Announcing:
APOLOGETICS QUICKGUIDE

Here is a series of online presentations that I did with the wonderful assistance of Clint Loveness called “Apologetics QuickGuide.”

It follows the topics from the above menu link: Is Christianity True?

It was filmed at a great location, by a professional film crew.  The quality is outstanding, making the content that much more accessible.  I hope that it can be a help to churches, schools, and individuals for many years to come.

Special thanks to Clint Loveness who filmed, produced, and published these videos.  Here is the introductory video to the four sessions:

 

____________________________________________

Posts about other Apologetic Resources from this blog include:

Belief Map

Reasonable Faith Videos

Advertisements

As planned I am highlighting some useful resources online, in print, conferences, etc. that will help those involved in apologetics.  Recently William Lane Craig’s Reasonable Faith has released a new animated video titled “Who Did Jesus Think He Was?”  Over the years Craig’s ministry has been publishing some very high quality apologetic videos that are under ten minutes each.  These are of great value, quality, and usefulness in our media saturated culture.  Here is the video most recently released:

 

____________________________________________

Post about other Apologetic Resources from this blog include:

Belief Map

 

Screen Shot 2018-05-30 at 2.48.45 PM.pngThe earliest fragment of the gospel of Mark has been published.  Elijah Hixson, adjunct lecturer at Edinburgh Bible College and a regular contributor to the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog, wrote for Christianity Today on May 30, 2018 that “Egypt Exploration Society has recently published a Greek papyrus” and “that the manuscript was written in the range of A.D. 150–250. The manuscript itself is tiny, only 4.4 x 4 cm. It contains a few letters on each side from verses 7–9 and 16–18 of Mark 1.”

There has been much speculation about this manuscript of the years (namely that it was possibly from the first century), but nevertheless, this is an incredible publication.  For more about the sensationalism and speculation about this small fragment you can read my blog entry titled: “First Century Manuscript, Mummy Masks, Hobby Lobby, The Museum of the Bible, and waiting! [UPDATE: and . . . not first century].” That aside, the publication of this fragment is important:

  1. Likely the earliest fragment of the Gospel of Mark
  2. It dates between A.D. 150-250
  3. Excavated from a garbage dump next to the city of Oxyrhynchus, Egypt in 1903
  4. Contains Mark 1:7-9 and 16-18
  5. Presents no new variants showing stability of the New Testament text over time

It is designated P137 because it is the 137th fragment of the New Testament written on papyrus (the writing material of the early copies of the New Testament), while the Egyptian Exploration Society (who is responsible for publishing the finds from Oxyrhynchus for the past century) has designated it as P.Oxy. 83.5345.  The latter designation (P.Oxy.83.5345) is a reference to Oxyrhynchus fragments discovered in the late 19th and early 20th century in which many Old Testament, New Testament, and other fragments where discovered.

A great interview of Dr. Daniel Wallace, New Testament textual critic and scholar of Dallas Theological Seminary and director of The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts, on Veracity Hill (the first 20 minutes).

The EES has made the publication, including images of P137, available here.

Sources:

First-Century Mark Fragment Update” by Daniel Wallace | DanielBWallace March 23, 2018

Despite Disappointing Some, New Mark Manuscript Is Earliest Yet” by Elijah Hixson | Christianity Today March 30, 2018

First-Century Mark,” Published at Last?” by Elijah Hixson | Evangelical Textual Criticism May 23, 2018

Was One of World’s Oldest Bible Passages Found in a Garbage Dump?” by Candida Moss and Joel Baden | The Daily Beast May 25, 2018

 

 

I am going to start a new series on this blog similar to my Science Series or Biblical Archaeology series: Apologetic Resources.  As the name suggests I will be highlighting some useful resources online, in print, conferences, etc. that will help those involved in apologetics.

The first resource I would like to highlight is Belief Map:

Screen Shot 2018-05-08 at 8.34.35 AM

Belief Map is the brain child of Blake Giunta who is an experienced debater and apologist.  Full disclosure, I know Blake personally and have heard him speak and debate in various venues from college campuses to beer halls. While he is active speaking and debating, one of the most time consuming projects he is developing is Belief Map.

Belief Map is “an encyclopedic resource providing users with academically respected points and counterpoints in debates over life’s big questions.”

