Thursday, 16 June 2016

Lesson from the Harvard Pap Dodge Fiasco

Commenting elsewhere on the Gospel of Jesus' Wife Fiasco:
I am sure we can agree that the issue is that objects just "surfacing" from the opacity of the market should have their collecting history and actual origins thoroughly examined by academics before they decide to handle them. If they do, a condition of handling licitly-obtained and licitly-owned source material must be complete disclosure, not hiding of important facts about their origin. The fact that the academic here agreed to hide important details to gain access has landed her, her institution and a whole field of study in a highly embarrassing situation. [My understanding was that the fragment is currently housed actually in the Harvard School of Divinity, hence my remark.]
There is a tendency among collectors, dealers and some academics studying such things  to believe that in the case of what theoretician of historiography Jerzy Topolski called addressed sources, (coins, inscriptions, manuscripts, cuneiform tablets, papyri) the message they carry can be interpreted in its own rights, without regard to its context of discovery. But each text or image is created, used and then lost in a particular context, and these factors relate not only to their creation but also reception (by the addressee). The fragment now in Harvard Divinity School has markings on it which are 'addressed' to a certain audience, and where and how this artefact "surfaced" is important in determining the motives for its creation and dissemination (and meaning) of the "information" it contains.

Vignette: "It's the text that's important..."  (nonsense)

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