The "Jesus' wife" fragment is from the internet?

One of my favorite courses in grad school was “Bibliography and Methods,” in which we learned about the scholarship of studying manuscripts, variant texts, printing evidence, textual editing, and other kinds of hard-core old-school literary research.  One of the things you can do with this knowledge is detect forgeries.

Scholars have found that the much-hyped manuscript fragment that refers to Jesus having a wife consists basically of phrases from the already-known gnostic text known as the Gospel of Thomas.  Not only that, it replicates a mistake in the transcription that is found only in a version posted on the internet!

See Gospel of Jesus’ Wife: Forgery Confirmed? » First Thoughts | A First Things Blog.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Michael B.

    “One of the things you can do with this knowledge is detect forgeries.”

    It’s a fascinating topic. In this age of mass media and mass print, we today take it for granted that we are always reading a genuine book. If we want to read a politician’s books, I go to the book store, and I can just assume that it’s the real book by the author. Moreover, I can assume that if you get the same book, you’ll be reading the same words. In the ancient world, everything was copied by hand. In addition, there weren’t these strong laws against forgery and copyright that we have today. Thus you end up with multiple copies and discrepancies among ancient books. Just to give you only one example, the ending of Mark is not found in older manuscripts for the Bible — it was added on later by a scribe.

  • Michael B.

    “One of the things you can do with this knowledge is detect forgeries.”

    It’s a fascinating topic. In this age of mass media and mass print, we today take it for granted that we are always reading a genuine book. If we want to read a politician’s books, I go to the book store, and I can just assume that it’s the real book by the author. Moreover, I can assume that if you get the same book, you’ll be reading the same words. In the ancient world, everything was copied by hand. In addition, there weren’t these strong laws against forgery and copyright that we have today. Thus you end up with multiple copies and discrepancies among ancient books. Just to give you only one example, the ending of Mark is not found in older manuscripts for the Bible — it was added on later by a scribe.

  • Alex

    Although of course with Mark’s Gospel, where it stops is a really strange spot; ‘gar’ is a connective, not a word with which one ends a book, let alone a sentence. So while vv 9-16 are probably not the ‘original’ ending, the odds are pretty good that Mark did finish his sentence somehow or another.

    Have there been any ink tests done on the papyrus? Or are we pretty much done chasing this rabbit down the hole?

  • Alex

    Although of course with Mark’s Gospel, where it stops is a really strange spot; ‘gar’ is a connective, not a word with which one ends a book, let alone a sentence. So while vv 9-16 are probably not the ‘original’ ending, the odds are pretty good that Mark did finish his sentence somehow or another.

    Have there been any ink tests done on the papyrus? Or are we pretty much done chasing this rabbit down the hole?

  • http://thinkingwithareformedmind.blogspot.com Steven Mitchell

    This is hilarious. It reminds me of how telcom companies used to insert fake entries into their phone books in order to detect when competing companies copied the content, for purposes of copyright suits. Courts eventually ruled that you couldn’t copyright phone books, but it was an ingenious idea.

  • http://thinkingwithareformedmind.blogspot.com Steven Mitchell

    This is hilarious. It reminds me of how telcom companies used to insert fake entries into their phone books in order to detect when competing companies copied the content, for purposes of copyright suits. Courts eventually ruled that you couldn’t copyright phone books, but it was an ingenious idea.

  • rlewer

    And my son who teaches high school math has several versions of the order of the questions so that those who copy are copying the wrong answer.
    It is fun when the student complains,””But I had the same answer as him.”

    Falsehoods can be detected.

  • rlewer

    And my son who teaches high school math has several versions of the order of the questions so that those who copy are copying the wrong answer.
    It is fun when the student complains,””But I had the same answer as him.”

    Falsehoods can be detected.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    I’m shocked! Shocked, I tell you!

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    I’m shocked! Shocked, I tell you!

  • Joanne

    Thinking of the bard: Much ado about nothing. Sound and Fury signifying nothing.

  • Joanne

    Thinking of the bard: Much ado about nothing. Sound and Fury signifying nothing.

  • helen

    Maps. Companies insert errors, or deliberately omit things on their maps, to protect their copyright.

    Not far from me, there is an exit on a highway to a small town that was not on one of the oil company maps.
    [Do they even provide maps any more? Not all of us have succumbed to smartphones and GPS just yet.]

  • helen

    Maps. Companies insert errors, or deliberately omit things on their maps, to protect their copyright.

    Not far from me, there is an exit on a highway to a small town that was not on one of the oil company maps.
    [Do they even provide maps any more? Not all of us have succumbed to smartphones and GPS just yet.]

  • helen

    rlewer @ 4
    It is fun when the student complains,””But I had the same answer as him.”

    I was taught that method by a veteran at a Lutheran (?) day school.
    When you have a room full of that sort, totally disinclined to learn or let anyone else learn, not exactly fun!

    I had a better experience with the dregs of a large NJ high school!
    [I was the newbie teacher; it was admitted that I got the classes nobody else wanted.
    But my supervisors were coaches; you might say I had "protection"?]

  • helen

    rlewer @ 4
    It is fun when the student complains,””But I had the same answer as him.”

    I was taught that method by a veteran at a Lutheran (?) day school.
    When you have a room full of that sort, totally disinclined to learn or let anyone else learn, not exactly fun!

    I had a better experience with the dregs of a large NJ high school!
    [I was the newbie teacher; it was admitted that I got the classes nobody else wanted.
    But my supervisors were coaches; you might say I had "protection"?]


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