Belief Map in summary:

  • Serves as an apologetics hotline
  • Is scholarly and reliable
  • Provides a deeply customizable experience
  • Is an ideal way to learn debate

Belief Map’s strength is its menu that procedurally branches out academic points and counter-points in a fun interactive way that actually simulates dialogue between green (the Christian view) and red (the non-Christian view). There are over 1,000 academic citations, as well as over a 1,000 responses and  is continually growing.

Here is a 3 minute tutorial on how to use Belief Map:

 

This site is very organized and focused and with a simple click you can explore the reasons behind the question “Is Christianity True?”  Highly recommended.

 

Have you ever heard someone say, “you have to prove that scientifically.” Or even in news reports that “studies have shown . . . ”  Or maybe you have heard that science is the final or ultimate source of knowledge.  Behind these sentiments may lie a belief called “scientism.”  This mentality has even been put as simply as “If I can’t see it, hear it, or feel it, it doesn’t exist.”

This attitude towards that elevates science to a place of religious devotion is known as “scientism.”

Scientism is the belief that we should believe only what can be proven scientifically. That is, science is the sole source of knowledge and truth.

No doubt, science is a wonderful means of finding out truths about the world and a means of knowledge about the natural world, but science is not the final arbiter of truth. Nevertheless, there are some who claim (or even act as if) science is the only means of knowledge and truth. Here are some examples of people asserting scientism:

  • “Whatever knowledge is attainable, must be attained by scientific methods; and what science cannot discover, mankind cannot know.” – (Bertrand Russell Religion and Science, 243)
  • “Traditionally these are questions for philosophy, but philosophy is dead. Philosophy has not kept up with modern developments in science, particularly physics. Scientists have become the bearers of the torch of discovery in our quest for knowledge.” – (Stephen Hawking The Grand Design, 13)
  • “Science, as the only begetter of truth.” – (Richard Lewontin, The New York Review of Books 1/9/97)

There are several problems with scientism:

  1. Scientism is to restrictive – If science was the only source and final arbitrator of knowledge and truth, then massive fields of knowledge and truth would have to abandoned which most of us take to be legitimate truths and knowledge claims.  For example, if science in the only source for truth then we would have to abandon: mathematical truths, historical knowledge, logical truth, moral truth, and aesthetic truths amongst others.  Any theory of knowledge (such as scientism) that excludes these obvious avenues of truth needs to be abandoned itself, before you abandon these truths.
  2. Scientism is self-refuting – If the only source of knowledge and truth is science, then the claim that “the only source of knowledge and truth is science” is not true or knowable.  Why? Because the claim is not true because of science of known through science, and science it is not known by science, you shouldn’t believe that only science leads to truth and knowledge.

Science is a great and noble discipline.  We gain much knowledge and truth through it and will continue to gain knowledge and truth through science.  But, let’s not come with the mistaken belief that science is the best or only means of truth and knowledge.  The attitude that only science can lead to knowledge and truth is unwarranted, misleading, and self-contradictory.

J. P. Moreland, in his excellent work Love Your God With All Your Mind shares why we should reject scientism: “What I do reject is the idea that science and science alone can claim to give us knowledge. This assertion – known as scientism – is patently false and, in fact, not even a claim of science, but rather, a philosophical view about science.”

J. P. Moreland discusses this issue of scientism in this video:

 

Resources:

“The Dangers of ‘Scientism’ and an Over-Reliance on Science” by J. Warner Wallace | Cold-Case Christianity, Feb 11, 2015

“Is Scientism Self-Refuting?” by William Lane Craig | Reasonable Faith, Mar 21, 2011

“Blinded by Scientism” by Edward Feser | Public Discourse Mar 9, 2010

______________________

Post about other issues concerning science from this blog include:

Science Series: C. S. Lewis on Scientisim, Evolution, and Intelligent Design

Science Series: The Myth that the Church Hindered the Development of Science

Science Series: The Myth that Galileo Goes to Jail

Science Series: The Flat Earth Myth

Science Series: Finely Tuned Cosmos

Science Series: The Dawkins Delusion Continues

Science Series: “Inherit the Wind”

Science Series: Was Belief in God a Science-Stopper? Not for Newton

Science Series: Oxford Professor-Atheism in Decline, Will be Defeated by Faith

Science Series: Creation Confusion – Resources for Research on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design

Science Series: Bill Nye the Pseudo-Science Guy

Science Series: Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God – the Most Popular Article in Wall Street Journal History

Warfare Myth: Science vs. Religion

A great apologetical resource will be made available by Crossway Publishers. They are about to release their new ESV Archaeology Study Bible in April 30, 2018.  Dr. John D. Currid, the Carl W. McMurray Professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary, is the Old Testament editor, while Dr. David Chapman (PhD, Cambridge) is the New Testament editor.

