In this episode, Kurt interviews preeminent New Testament textual critic Dan Wallace on the mysterious Mark fragment which was recently published. Wallace is the founder of The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts, which currently has a $100,000 matching grant.
Kurt: Good day to you and thanks for joining us here on another episode of Veracity Hill where we are striving for truth on faith, politics, and society. Very nice to be with you here on this Saturday. We’ve got a great program coming up for you. If you are following news in the apologetic world there has been an announcement regarding the famous Mark fragment, perhaps now the infamous Mark fragment. It was acclaimed back in 2012 that we had a first-century manuscript of the Gospel of Mark. It’s been six years and now Dan Wallace is able to say more about that. Joining me on to today’s program is Daniel B. Wallace. He’s a senior research professor of New Testament studies at Dallas Theological Seminary and his reputation precedes him here on our program today. Dan. Thank you so much for joining us.
Dan: I’m really happy to be on, Kurt. Thank you for the invitation.
Kurt: Yes. Thanks. First and foremost, I know that a lot of people are asking questions, they’ve asked me questions online here about the now perhaps infamous Mark fragment. For our listeners who maybe aren’t up to speed on this, could you give us some background information about what all this news is about?
Dan: Well, in February of 2012, I debated Bart Ehrman at his school in North Carolina-Chapel Hill and in that debate I mentioned that there was going to be published a first-century fragment of Mark’s Gospel. I had this on good authority and was authorized I thought to make the announcement, but nevertheless, I was told at the time that it was definitely first-century. Later, still thinking it was a first-century document, I signed a non-disclosure agreement, then I was not allowed to speak about the issue until it got published and it just came out this week, at least the announcement of its publication. It has been published. Nobody’s seen the book yet. It’s from the Egypt Exploration Society. They published what’s called Oxyrhynchus Papyri. They’ve been doing this since I think 1898, and it’s just amazing the kinds of things that have been found in this one little town in Egypt, but this manuscript was just published. It is not from the first century as I had been led to believe. It’s from the second or third century. The editors of this, this is Oxyrhynchus Papyri Volume 83, and if anybody wants to get a copy of it, they probably won’t find it on Amazon. Maybe they can, but it’s about $150.
Kurt: One of those academic journals. Yeah.
Dan: Yeah. It’s an academic thing. This manuscript is second, third century, which nevertheless makes it most likely the earliest fragment of Mark’s Gospel that we have and it will get the official number of Papyrus 137 and that number’s what’s given to New Testament manuscripts. New Testament scholars have a way of categorizing these manuscripts that’s different from the in-house library because they all use their own systems and there’s a universal system that we follow that was developed by a German and then an American and then a German about 100 years ago. This is P137. The following one that was also published in this Oxyrhynchus Papyri volume in Luke’s Gospel from the third-century is P138 and the next one on Philemon will be called P139. It’s astounding to get three papyri published in one volume, New Testament papyri.
Kurt: Wow. That’s something.
Dan: This is certainly the oldest manuscript that is extant. It exists and we know where it is of Mark 1.
Kurt: Okay. So even with regard to the section of Mark we know that this is the earliest of that section and you’re saying here, correct me if I’m wrong, it might be the earliest of Mark as well, of anything in Mark?
Dan: Yes. Because the dating is late second or early third-century. The only other thing that would compete with it would be P45 which was discovered in the late 20’s, published in the 1930’s. This manuscript is considered to be third-century, sometimes early third-century, but it doesn’t have this section of Mark in it. It’s got all four Gospels and Acts, although just portion. It’s about 30 leaves. Quite a bit more material there than here, but this is early and very significant for that type. This is an astounding discovery even if it’s not first-century. It’s pretty amazing to have this.
Kurt: Yes. We should still be celebrating,
Kurt: Yeah. That’s great. Along with the Mark fragment, I believe there was a section of Luke and there was some other parts of Scripture that were also discovered. Tell us about that.
Dan: Yes. We have Luke 13:13-17 and 25-30. I haven’t seen that manuscript yet, the images of it yet, but I’m getting my Oxyrhynchus volume in the mail here in a couple of weeks. I’ll be able to see that, but this is third-century. It’ll be P138 is most likely going to be the identification. That’s pretty amazing to have, third-century copy of any part of Luke. P45 as I said has 32 leaves, is kind of how you take a quick count. That has portions of all four Gospels and Acts, but this is probably the oldest manuscript now for this passage in Luke.
