Missing Papyri Professor Must Return $7 Million to Hobby Lobby

Dirk Obbink has lost a federal lawsuit over the fraudulent sale of Gospel fragments.

Dirk Obbink didn’t answer the door of his Oxford, England, houseboat docked in the Thames. He dodged the private investigators trying to serve him a legal summons in August and September and failed to answer the official letter notifying him that he was required to respond to allegations he had defrauded Hobby Lobby by selling the craft store $7 million worth of ancient papyri that he didn’t actually own.

A clerk of the United States federal court has certified a default judgment against the famed papyrologist, noting in late November that “defendant Dirk D. Obbink has not filed any answer or otherwise moved with respect to the complaint herein.”

The former Oxford University professor and visiting scholar at Baylor University, once heralded for his amazing discoveries of ancient texts, including early copies of the Gospels and unknown poems of Sappho, now owes Hobby Lobby a full refund.

The resolution of the civil lawsuit leaves a lot of questions unanswered, though. Chief among them: Where are the other 81 ancient fragments that went missing from the Egyptian Exploration Society (EES) library at Oxford at the same time that Obbink, then head of the library’s papyri digitization project, took 32 fragments and sold them to Hobby Lobby?

“I think many of us hoped that a trial might bring to light further information on the whereabouts of the roughly 80 Oxyrhynchus papyri that still seem to be missing,” wrote history of religions scholar Brent Nongbri on his blog.

According to the lawsuit, Obbink worked as a private antiquities dealer in addition to his academic work. He sold Hobby Lobby four lots of papyri between 2010 and 2013, as the Oklahoma-based company invested in an expansive collection …

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