Some of the features include:

  • Double-column, paragraph format
  • 2,000+ study notes
  • 400+ full-color photographs
  • 200+ maps and diagrams
  • 200+ informational sidebars
  • 15 articles like “The Bible and History,” “Archaeology and Preaching,” Major Biblical Finds,” and “Daily Life in the New Testament Era”
  • 4 timelines
  • Book introductions
  • 4-color printing

Crossway’s website on the bible can be found here. A description of the new Bible:

The ESV Archaeology Study Bible roots the biblical text in its historical and cultural context, offering readers a framework for better understanding the people, places, and events recorded in Scripture. With editorial oversight from Dr. John Currid (PhD, University of Chicago) and Dr. David Chapman (PhD, University of Cambridge), as well as contributions from a team of field-trained archaeologists, the Archaeology Study Bible assembles a range of modern scholarship—pairing the biblical text with over 2,000 study notes, 400 full-color photographs, 200 maps and diagrams, 200 sidebars, 15 articles, and 4 timelines. These features bring life to the ancient texts, helping readers situate them in their historical context while recognizing the truth that the eternal God became flesh entered human history at a specific time and in a specific place.

______________________

Post about other biblical archaeological discoveries from this blog include:

The Prophet Isaiah

23 New Testament Figures Confirmed

History Has Gone to the Toilets-The Ancient Latrine of Lachish

Virtual Unwrapping of Levitical Scroll

City of Geza

Philistine Cemetery

Ancient Shopping List Provides Evidence of When Bible Was Written

Hezekiah Bulla

12th Dead Sea Scroll Cave Found!

Bethsaida

53 People in the Old Testament Confirmed Archaeologically

A clay seal stamped with the prophet Isaiah’s name was found recently.  This seal, that would be impressed upon scrolls, is over 2,700 years old and was found next to the other much reported clay seal (or bulla) for Hezekiah.  It would be the first extra-Biblical evidence of the prophet Isaiah.

In a statement Dr. Eilat Mazar of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem said that, “We found the eighth-century B.C.E. seal mark that may have been made by the prophet Isaiah himself only 10 feet away from where we earlier discovered the highly-publicized bulla of King Hezekiah of Judah.”

The clay seal is only a half and inch in width.  The seal reads “[belonging] to Isaiah nvy.”  Bible History Daily reports that:

archaeologist Eilat Mazar and her team have discovered a small seal impression that reads “[belonging] to Isaiah nvy.” The upper portion of the impression is missing, and its left side is damaged. Reconstructing a few Hebrew letters in this damaged area would cause the impression to read, “[belonging] to Isaiah the prophet.”

Major Biblical Discovery: Archaeologists May Have Found the Prophet Isaiah’s ‘Signature’”  by James Rogers Fox News | Feb 22, 2018

Isaiah’s Signature Uncovered in Jerusalem: Evidence of the Prophet Isaiah?” by Megan Sauter | Bible History Daily Feb, 22, 2108

An Unprecedented Find: Prophet Isaiah’s Seal Mark Possibly Discovered in Jerusalem” by Robert Cargill | Biblical Archaeological Society Feb 22, 2018

 

____________________

Post about other biblical archaeological discoveries from this blog include:

23 New Testament Figures Confirmed

History Has Gone to the Toilets-The Ancient Latrine of Lachish

Virtual Unwrapping of Levitical Scroll

City of Geza

Philistine Cemetery

Ancient Shopping List Provides Evidence of When Bible Was Written

Hezekiah Bulla

12th Dead Sea Scroll Cave Found!

