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Re: [GTh] Bernhard's New Essay on GJW

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  • Stephen Carlson
    ... Yes, dependence on the interlinear and whether the fragment existed in the early 80s are inconsistent. (At least) one of them has to be wrong. If the
    Message 1 of 13 , Nov 11, 2012
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      On Sun, Nov 11, 2012 at 5:07 PM, Ian Brown <ianbrown6796@...> wrote:
      Correct me if I'm wrong, or if some new evidence has arisen, but isn't dependence on your interlinear, Mike, impossible given the fragment was in circulation in the early 1980s. See pages 2 and 3 of King's article, quoted below:

      Yes, dependence on the interlinear and whether the fragment existed in the early 80s are inconsistent.  (At least) one of them has to be wrong.  If the fragment is dependent on Mike's interlinear, then the purported evidence of an earlier existence is false, e.g., falsified, forged, or misinterpreted.  On the other hand, if the antedating evidence is solid, then Mike's interlinear cannot be a source and it makes the peculiarities of the Coptic harder to attribute to someone with marginal Coptic competence.

      Nevertheless, it repays careful attention on what King tells us about the potentially antedating evidence (quoting you, quoting King):
       
      The papyrus currently belongs to a private collector.3 Assuming it authenticity for the moment, its language (Sahidic Coptic) as well as the conditions for the preservation of organic material indicate that it was found in Egypt. Nothing is known about the circumstances of its discovery, but we have some clues about its modern history. The current owner possesses a typed and signed letter addressed to H. U. Laukamp dated July 15, 1982, from Prof. Dr. Peter Munro (Freie Universität, Ägyptologisches Seminar, Berlin). The letter states that a colleague, Prof. Fecht, has identified one of Mr. Laukamp’s papyri as a 2nd-4th c. C.E. fragment of the Gospel of John in Coptic. He advises that this fragment be preserved between glass plates in order to protect it from further damage. This fragment of the Gospel of John is now in the collection of the owner of GosJesWife, who acquired it among the same batch of Greek and Coptic papyri. More directly relevant, the owner also has an unsigned handwritten note, stating the following:
      Professor Fecht glaubt, daß der kleine ca. 8 cm große Papyrus das einzige Beispiel für einen Text ist, in dem Jesus die direkte Rede in Bezug auf eine Ehefrau benutzt. Fecht meint, daß dies ein Beweis für eine mögliche Ehe sein könnte. 4
      Although the note is neither dated nor signed, it is presumed to belong to the 1982 correspondence between Prof. Munro (d. 2008) and Mr. Laukamp (d. 2001). If so, this (page 3) note is evidence that GosJesWife was in the possession of Mr. Laukamp in Berlin in the early 1980’s. The named Professor Fecht is likely Gerhard Fecht (d. 2006), who was on the faculty of Egyptology at the Free University, Berlin, at this time. Nothing else is known to us of the modern history of the papyrus.

      3. We wish to offer here our sincerest thanks to the owner, who wishes to remain anonymous, for permission to publish this papyrus fragment.
      4. “Professor Fecht believes that the small fragment, approximately 8 cm in size, is the sole example of a text in which Jesus uses direct speech with reference to having a wife. Fecht is of the opinion that this could be evidence for a possible marriage.”

      The evidence for an earlier existence of the GJW fragment seems to be as follows:

      A. The current owner of the GJW fragment claims (mediated through King) that he acquired the GJW fragment in a batch that also includes a Coptic John (CJ) fragment.

      B. The current owner possesses a signed type-written letter dated July 15, 1982 in the name of Peter Munro, mentioning the existence of the CJ as of that date and that it was Gerhard Fecht who identified it.

      C. The current owner also possesses an unsigned, undated handwritten note to the effect that Fecht believes a fragment contains: (a) Jesus's direct speech referring to a wife and (b) that this could be evidence for a possible marriage.

      But evidence does not exist alone in a vacuum and it needs a theory to make sense of it.

      A theory of the case in favor of antedating Mike's interlinear, if not authenticity itself, would be the following basic scenario: Both the CJ fragment and GJW fragment have long been a part of the same batch of Coptic fragments that had been examined by the late Fecht in the early 1980s.

      The evidence that they have long belonged to the same batch: (1) Owner A's assertion that he acquired CJ and GJW together, (2) Letter B's statement that the CJ has been examined by Fecht, (3) Note C's statement that Fecht referred content that matches the GJW.

      I don't know to what extent this evidence has been checked, corroborated, and verified, but here are some ideas:

      For (1), it may be possible to obtain inventory lists, etc., itemizing the batch of documents and check with Owner A's source to confirm.

