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Hobby Lobby, Dirk Obbink, and Missing Manuscripts

The Egypt Exploration Society (EES) recently posted a statement that it was working with the Museum of the Bible to determine whether texts from the Oxyrhynchus collection had been sold to Hobby Lobby organization. Apparently, some manuscripts had gone missing and a contract between Professor Dirk Obbink, of Oxford University, and Hobby Lobby was discovered and released.  There were six items in all,  including four NT fragments dug up earlier in the 20th century in Egypt.

I met Dr. Dirk Obbink a few years ago at a conference for scholars at Baylor University.  All the scholars were working on and seeking to identify texts written on papyri.  Obbink is one of the world’s foremost authorities on papyri.  He is often called upon to comment on ancient manuscripts.  His name and reputation are well known in papyrological studies. 

The Museum of the Bible had in its possession thirteen texts from the Egypt Exploration Society.  Twelve on papyrus and one on parchment (animal skin).  All had biblical or related content.  It seems the texts were taken without permission.  Not only were the manuscripts missing but so were catalogue cards and photographs (ways the EES identifies, tracks and evaluates manuscripts).  Someone, it seems, was trying to cover up the fact they were missing. Fortunately, the EES had other records which allowed them to identify the missing manuscripts.
I am pleased to report that the trustees of the Museum of the Bible are cooperating with the investigation and have agreed to return the manuscripts to the EES.

in 2010 Professor Obbink, according to the Museum of the Bible, sold eleven manuscripts (fragments) to Hobby Lobby Stores.  Obbink was later “discharged” from his duties as general editor of the Oxyrhynchus papyri because of unsatisfactory  performance and suspicions that he was seeking to sell ancient manuscripts.  Obbink denied the charges but today no longer has access to these manuscripts.  The investigation into his actions and the state of the missing manuscripts is going to continue.


Dirk Obbink

For more information about the publication of some of the manuscripts check here.

Dan Wallace on NT Manuscripts

Recently, a friend sent me a link to this video of Dan Wallace speaking at Acadia Divinity College on New Testament manuscripts.  Dan is probably the best connected and most informed scholar on the state of NT manuscripts, in America at least.  His  organization continues to discover  manuscripts (hand-written documents) which scholars did not know existed.  There are over 2.5 million pages altogether of the known number of NT manuscripts, over 5800.  This is a remarkable number of manuscripts still in existence given (a) that pagan emperors and governors did their best (during times of persecution) to discover and burn Gospels and letters and (b) the writing material and inks they used are organic, which means they were subject to decay.  Dan’s organization, Center for Study of New Testament Manuscripts, is working feverishly to create digital images of these manuscripts before they degrade further.  It is a great resource for scholars of Christian history.


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