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10914Two Fragments - Patterson

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  • Mike Grondin
    May 8 8:34 AM
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      If you thought that the JWF was dead because the John Fragment
      is now accepted to be fraudulent, read this from Stephen Patterson,
      posted yesterday on Mark's NT Blog:
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      Not a regular here, but thought I would throw in my two cents, Mark.
      Back in the mid-80s I spent two years reading Coptic manuscripts of
      this vintage in the Bode Museum in East Berlin. For much of that time
      Karen King was with me. We were reading very poorly preserved
      Manichaean texts. The John MS is clearly a forgery. The line breaks
      make this impossible to avoid. But it also looks like a forgery. Perhaps
      this is easier to see when one knows that it is, but I think I would have
      said this looking at it cold. With the real thing, the writing and the papyrus
      have aged for 1500 years in the same way. So where the papyrus sucks,
      the letters suck too. Look at line 2, recto. Where the papyrus is dark, the
      letters are still clear. Where the letters are missing, the papyrus seems fine.
      Just looking at a photograph here, so I may be mislead. But it just doesn't
      look real to me. The papyrus is old but not the writing. That said, none of
      this appears to be true of the GWF manuscript. I have been convinced of
      its authenticity since the first time I saw good photographs. It reads just
      like the real deal, especially the verso. I'm sure that is what Karen must
      have thought too, though we have not talked about it. The smudginess of
      the letters is just like what you encounter; the way ink sticks to individual
      fibres where there is no pith, the places where stray fibres run over letters
      and are pressed into the papyrus... I just can't imagine how someone could
      fake that. I think that actually takes 1000 years to do. I am no Roger Bagnall,
      but If there is a forger out there, bravo, because GJW is fooling me.

      One more word, if I may, on the missing M, and the vocalization differences
      people are commenting. I am not convinced by any of that. Reading published
      Coptic gives one enough of a sense of how variable all this is in Coptic. With
      actual manuscripts the problem is even worse. You really never know what
      you're going to see, so that you always make allowances. The variations are
      from several sources. One is the orality of the language: scribes transcribe
      things like they say them instead of how they should be. Also, where
      Sahidicisms are at play, you may have an Achmimic or Subachmimic [now
      called 'Lycopolitan' - MG] scribe trying to write good Sahidic. Layton calls
      this phenomenon in Thomas Crypto-Subachmimic. All that is to say,
      arguments from grammatical mistakes and misspellings are not very compelling.

      At this point I am convinced that the John MS must be a modern forgery,
      but I'm still pretty sure GJW is not.
      Steve Patterson
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      Don't be surprised if this is the position ultimately taken by Bagnall
      and King. I think it'll come down to a comparison of the lettering
      on the two fragments. There's apparently disagreement between
      experts. If the only thing certain is that the lettering is similar, the
      King team will have to balance the factors and could go either way.
      Unless they decide that they can't decide. In that case, I hope they
      will publish their reasoning about all the factors.
      -M.Grondin