Dirk Obbink seemed eerily calm when a reporter knocked on his door near Oxford University last year. "I'd like to tell it," the scholar said of his alleged role in a major antiquities scandal. "But I'm under a duty not to speak about the matter while it's under investigation." But that reporter, Ariel Sabar, has untangled the byzantine tale of how Obbink—a world-renowned classicist from Nebraska—allegedly made millions selling stolen papyri to US evangelicals, including a New Testament fragment that set the world of biblical studies on fire. In Sabar's Atlantic piece, Obbink is portrayed as a legitimate papyrologist enticed by money. And in the Green family, who own the craft-store chain Hobby Lobby, he appears to have found the perfect mark.
The gospel fragment is one of several Obbink apparently sold to Hobby Lobby for the Green family's Museum of the Bible and falsely dated to "circa 100 AD," making them unique—the only New Testament fragments from the century in which Jesus is said to have lived and showing how his earliest chroniclers portrayed him. But those documents weren't Obbink's to sell. The scholar was arrested in April and accused of selling artifacts from Oxford's Sackler Library, which was housing ancient texts on loan from the Egypt Exploration Society, per ArtNet. Now Obbink is out of an Oxford job and facing an uncertain future. But he maintains his innocence, saying that incriminating documents "have been fabricated in a malicious attempt to harm my reputation and career." Click for Sabar's full article. (Read more fraud stories.)