Bethsaida

53 People in the Old Testament Confirmed Archaeologically

Generation Z

The generation born from 1999 to 2015.  They are the successors of Gen X (born 1965-1980) and Gen Y, also known as Millennials (b. 1981-1998).  The dates are approximations and arbitrary as created by sociologists and scholars studying generational trends.  The Barna Group alongside the ministry Impact360 has conducted as study of Gen Z’ers called “Who Is Gen Z.”  A short introductory video of their study can be viewed:

 

Jonathan Morrow, director of Cultural Engagement at Impact360, wrote an article titled “Why Gen Z Is Not Prepared To Follow Jesus In A Post-Everything World” and revealed that only 4% of Gen Z has a Biblical Worldview while atheism is on the rise amongst this generation.

Gen Z and Atheism

One of the things that has come to light in the Barna study:

“Atheism Doubles Among Generation Z”

In Barna’s report they reveal:

Enter Generation Z: Born between 1999 and 2015, they are the first truly “post-Christian” generation. More than any other generation before them, Gen Z does not assert a religious identity. They might be drawn to things spiritual, but with a vastly different starting point from previous generations, many of whom received a basic education on the Bible and Christianity. And it shows: The percentage of Gen Z that identifies as atheist is double that of the U.S. adult population.

The percentage of Gen Z’ers to be atheist has more than double previous generations: 13% of Generation Z compared to 6% of adults:

comp gen z

Gen Z and The Problem of Evil

Why is Gen Z more likely to be atheistic?  Well, Barna asked and they answered:

Teens, along with young adults, are more likely than older Americans to say the problem of evil and suffering is a deal breaker for them. It appears that today’s youth, like so many throughout history, struggle to find a compelling argument for the existence of both evil and a good and loving God.

The problem of evil is an ancient objection dating all the way back to the Greek philosopher Epicurus who formulated the problem as such:

“Either God wants to abolish evil, and cannot; or he can, but does not want to; or he cannot and does not want to.  If he wants to, but cannot, he is not all powerful.  If he can, and he does not want to, he is wicked.  But, if God both can and wants to abolish evil, then how comes evil in the world?”

The Problem of Evil and Apologetics

Notice, this is an intellectual objection to the truth of Christianity.  Oddly, Christian philosophers, theologians, and apologists have answered this intellectual objection.  In fact, they have answered it so convincingly that even professional atheists have admitted that there is not logical problem of evil that has successfully demonstrated that God doesn’t exist.  The late atheist philosopher William Rowe, stated that “Some philosophers have contended that the existence of evil is logically inconsistent with the existence of a theistic God.  No one, I think, has succeeded in establishing such an extravagant claim.” Consider Paul Draper, agnostic philosopher of religion at Purdue: “I do not see how it is possible to construct a convincing logical argument from evil against theism.”

Christian scholars have gone on to differentiate between two types of intellectual problems of evil: the logical problem (as commented on by Rowe and Draper above) and the evidential problem of evil.  I won’t address the difference here (see the videos by Reasonable Faith below as well as the other resources), but just seeing the categorization by Christian scholars shows how extensively they have thought and contemplated the issue of evil.

Intellectual vs. Emotional Evil

While Rowe and Draper are referring to the intellectual problem of evil, evil and suffering has another sides: emotional.  This is an important distinction we need to make.  While one can (and has) provide answers to the intellectual problem of evil, it doesn’t mean that we won’t experience evil personally.  We still have to grapple and suffer through evil and pain.  Some of it quite horrific.  But the emotional experience of pain and suffering is not an argument, but a personal struggle.  It is a struggle that the Christian worldview can offer satisfying resources and comfort for someone who is suffering pain and evil.  Christianity can speak of the patience and mercy of God. It can mention the future perfection that awaits all who trust in Christ. It can offer the comfort that a redemptive God is working to cause all things to work together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. It has a “good news” of hope for a broken world. The atheistic worldview denies these luxuries.

Apologetics and the Christian worldview has the intellectual and emotional resources for Gen Z.  It just needs to be communicated: which Christian apologetics does.  Not just intellectual answers, but deeply personal, psychological, and spiritual answers.

Resources:

Books:

God and Evil: The Case for God in a World Filled with Pain ed. by Chad Meister and James K. Dew, Jr. – one of the best collected works covering all the angles on the question of evil that “offers convincing and compelling reassurance that though we are pressed on every side with great evil and suffering, the God of the universe is greater still.”

