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Old 01-03-2001, 07:45 PM   #1
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Post 7Q5 and Redating the Gospel of Mark

Okay, let's get this show on the road.

Among the many papyrus fragments found within the caves at Qumran were a number of fragments written in Greek found largely in Cave 7. One of these in particular has become extremely important, and was labeled 7Q5. Until recently it was believed that we could not know what ancient work this fragment came from, but now have learned that it is, in fact, a portion of the Gospel of Mark 6:52-53. The reason this is important will be discussed below, and much of the heavy lifting in determining both what 7Q5 was, and dating it can be attributed to the leading papyrologist, Dr. C. Peter Thiede, with his findings being published in the book ”Eyewitness to Jesus, by Carsten Peter Thiede and Matthew D’Arcona, Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc., 1996.

The majority of this book is dedicated to discussing three other papyri known as the Magdalen Papyrus, and relating to the Gospel of Matthew 26, but in Chapter 3 (pages 29-46) Thiede spends a great deal of time explaining his methodology, and especially in how he applies it in studying 7Q5. The results and his conclusions are both astonishing, and solid. I will briefly cover off his points.

Is it Mark 6:52-53?

Thiede first uses stichometry (the commonly used technique by papyrologists of measuring books) together with reconstructing the letters found on the papyrus and seeing if they match words and letters from an ancient text in order to establish that 7Q5 is a portion of Mark. In the case of the stichometry, the letters match up very well with other documents of its type, with 21 to 23 letters per line being the norm (Thiede EJ, pg. 36). So far as measuring the document is concerned, ”…the stichometry of St. Mark 6:53 confirms rather than undermines the identification of Qumran fragment 7Q5 with this Gospel. (Ibid. pg. 37 quoting from “Die Religion der Qumranleute”, K. Schubert, Graz, 1993, pg. 84-85).

The lettering is even more decisive in confirming the identity of the document. Comparative analysis is employed to help Thiede examine the letters, and he even goes so far as to use an electron microscope at the Investigations Department of the Israel National Police in Jerusalem (Ibid. pg. 41) to confirm that one of the most hotly contested letters in the document (a letter “nu” or “N” on line 2) is actually a “nu” as opposed to an “iota” (or “I”) as was believed previously). The results are conclusive, proving that the letter is in fact a “nu”, and thus keeping the text consistent with what we would expect to find in Mark 6:53 (a diagram of the letter in question compared against the other letter “nu” is found on page 42). In so doing, Thiede had confirmed the hypothesis put forward by earlier papyrologists Herbert Hunger and Jose O’Callagan (that 7Q5 is actually Mark 6:52-53), but who had not had the necessary technology available to them to prove it. In Thiede’s words, ”…the remains of a diagonal line became visible, beginning at the upper end of the left vertical stroke (which some thought to be an “iota”, moving down to the bottom of the right. The line is not complete-the traces broke off after a few millimeters-but it was long and straight enough to be absolutely conclusive: it must have been the diagonal middle line of a “nu”… and thus the word is “auton” as required by St. Mark 6:53.” (Ibid. pg. 41).

Finally, Thiede deals with the possibility that the fragment could be from a previously unknown “sayings” Gospel (like the hypothetical “Q” Gospel for example) by showing that the fragment does not contain a single saying of Jesus, nor could it be from a Passion Story (Ibid. pg. 46).

So conclusive is Thiede’s proof, that leading papyrologists have come to accept them, including the Jewish scholar Shemaryahu Talmon, and Orsolina Montevecchi, Honorary President of the International Papyrologists’ Association who is quoted as saying “I do not think that there can be any doubt about the identification of 7Q5 (as Mark 6:52-53).” (Ibid. pg. 32). The full discussion for those interested can be found in Chapter 3 from pages 29-46.