Kurt: Nice. That’s great. So, there were a lot of questions that came in to me for this interview which is just a wonderful thing. Charles here, he asks, “What the heck took so long?” with a lot of question marks. I think maybe if I could put it more charitably, it was about six years, right, from when you were given the misinformation and to now basically. I know for the Dead Sea Scrolls it took something from like thirty years to when they were discovered to when it was published, so for me, I haven’t minded the necessary weight, but for other people, maybe explain what is this process? Why does it take years, sometimes decades, for this stuff to come out?
Dan: Right. It does. What I did not know at the time when I was told about this was that this manuscript had apparently only been recently discovered. It could have been worked on for several years prior to this, which is frequently how long it takes to look over a manuscript like this. Here’s the issue. These fragments, tiny manuscripts, this fragment is about the size of an iPhone, something along that line. You get a few lines of text on one side, a few lines on the other side. You don’t have either edge of text, the left or the right side, so just text it in the middle. Scholars were able to figure out how large each page would probably be. This was a single column manuscript and how many pages it would be it if was just Mark’s Gospel, which is what they think, 70 pages long, or it could be part of a larger work. Just from a single fragment, they can determine a lot of stuff, but they have to do all sorts of comparisons to get there, and part of it is determining the date. That takes a long long time and there are only just a handful of scholars in the world who are really really competent at dating these early papyri. You have to do it by comparisons of the handwriting with other papyri as well as the size of the manuscript, the size of the letters, how many leaves it has, there’s a number of different things and scholars have worked on this kind of thing for well over 100 years to get it down to a pretty exacting science, but when I say pretty exacting, we still can’t date this fragment any better than second or third-century. At first, they thought it was a first-century fragment, but I was told it was definitely a first-century fragment. That was the information that people had from me and then after I signed the non-disclosure agreement, still believing it was first-century, and haven’t been told that, I just had to go radio silent for six years.
Kurt: You had to wait yourself.
Dan: Yes. I was not in the loop.
Kurt: So what you’re saying is all this time, you yourself have believed it was still possible first-century so it’s not like six years ago you were corrected and told to be silent on it. Right?
Dan: Well, personally, I was not corrected until after I signed the non-disclosure agreement, and at that time, I don’t remember, it was probably a couple of years after it, I was told that it was probably first-century, not certainly first-century. It changed things a little bit, but still I thought, “Why was I told it was definitely first-century?” That’s what I announced in my debate with Bart Ehrman, but I’m not going to name names. I don’t think that’s appropriate and others can deal with that issue.
Kurt: Sure. i certainly don’t want to out the person that fed you the misinformation. I am curious though…
Dan: The person or persons.
Kurt: Person or persons. Yeah. In your blog post this here where you explain the background, and we’ll up a link to this at our site, you write, “I was also told that a high-ranking Papyrologist had confirmed that FCM was definitely a first-century manuscript.” Again, I don’t want out the person or persons that gave you the misinformation, since I have no clue, but are you able to tell us the name of that high-ranking papyrologist? I have trouble with that word or you just prefer not to?
Dan: I prefer not to, because there’s some issues that are unresolved about this and I don’t want to add fuel to the fire. Let others deal with the problems and I’m not in the business of trying to condemn somebody else explicitly. I had to tell my story, but I was not allowed to tell my story until two days ago. I believe something without personal verification six years ago and since that time, once bitten, what is it? I’ve learned the lesson. I can’t remember the idiom.
Kurt: One of the questioners here, Justin, he asks, “What lessons have you learned through this process?
Dan: Well, I’ve learned that I need to personally verify these things if I hear a particular date from a papyrologist I need to ask if I can mention names and I want to make sure I get that directly from that papyrologist or paleographer, that scholar, because to not mention names, I was eager to share this information at the debate that I had with Bart Ehrman….
Kurt: As would anyone.
Dan: What’s that?
Kurt: As would anyone. Anyone would really want to be sharing this information.
