Evangelical Textual Criticism are an invaluable resource. One of the most newsworthy comes from noted text-critic, Mike Holmes, who worked on the 1 Corinthians fragment that initially was said to be from the 2nd century. After indicating his reluctance to speak on the matter, due to his agreement with the publisher, he offers this opinion:

“I don’t think that the initial estimate of the papyrus’s date (made prior to its delivery to the three of us) holds up; it strikes me (an amateur papyrologist at best, to be sure) as rather more likely to be 3rd c. CE than 2nd.”

Granted, Holmes is not speaking of the Mark fragment, but it makes one wonder whether something similar will happen with the Mark fragment.

It will be interesting to see how this unfolds in the coming months.

What Counts As Archaeological Evidence Confirming a Biblical Person’s Existence?

In a previous post I referred to Lawrence Mykytiuk’s recent BAR article, “Archaeology Confirms 50 Real People in the Bible” and asked about the criteria employed in such a task. In other words, what counts as archaeological evidence confirming a biblical person’s existence?

I was fortunate enough to have Prof. Mykytiuk reply to my question in the comments to that post. He referred to his published dissertation, Identifying Biblical Persons in Northwest Semitic Inscriptions of 1200-539 B.C.E. In addition, he cited two online resources summarizing the criteria he has employed in his work: 1) his article, “Sixteen Strong Identifications of Biblical Persons (Plus Nine Other IDs) in Authentic Northwest Semitic Inscriptions from before 539 B.C.E.,” which was published in an edited volume; and 2) K. A. Kitchen’s review of Mykytiuk’s published dissertation.

To summarize, Mykytiuk has identified 11 criteria to be used to establish a connection between a biblical character and a piece of archaeological evidence identifying the person. These can be summarized under three questions:

• Are the initial data reliable, in the sense that epigraphic data are authentic, not forged, and that biblical data are well based in the ancient manuscripts, as determined by sound text criticism?
• Do the settings (time and socio-political “place”) of the inscriptional person and of the biblical person permit a match? They should normally be within about fifty years of each other and members of the same socio-political group, for example, late-eighth-century Israelite.
• How strongly do identifying marks that help to specify an individual, such as name, patronym, and title, count for or against an ID? For a reliable ID, they need to be sufficient to insure that the inscription and the biblical text are not referring to two different persons.

Consult Kitchen’s review for further elaboration of the 11 criteria. Note also that Mykytiuk has used 50 years as the maximum allowable time between the biblical person’s alleged existence and the estimated date of the archaeological evidence.

New Testament People Confirmed by Archaeology: Reader Contributions

Archaeology is not my area of expertise, but I do find the subject fascinating. Last week the latest issue of Biblical Archaeology Review published Lawrence Mykytiuk’s article, “Archaeology Confirms 50 Real People in the Bible.” It summarizes the data for 50 figures from the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) whose existence has been confirmed by archaeological discoveries, mainly in the form of inscriptions. Fortunately for those without a subscription to BAR, Bible History Daily has provided the information from the article.

As a scholar of early Christianity, I wonder what a similar list would look like for figures from the New Testament. Going off the top of my head, I came up with these (EDIT: I will add to this list based on new info):

  • Herod the Great
  • Various Caesars (Augustus, Tiberius, Claudius)
  • Pilate
  • Gallio
  • Lysanias
  • Sergius Paulus
  • Aretas
  • Erastus (? – disputed)
  • Simon and Alexander of Cyrene (? – strongly disputed)
  • Caiaphas (? – disputed)

Of course there is the (in)famous James ossuary, too, which I’m leaving off the list. I’m sure that I’m missing others. I’m thinking specifically of the various officials mentioned in Acts that might be candidates for archaeological evidence. So I’m turning to readers to help with this list.

Bart Ehrman vs. Michael Bird, Craig Evans, Simon Gathercole, et al.

This could be interesting…

Bart Ehrman will soon be publishing How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee, in which he offers his explanation of the evolution of early Christology.

Michael Bird has just announced that he and several others will be publishing a book responding to Ehrman’s work, which is titled (not coincidentally, I’m sure) How God Became Jesus: The Real Origins of Belief in Jesus’ Divine Nature – A Response to Bart Ehrman.  Expect to see both books in March.

Cast your vote now for the winner.

N.T. Wright Writes Books Faster Than I Can Read Them

I still haven’t made my way through N.T. Wright’s Paul and the Faithfulness of God, but I noticed today that he has yet another book scheduled for publication in the coming months, and it might be of interest to some readers of this blog:

Here is the publisher’s description:

A thoughtful and provocative collection, in the vein of the intellectual spiritual classic The Weight of Glory, from N. T. Wright, the influential Bishop, Bible scholar, and bestselling author widely regarded as a modern C. S. Lewis.


An unusual combination of scholar, churchman, and leader, N. T. Wright—hailed by Newsweek as “the world’s leading New Testament scholar”—is not only incredibly insightful, but conveys his knowledge in terms that excite and inspire Christian leaders worldwide, allowing them to see the Bible from a fresh viewpoint. In this challenging and stimulating collection of popular essays, sermons, and talks, Wright provide a series of case studies which explore how the Bible can be applied to some of the most pressing contemporary issues facing us, including:


  • Why it is possible to love the Bible and affirm evolution
  • Why women should be allowed to be ordained
  • Where Christians today have lost focus, and why it is important for them to engage in politics—and why that involvement benefits everyone
  • Why the Christian belief in heaven means we should be at the forefront of the environmental movement
  • And much more

Helpful, practical, and wise, Surprised by Scripture invites readers to examine their own hearts and minds and presents new models for understanding how to affirm the Bible in today’s world—as well as new ideas and renewed energy for deepening our faith and engaging with the world around us.