Friday, 28 June 2019

More Narrative Turns in the Sale of the so-called "First Century Mark" Saga [UPDATED]

There is an, at first sight, informative article by the motivational writer Jerry Pattengale (former executive director of education until last year in the MoB) on Obbink handling of "First Century Mark" (Jerry Pattengale, 'The ‘First-Century Mark’ Saga from Inside the Room My reflections after eight years of silence', Christianity Today June 28, 2019). The text reveals much that is not particularly 'Christian' behaviour, pretty scandalous, but delicately skips round certain questions and obscures other issues. The word sale is given in inverted commas when it refers to the allegedly First Century Mark, but then explicitly states that Green money actually changed hands.
Eventually, all four pieces were purchased in 2013 for a considerable sum—though at a fraction of their value (even taking the later dates our researchers suggested). [...] Obbink [...] was involved (he said he was selling the manuscripts on behalf of a private collection—a common practice) [...] nondisclosure was a non-negotiable from Obbink (allegedly on the part of the owners) [...] His name had started surfacing in connection with other rare pieces and our museum, like the Sappho manuscripts he published, and the contract with Brill Publishers for a series. [...] The sheer volume of all these new texts was raising concern.  
 As well they might, 'a private collection' is hardly enough of a collecting history to cover the surfacing of such items (and let us remember the Sappho case recently- where there are still doubts where those fragments actually came from). Jerry Pattengale says that
It wasn’t until November 2017 that I realized a serious ethical breach had occurred, either by Obbink, a collector he was representing, or both. [...] I discovered a cover-up was in the making [and] [...] this whole affair began to unravel. 
This 'realiseation' only happened it seems when ancient historian and Bible scholar Edwin Yamauchi, sitting with Jerry Pattengale at the opening gala dinner at the Museum of the Bible asked David Trobisch, then curator of the Museum’s collection about the date of publication of the alleged "First Century Mark" in the MoB collections:
Trobisch responded, “That fragment was never offered to us for sale, isn’t that correct, Jerry?” I about snorted coffee through my nose, then responded, “Some things are best discussed in other settings.” Then David continued, “A researcher in Oxford, I think a graduate student, discovered an image of it in a museum collection, and it has remained there. It was just a misunderstanding.” You could have hit me with a frozen salmon (sic). Apparently Obbink, or his alleged collectors, were unaware of filmed evidence of this rare piece—dating to the 1980s and rediscovered in 2008! [...] I excused myself and immediately sent a message to the funder and museum leadership outlining the seriousness of what had transpired. [...] Roberta Mazza, Josephine Dru, Candida Moss, Brent Nongbri, Ariel Sabar, and the host of scholars associated with Tyndale House Cambridge had been asking important questions, and finally some answers were no longer opaque. [...] yes, the “First-Century Mark” fragment “sale” was scandalous. 
Pattengale then explains - apparently trying to distance himself from the whole affair, since by then it began to look as if he was implicated (and this presumably gave the stimulus to write this text):
Last week, with enough evidence now to go public, Michael Holmes ([...] my replacement several years ago at the museum over the research side), released a copy of the purchase agreement signed by Obbink. He also included Obbink’s handwritten list of the manuscripts, a folded paper that I carried for years in my wallet. As this goes to press, an Oxford scholar informed me he traced the unidentified picture Holmes released to my house in Indiana using iPhone metadata. He knows what iPhone I used and when it was taken. I [had] sent the picture to the museum for its files before my retirement, realizing it might be a helpful artifact in this case. 
Where Holmes found it presumably. It seems that Peter Gainsford (Wellington NZ) also spotted the metadata discrepancy. Note, Pattengale  admits he was present together with Scott Carroll (in 2011??) when the manuscripts were allegedly first displayed by Obbink in Christ Church Oxford Pattengale. It is to him that Trobisch turns to confirm that the manuscript "had not been bought", and it is he that carried around (for seven years?) a folded scrap of paper in his wallet with the verses of the texts on those four manuscript scraps (why?). Pattengale then admits:
I have remained silent for eight years on this transaction, for the first several because the buyers agreed not to publicize or sensationalize in any way this research. Then, I remained silent after reporting this matter so it could be handled by authorities.
Which raises the question has it now been? In what way? Pattengale goes on to indicate what those authorities need urgently to investigate:
What we still don’t know, as Moss hints in her Daily Beast article this week, is whether Obbink was himself deceived by a collector who obtained items sometime after the photograph notes in the 1980s [...] In the Mark case, at the least, the items were under Obbink’s purview and some bold misstatements were made.
So once again, the Greens and their MoB get mixed up in dodginess and dishonesty through their simple greed.

Vignette: In fact, Pattengale's tale abridged here, of this case involves all seven of the Seven Deadly Sins - pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and sloth.

UPDATE 30th June 2019
Scott Carrol replied to Pattengale here (the version online at the time of writing is the second version, he deleted an earlier one and replaced it with variant wording in point 5). This account clarifies some of the timing surmised above (and places the sequence of events in the context of his own departure from the 'Green Team') but as far as I can see adds little. Brent Nongbri however on his blog ( Jerry Pattengale on Dirk Obbink and the Mark Fragment', Variant Readings, June 28, 2019) questions some of what Pattengale says and adds that there is still much to be clarified:
The picture that Pattengale paints of himself and Carroll being tricked by Professor Obbink is plausible, but the Green Collection and the Museum of the Bible, with their insistence on secrecy, do not help matters. The release of these documents by Michael Holmes is a step in the right direction, but there is more to be done.
as indeed there is.

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