Dan: In our second debate at Southern Methodist University just a few months later, he said the earliest manuscripts we have of Mark’s Gospel is third century. How can we possibly tell what this text originally said? It could have been completely different. During the Q&A period there was a fellow who asked, who was actually a good friend of mine, who asked Bart, “What would it take for you to believe that we have good copies of Mark’s Gospel?” I can’t remember the exact wording, I’ve got it written down someplace, but he said something to the effect of, “We’d have to have ten scribes writing within two weeks of the completion of Mark’s Gospel and they make 0.01% errors between them” and that was it and I thought, again, that’s not an exact quote. You can look at the DVD. We have the DVD of the debate for sale at CSNTM.org. It was a professionally done photography team that came and videoed it. That was the largest debate ever over the text of the New Testament, but when he said that, that’s what it would take for him to be convinced we have accurate copies of Mark, well he was setting the bar so high that absolutely nothing before the printing press could match that, except for the original documents we have of something. Even Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. We have, what, five copies of it and they all have some disagreements with each other. This kind of requirement I thought was insane and I worked out the numbers and it ended up being something to the effect of about 1/2 letter difference between these ten copies. You’re not going to get that with a printing press. You’re going to have some inkblots show up. So I thought this was crazy. He said there’s no way we can tell what Mark originally said and he kept speaking about how we don’t have any sense of it. So when I heard about this Mark fragment and that it was first-century, I thought, “This is a good time to mention this in relation to what he had been saying about us not having anything earlier than the third century.” I mentioned it in the debate and he said something like, “Who is this papyrologist? Donald Duck?” So he completely dismissed it which is not appropriate on this part, but the lesson I learned was, “No. I should mention names right then,” and I can tell you who published this thing. It’s in the Oxyrhynchus volume that just came out. This is Dirk Obbink and Daniela Colomo I think? I don’t know the second person, Colomo was the last name, but they are the ones who published it. By the way, just to go back to that in how long it takes to get this published, a fragment of this size and this importance is something that a whole doctoral dissertation could be based on. Someone could spend 1,000, 1,500, 2,000 hours for the publication. They have to do what’s called comparanada where they’re comparing this manuscript to other manuscripts, the kind of font it uses, the dates of these manuscripts. Some are dated. Some are not. All sorts of things. There’s thousands of these papyri that are out there. We need to do the rigorous comparisons to come to the appropriate date and even just figuring out what the letters say is not altogether easy. One of the things I’ve learned in working with papyri and I’ve worked in them extensively since this time, starting in 2013, the very next year, is that the more you know a scribe’s hand, the more you can anticipate what a few dots of ink mean when it’s three or four pages later, because that shape can only mean this letter or this letter or these two or three letters and you have to get used to every single scribe’s hand to be able to determine it. You can’t just come into it blind and transcribe a single page of papyrus. You work into the whole text. CSNTM has worked, we spent over 10,000 hours I believe, of the transcriptions of three early papyri that we will be publishing. I’m not at liberty to say what those three early papyri are, but we will be published them we believe next year sometime, and they’re extensive papyri. They’re not just little fragments. There have been something like five or six people that have worked on each one of them. It’s a long time. The point is it takes a long, long time and a 1,000, 2,000 hours or so to do all the serious labor that is needed on one of these fragments to get it published and make sure you’re accurate. I didn’t know the definite date of first-century was actually a preliminary guess. It was presented to me as this is definite. Anyway, that’s in the past. I wouldn’t worry about that. Let’s just move on with what we’ve got. If that had never come up, the publication of this manuscript, POxy or Papyrus Oxyrhynchus, 5345 is the number, would make huge headlines. The earliest fragment of Mark’s Gospel or at least certainly the earliest fragment of Mark 1. That’s huge.
Kurt: Right. That’s still a great discovery.
Dan: It is. Absolutely.
Kurt: Yeah. So we should definitely be playing up the release of these. There have been a couple of people so I’ll just make this sort of my last question. There were multiple questions about non-disclosure agreements. Some people are wondering, did you have to sign it? What was in it for you to sign a non-disclosure agreement? What can we say even now? Are there things that you still can’t say? So we have multiple questions on that front.
Dan: I understand. Because there’s other things involved in that non-disclosure agreement still that I have not at all made public, it’s best for me not to comment on what I signed nor why I felt obligated to. I could have said no, but if that were the case then other parts of this agreement, just some things I know about that I can’t talk about now at all. I would not have been able to know about…
Kurt: Great. That’s all. We’ll sort of leave that in the past now I think. I’m sure there are folks with still lots of questions, but maybe over time if things can’t come out they will, but nevertheless, as you said, we should still be celebrating over the discoveries here of these early fragments. That’s great.
Kurt; Here’s what we’ll do. We’ll take a short break now for our program and when we come back I want to ask you more about the work that you’re doing digitizing manuscripts and all that with the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts.
Dan: You got that name right. That’s rare.
Kurt: Yeah. Stick with us through this short break from our sponsors.
Kurt: Alright. Thanks for sticking with us through that short break from our sponsors. Today, I am joined by none other than Dan Wallace. He’s the senior research professor of New Testament studies at Dallas Theological Seminary and a prolific scholar in the area of textual criticism, a true brainiac. Dan, before we continue, I heard one story and maybe you can tell me about this, I heard once that you got into an accident of some sort and you lost your memory. It’s something like you had to reteach yourself how to read Greek. Is that accurate?