Why Does God Allow Evil? Compelling Answers to Life’s Toughest Questions by Clay Jones – a shorter work that answer some of the common questions in a very accessible but intellectual sound manner

The Problem of Evil: The Challenge to Essential Christian Beliefs by Jeremy A. Evans 

The Problem of Pain by C. S. Lewis – a classic examination of the intellectual problem of evil

A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis – an examination of the emotional problem of evil

Walking Through Twilight: A Wife’s Illness–A Philosopher’s Lament by Douglas Groothuis – a new book by Christian philosopher Groothuis as he opens up personally about his wife’s struggle with dementia as he reflects on it as a philosopher and a husband

 

Videos:

The Logical Problem of Evil:

 

The Evidential (Probabilistic) Problem of Evil:

 

Other videos:

 

 

 

 

 

 

The earliest manuscript (written copy) of the New Testament is the John Ryland fragment, sometimes called P52. Concerning manuscripts, there are no original documents (called “autographs”) of any book of the New Testament.  In order to reproduce what was in the original you have to compare and contrast the varied manuscripts (copies).  The more manuscripts you have the better you can reproduce the original autograph. (See #2 here for more on the manuscripts of the New Testament).

The Ryland fragment dates from the early second century (somewhere between 100-150 AD). We don’t have or are not aware of any manuscript for the New Testament from the first century. Here is a short video about the John Ryland fragment:

 

But, back in 2012 Dr. Daniel Wallace dropped a bombshell of an announcement in a debate with Dr. Bart Ehrman.  In that debate Dr Wallace announced that a first century manuscript of the gospel of Mark had been discovered and it was to be published that year. (the relevant comment is at 1:12:00 through 1:15:00)  This was very exciting news and a groundbreaking discovery given that the earliest manuscript that we have in our possession is the John Ryland fragment.

So, if this manuscript that Dr. Wallace referenced is correct, then this would be an incredible development in manuscript studies.  We would have a first century manuscript when we only have a handful of second century manuscripts of the New Testament.

I even announced the discovery to my classes given the significance of such a find.

But then, all we heard was silence. I waited for the publication of the manuscript as it would take the world by storm.  And I waited.  And then I waited some more.

What was the hold up? Where was this manuscript found? What portion of Mark did it contain? Did it conform with our other manuscript readings of Mark or differ?

I didn’t hear anything for a long time.  Then Dr. Craig Evans at the Apologetics Canada Conference in 2014 discussed this “discovery.”  He provided a little more explanation of this supposed fragment.  The video below is a clip of his presentation:

 

From the video we learn that:

  • It apparently was recovered from a funeral mummy mask.
  • It was made of papier-mache.
  • It was made up of used paper.
  • This fragment was used to make a funeral mask.
  • They have to dissolve the mask in order to recover the fragment.
  • This fragment apparently dates from the 80s of the first century.
  • It was to be published later in 2014.

Screen Shot 2017-12-06 at 8.50.53 AM.png

Here is a video of the process of dissolving a funeral mask in order to recover the fragmentary manuscripts.

Well, it is now 2018 and we have yet to see a publication of the first century fragment of Mark uncovered from a funeral mask.

Well, the issue is a bit more sticky.  There has been complaints about the dissolving or deconstructing of funeral masks to recover these ancient manuscripts.  Over at Faces and Voices Roberta Mazza, lecturer in Classics and Ancient History at the University of Manchester, complains that:

These people are not doing any good service to the public and to our cultural heritage patrimony. The audience who attend their talks are told fantasy stories on the retrieval of papyrus fragments and their date, and on the quest for Christian original texts; apologists’ speeches are not only misinformed, but can even encourage more people to buy mummy masks on the antiquities market and dissolve them in Palmolive soap – a method suggested publicly by one of them, Josh McDowell, close friend of the ex-director of the Green Collection, Scott Carroll. All this said, I must confess this pseudo-scholarship is procuring me endless, astonished entertainment…

Dr. Scott Carroll is the former director of the Green Collection which is one of the world’s largest private collection of rare biblical texts and artifacts.  The Green Collection is a collection assembled by the Green family, founders of national retail chain Hobby Lobby.  It has 40,000 to 50,000 items.  The Museum of the Bible, which opened in late 2017, displays many of these items.  Scott Carroll was responsible for the acquisition of items in the Green Collection.

