This picture has been making headlines around the Biblioblogosphere and academic community boards on Yahoo.com:
James McGrath brings up the fact that this picture was first circulated on D.M. Murdock’s message boards. Interestingly, however, the fragment has (surprisingly) been transcribed correctly by her (though her eisegesis of the text is terrible and her correlations are nothing short of parallelomania). Still, the picture has no provenance and there is no provided moniker which is shocking (especially if such a find is legitimate; the first thing that should have happened was for the institution to issue a moniker for it and designate a group of experts to investigate it).
Here is a side by side I made of the uncial script next to the fragment (all graphics below were made by me unless otherwise specified):
The text is of Mark 5.15-18 for those who were unaware.
A couple of thoughts:
- First the fragment looks crisp and the text sharp. This has been pointed out by Jim West and others, though I’ve seen the DSS’s and they look crisp and the text looks sharp (though admittedly they are still more faded than this). Compare this fragment with the Isaiah Scroll and you’ll see a very clear difference. Compare also to this uncial Oxyrhynchus Papyrus 5072.
- Against the authenticity of the fragment, anyone who has seen a scroll or manuscript will note that this fragment is missing scribal lines (like the lines on lined paper found in notebooks everywhere). They appear in the two examples I gave earlier (closeup is below). Not every papyrus has the lines this clear, but even if the lines were not present, one can clearly see that the script on the fragment changes in size and varies in placement (it is not in a straight line which is what one expects and the rows are not evenly spaced).
- Another problem, as others have already brought to the attention of the community, is the differences in the letters; they are extremely inconsistent. There are three different versions of alpha in the fragment alone which suggests a hand that is unfamiliar with the language.
- There are some reasons why I would stress caution before immediately jumping on ‘fake’:
- I would imagine that even forgers would do a better job than this; especially expert forgers who have been doing this sort of thing for years in markets where they expect to find experts (heck I could do a better job than this), so that might suggest that this is an authentic piece. Or it might just prove that the forger was an amateur or simply didn’t care about his accuracy and just wanted to make a quick buck off a gullible tourist who wouldn’t know the difference.
- What really makes me pause is how the Greek of this lines up. A forger, I suspect, would just copy off existing Greek manuscripts of Mark (from any of the codices–like the Sinaiticus or the Vaticanus–online which are easy to come by; just find it, print out a sheet, and copy onto papyrus) but these are not lined up according to the columns on any of the codices I’ve looked over. This might mean that, if it is a forgery, then the forger could have used a Greek uncial manuscript that is not known (at least not to me, though might exist somewhere). The letters aren’t random, they do match up with Mark 5. Though again this could just be a sloppy forgery and the forger could have just taken a few letters a line for a few lines to fill in the blank fragment (or a full sheet which they then cut up and distributed as fragments).
- Finally, there are no fray marks (which has been pointed out elsewhere). No signs of disintegration or degradation. I’ve seen a lot of modern papyri (you can get them for a good price on eBay these days); there is no dirt on this fragment and you can clearly see that the edges appear cut rather than having been pulled apart by wear or by time. I’ve stated before on other blogs and in comments that the piece looks ‘fresh’.
All that said, I have to say it looks fake. The fact that the papyrus of this fragment is so clean leads me to believe that the papyrus leaf this fragment came from is modern (and you can pick up papyrus with Egyptian iconography or Greek script on them from eBay these days for relatively no cost, add text to the blank parts, cut it up, and sell it for a nice profit). I’m still going to remain cautious about offering any definitive statement (though others have already made clear their opinions on the matter), but I lean towards forgery on this one. Time will tell.
- The picture of the “Markan fragment” seems like a fraud.
- Finally, a Photo of the ‘Earliest Fragment of Mark’(?????)
- Newly-Identified Early New Testament Fragments?
- Is this a fragment of a first century copy of Mark?
- Altre considerazioni sul presunto frammento del vangelo