Dan: Part of it is. I did not get in an accident. What I did was I got encephalitis. That was 21 years ago. It was a very serious kind that the CDC never could identify which is unique for me. I said, “If you ever identify it, name it after me.” I ended up in five hospitals. Mayo Clinic essentially saved my life and I was in a wheelchair for a year. It happened in March of 97 and during that following summer, I was sleeping 22 hours a day.
Dan: I’d get up and I could read maybe ten minutes before I just flat out fall asleep. So for a solid year I was virtually worthless. I was still teaching a full load at Dallas Seminary, but I couldn’t drive, so a student would pick me up in his truck, we’d put the wheelchair in the back, then we’d go to school. It was very kind of him to do that. I did not forget all of my Greek, but I forgot such a substantial portion was that my estimate was that I was about the level of somebody who just completed one year in New Testament Greek.
Kurt: Which to go from a scholar, an expert, to that is, wow.
Dan: Yeah. I published a second year, second or third year, syntax book which is advanced Greek, that second-year students and later students use to study the New Testament. I published it a year earlier. It took me 17 years to write that book and it’s about 850 pages long, so it was really my magnum opus at the time, and when I lost my memory of Greek, I started to read it and I didn’t remember writing actually most of it. There were times that I’d read this and I’d say, “What is this guy trying to say? Oh. Well, it’s me.” And there would be other times, “Hey. That was a good statement. Oh. That’s bragging. It’s me.” It was a blank. I’m teaching this stuff at Dallas Seminary trying to keep ahead of the students by reading it. It was Lee Strobel who pointed out this when he interviewed me, 2006 or 2007, for his book The Case for the Real Jesus, and when he interviewed me, we talked about the encephalitis and I think the opening paragraph in that, I think it’s chapter 2 of the book, he said here’s a guy who taught himself Greek using the textbook that he wrote. I had never put it together that way, but that’s right. It took me a long time to recover and there’s still things I haven’t recovered, 21 years later, I lost my other languages, not entirely, but to a large degree. I could read Hebrew, but I didn’t know what a lamed was, and I could even read some sections of unpointed Hebrews where you don’t have the vowel points. It’s just the constant. That’s pretty high-brow Hebrew. I kind of double-majored in seminary where I got enough credits to get a major in Old Testament Hebrew and a double major in New Testament Greek as well. I was pretty proficient at Hebrew and I could read unpointed texts where you actually put in the vowels. It’s like if you’d take out all the vowels and just have consonants in English, what is it going to say? That’s how Hebrew is actually written, but then here I come to lamed, which is one of the letters, and I didn’t recognize it. It was just kind of hit or miss what was taken. I didn’t know my wife’s name at one point. I had just so many different neurological evidences that were just absolutely bizarre. Not only could I not walk, but I’d get hot and cold inexplicably. My parents drove across the country from Seattle to Rodchester, Minnesota, to meet me for the Mayo Clinic visit. I flew in and they picked me up at the airport. It was October but it was snowing in October and I was wearing a short-sleeved shirt and sweating.
Kurt: Wow. I take it that the shirt you were wearing was a Hawaiian shirt I’m sure.
Dan: I think probably not back then. I finally decided I’m going to be a rebel and say, “The surf sucks in Dallas and I want to go back to Newport Beach where I grew up.”
Kurt: For those that have seen pictures of you online, more recent pictures, you’re just wearing Hawaiian shirts all the time now.
Dan: That’s it. Yeah.
Kurt: Nice. Great. We’ve got a segment of the show that we call Rapid Questions here and it’s just sixty seconds where we ask you goofy questions about your life and so if you’re ready, we’ll start the gameshow clock. I don’t think you’ll be able to hear it, but I’ll let you know when the time is up. Are you ready?
Dan: I’m ready.
Kurt; Okay. Here we go. What is your clothing store of choice?
Dan: Clothing store?
Dan: I have none. I don’t shop for clothes. Obviously, I get Hawaiian shirts.
Kurt: Taco Bell or KFC?
Dan: I love KFC, but it doesn’t love me so I’d have to go with Taco Bell.
Kurt: What song is playing on your radio these days?
Dan: I don’t know. I listen to old-time classic rock.
Kurt: Nice. Where would you like to live?
Dan: I’d love to live in Newport Beach again, but I can’t afford it.
Kurt: What’s your most hated sports franchise?
Dan: Oh! That’s a great question. It’s got to be a football team because I’m a real football fan.
Kurt: How about the Patriots? Most hated?