      For (2), it may be possible to compare the signature of Peter Munro with that of the letter or find additional references to this among Munro's or Fecht's surviving effects to confirm the date and other details in the letter

      For (3), I don't know how to check this.  Whose handwriting does Note C match?  Can we identify the author?  Is it also Munro?  Note C has no date.  Can we narrow down when it was written by corroborating evidence? Then there's the problem of hearsay. Fecht is no longer to confirm that the note writer was accurate.

      Furthermore, its description is vague.  It's not even clear to me that it's referring to Jesus's wife or marriage.  The phrase "in Bezug auf eine Ehefrau" means "in reference to a wife" but it does not really state whose wife (the English "in reference to having a wife" strongly suggests that it is Jesus's wife, but is the German so strong?).  Similarly, "ein Beweis für mögliche Ehe" means "a proof (or evidence) for a possible marriage, but whose marriage?

      As for the forgery theory, the issue becomes accounting for Note C.  It may be a forgery itself (forging authenticating documentation is a known technique for forgers) or it could have (vaguely) referred to some other text (can we exclude the CJ fragment) which the forger took advantage of and crafted the forgery around it.  Or there could be other possibilities.

      It's also possible for Note C (and even Letter B) to be forged even when the fragment is authentic in order to evade Egypt's antiquity laws.  This would be to cover up a more recent acquisition date that would give Egypt rights in the fragment.

      So the upshot of this overly long post is that the proffered evidence of the GJW fragment existence before that of Mike's interlinear ought to be thoroughly and thoughtfully examined and ideally corroborated by independent confirming evidence.

      Stephen
      --
      Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D. (Duke)
      Post-Doctoral Fellow, Theology, Uppsala

    • Ian Brown
      Jack, I think you ve misunderstood my point, and I apologize if I wasn t being clear. I don t think (nor do most people, I think it is safe to say) that GJW
      Message 2 of 13 , Nov 11, 2012
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        Jack, I think you've misunderstood my point, and I apologize if I wasn't being clear. I don't think (nor do most people, I think it is safe to say) that GJW proves Jesus was married. What I sought to illuminate was that GJW was almost certainly NOT composed based on Mike's interlinear since there is evidence of it existing in the 80s, well before Mike made his site. This says nothing of the historical Jesus, only that GJW was composed priot to Mike's site being put up.

        Andrew, I'm afraid dismissing evidence without addressing it is not a good way to form an argument. So the note was unsigned. The fact that it is part of a larger collection, which includes a signed note, seems to suggest it is part of the same review. Additionally, if we want to argue for GJW's dependence on Mike's interlinear, then we must posit not only a forged ancient Coptic text, but also a forged 1980s German text. This seems to me to be EXTREMELY special pleading given that the ONLY REASON anyone would argue that a note that seems for all intents and purposes to belong to a set of notes on a papyri collection first reviewed in the 80s was forged, is that they are already assuming that papyri is a forgery. Kinda circular reasoning, I think.

        Ian Brown


        From: sarban <sarban@...>
        To: gthomas@yahoogroups.com
        Sent: Sunday, November 11, 2012 3:37:16 PM
        Subject: Re: [GTh] Bernhard's New Essay on GJW

         
        
         
        ----- Original Message -----
        From: Ian Brown
        Sent: Sunday, November 11, 2012 4:07 PM
        Subject: Re: [GTh] Bernhard's New Essay on GJW

         
        Correct me if I'm wrong, or if some new evidence has arisen, but isn't dependence on your interlinear, Mike, impossible given the fragment was in circulation in the early 1980s. See pages 2 and 3 of King's article, quoted below:

        . <SNIP> More directly relevant, the owner also has an unsigned handwritten note, stating the following:
        Professor Fecht glaubt, daß der kleine ca. 8 cm große Papyrus das einzige Beispiel für einen Text ist, in dem Jesusm  die direkte Rede in Bezug auf eine Ehefrau benutzt. Fecht meint, daß dies ein Beweis für eine mögliche Ehe sein könnte. 4
        Although the note is neither dated nor signed, it is presumed to belong to the 1982 correspondence between Prof. Munro (d. 2008) and Mr. Laukamp (d. 2001). If so, this (page 3) note is evidence that GosJesWife was in the possession of Mr. Laukamp in Berlin in the early 1980’s. The named Professor Fecht is likely Gerhard Fecht (d. 2006), who was on the faculty of Egyptology at the Free University, Berlin, at this time. Nothing else is known to us of the modern history of the papyrus.
        <SNIP>
        4. “Professor Fecht believes that the small fragment, approximately 8 cm in size, is the sole example of a text in which Jesus uses direct speech with reference to having a wife. Fecht is of the opinion that this could be evidence for a possible marriage.”