Since Dr. Carroll time with the Green Collection, we have seen him team up with Josh McDowell in dissolving funeral masks to produce ancient manuscripts.

In December of 2013, Josh McDowell held an exclusive event in which two funeral masks were dissolved by Carroll called “Discover the Evidence.”  The website of the events describes that a “meeting of so many people participating in the extraction of ancient papyri had never been tried before. Everyone attending was able to see and touch ancient manuscripts few ever experience. We heard from top scholars and experts of our day on biblical manuscript discovery including the Dead Sea Scrolls. We watched as papyri were carefully extracted from ancient artifacts.”

The dissolving of the funeral masks by Scott Carroll can be seen in this video:

 

In the video you see Josh McDowell participating.  It is a fascinating process, but not all are pleased.  Candida R. Moss and Joel S. Baden over at The Christian Century have written a scathing piece titled “Why did the Museum of the Bible’s Scholars Destroy Ancient Egyptian Artifacts?” They write that

The possibility of recovering ancient texts from the cartonnage of Egyptian mummy masks came to the attention of evangelical collectors and apologists like McDowell primarily through the work of Scott Carroll. Trained in ancient languages and history at the University of Miami, Carroll has made a career acting as an agent for individual collectors, most recently for the Green family, which owns the Hobby Lobby company, possesses one of the world’s largest collections of biblical artifacts, and is the force behind the Museum of the Bible which opened in November [2017] in Washington, D.C.

Moss and Baden complain that:

In the early 1980s, scholars developed a new method for extracting the papyrus cartonnage from its overlaid plaster, a method that avoided damaging the painted surface. Although relatively easy and inexpensive, the process is time-consuming, taking about a week from start to finish. This may not seem long, but it doesn’t allow for a one-day presentation of the sort led by McDowell and Carroll. For their purposes, a faster method was needed. They used an older method, developed in the 19th century.

Bart Ehrman, who was debating Wallace when Wallace announced the first century Mark fragment, over at his blog writes scathingly:

This complete disregard for the sanctity of surviving antiquities is, for many, many of us not just puzzling but flat-out distressing.   It appears that the people behind and the people doing this destruction of antiquities are all conservative evangelical Christians, who care nothing about the preservation of the past – they care only about getting their paws on a small  fragment of a manuscript.  Can there be any question that with them we are not dealing with historians but Christian apologists?

Mary-Ann Russon writing for the International Business Time writes that “although Evans’ discovery is not insignificant, there are many scholars in the archaeology world who disagree with dismantling ancient mummy masks to access the papyrus texts.”

Why hasn’t scholars who have announced this find given more information?  It has been since 2012 that the discovery was announced. It seems that Wallace and Evans have signed a non-disclosure agreement.  It it unethical to deconstruct the funerary mask to uncover ancient manuscripts?  These are hard questions.  It seems that if there is a process to preserve the mask while still uncovering the manuscripts then that method should be preferred.

Candida R. Moss and Joel S. Baden are the authors of Bible Nation: The United States of Hobby Lobby published by Princeton University Press.  One review for the book on the Princeton Press website stated that “The Greens may well be the most sincere and most-frequently misguided activists in America.”  The are disparaging about the Green Collection, the Museum of the Bible, and the Green Scholars Initiative as well as Scott Carroll and Josh McDowell. Moss and Baden in The Christian Century go on to claim that the reliability of the textual transmission in relation to the funeral masks is part of a “deep belief in the divine protection of the text of the Chris­tian scriptures and in their inerrant transmission across the millennia.”  They go on to assert that “those audiences are being misled about the meaning of the fragments and about their relevance to claims for inerrant transmission.”

Let me pause to comment briefly about Moss and Baden’s representation of these events.

I don’t know of any evangelical scholar or apologist who claims that the transmission was inerrant.  This is a mis-representation of the position. Unless you are a King James Only advocate, this is just a straw-man argument against evangelical Christian scholars.  In fact, if evangelical scholars and apologists believed the transmission was inerrant, there would be no need to recover manuscripts to determine what the originals said.  In fact, the opposite is true: evangelicals DON’T believe the transmission was errorless, thus the desire to recover early manuscripts to determine the original wording of the autographs.

