Handling Ancient Artifacts

Handling Ancient Artifacts January 31, 2015

The handling of mummy masks by Josh McDowell, allegedly in the interest of getting his hands (literally) on a first-century copy of Mark and perhaps other New Testament texts, has been getting a lot of attention. Some – including me at one point – have missed exactly what he said as a result of not watching the video the entire way through. Thankfully, Beau Quilter has made a transcript of the relevant part of the video:

“Now, what you do, you take this mask … oh … [giggle] Scholars die when they hear, but we own ’em so you can do it. You take these manuscripts, we soak them in water. There is a process we use with huge microwaves to do it, but it’s not quite as good … we take … show it … we put it down into water … can you put it up here too? We put it down into water at a certain temperature, and you can only use Palm Olive soap, the rest will start to destroy the manuscripts … Palm Olive soap won’t. And you start massagin’ it for about 30, 40 minutes. You’ll pull it up, wring it out — literally wring it out! These are worth millions! And then you put it back in for about 30, 40 minutes. And then you pull it out, and this is what it’ll look like, just like a gob … next one … a gob … it looks like a cattle … uh … a cow’s head. But that’s all papyrus manuscripts, folks. Over 2000 years old.”

“And you start pulling it apart. Say what?! Yep. They’re layered on top of each other. You start pulling ’em apart … keep going .. see there? You put ’em right …”

“See most scholars have never touched a manuscript, you have to have gloves on and everything … [giggle] … We just wash ’em and hold ’em in our hands. We don’t even make you wash your hands before. See? This is a manuscript right there. See? A manuscript, by definition, is not an entire book; it’s a portion of the book. It could just be a little piece to … to … we have one now that’s 38 pages on Corinthians, probably greater discovery than the dead sea scrolls. And … uh … keep going here. This is all … now … see my hand up in the right hand, that’s a pair of tweezers … and you take those tweezers, and you start pulling the layers of manuscripts off.”

“I was so scared the first time I did it. It was last January … I mean I was … er, no, it was … little bit before then … I was so scared bec- … what if you tear it? And they say, well, you tear it. Since we own it, it’s OK.”

Here’s the video itself:

And here are Danny Zacharias and Craig Evans trying, I think, to be funny:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OmG6pz6Imr0
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