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

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  • 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 1 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 2 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 3 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 4 of 13 , Nov 15, 2012
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