Dating 7Q5

Since the fragment is found in the caves by the Dead Sea, and clearly belonged to the Qumran community, then it cannot possibly date later than 68 AD (when the entire community fled from the Roman army and abandoned the Dead Sea Scrolls). Quite simply, ”…the Dead Sea Scrolls from the Qumran Caves provide us with Greek texts which may be even older than the first century B.C., but which cannot be later than A.D. 68.” (Ibid. pg. 119).

Conclusion

By pushing the date of the papyrus fragment 7Q5 back to no later than 68 AD (and possibly as early as 50 AD), dating of the Synoptic Gospels is radically affected. Until now, it has been commonly accepted that Mark should be dated no earlier than 70AD, and that Matthew and Luke, who probably used Mark as one of their sources must therefore have been written between 75-85 AD. Such late dates have tended to present a problem when attributing authorship to the disciples whose names these Gospels bear, since these men would have been very old by then. But if we can establish that the Synoptics were written in the early to mid 60’s instead (up to 20 years earlier than previously thought), then the idea that eyewitnesses could have actually written these gospels increases dramatically. And there can be no question that many other witnesses to the life of Jesus would have also still been alive (including many of the apostles, especially Peter, John and Paul). In the words of Ulrich Victor, a distinguished German classical philologist (as quoted in an article by Time Magazine’s Religious Editor, Richard Ostling (“A Step Closer to Jesus?” Jan. 23, 1995), “The problem is, this (early dating of GMark and GMatthew) upsets the whole theological establishment.”

In my view, this bit of work, together with Thiede’s even more dramatic discoveries regarding the so called Magdalen Papyrus fragments, could very well revolutionize all of New Testament scholarship, and many of its underlying assumptions and beliefs.

I invite comment, and any known critique of Thiede’s work in this area, and look forward to the discussion.

Peace,

Nomad
 
Old 01-03-2001, 08:00 PM   #2
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The analysis of a single disputed letter was important?

Precisely what does this fragment actually say?
 
Old 01-03-2001, 08:57 PM   #3
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by SingleDad:
The analysis of a single disputed letter was important?</font>
Yeah, I know, welcome to the wonderful world of papyrology. Fun fun fun eh?

But if the letter in question had actually been and "I" instead of an "N", then the word in question (that MUST be in the text if the fragment is to be Mark 6:53) is "auton". The "I" would have made it "auto", an entirely different Greek word, and disqualifying it from possibly being from Mark's Gospel at all.

Believe it or not, these papyrologist will spend YEARS and MOUNTAINS of ink and paper arguing about stuff like this. Especially considering what is at stake.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Precisely what does this fragment actually say?</font>
The visible letters form the words for the sentence (remember that just like dinosaurs are assembled from pieces of bones, but almost never complete skeletons, the same is true of ancient papyrus texts, and now you know why these guys need years of education, TONS of patience, and a thick skin for the fight), "...NNES..." (which can only be from the word Gennesar since we don't have any other Greek word that fits the context of the sentence with these sequence of letters), AUTON (with the disputed "N"), and KAI.

The full reading of the passage in Greek is (bold shows what is on the fragment):

GAR SUNIEMI OU EPI ARTOS
GAR AUTON KARDIA EN POROO
KAI DIAPERAO ERCHOMAI
GENNESARET KAI PROSORMIZO


(Note: Other letters and portions of letters are visible, but the key words are in bold.)

Translation:
Mark 6:52 for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.
53 When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret and anchored there.

Most people glaze over on this stuff, but this is the nuts and bolts science of papyrology, one of the true sciences of textual criticism.

Peace,

Nomad

(Edited to try and show the text as it would look on the original document and in all uppercase as it was written originally. Note also that in the original Greek, spaces would not have appeared between the words themselves)

[This message has been edited by Nomad (edited January 04, 2001).]
 
Old 01-03-2001, 09:01 PM   #4
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Now that's what I call evidence and a good chain of inference!

Now I understand why the number of letters per line is important: that's what synchronizes the several words on the lines and allows us to infer the whole text.

