The Ancient Historian

Ancient history, mountaineering, cycling and other outside adventures

Archive for the month “September, 2012”

The Coptic Jesus text and fraud

As I mentioned a couple of days ago my first thoughts on this new text brought back memories of the so – called “Batson D. Sealing affair.” I misspelled the name previously. This was something that began in the late 80’s but hit the presses in 1991 after an article was published in Discussions in Egyptology 19 (1991). This was an elaborate fraud. The nom de plume Batson D. Sealing, obviously meant to be funny, was the supposed author of small piece in a New Orleans History Journal discussing a hand copy (no photographs of texts in this period) of a demotic Roman period Sayings of Jesus. The Journal really existed, but was not published in the year this fraudulent article appeared. Very clever. An amazing amount of effort went into creating this article, and then sending it for commentary to a journal in Oxford. All designed to embarrass someone. Robin Lane Fox commented on this in the Financial Times, 18 and 25 May 1991. It made a huge splash in British newspapers. I’ll try to dig up some of these articles. Meanwhile it is a sober reminder that scholars can commit fraud; and the “Sayings of Jesus” seem to be a special target of affection. I don’t mean to imply that this Coptic text is fraudulent, although I have my doubts about it. I’ll let Coptic scholars make the final determination.


Horrible news coming from Manaslu in Nepal

The AP reported earlier today a disastrous avalanche high on Manaslu, apparently from a serac fall above camp 3 Alan Arnette reports via Epic tv. I had been following IMG’s blog on the climb, many teams were on Manaslu because of the closure of Cho Oyu Alan Arnette reports. The IMG team is all safe, which I was relieved to hear. Nevertheless many have lost their lives, and my thoughts and prayers go out to all family, friends and colleagues of these brave climbers.

More on the Coptic sayings of Jesus

Reaction continues to pour in on the text from many places and from many angles. Francis Watson of Durham University had the following to say in the Guardian.

The Coptic Jesus text

This new fourth century Coptic text is making the rounds in spectacular fashion, so it prompts me to say a few words.My first reaction to seeing it was that it could not be real, I am just cynical about such things. Very good scholars have actually seen the text though ( no substitute for inspection), and I respect their opinions. So far, reaction is mixed in the world of Coptic Studies, so we’ll see. It is indeed hard to imagine a scholarly fraud, as Roger Bagnall points out, But there was the famous “Batson D. Ceiling” affair in the late 80’s. There, it was a Demotic text, hand copy only, of the sayings of Jesus. That made it to the front pages of many newspapers. I’ll dig that out soon.

Script of papyrus from fourth century

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