Dan: They’re not in the NFC? Maybe the Redskins or Eagles or something like that. Anybody who plays against Dallas.
Kurt: I’ll ask one last question here. Do you drink Dr. Pepper?
Dan: That’s a Darrell Bock. He lives on Dr. Pepper. He’s a colleague of mine at Dallas Seminary.
Kurt: What have I been doing for two years on this program? I gotta…
Dan: He’ll probably have a gallon a day.
Kurt: He has what? Does he drink like a two-liter a day?
Kurt: Wow. Okay. So you said Newport Beach was kind of, that was home for you, is that right?
Dan: That’s where I grew up. I was a bodysurfer growing up and playing football and I just loved it. I’m not about to get in the ocean again. It’s 66 degrees. I never had a wetsuit. I can’t do that nowadays, but still, I’d like to watch the waves.
Kurt: Yeah. That’s great. I see here you did your undergrad at the very place I went to school, Biola University.
Dan: Oh. Good.
Kurt: But we likely went, what, some thirty years apart.
Dan: When I went to Biola back in the 70’s, it was an okay school. It wasn’t a great school, but there were some really terrific professors, and I latched on to a guy by the name of Harry Sturz who taught me most of my Greek. He was just terrific. You can always find excellent professors even at mediocre schools, but today I’d say Biola is absolutely one of the best Christian schools out there. They’ve really done a magnificent job so you got a superb education.
Kurt: Good to know I turned out okay, hopefully.
Dan: I don’t know if you turned out okay.
Kurt: Right. Yeah. That’s great. So now with the rest of the time here that we’ve got today, I want to pick your brain about the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts and the work that you’re doing there, the very important work that you’re doing there, and I’m not even sure some people realize how important this work is, so tell us about what you’re doing there.
Dan: The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts or CSNTM is a non-profit institute that I founded in 2002 and our primary objective or our initial objective is to take digital photographs of existing Greek New Testament manuscripts throughout the world. Our goal actually was to get all of them digitized. We knew that we would not get the permission to get all of them digitized, but at least our work, which I believe was the first time anybody started really digitizing Greek New Testament manuscripts, has stimulated many libraries, especially these large ones that have deep pockets, to digitize their own, so the Vatican’s digitizing their own, the British Library and places like that have digitized their manuscripts, but we have gone to over 40 sites throughout the world and are the world’s leading institute in digitizing New Testament Manuscripts. We have about half a million pages digitized and we have state of the art equipment. Our cameras are now 50 megapixels. Each photograph in which[NP2] is the highest resolution is 300 megabytes for one picture. It’s state-of-the-art equipment and we go on expeditions always during the summer and frequently during the school year and I can’t tell ahead of time where we’re going to be because of how expensive the equipment is that we’re bringing in. We don’t want it to get stolen when we land at an airport, you know. It’s really magnificent, but I’ll be leaving soon for an Eastern European country and then other countries in Europe, this summer, I did go and prepare the manuscripts for digitization and we have a team that comes later to digitize. What I get to do is examine these manuscripts and write up the metadata on each one which is really exciting. I’ve looked at just as many manuscripts as, perhaps anybody ever, Greek New Testament manuscripts in terms of looking at them in detail. It’s fun to write a 2-3 page document on each one. I give a table of contents, what the probable date is, the approximate date, how many leaves there are, what the material is, whether it’s papyrus or parchment or paper, how many lines of pages? Just tons of stuff
Kurt: All those little tidbits of information.
Dan: What’s that?
Kurt: All the little tidbits, like you said, the metadata, all the information about it.
Dan: And other fun things. I notice icons and what’s called excesses which are enlarged letter that go out into the margin because it tells the reader that what I’m about to say is important, this is an important paragraph coming up. Fascinating things. These manuscripts these scribes did so that the reader could have a good sense of what they’re reading and the importance of it.
Kurt: For those who might be wondering why should we digitize? For starters, it makes the manuscripts more easily accessible. Someone like myself could look online. I don’t have to go a museum to find this. I don’t have to go to a library that’s holding it in these archives. I can just…
Dan: Not only that, but if you’re not an expert in this area, you can’t look at the manuscripts unless they’re on display and you get to look at the open pages and that’s it.
Kurt: Right. So there’s accessibility, but also, for me I think one of the biggest reasons to do this is preservation.
Kurt: That the manuscripts deteriorate over time and by digitizing them we can continue their legacy of existence in digital format.
Dan: I should hire you. You’re saying exactly what the case is.
Kurt: I think also too here, in the Middle East, when they’re unrest, civil unrest, it threatens not just manuscripts, but other ancient artifacts as well, like ISIS has been blowing up towns and things like that, and if all of a sudden they blow up and destroy, some manuscripts, hopefully, we already digitized those so we don’t lose them.
