Friday Five: Biblical bombshell (not), Joel Osteen deep dive, Onion-style real headlines and more

I bring you an update today courtesy of The Religion Guy.

Those of you who are regular GetReligion readers know that The Guy is Richard N. Ostling, who was a longtime religion writer with The Associated Press and Time magazine and received the Religion News Association's lifetime achievement award in 2006. Here at GetReligion we call him the "patriarch."

Back in March, Ostling wrote about a manuscript fragment of the Gospel of Mark supposedly dating back to the 1st Century A.D. He put it this way:

A long-brewing story, largely ignored by the media, could be the biggest biblical bombshell since a lad accidentally stumbled upon the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947. Or not.

Here is the update from my esteemed colleague:

In case anyone is pursuing this story idea, it now appears that  “not” is the operative word. Brill has issued the long-delayed volume 83 of its Oxyrhynchus Papyri series and turns out Oxford paleography expert Dirk Obbink dates this text far later. It's still an important early find, but not the earth-shattering claim that was made by several evangelical exegetes. The so-called Papyrus 5345 fragment covers six verses, Mark 1:7-9, 16-18.
Daniel Wallace, who first announced the forthcoming bombshell in a 2012 debate with Bart Ehrman, explains what happened and apologizes to Ehrman and everyone else in a post on his blog. Also notable is this new posting by Elijah Hixson at a technical website about textual criticism. Hixson’s May 30 overview for Christianity Today shows there’s still a story the news media might explore.
 Good lessons here for journalists as well as biblical scholars. 

Now, let's dive into the Friday Five:

1. Religion story of the week: I plan to delve into this more next week, but the Houston Chronicle — which apparently no longer has a religion writer -- nonetheless has produced a major enterprise project on megachurch pastor and author Joel Osteen by business writer Katherine Blunt.

The series, which launched online Thursday, is titled "The Preacher's Son" and promises to explore "the origins and spectacular growth of Houston's Lakewood Church under pastor Joel Osteen."

I found the first part interesting and insightful, even if I'm certain it leaves some room for a constructive GetReligion critique.

2. Most popular GetReligion post: Editor Terry Mattingly's post headlined "It's wrath of God stuff: Thinking past Paige Patterson and into the Southern Baptist future" occupies the No. 1 spot this week. It probably helped that Ross Douthat of The New York Times quoted that post in his "The Baptist Apocalypse" column at midweek.

That one was published before more stunning news emerged Wednesday concerning Patterson and his role -- now stripped to nothing -- at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. For insight on that, see tmatt's Thursday post titled "Watching Southern Baptist dominoes: Whither the Paige Patterson files on 2003 rape report?" Did anyone catch the "Jaws" reference?

3. Guilt folder fodder (and more): I know this one has been circulating in our GetReligion email chains, but I don't think anyone has mentioned it in a post, so I'll do so.

New York Times faith and politics correspondent Elizabeth Dias -- of whom I am a fan -- followed Franklin Graham's bus caravan up California ahead of its primary.

His mission, Dias reported: to urge evangelicals to take a stand against their state's "blue wall." Does that equal lobbying for the GOP?

Read Dias' story on "The Evangelical Fight to Take Back California."

4. Shameless plug: U.S. church groups are canceling summer mission trips to Nicaragua amid ongoing political violence in Central America's poorest nation.

More than 90 people have died since clashes began six weeks ago between President Daniel Ortega's forces and civilian protesters, according to observers.

Read my story in The Christian Chronicle.

5. Final thought: As a reader noted in an email to GetReligion this week, real-life religion headlines sometimes sound like they were taken straight out of the satire newspaper The Onion or the Christian satire newspaper The Babylon Bee.

For example, try to guess which one of these headlines this week is not satire:

• Baptist church removing Jesus statue it deems too ‘Catholic’

• Televangelist says God told him he needs 4th private plane

Correct answer: Neither headline is satire or fake news. Both really happened. Folks, the Godbeat is never boring.

Happy Friday, everybody! Enjoy the weekend!

Please respect our Commenting Policy