What specifically do the words "auton" and "kai" mean?
 
Old 01-03-2001, 09:50 PM   #5
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Hey, cool! Let me try my hand at a little Greek...

Simplistically:

"kai" means "and"

"auton" means "of them"

If that Nu(N) in "auton" changes to Iota(I), assuming the "o" is Omega as it should be, you would have "autoi" which means "to/for him" I think, right? I'm not so positive about this one.

I've heard of 7Q5 and the debate. I'm not sure I'm completely convinced though. I mean, afterall, it is *only* pieces of three words. Lots of assumptions are being made here. I just hope something can eventually be made of it or scholarship will be forever divided depending on how highly Thiede's scholarship is viewed.

Later,
Ish
 
Old 01-03-2001, 09:54 PM   #6
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So why do we think it's a part of Mark, and not, "we went to the store and then hung out with their cousins who just got in from Gennesaret?"
 
Old 01-04-2001, 12:08 AM   #7
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by SingleDad:
So why do we think it's a part of Mark, and not, "we went to the store and then hung out with their cousins who just got in from Gennesaret?"</font>
Okay, this concern is not a small one (enenthough I know your tongue was planted in your cheek here SD), and it is possible that the fragment is from an unknown document (as are the other fragments found in Cave 7).

However, the fact that every letter that we CAN make out lines up perfectly with what we would expect to find in Mark's Gospel increases the likelyhood that it is actually Mark 6:52-53. When they line up this well, one either accepts that it is from Mark, or falls back on special pleading to deny the claim.

For me, I think it could be something besides Mark, but the evidence is conclusive enough that the papyrologists that have examined Thiede's work appear to be convinced. As Thiede himself notes, many other fragments have been similarily ascribed to various works without any controversy or opposition at all. The only real opposition we have found thus far appears to be more theologically and ideologically driven than anything else, and this is not objective science.

Of course, the fragment still exists, and anyone that wishes to see it can do so. Those with the training and skill to examine the document are free to offer any theories they wish, and maybe a better one will be offered. Right now Thiede's holds up better than the rest.

Nomad

P.S. Ish, you are right, and if the nu(N) was an iota(I), then the document cannot be from Mark. G. Stanton made this argument himself in his book, "Gospel Truth?", but he ignored some important evidence already available at the time, and Thiede addresses Stanton's concerns in his book as well.
 
Old 01-04-2001, 12:12 AM   #8
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Have you read The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark by Dennis R. MacDonald, reviewed on this site by Richard Carrier:

http://www.infidels.org/library/mode...erandmark.html

I have started to read this book, and it is astonishing. It is quite clear that Mark's story, whether written in the year 50 or the year 100, was a literary device based on Homer. There is no reason to think that Mark had any intent of writing a factual account of a person named Jesus.
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Old 01-04-2001, 07:56 AM   #9
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">However, the fact that every letter that we CAN make out lines up perfectly with what we would expect to find in Mark's Gospel increases the likelyhood that it is actually Mark 6:52-53. When they line up this well, one either accepts that it is from Mark, or falls back on special pleading to deny the claim.</font>
It certainly makes the claim plausible. But it's not "special pleading" to say it might merely be a coincidence. What we would like are some odds.

Just from looking at this example, the "nnes" might be good clue, if it's never part of an ordinary word. We would have to know what are the odds that someone might be talking about Gennesaret without having anything to do with Mark.

Note, I more or less accept the authority of the experts (with Ish's proviso) but I really am interested in the method of investigation here.
 
Old 01-04-2001, 01:10 PM   #10
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another explanation, is that this is fragmentary papyri from which the ORAL TRADITION that later came to be known as the Gospel of Mark was taken from.

Many Xians routinely discount the Coptic gospels, and steadfastly refuse to believe that there were MANY sects of early CHRIST cults, that did not always agree to the same STORY.
 
 

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