After all the information we have been recently given on New Testament papyri retrieved from mummy cartonnage, I have decided to do some serious research on the topic. I made a check on the usual catalogues of manuscripts of the New Testament and on the Leuven Database of Ancient Books (very convenient, since it includes information on cartonnage when available as explained in the Help page), and also read some bibliography on papyri of the New Testament, but I was unable to find a single case of New Testament papyrus coming from mummy cartonnage.
So I did what you must never do in serious research, but everybody always does: I googled the term, and guess what? The Green Scholars Initiative came up on top of the results list. In one of the many webpages dedicated to papyrology in the Green house, I have found a nice image portraying the director of the GSI, Jerry Pattengale, and Jeffrey Fish, papyrologist at Baylor University and member of the GSI, working on fragments (usual, boring question: from where?) surrounded by students. The caption below the picture explains:
“Drs. Pattengale and Fish describe a papyri project under research at Christ Church, Oxford, where scholars are dismantling mummy cartonnage dating to the third century B.C. (BCE). Approximately 25 percent of all early New Testament papyri comes from similar cartonnage research conducted over the past two centuries”
I am very worried about the education of these students, first of all about their math, secondly their papyrology and thirdly their New Testament philology, which is supposed to be the core business of the Green Scholars Initiative and its patron Mr Green. As I said, to my knowledge, there is not a single case of New Testament papyrus coming from mummy cartonnage attested so far (correct me if I am wrong…). Unless the writer meant ‘cartonnage research conducted over the past two years’ and we count the discoveries mentioned by Scott Carroll and Josh McDowell (but then the years should be three since all started in 2011). And what have third century BC mummy masks to do with the New Testament by the way, since Jesus was not even born? Two centuries of papyrology? I thought papyrology just turned the century, as Pete Van Minnen explained us in a very interesting paper 21 years ago (“The Century of Papyrology: 1892-1992,” BASP 30 (1993), 5-18).
My brain confusion is increasing so I am looking forward to reading about the project at Christ Church, Oxford, in Brill’s forthcoming publications. In the meanwhile I’d suggest to join the talk of Jerry Pattengale and Dirk Obbink for the Green collection exhibit Passages, in Springfield Missouri next 16 December 2014: “Unveiling Cartonnage: The Practice and Value of Dissolving Reused Papyri Manuscripts for Biblical Studies.”