Tag Archives: uncial

1st Century Mark Fragment?

A purported image of a 1st century Mark fragment was uploaded to Facebook.

In a discussion board, someone claims to have uploaded this.

Another person named Acharya S. , AKA D. M. Murdock, commented on the forum and also on her blog. She made an image comparing its text to Codex Sinaiticus:
1st Century Mark Fragment?

This may well be a spoof or a fake- I am not an expert papyrologist or paleographer, and I am not stating an opinion about this image, whether it is a 1st century Mark fragment, but I can say that this Acharya S. person AKA D. M. Murdock is certainly not anyone who has the knowledge or expertise to date a Greek manuscript. She betrays this by stating that the RHO in line 8 is the wackiest RHO she had ever seen, I quote verbatim: “I wondered about that rho myself, obviously. I originally thought it was either a sigma or a zeta, but the Markan verse has it as a rho, so that’s what I went with.” This shows she hasn’t even looked at the plates of the freely available Edward Maunde Thompson book.

That funny looking RHO is in fact a perfectly fine RHO from the 1st century and earlier, according to the plates in “An Introduction to Greek and Latin Paleography” by Sir Edward Maunde Thompson. See plates on pp. 145, 146, 191, 192. If you look closely, you see that it actually looks like a sperm. There is a closed circle at the top, like a small omicron, and then with a stem. The top is called the “bow” of the RHO. From everything I can see as an amateur reading Thompson, the type of Rho with a closed circle or oval bow, and also a stem that curves leftward at the bottom, is found in the 1st century and earlier. After that, the stems were straight or curved rightward, and the bow was not usually round. This combination is 1st century BC to 1st century AD. So, this RHO is one small clue that this could indeed be a 1st century Mark fragment.

I have extracted the plates for you and uploaded them:

Greek Literary Alphabet, 2nd century BC to 1st century AD, p. 145

Greek Literary Alphabet, 1st century, p. 146

Greek Cursive Alphabet, 3rd century to 2nd century BC, p. 191

Greek Cursive Alphabet, 1st century BC, p. 192

The Rho looks most like the one on p. 192 in the middle column, headed “1st Cent.” The MU looks most similar to this column as well.

The Rho looks second most like the one on p. 191 in the right column, headed “2nd Cent. BC”

The Rho on line 8 looks a fair amount like the one on p. 146 in the column headed “1st Century Harris Homer.”

The MU looks like the two columns on the right of p. 146, 1st or 2nd century.

Another note: Nothing says that a 1st century Greek manuscript absolutely HAS to be on papyrus. The Thompson paleography book also says that animal skin documents were not unheard of, as early as a couple hundred years before Christ. The Ptolemaic kings embargoed papyrus exports now and then, and an alternate supply of writing materials made from animals skins was manufactured in Pergamum.

Paper was introduced to Europeans by Arabs in the 8th century. (They learned it from Chinese at Samarkand.) The Arab paper came to the west via Damascus, Syria, which was the paper capital of the Arab world.

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