That being said, recently Peter Gurry, a PhD student at Cambridge in New Testament studies, posted at Evangelical Textual Criticism that Carroll was not the individual to discover the supposed first-century fragment of Mark, but that he had seen it twice. Carroll likewise mentions that he doesn’t believe it came from a funeral mask as well, but the owner wants to remain anonymous.   Also, Gurry reports that Dr. Dirk Obbink, a papyrologist at Oxford University, appears to be the individual that dates the fragment to the first-century.

A helpful timeline of events for the supposed first-century fragment of Mark can be found here. I have provided an abbreviated timeline of this first-century fragment of Mark that we are waiting for publication:

  • Dec 1, 2011 – Dr. Carroll tweets about an earlier fragment than the John Ryland Screen Shot 2017-12-07 at 11.15.12 AM.pngfragment
  • Feb 1, 2012 – Dr. Wallace announces the discovery of a first-century fragment of Mark at his debate with Dr. Ehrman
  • Feb 15, 2012 – Dr Witherington writes about the possibility of the Mark fragment
  • Sept 6, 2013 – Dr Carroll at a presentation of the University of the Nations announces the discovery of the earliest text of Mark (minute 37 and 38)
  • Mar 7-8, 2014 – Dr. Evans lectures at Apologetics Canada Conference about the first century fragment of Mark and funeral masks.
  • Oct 16-17, 2015 – Footage Carroll mentioning Dirk Obbink as the one studying the manuscript assigning a date between A. D. 70 and 120, that he has seen the manuscript twice, that the Green Collection does not own the manuscript
  • Feb 23, 2018 – Dr. Gary Habermas at Purdue University mentions the “Mark fragment” (video can be seen below after UPDATE).
  • Mar 23, 2018 – ETC website discusses publication of this fragment. (see UPDATE below]
  • Mar 23, 2018 – Dr. Wallace affirms that the fragment is NOT first-century and explains why he mistakingly, but unknowingly, announced it at the debate with Dr. Ehrman in 2012.

Well, it is 2017 2018 and nothing has come to light about this supposed fragment yet. Nevertheless, we are still waiting for any publication of this first century manuscript of Mark.  Brill announced the publication of the Green Scholars Initiative of rare unpublished papyri. Maybe that volume will contain this fragment as well as others that have been mentioned along with the first-century fragment.  But we wait…and wait we must.

Well, it looks like the wait is over and . . . . probably not first century (see UPDATE #2) below.

[UPDATE #1]

Dr. Gary Habermas, presenting at Purdue University, revealed that he had permission to announce the Mark fragment (here again, a mention, but no production or citation) that supposedly dates between 80-110 AD.  The video can be viewed below starting at the 22 minute mark:

 

[UPDATE #2]

Elijah Hixson over at the blog site Evangelical Textual Criticism has some information that might reference the possible first century fragment of Mark in an article titled ” ‘First-Century Mark,’ Published at Last?”.  A taste of the article:

It looks like we are finally getting that First-Century Mark (henceforth, FCM) fragment everyone has been talking about for years. (By the designation “FCM” I am not implying that it actually dates to the first century. I don’t know the date yet. I only mean that “FCM” is probably the actual papyrus that has been reported to be the first-century Mark fragment.)

Peter Gurry has accessed the edition and confirmed that this fragment has been dated to the “(later) second or (earlier) third century.” Either there are two early Mark fragments (highly unlikely), or the “First-Century Mark” is not first-century, after all.

Looks like it isn’t a first century fragment if this information is correct.

[UPDATE #3]

Dr. Daniel Wallace, who initiated the speculation of a first-century fragment of Mark at the the Bart Ehrman debate in 2012, has issued an update and an apology for being part of unknowingly spreading misinformation.  You can read it at “First-Century Mark Fragment Update” on his blog.  Some of the more pertinent information:

I [Daniel B. Wallace] signed a non-disclosure agreement about this manuscript in 2012 sometime after I made an announcement about it in my third debate with Bart Ehrman at North Carolina, Chapel Hill (February 1, 2012). I was told in the non-disclosure agreement not to speak about when it would be published or whether it even exists. The termination of this agreement would come when it was published. Consequently, I am now free to speak about it.

and

I had it on good authority that this was definitely a first-century fragment of Mark. A representative for who I understood was the owner of FCM urged me to make the announcement at the debate, which they realized would make this go viral. However, the information I received and was assured to have been vetted was incorrect. It was my fault for being naïve enough to trust that the data I got was unquestionable, as it was presented to me. So, I must first apologize to Bart Ehrman, and to everyone else, for giving misleading information about this discovery.

