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an interesting discussion over at Evangelical Textual Criticism on the possibility of NT papyri having been extracted from mummy cartonnage.
Leaving aside the ethics of extracting papyri from cartonnage (a very interesting topic in itself) another part of the discussion was whether or not NT papyri could have come from mummy cartonnage as opposed to other forms of cartonnage. My own view is there are two main possibilities and until the NT papyri are published – presumably to coincide with the opening of the Museum of the Bible later this year – then it is premature to categorically rule out either possibility
Possibility 1: A range of papyri have been extracted from different types of cartonnage as well as purchased as loose pieces. In the initial reports or subsequent reports details have become mixed and the NT papyri are wrongly reported as having come from mummy cartonnage.
Possibility 2: Scott Carroll and/or others have seen a flaw in the often repeated statement that papyri only to be found in mummy cartonnage dating up to the time of Augustus and in searching through a large enough quantity of mummy cartonnage have found mummy cartonnage that is both late and made with papyri. In this possibility it doesn’t matter if the overwhelming majority of late mummy cartonnage was made without papyri, it only matters if there were a few exceptions that Scott Carroll and/or others focused on.
Regarding exceptions, I vaguely recall that just 2% of mummified crocodiles contained papyri, and that any at all contained papyri was only initially discovered by accident (sorry, I can’t recall the source for this)
In looking at a limited number of standard publications I’ve found the often repeated statement occasionally comes with wording that indicates that some papyri have been found in mummy cartonnage that dates to after 14AD. For example Turner in Greek Papyri: An Introduction, page 31, noted mummy cartonnage with papyri “lasted in some communities down to the time of Augustus, but rarely thereafter” and does not mention when “rarely” ceased, while Bagnall in Reading Papyri, Writing Ancient History, page 22, noted “After the Augustan period cartonnage plays virtually no role” but then this is a comparison to the increased role of papyri from mounds rather than a statement that no papyri were to be found in mummy cartonnage.
Looking outside of the standard publications I noticed in a post you made back in 2014, “Mummy Cartonnage: An Introduction”, that you referred to “there have been cases of papyri that are said to come from mummy cartonnage and to date after the Augustan period, other than …”. Unfortunately you don’t mention in that post or later posts what the other papyri are.
Are you able to advise what the “other” papyri you were referring to might be, and whether or not they actually turned out to be post 14AD?
Dear Matthew, I have an article in preparation on cartonnage connected with a project which has just ended (http://www.ucl.ac.uk/dh/projects/deepimaging), so I thought not to write that second post, and wait after publication.
I have gone through all the papyri that, according to Trismegistos.org, are said to be from “cartonnage”. There was some confusion and data to check carefully because sometimes those who compiled that database and/or the editors of the papyri in question did not distinguish between mummy cartonnage and other types of cartonnage (e.g. book-binding, burial objects, etc), which as you may understand was important. At the end of my research, I can confirm that at the moment the overwhelming majority of papyri from mummy cartonnage date to the Ptolemaic period and only a few are Roman, these all dated to the Augustan period. There is only a single apparent exception, which I’ll consider in the article (a little mystery, otherwise nobody will read my article….). So far, and as expected in the wider context here outlined, not a single PUBLISHED New Testament fragment has been extracted from MUMMY cartonnage, while of course there are some Septuagint ones. Can this situation change one day? Possibly, but this is the present status of the evidence.
As for the papyri you refer to, as you rightly suggest we have to wait for their eventual publication. I am sure the editors will add images to document the status of cartonnage before dismounting, will discuss the extraction method adopted, and will inform us about the acquisition history of the cartonnage (of any possible type…) and papyri in question. All information which have remained hidden for a too long time, in my opinion. At that point we will be finally in a position to comment on them.