Dan: Absolutely. Just last year they attacked a monastery for the first time. It was St. Catherine’s Monastery at Mt. Sinai in Egypt. The oldest continually inhabited monastery in the world goes back to about 550, AD 550. I think they killed one policeman and it was a minor attack, kind of a, I think it was a test to see if the monastery could hold them off. That has the second largest collection of Greek manuscripts in the world just after the Vatican, so if those got destroyed, that would be an unspeakable loss.
Kurt: You’re saying we don’t know if that happened?
Dan: No. They did not do that. They were not successful.
Dan: But it’s the first time they actually attacked a monastery.
Dan: They didn’t get in or hurt any manuscripts, but I know there’s people working there to digitize the manuscripts they have. I’ve been there before for a week examining some manuscripts and discovering two others in their collection they didn’t know they had. They’ve got so much it would just take a dozen scholars ten years to really see everything they’ve got real carefully. Amazing collection.
Kurt: So in your work for CSNTM, what’s been the earliest manuscript that you’ve handled?
Dan: First-century AD manuscript from the Old Testament, the Septuagint, the Greek Translation.
Kurt: Okay. Nice.
Dan: We’ve also handled manuscripts that are as early possibly as the second-century. P46 which is the oldest manuscript we have of Paul’s letters and it’s 86 leaves of an original 104 leaves and it’s our oldest manuscript from Paul. Just amazing. Has most of Paul’s letters in it still and most of those leaves are very close to being complete, like 80-90% complete, so the text is intact largely. That manuscript has been dated right around AD 200, maybe 25 years earlier, maybe 25 years later, so we’ve got manuscripts like that that we’ve handled and photographed. Those things are absolutely precious. The way to preserve papyri is to put them individually as leaves between two plates of glass and then seal it and then don’t break the glass.
Kurt: So for those that go to, I believe it’s the Library at Manchester, you can see P52.
Dan: Yeah. The oldest manuscript that we still have. That’s a small fragment of John 18 and it’s the John Rylands Library at Manchester University in England. It’s typically, it has been dated 100-150, some are wanting to push it a little bit later now, but still, most scholars would say, no, 100-150 is the right range.
Kurt: Yeah. And you mentioned how it’s sort of pressed up against glass on both sides. This is the case, especially with P52. You can go and see it’s just in glass.
Dan: That really is a good way to preserve them because it’s oxygen that deteriorates these manuscripts and humanity, but certain manuscripts, like parchment manuscripts, need to be in a somewhat humid environment, and you can’t start slicing out leaves of these manuscripts and put those between plates of glass. You do that with papyrus, but parchment, animal skins, vellum manuscripts, they just try to preserve them as well as they can in a temperature and humidity controlled room.
Kurt: Right. You don’t want to cut them up.
Dan: Right. Exactly.
Kurt: You’d be destroying the book. Here’s a question for you. I know you guys take your own pictures. On your website, do you have pictures of the work of others that are digitizing or is it only sort of the things you have rights to take pictures of?
Dan: We have links to scores of other sites, so for example, all of the papyri except just the latest ones that I just talked about, we either have images on our site or links to other sites that have one them, except for one papyrus, which is in Russia, and there are no photographs of it. We’re hoping to go there someday to photograph it. There’s only one.
Kurt: Yeah. Wow. That is something.
Dan: We’ve got I think 1,200 manuscripts that are on our website which includes I think maybe a third of those are manuscripts we have not photographed, others have, or we’ve got the microfilms that were converted to digital images by permission. Things like that, but you’ve got well over half a million pages that we’ve got that we’ve done ourselves on the website that anybody can see for free and it’s free for all, free for all time.
Kurt: Yep. As long as no one hacks the website.
Dan: If they did, they’d have to go through six layers…
Kurt: Of security.
Dan: It’s very secure. It’s higher standards then even I think some of the world’s best libraries.
Kurt: Remind me, how long have you been doing that? Digitizing?
Dan: Since 2002. Very first place we went to was St. Catherine’s Monastery.
Kurt: Very nice. Yeah. That’s great. We’ve got a couple questions here from some of our followers that I want to ask you and one fellow, quite technical, I think he’s very knowledgeable in this field. This question is a little bit over my head, but before I ask you that question, here we have Carrie who asks, how do you think CBGM is going to change the textual criticism game? So, Dan, please enlighten me, what is CBGM?
