If you’ve been following the discussion regarding the “Markan fragment” that is supposed to be from the first century you know that a picture has begun circulating that is said to be of the fragment. At first glance it seems like a fraud. There have been a couple comments on this blog that have been very insightful. They were left on the post “The earliest Markan manuscript fragment?“
First, an anonymous comment says the picture originated on Facebook published by a user with the name “GodAlmighty” which seems suspicious (see here).
Joe Zias wrote (full comment here), “Having seen a fair share of manuscripts from the Judean desert, I’d give it a zero on the Richter scale, moreover the way that it’s displayed between two glass plates, sealed, is how things were done ca 70 yrs ago. And yes you are right, letters are too sharp, nothing whatsoever to suggest it’s old.”
Carl Moerschbacher added the following (full comment here):
“Although paleography and papyrology are not my main areas of study, I am currently working on a research project at the University of Minnesota involving the analysis of manuscripts from the Oxyrhynchus Papyri through the University of Oxford’s Ancient Lives project. I have been able to study the fundamentals of papyrology and Greek paleography, and I must say, that this fragment is without doubt a modern creation. One thing that betrays it being a counterfeit is the difference in letter style. Granted, antique manuscripts often contain numerous scribal hands, but the forger of this fragment has obviously overexploited that fact in his/her attempt to create the appearance of authenticity. For example, I see at least three uniquely-written “alphas” in this small fragment, each of which seems to have been consciously manipulated to appear as though they had been written by different scribes. Take a look at the “alphas” in lines 1, 6, and 8, and you can immediately see the differences to which I am referring. The “alpha” in line 8 has a very “s-like” spinal curvature whereas the “alpha” in line 6 is extremely straight, almost as though it were an inscribed epigraph; the “alpha” in line 1 also has somewhat of an “s-like” spinal curvature, but its “loop” is much fuller than those on the other “alphas.” Also, I actually cannot tell whether the fragment is made of parchment or papyrus, but the mottled-looking surface is not normal for very old (or new) animal skins, so I doubt it is parchment. If it is papyrus, it is very odd-looking to me as there are no “fray” marks that are usually present on antique papyrus manuscripts.”
Very insightful critiques. Any thoughts?