Dirk Obbink

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Dirk D. Obbink (born 1957 in Lincoln, Nebraska) is an American-born papyrologist and Classicist. He is the Lecturer in Papyrology and Greek Literature in the Faculty of Classics at Oxford University and was the head of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri Project. Obbink is also Fellow and Tutor in the University of Oxford (Christ Church).[1]


Dirk Obbink's ancestors were originally from the Netherlands, later emigrating to the United States.[citation needed] Obbink took a BA in English at the University of Nebraska before going on to take an MA in Classical Studies and Papyrology at the same university.[citation needed] In 1986 he gained his PhD at Stanford University with his doctoral thesis On the Piety of the Greek Philosophers - Philodem.[citation needed] After an assistant professorship at Columbia University in New York in 1995 Obbink was appointed to the post of Lecturer in Papyrology and Greek Literature in the Faculty of Classics at Christ Church, Oxford University[2] and was appointed the head of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri Project. The Oxyrhynchus Papyri are a large collection of ancient manuscripts discovered by archaeologists at an ancient rubbish dump near Oxyrhynchus in Egypt. They include thousands of Greek and Latin documents, letters and literary works.[3] In addition, from 2003 to 2007 Obbink was a faculty member at the University of Michigan, as a professor of classical studies and the Ludwig Koenen Collegiate Professor of Papyrology.[4]

From 1998 to circa 2015, Obbink was the Director of the Imaging Papyri Project at Oxford. This project is working to capture digitised images of Greek and Latin papyri held by the Ashmolean Museum (the Oxyrhynchus Papyri), and the Bodleian Library and the Biblioteca Nazionale in Naples (the carbonized scrolls from the Villa of the Papyri at Herculaneum), for the creation of an Oxford bank of digitised images of papyri. The newly digitised versions of the literary texts will be published.[5] An international team of papyrologists combine traditional philological methods with more recent digital imaging techniques. They have made accessible heavily damaged texts from the ancient world, many of which had been regarded as being irretrievably lost. In this way the damaged texts of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri and the Villa of the Papyri can now be read for the first time.

Through his research Obbink has increased our knowledge of ancient literature, society and philosophy. He is familiar with the poetry of Sappho or Simonides discovered in the Egyptian Oxyrhynchus papyri, as he is with the technical-philosophical writings of the Epicurean Philodemus, the text of which he helped recover from the carbonized papyrus rolls discovered in The Villa of the Papyri at Herculaneum.[6]

In 2001, Obbink was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship for his work on the papyri from Oxyrhynchus and Herculaneum. In May 2007, the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven awarded him an honorary doctorate.[1][6]

In March 2010 Obbink appeared in Channel 4's series Alexandria: The Greatest City, presented by Bettany Hughes. In the programme he talked about the ancient Library of Alexandria. He also featured briefly in the 2015 BBC documentary Love and Life on Lesbos with Margaret Mountford, in which he showed Mountford a papyrus brought to him by an anonymous private collector in 2012 and that is now believed to be a manuscript copy, executed in about A.D. 200, of a poem written by Sappho in c. 600 B.C.[7]

"First Century Mark"[edit]

In May 2018, Dirk Obbink and Daniela Colomo published the papyrus fragment P.Oxy. 5345 in volume LXXXIII of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri series of the Egypt Exploration Society.[8] This fragment contained portions of six verses from the first chapter of the Gospel of Mark, and was designated 137 in the standard classification of New Testament papyri. Obbink and Colomo dated it to the later 2nd or earlier 3rd century, but rumours of its content, provenance and date had been widely discussed since 2012, fuelled by an ill-advised claim [9] by Daniel B. Wallace in 2012 that a fragmentary papyrus of Mark had been authoritatively dated to the late first century by one of the world's leading paleographers, and might consequently be the earliest surviving Christian text.

Following publication in 2018, the Egypt Exploration Society, the owners of the papyrus fragment, released a statement[10] clarifying both the provenance of the fragment and the role of Dirk Obbink in the circumstances of misleading information subsequently emerging on social media. The EES stated that the text in the fragment had only been recognised as being from the Gospel of Mark in 2011. In an earlier cataloguing in the 1980s by Revel Coles the fragment had been described as 'I/II', which appeared to be the origin of the much discussed assertions of a very early date. In 2011/2012 the papyrus was in the keeping of Dirk Obbink, who had showed it to Scott Carroll, then representing the Green Collection, in connection with a proposal that it might be included in the exhibition of biblical papyri Verbum Domini at the Vatican in Lent and Easter 2012. It was not until the spring of 2016 that the EES realised that the rumoured "First Century Mark" papyrus that had become the subject of so much speculation was one and the same as their own fragment P.Oxy. 5345; whereupon Dirk Obbink and Daniela Colomo were requested to prepare it for publication.

