I don't have any fresh information to share at this point except to draw attention to a helpful comment tonight from Kevin Madigan, co-editor of the Harvard Theological Review, to the following effect:
Professor King has informed us that she is making arrangements to submit the fragment for extensive testing, and the specialists she has contacted have indicated that testing, with the specific expertise needed to produce and interpret reliable results, will possibly take several weeks, if not months. Yes, HTR has postponed publication of the article, so that she will be able to incorporate results of the testing. In the interests of furthering scholarly debate, we are waiting on the testing.Madigan was commenting on an article by Hershel Shanks that appeared in the Biblical Archaeology Society's Bible History Daily that was critical of the journal's decision to postpone the publication of the article.
A couple of reflections on the broader discussion as it has developed over the last week or so. It is sometimes suggested that asking questions about the authenticity of the fragment is in some way inappropriate or insulting to Karen King. On the contrary, Karen King was the first to ask these questions, they form a key element in her draft article, and she has herself encouraged continued questioning. This is simply a necessary part of the academic process when new discoveries come to the light, and it is always a keen question in relation to unprovenanced texts and artifacts. Asking the questions, studying the evidence, discussing different ideas -- this is what scholars do all the time. And as I have repeatedly said, Karen King is beyond reproach in this affair. It ought to go without saying that she is an outstanding scholar who has made massive contributions to the field. She is in fact a role model for many of us.
Another theme that has emerged in some discussions has been a kind of dualism between "science" and textual study, with the suggestion that "science" alone will be able to settle the question of authenticity, and that textual scholarship is a kind of parlour game that can be played by anyone. The way that scholarship actually works is as a collaborative enterprise, in which different scholars study the evidence, talk to one another, try out ideas, put forward hypotheses and test them. Physical examination of manuscripts has a very important role to play in discussions like this, but it is one part of the discussion, not inately superior to the work done by experts on Coptology, papyrology, textual criticism, source criticism and so on.
The difficulty with scholarship in this generation is that we are still finding our feet. Most of us are digital immigrants who were not brought up with the internet, still less with blogging and social media. So there are always going to be contributions that are -- shall we say? -- a little unhelpful. But to the extent that scholarship is a collaborative, interdisciplinary business, the internet has facilitated fantastic advances in cases like this, where many pairs of eyes, from people with different areas of expertise, all over the world, are able to make their own contributions to a debate.