|Cartonnage bath to separate out the used papyri from a mummy mask|
Photo taken from Emily Teeter's Ancient Egypt (2003)
The claims for authenticity, however, should not be ignored because we do have two credible New Testament scholars, highly respected, who insist that the fragments are genuine and it is only a matter of time before they will be published (Brill will publish the fragments as part of the Green Scholars Initiative: Papyri Series; Michael Holmes, Director of the Green Initiative, has released this (un)official statement on his blog). Both Professor of Craig Evans, formerly the Payzant Distinguished Professor of New Testament at Acadia Divinity College, who this past June 2015 recently accepted a new post at Houston Baptist University, and Professor Daniel Wallace of Dallas Theological Seminary and known textual-criticism expert, are eager to answer critics once the papyri have been published. Apparently a non-disclosure statement with the owners of the mummy mask from which the papyri were extracted keeps Evans and Wallace from saying any more. The hornet's nest was stirred when Evans, back in 2014, made this announcement during a lecture (see below):
I personally will simply wait until the Brill publication becomes available before making my own deliberation on the authenticity of the fragments. There is really nothing more anyone can do until they are published. But pedagogically, the whole process is a great segue to sharing with seminary students how some of our manuscripts and papyri fragments have fascinating stories of their own about their discovery. Aside from the incidental coincidence that mummy masks fit the October halloween theme, the anticipation concerning the Gospel of Mark fragments is a good way to talk about how papyri discoveries come from the oddest places: the garbage dumps of Egypt (think Oxyrhychus), on palimpsest (another form of recycled papyri), Christian monasteries (think Bodmer), or on the antiquities black market.
In the case of the mummy mask, with all the secrecy, I suspect that a private collector is involved (but this is only speculation). While we wait for Brill to publish the Green Scholars Initiative papyri series, below is a helpful video which outlines the process that some archaeologists / papyrologists used to protect the painted portrait of the mummy mask while still being able to extract the cartonnage and separate its layers to read the recycled papyri. Have fun!
|Photo credit: livescience.com|