        Ian Brown

         
        I'm afraid that this unsigned undated handwritten note is not good evidence of anything.
        Andrew Criddle 


      • sarban
        Hi Ian Just to clarify my position. If the handwriting on the note closely resembles the known handwriting of say Professor Munro then I agree I was being too
        Message 3 of 13 , Nov 11, 2012
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          Hi Ian
           
          Just to clarify my position.
           
          If the handwriting on the note closely resembles the known handwriting of say Professor Munro then I agree I was being too dismissive.
          However I don't think King's article claims this.
          Nor do the other documents mention such a note.
          The mere presence of such a note among a collection of other documents dating back to the 1980's is not sufficient to establish that this note itself dates from the 1980's
           
          Andrew Criddle.
          ----- Original Message -----
          From: Ian Brown
          Sent: Sunday, November 11, 2012 9:28 PM
          Subject: Re: [GTh] Bernhard's New Essay on GJW

           


          Andrew, I'm afraid dismissing evidence without addressing it is not a good way to form an argument. So the note was unsigned. The fact that it is part of a larger collection, which includes a signed note, seems to suggest it is part of the same review. Additionally, if we want to argue for GJW's dependence on Mike's interlinear, then we must posit not only a forged ancient Coptic text, but also a forged 1980s German text. This seems to me to be EXTREMELY special pleading given that the ONLY REASON anyone would argue that a note that seems for all intents and purposes to belong to a set of notes on a papyri collection first reviewed in the 80s was forged, is that they are already assuming that papyri is a forgery. Kinda circular reasoning, I think.

          Ian Brown
           
        • Mike Grondin
          ... Almost certainly? Nah. What s interesting to me that this is the very position that I took back on Sept 26th, before the two pieces of evidence of
          Message 4 of 13 , Nov 11, 2012
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            [Ian]:
            > What I sought to illuminate was that GJW was almost certainly NOT composed
            > based on Mike's interlinear since there is evidence of it existing in the 80s, well
            > before Mike made his site.
            "Almost certainly?" Nah. What's interesting to me that this is the very position
            that I took back on Sept 26th, before the two pieces of evidence of possible
            borrowing from my interlinear became known. The collector's note constitutes
            prima facie counter-evidence, to be sure, but its authenticity and dating have so
            far been only presumed (King's word), so it seems a bit odd that you would put
            so much weight on it. But what is your position? That it might have been a forgery
            from the 80's? OK, then we need to weigh the likelihood that the forger accidentally
            dropped a letter from two different lines, against the likelihood that he/she thought
            that the spelling was correct, because that's what was in the source being used.
             
            Mike Grondin
          • Ian Brown
            Quoting Mike But what is your position? That it might have been a forgery from the 80 s? OK, then we need to weigh the likelihood that the forger accidentally
            Message 5 of 13 , Nov 12, 2012
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              Quoting Mike "But what is your position? That it might have been a forgery
              from the 80's? OK, then we need to weigh the likelihood that the forger accidentally
              dropped a letter from two different lines, against the likelihood that he/she thought
              that the spelling was correct, because that's what was in the source being used."

              Fair question, Mike. No, I don't think it was a forgery from the 80s (although I understand how my last post might have led you to think that, that's my fault for being unclear). My position is as follows, and takes into consideration the following evidence available to us all.

              1. We have a text that seems to have known parts of (or traditions that influenced) the Gospel of Thomas (except where is doesn't) on a credit card sized fragment.

              2. Karen King, who initially thought this text a fraud, worked with it for several months before determining it likely dates, both papyri and ink, to the 4th century CE.

              3. King did not simply come to this conclusion on her own, however, and enlisted the help of several papyrologists, including Roger Bagnall, one of the most well respected papyrologists in the world.

              4. Bagnall concluded that the handwriting found in the fragment is consistent with the handwriting of 4th century Coptic scribes. Additionally the papyri itself is carbon dated to the 4th century.

              5. Following this King introduced the fragment to the world at a scholarly conference for Coptic Studies, NOT via National Geographic, or CNN, or some other sensation forum.

              6. Neither Bagnall nor King have anything to gain from supporting a fake document, King especially. In a world where biblical scholars aren't exactly the most famous people in the world, King is one of the most well known outside of the academy and gains nothing from being part of a sensation.

              What I find most troublesome about the arguments for GJW being a modern document (as I mentioned early, although perhaps less clearly) is that these arguments are not engaging with the most significant points FOR this fragments 4th century dating, namely Bagnall's handwriting analysis and the 4th century date of the papyri. Is it still possible it is a modern production? Sure, but we are now dealing with a modern scribe who, far from bumbling his/her way through Coptic, has enough training to perfectly mimic the handwriting of a 4th century Coptic scribe, thus fooling one of the world's foremost experts on ancient handwriting. Is this really the simplest solution? No, it is not.