Dan: You’ve got some rather well-read audience here. CBGM stands for Coherence Based Genealogical Method and it’s a method that was developed in Munster, Germany at the Institute for New Testament textual research or INTF are the initials for the German name. They have worked on that for a couple of decades at least and I think even longer, but what it is, it uses computer software with the database of the manuscripts that they are keying into computers to show the relationship of these manuscripts in terms of the wording that they have. Ultimately, what they are hoping to do, they’ve just published volumes on the Catholic Epistles or the general letters, the seven that Paul did not write, not including Hebrews either, but they’ve got this database now and they’ve used CBGM to work through the data to see what the genealogical relationships of these readings are, the wording in these manuscripts and they’ve come up with genealogical trees that are just absolutely fascinating. I’d say that it is a game-changer to some extent. It does not replace the older tools that we used of examining the actual manuscripts, comparing them to others, the groupings of the manuscripts we had, and especially thinking about the internal evidence, what would the scribe be likely to do, what the author would be likely to have written. It doesn’t replace that. It’s a layer on top of that that we also use to determine the wording of the original. In their catholic letters, what they did was they changed 34 places where the previous edition of the Greek New Testament that was published in Munster, Germany, the one these critical scholars have worked on. They now disagree with that in 34 places. The great majority of them don’t affect very much at all, but there are some that are very insignificant, for example, Jude 5, they now believe that the original wording said that instead of saying the Lord was the one who delivered His people out of Egypt, Jesus is the one who delivered His people out of Egypt. That’s a remarkable reading.
Kurt: So what you’re saying is after discovering other manuscripts, over time, scholars have come to the general position that the original writing said something different than what most of our English translations say and in this case, you have an example where the word is Jesus and not just Lord, that Jesus delivered them out of Egypt.
Dan: There’s nothing that says Peter did it or the Angel of the Lord or something like that, but it’s now identifying what we mean by Lord and this is a reading that I thought was authentic when we worked on the NET Bible, which came out I think in about 2005, the New English Translation, you can find it online, Bible.org or NETBible.org, but it’s the first Bible to have extensive footnotes, it’s got about 60,000 footnotes in it, including quite a few that are on textual problems, and Jude 5, I was the textual critic and the senior New Testament editor for it, in Jude 5 I thought Jesus was the original wording and so I got one right I think, but there’s some other places that the new Nestle-Aland 28th edition uses the CBGM for the catholic epistles. They’ve changed what they think is the original and I’ve got to wrestle through some of those to see if I think they’re right.
Kurt: Yeah. Wow. So this sounds like it’s a related question. It comes from James and he gave me a couple technical questions. I said you got it dumb it down for even me to understand. Here’s what he asks. He says it is widely accepted that interpreters of the New Testament should not put a lot of weight, if any, on parts of the text that have shaky textual foundations. This is of you he’s asking. You have proposed that there cases such as Mark 1:41 and the last twelve verses of Mark where the testimony of one or two Greek manuscripts can outweigh all the other Greek manuscripts, even when very early Patristic writers support the usual reading. If that approach is consistently applied, then as more and more manuscripts are discovered containing more and more variants, is there not a danger that such an approach would ultimately make the text less stable and thus nullify more of it as far as its usefulness and interpretation is concerned rather than making it more stable? I know that’s a complex question from James.
Dan: Yeah. I know who James is too.
Kurt: Maybe he just seems quite knowledgeable here.
Dan: He does. He’s a very bright guy. I would say that he’s truncating quite a bit of the evidence that we’re actually looking at it. It’s not just Greek manuscripts and it’s not just church fathers. It’s also ancient versions in Latin and Syriac and Coptic and there’s an early work known as the Diatessaron which was done by a man named Tatian in the second half of the second century where he combined all four Gospels and put them together. It’s also internal evidence that he hasn’t mentioned at all. What is the author likely to have written and what are the scribes likely to have been done? Let me take the example of Mark 1:41 that he mentioned to start with. Mark 1:41 has a single Greek manuscript that has the word “Jesus was angry” or “being angry, He told the leper that He would heal Him.” This leper comes to Jesus and says, “Lord. If you are willing, you can heal me.” All the rest of the manuscripts, the Greek manuscripts say, “Having compassion, Jesus said, ‘I am willing’ and then healed Him.” The difference between having compassion and being angry is[NP3] .The is[NP4] the same so the question here is did a scribe make a mistake to put being angry in there? If he did, how in the world could he make that kind of a mistake adding something that doesn’t sound, what scribe would do this knowingly? The scribe who actually has it in his text wrote out lines[NP5] . Were he actually a thinking scribe, he would not have done that accidentally. There’s other scribes who could have, but not this particular scribe. It goes back to an earlier tradition. It’s what we think we have in the diatessaron. There’s some Latin witnesses that have it as well. Then when you compare this passage to Matthew and Luke, neither one of them mentions that Jesus was compassionate. They don’t mention that He was angry, but in the other places where Mark speaks of Jesus’s anger, they typically say nothing, so what Matthew and Luke, most scholars would say, used Mark’s Gospel to make their own, and they used it extensively, and where they saw that Mark was making kind of a rough-hewn picture of Jesus, they didn’t deny that. They simply did not affirm it. So they’re not telling us something that’s an error about Jesus. They’re just not telling the whole story. Of course, Mark isn’t either. You’ve got those kinds of things. Bart Ehrman actually wrote a marvelous article on this for Gerald Hawthorne for his festschrift, means a writing celebrating a scholar who has a huge influence, it’s a German name. In Gerald Hawthorne’s festschrift, Bat Ehrman wrote a chapter called “A Leper In The Hands Of An Angry Jesus” after….
