The Ancient Historian

Ancient history, mountaineering, cycling and other outside adventures

Archive for the category “demotic Egyptian language”

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.


A demotic marriage contract, 97 BC, (Gebelein) Upper Egypt

The following is a legal document written at the beginning of the first century BC, from a military community established in the southern Egyptian Nile valley in the Ptolemaic period. It is the kind of primary documentary material that I am looking at with some of my students this term. We are examining such material from several Mediterranean cultures formthe point of view of how such texts functioned within society as well as some of the technical points of ancient legal documents.   Notice the upper and lower margins here, to protect the preservation of the writing, the scribe would leave wide margins on all four sides typically, so when the text was rolled up and sealed, wear and tear would not effect the contents. Can you spot the beginning of the text? The text is now part of the Schoyen collection (the Adler papyri).ms161

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