              It seems to me that what we have here is a 4th century text which used, or knew Thomas, or shared traditions about Thomas, especially re: female disciples.

              ian brown
            • Mike Grondin
              Hi Ian, I agree that there has been little engagement with the evidence on either side. The essays of Peppard and Paananen are outdated, since they were
              Message 6 of 13 , Nov 12, 2012
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                Hi Ian,
                 
                I agree that there has been little engagement with the evidence on either
                side. The essays of Peppard and Paananen are outdated, since they were
                responses to the first version of Watson's essay. The revised version
                of Watson's paper is also outdated, but there hasn't been any response
                even to that. Andrew B's latest essay is now the one to look at, and I
                must say that your characterization of it doesn't do it justice. The linkages
                to CGT are much more precise than your wording suggests. But turning
                to the other side of the coin, Stephen Carlson has made a good start by
                suggesting that the supposed Munro note about the fragment be carefully
                checked for authenticity (though the date of it will still remain in question.)
                Here's some other points of contact:
                 
                1. It is evident that the papyrologists who initially examined the fragment
                were not well-versed in CGT. They spotted some similarities, but were
                unaware of the extent of agreement. It was only when this became obvious
                that the HTR article was delayed, and additional tests called for. Had the
                Harvard people not thought that the forgery case was strong, I doubt if
                this would have happened.
                 
                2. The dating of the papyrus is irrelevant. As you no doubt know, old
                pieces of blank papyrus (or with faded writing) can be obtained. Even
                ink consistent with antiquity can be produced. (What happened to that
                scheduled ink-test, BTW?)
                 
                3. "consistent with the handwriting of 4th century Coptic scribes":
                Well, in the first place, there were a variety of styles. Secondly, it
                doesn't strike me as particularly difficult to copy one of those styles.
                What you don't mention is that the writing instrument used was not a
                common one, nor is the blunt lettering very common either. Christian
                Askeland has also drawn attention to the unusual shaping of the omega.
                Which is not to say that it's impossible for the inscription to have been
                done in antiquity, but that the evidence isn't as strong as one might think.
                It would be good if Bagnall and/or HDS/HTR would make analogous
                exemplars available, but to my knowledge they haven't. Indeed, the
                silence of Bagnall and the whole King team since the initial publicity
                has been curious.
                 
                Such are the first thoughts that come to me, anyway, in response
                to your comments.
                 
                Mike Grondin
              • Mark Goodacre
                ... Yes, it s clear from King s HTR article that she and the others had not realized the full extent of the borrowing from Coptic Thomas. This is not criticism
                Message 7 of 13 , Nov 12, 2012
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                  On 12 November 2012 15:28, Mike Grondin <mwgrondin@...> wrote:

                  > 1. It is evident that the papyrologists who initially examined the
                  > fragment
                  > were not well-versed in CGT. They spotted some similarities, but were
                  > unaware of the extent of agreement. It was only when this became obvious
                  > that the HTR article was delayed, and additional tests called for. Had the
                  > Harvard people not thought that the forgery case was strong, I doubt if
                  > this would have happened.

                  Yes, it's clear from King's HTR article that she and the others had
                  not realized the full extent of the borrowing from Coptic Thomas.
                  This is not criticism of King or others -- I didn't spot it at first
                  either; it was only after prolonged staring at it that it became
                  clear. This is just the natural progress of scholarship -- sometimes
                  it takes time and many pairs of eyes to see things that in the end are
                  pretty clear.

                  The breakthrough in Watson's piece was in realizing that the links
                  were not simply those of the natural relationship of literary works to
                  one another (as, e.g. intra-Synoptically or Thomas-Synoptics) but
                  specifically in Coptic Thomas from Codex II and the Jesus' Wife
                  Fragment.

                  > 2. The dating of the papyrus is irrelevant. As you no doubt know, old
                  > pieces of blank papyrus (or with faded writing) can be obtained. Even
                  > ink consistent with antiquity can be produced. (What happened to that
                  > scheduled ink-test, BTW?)

                  Ian may be right that there has been carbon dating of the papyrus, but
                  I have not seen reference to this. The ink test is still pending. The
                  most recent statement I have seen on this is the recent Boston Globe
                  article (which I'll blog shortly).

                  Best wishes
                  Mark
                  --
                  Mark Goodacre
                  Duke University
                  Department of Religion
                  Gray Building / Box 90964
                  Durham, NC 27708-0964 USA
                  Phone: 919-660-3503 Fax: 919-660-3530

                  http://www.markgoodacre.org
                • Tom Hickcox
                  A well written article from the Boston Globe on Karen King.
                  Message 8 of 13 , Nov 15, 2012
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