Hard lesson to learn.  But, may we all learn from it.

[UPDATE #4]

An excellent article by Elijah Hixson at Christianity Today titled “Despite Disappointing Some, New Mark Manuscript Is Earliest Yet” provided an excellent summary of this issue concerning the fragment of Mark.  While it is disappointing that it is not from the first century (it seems to date from A.D. 150-250), it is probably the earliest fragment of the gospel of Mark.  The sensationalistic reporting that it was from the first century has overshadowed the importance of this fragment unfortunately.  Images of P137 (has it is now designated) can be viewed here.

Sources:

Why did the Museum of the Bible’s scholars destroy ancient Egyptian artifacts?” by Candida R. Moss and Joel S. Baden | The Christian Century November 29, 2017

Mark strikes back: Mummy cartonnage and Christian apologetics, again…” by Roberta Mazza | Faces and Voices Nov 25, 2014

First-century Mark: A Timeline” by James Snapp, Jr | The Text of the Gospels Jan 31, 2015

New Details Emerge about ‘First Century Mark’ from Scott Carroll” by Peter Gurry | Evangelical Textual Criticism July 14, 2017

First-Century Mark Fragment Update” by Daniel Wallace | DanielBWallace March 23, 2018

Despite Disappointing Some, New Mark Manuscript Is Earliest Yet” by Elijah Hixson | Christianity Today March 30, 2018

 


originsxmas

Here is interesting myth to consider as we enter into this Christmas season:

It is generally asserted that December 25 was designated as the birth of Christ to replace the pagan celebration of the Winter Solstice. Claims about the Christmas myth have been reported at christmasisalie.com and, of course, youtube such as this video at the end of the clip:

 

Well, this story might not be so clear cut as youtube tells us.  Several articles by scholars and historians are challenging this claim.

David Lattier, the VP of Intellectual Takeout who received his B.A. in Philosophy and Catholic Studies at St. Thomas, and his M.A. and Ph.D. in Systematic Theology at Duquesne University, reports that the “popular idea that Christians co-opted the pagan feast originates with Paul Ernst Jablonski (1693-1757), who opposed various supposed ‘paganizations’ of Christianity.”  Lattier, references the work by William J. Tighe, Associate Professor of History at Muhlenberg College.  Tighe, wrote for Touchstone magazine stating that “it is perhaps interesting to know that the choice of December 25th is the result of attempts among the earliest Christians to figure out the date of Jesus’ birth based on calendrical calculations that had nothing to do with pagan festivals.”  Tighe goes on to explain that:

December 25th as the date of the Christ’s birth appears to owe nothing whatsoever to pagan influences upon the practice of the Church during or after Constantine’s time. It is wholly unlikely to have been the actual date of Christ’s birth, but it arose entirely from the efforts of early Latin Christians to determine the historical date of Christ’s death.

You will have to read the full article for the details, but it well worth the read as we enter into the Christmas season this year.

J. P. Holden of Tekton Apologetics has written a book about the issue titled Christmas is Pagan and Other Myths.  Amazon describe the book: “Is it evil to celebrate Christmas? Are Christmas trees forbidden by Jeremiah 10? Is Santa Claus an evil, Satanic figure? In this e-book, Christian apologist James Patrick Holding takes on anti-Christmas crusaders who declare that celebrating Christmas is a one way ticket to perdition.”

I will leave it to you to make up your own mind.  Merry Christmas and/or Happy Winter Solstice 🙂

_____________

Resources:

The Myth of the Pagan Origins of Christmas” by David Lattier | Intellectual Takeout November 24, 2017

Calculating Christmas: The Story Behind December 25” by William J. Tighe | Touchstone Dec 2003.

Is Christmas Pagan?” by Greg Koukl | Stand to Reason March 11, 2013

Christmas is Pagan and Other Mythsby J. P. Holding