Kurt: Sinners in the hands of an angry God.
Dan: There you go. Braindead today. Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. I thought it was a really nice piece, but when James is asking this question, he’s not asking about all the evidence. He’s asking about the manuscripts alone, Greek manuscripts, as if they’re the only ones that count? Let’s look at Mark 16 for example. Mark 16:9-20. It’s true. We have only two Greek manuscripts that don’t have those verses. They happen to be our oldest manuscripts and the ones that most scholars are say the most reliable or just about the most reliable manuscripts we have, so they’re not unimportant. When he mentions church fathers, we have at the beginning of the fourth century and the end of the fourth century, Eusebius and Jerome were both doing productions of the New Testament. Jerome, in Latin, Eusebius, in Greek, and as they were doing the productions, Eusebius had the wealth of the Roman Empire behind him. Constantine had commissioned him to make fifty Bibles for Constantinople. He had a workshop where scribes were copying these out and he had Origen’s library from the third century in Caesarea Maritima, so he had access to a great deal of manuscripts, and what he says at the beginning of the fourth century is there’s hardly any manuscripts that have this long ending. Hardly any. At the end of the fourth century, Jerome says there’s hardly any Greek manuscripts which suggests that he’s saying something a little bit different from Eusebius and it may even have possibly the long ending started having infiltrtation into the Latin manuscripts more than the Greek, but there’s other ancient versions that don’t have the long ending, it’s almost always the earliest manuscripts of those versions that have something different from what we see in our New Testaments today. It’s disingenuous to just talk about the Greek manuscripts. There’s just a whole lot more evidence, and then when you look at the internal evidence for Mark 16, it just doesn’t look like Mark’s Gospel at all, the syntax, the style, the theological viewpoint of the wording, everything looks like it’s written by a later hand and I had one of my doctoral students wrote his dissertation on the internal evidence, in other words, the style, the syntax, vocabulary, all this kind of stuff, of Mark 16:9-20, went through word by word, phrase by phrase, concept by concept, and he said he found things that said, “This could be Marcan. This is probably not.” Overwhelmingly, he came to the decision and produced quite a bit of data that this just doesn’t look like Mark. It becomes the single most anomalous passage in all of Mark’s Gospel that looks aberrant, looks different from the rest of Mark. It has early witnesses, both Greek, versional, and Patristic, that say it’s not Mark, so tell me why we should keep it in the Greek text? It just doesn’t make sense.
Kurt: Wow. There’s certainly a lot more to be explored in the area of textual criticism. Unfortunately, time prohibits from exploring all of those things, but really it’s just a great blessing that the Christian community has had to have someone like yourself devote essentially your life, your life’s work, to this area, so thank you for all that you’re doing.
Dan: Thank you. I appreciate the show and your invitation, Kurt. I appreciate it very much.
Kurt: Wonderful. Thank you so much, Dan. Have a great one.
Kurt: That does it for our show today. I’m grateful for the continued support of our patrons, those are folks that just chip in a couple bucks each month to help us go, and also I’m grateful for the partnerships that we have with our sponsors. Defenders Media, Consult Kevin, The Sky Floor, Rethinking Hell, The Illinois Family Institute, Fox Restoration, and Non-Profit Megaphone. I want to thank our technical producer today, Robb, and for our guest, Dan Wallace, for coming on today’s program and giving us that update on the Mark fragment, and last but not least I want to thank you for listening in and for striving for truth on faith, politics, and society.
[NP1]Staticky at 28:45
[NP3]I leave it to you to fill in the Greek at 46:50. I don’t know it.