[JGRChJ 2 (2001–2005) 27-35] 7Q5 = MARK 6.52-53 A CHALLENGE FOR TEXTUAL CRITICISM? Hans Förster* Austrian National Library, Vienna, Austria Is it possible to make a positive identification of 7Q5 as part of the Gospel of Mark? If a fragment of Mark can be found in the caves from Qumran, then important hypotheses of the textual-criticism of the New Testament cease to be valid. With such an identification, solid proof would be available that the text of the Gospel of Mark was already written before AD 68. This would in fact be a revolutionary discovery, since many of those scholars who are involved in New Testament studies think that this particular Gospel was written shortly after AD 70.
28 Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism 2 6.52-53.3 Others, like most recently Stefan Enste, have set themselves the task to disprove the arguments of Thiede.4 Since the stakes are high, it is understandable that the ongoing debate is highly contro-versial. At the same time, there seem to be some emotions involved. Thiede claims that scholars who are close to textual criticism will not like his hypothesis, and this is indeed true. Thus, it might be helpful to discuss the basic questions of how to identify a papyrus, how to inter-pret the writing on it and how to supply the text for missing passages.
FÖRSTER 7Q5 = Mark 6.52-53 29 generally more reliable than a reading taken from a photograph, many of the readings which Thiede took from the original are hotly debated.6 The second step is to transform the single characters into words or sentences. This is easy with large pieces, containing lots of characters, but can be very tricky for small pieces and tiny fragments. It might not even be possible to identify a single word in a tiny fragment. As men- tioned above, Thiede claims that it has been proven that 7Q5 is Mk 6.52-53, while Enste claims just the opposite.
30 Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism 2 As can be seen, there is not much to be read, but much more to be added. According to O’Callaghan, only ten letters in five lines can be identified without doubt—this is an amazing average of two letters per line. However, Herbert Hunger wrote concerning this identification: Man fragt sich, warum—im Vergleich zu vielen anderen Identifizierungsversuchen an neugefundenen Papyri—gerade die Zuweisung von 7Q5 an Markus einen derart heftigen Widerstand von seiten «skeptischer» Bibelwissenschaftler hervorgerufen hat. Die Ant- wort ist einfach: Durch das sichere Datum eines terminus ante quem (68 n. Chr.) ergibt sich als Konsequenz eine «Frühdatierung» neutestament- licher Texte, mit der man bisher nicht gerechnet hat und auch nicht rechnen will. Am Rand des Symposiums in Eichstätt (18.–20. Oktober 1991) sagte mir ein Neutestamentler: «Wenn diese Papyrusfrag- mente…in die Jahrzehnte 40–60 zu datieren sind, bricht unsere ganze Einleitungswissenschaft zusammen.»8 Thus, identifying a piece of papyrus from Qumran as being part of the Gospel of Mark means nothing less than a major upheaval for New Testament studies. However, even some 30 years after this allegedly convincing identification,9 New Testament studies continue to exist and still use form criticism to analyze Mark’s Gospel.
FÖRSTER 7Q5 = Mark 6.52-53 31 Identifying 7Q5 The only word which can be identified is kaiv—not a word which helps us much with the identification of the papyrus since it is used rather often.10 For these few characters which can be read, the reading of such a common word is a major setback for the identification of the papyrus.
32 Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism 2 However, this is a typical case of the scholarly malady which can be encountered most often in scholarly discourses where much is at stake or where emotions run high: wishful thinking. Using the positive iden- tification of allegedly smaller fragments as argument for the positive identification of 7Q5 as Mk 6.52-53 is the wrong way to deal with this identification. First, these small pieces have often many more letters per line than 7Q5, which definitely makes the identification much easier. Secondly, they have not much bearing on the tradition of the text, thus they do not revolutionize one entire field of research. And what might be good enough to serve merely as another example that Virgil was still read, not really an astonishing thing, might not be good enough to prove an entire scholarly community wrong. Thus we should not be asking ourselves whether other small scraps of papyrus can be identified but, rather, how large a papyrus can be and still be misin- terpreted: Peter Sanz had one half of a piece of papyrus measuring 12 cm by 14.5 cm which he published in his doctoral dissertation.12 In six lines, more than 130 letters can be read without any doubt; thus we have an average of more than 20 letters per line, while only a few letters are unclear. There are no lacunae which would be a problem for the identification of single words, thus there is no dispute about the words which were read by this gifted papyrologist. Sanz gave a very thorough commentary on this piece and convincingly reconstructed the text. In addition, the famous Professor Gerstinger was supervising his work. However, this text had one problem. The second half of the papyrus was later found, making this piece larger than Sanz had estimated. Thus, his entire identification and analysis are wrong, even though he read the existing passages correctly.13 Is it really possible, looking at such evidence, to argue that the fact that tiny fragments have been identified without much debate justifies the positive and indis- putable identification of 7Q5 as Mk 6.52-53? Is this really a scholarly argument? It seems to be rather the kind of wishful thinking which should be alien to scholarly research.
FÖRSTER 7Q5 = Mark 6.52-53 33 Problems of the Identification The alleged identification of 7Q5 as the text of Mk 6.52-53 has three fundamental flaws: 1. We have to change the text we read in order to find what we want to find. Only if the tau in line 3 actually was meant as a delta do we end up with the beginning of the right word. On the other hand, words beginning with tau and iota are not so rare that we can prove that this change is necessary, and that a word beginning with ti was not in fact written here. And with this we also have to assume that all other characters are not misspelled.
34 Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism 2 corresponds literally to ei" to peran. They are therefore interpretive, but do not omit the phrase. For that reason there are no witnesses for the omission. But the text is a tortured one (the expression epi thn ghn hlqon ei" Gennhsaret is presented in at least four diverse forms in the manuscripts) and the text preferred by the critics, that of B, is a bit overloaded (one does not know quite whether to link epi thn ghn with what precedes or what follows), so that a secondary omission, and even the hypothesis of a primitive textus brevior, do not appear impossible.15 Thus, the allegedly attested omission is rather a hypothesis of a possible omission or possible ‘textus prior’ which is nowhere attested.