In 2012 evangelical NT scholar Daniel Wallace made the bold claim during a debate with Bart Ehrman that a newly discovered fragment of the Gospel of Mark had been found and experts had dated it to the first century! This news sent conservative Christian scholars and apologists into a state of near delirium! On Wednesday of this week, six years later, Wallace admitted on his blog that he had been misled and offered a public apology.
There is no first century fragment of Mark.
You can read Dr. Wallace’s post and admission: here
Here is a clip of the original debate in which Dr. Wallace announced this “astounding” find:
Human beings make mistakes. I am happy to see Dr. Wallace admit his mistake and apologize.
Both Christians and skeptics are eager to pounce on any new evidence which supports their position. We must all be careful. This episode teaches us that we must all carefully examine the evidence before we pounce. It’s not fun having egg on your face. (I’ve had my share of “egg”.)
Here is evangelical scholar Craig Evans prematurely announcing the fragment of Mark discovery, claiming it had been dated to the 80’s (he doesn’t say by whom):
Here is evangelical apologist Gary Habermas still claiming the authenticity of this fragment in February of 2018! Habermas claims in the video that a respected expert has dated the Markan fragment to between 80-110 AD! (His statement on this topic begins at minute 22.)
Here are evangelical apologists Josh McDowell and Scott Carroll discussing the discovery of the “oldest fragment of Mark”:
It would be wonderful to have a first century copy of Mark! But what would it really prove? It would only prove that later scribes did a good job of copying earlier copies. That’s it. Even if we find the ORIGINAL Gospel of Mark, what will it prove? Will it prove that the stories in that original are historically accurate?
The big question is: Did the author of the original Gospel of Mark base his stories on verified historical events, or were his stories based on hearsay, rumor, or even his own invention?
Answer: We will probably never know!
No quantity of copies, even a gazillion of them, proves that the original four Gospels were eyewitness accounts or that they contain eyewitness information. The fact is that the overwhelming majority of NT scholars do NOT believe that the Gospels were written by eyewitnesses or the associates of eyewitnesses. And this scholarly consensus is not based on a bias against the supernatural. Even the overwhelming majority of Roman Catholic NT scholars (such as Raymond Brown) share this view, and last I checked, Roman Catholics are not biased against the supernatural. Anglican scholar NT Wright has said, “I do not know who the authors of the Gospels were, nor does anyone else.” This consensus view is based on the EVIDENCE, not a bias.
The truth is that the only scholars who still believe in the eyewitness authorship of the Gospels are almost exclusively evangelicals and fundamentalist Protestants.
The days of conservative Christians trotting out the Gospels as primary source documents in support of Christianity’s supernatural claims are over. Neither first century copies of Mark nor of any other gospel is going to change that fact.
End of post.