Select publications[edit]

  • Alan K. Bowman (Author, Editor), R.A. Coles (Editor), N. Gonis (Editor), Dirk Obbink (Editor), Peter John Parsons (Editor), Oxyrhynchus: A City and Its Texts Egypt Exploration Society (2007) ISBN 0-85698-177-X
  • Christopher A. Faraone (Editor), Dirk Obbink (Editor) Magika Hiera: Ancient Greek Magic and Religion OUP USA (1997) ISBN 0-19-511140-0
  • Marcello Gigante and Dirk Obbink Philodemus in Italy: The Books from Herculaneum (The Body in Theory: Histories of Cultural Materialism) The University of Michigan Press (2002) ISBN 0-472-08908-0
  • Dirk Obbink, Philodemus and Poetry: Poetic Theory and Practice in Lucretius, Philodemus, and Horace Oxford University Press USA (1995) ISBN 0-19-508815-8
  • T. V. Evans (Editor), D. D. Obbink (Editor) The Language of the Papyri Oxford University Press (2009) ISBN 0-19-923708-5
  • A.E. Raubitschek (Author), Dirk Obbink (Editor), Paul A.Vander Waerdt (Editor), The School of Hellas: Essays on Greek History, Archaeology and Literature Oxford University Press Inc (1991) ISBN 0-19-505691-4
  • Dirk Obbink, Philodemus On Piety: Part 1, Critical Text with Commentary: Critical Text with Commentary Pt.1 Clarendon Press (1996) ISBN 0-19-815008-3
  • Jean-Jacques Aubert (Contributor), Roger S. Bagnall (Editor), Dirk D. Obbink (Editor) Columbia Papyri X (American Studies in Papyrology) American Society of Papyrologists (1996) ISBN 0-7885-0275-1
  • N. Gonis (Editor), Dirk Obbink (Editor), P. J. Parsons (Editor) Oxyrhynchus Papyri 68 (4639-4704) (Graeco-Roman Memoirs) Egypt Exploration Society (2003) ISBN 0-85698-142-7
  • N. Gonis (Editor), Dirk Obbink (Editor), D. Colomo (Editor) Oxyrhynchus Papyri: v. 69 (Graeco-Roman Memoirs) Egypt Exploration Society (2005) ISBN 0-85698-143-5
  • N. Gonis (Author), Dirk Obbink (Author) Oxyrhynchus Papyri: Pt. 73 (Graeco-Roman Memoirs) Egypt Exploration Society (2009) ISBN 0-85698-182-6
  • John T. Fitzgerald (Author, Editor), Dirk Obbink (Author), Glenn Stanfield Holland (Author), et al. Philodemus and the New Testament World (Novum Testamentum Supplements) Brill (2003) ISBN 90-04-11460-2
  • Anubio, Carmen Astrologicum Elegiacum, ed. Dirk Obbink, Bibliotheca Teubneriana; K. G. Saur, Munich and Leipzig (2006) ISBN 3-598-71228-6
  • David Sider and Dirk Obbink (eds.), Doctrine and Doxography: Studies on Heraclitus and Pythagoras, de Gruyter, Berlin 2013.


  1. ^ a b [1] Mortimer and Raymond Sackler Institute of Advanced Studies
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-01-13. Retrieved 2010-03-25.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link) Classicists at British Universities
  3. ^ [2] Oxford University Oxyrhynchus Papyri Project
  4. ^ Dirk Obbink, profile at the University of Michigan Faculty History Project
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-02-27. Retrieved 2010-03-26.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link) Research Projects at Oxford University - Imaging Papyri Project
  6. ^ a b [3] Honorary Doctorates awarded by Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (2007)
  7. ^ https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jan/29/sappho-ancient-greek-poet-unknown-works-discovered
  8. ^ Obbink, Dirk.; Colomo, Daniela. (2018). Parsons, Peter John; Gonis, N., eds. The Oxyrhynchus Papyri LXXXIII. Egypt Exploration Society. pp. 4–7.
  9. ^ Wallace, Daniel B. (23 May 2018). "First-Century Mark Fragment Update". Retrieved 12 July 2018.
  10. ^ "Statement in response to questions raised about the new fragment of Mark P.Oxy. LXXXIII 5345". Egypt Exploration Society. 4 June 2018. Retrieved 12 July 2018.

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