Rumor: Harvard Theological Review Divorces “Jesus’s Wife” UPDATE: Or do they?

I was waiting for something more official, but the word is that the Harvard Theological Review has decided against publishing Karen King’s paper on the “Jesus’s Wife” fragment. It’s still just rumors, but the source of the story appears to be the NT Scholar Helmut Koester, and it’s percolated through enough sites without outright denials to suggest that it’s true. On Brian LePort’s page, Craig A. Evans says this:

After the analyses of Francis Watson, Mark Goodacre, Gesine Robinson, and others, I think forgery is virtually a certainty.

Is the Coptic papyrus, in which Jesus speaks of his “wife,” a fake? Probably. We are far from a “consensus,” but one scholar after another and one Coptologist after another has weighed in pointing out serious problems with the paleography, the syntax, and the very troubling fact that almost all of the text has been extracted from the Gospel of Thomas (principally from logia 30, 101, and 114). I suspect the papyrus itself is probably quite old, perhaps fourth or fifth century, but the oddly written (or painted) letters on the recto side are probably modern and probably reflect recent interest in Jesus and Mary Magdalene. The decision of the editors of Harvard Theological Review not to publish Karen King’s paper is very wise. Perhaps we will eventually learn more about who actually produced this text.

More from Brian LaPort:

 Daniel Burke of Religion News Service says that Harvard Divinity School spokesperson Jonathan Beasley is more hesitant regarding the report that the Harvard Theological Journal will not publish Karen L. King’s paper on the subject, writing:

“Dr. King’s ‘marriage fragment’ paper, which Harvard Theological Review is planning to publish in its January, 2013, edition – if testing of the ink and other aspects of the fragment are completed in time – will include her responses to the vigorous and appropriate academic debate engendered by discovery of the fragment, as well as her report on the ink analysis, and further examination of the fragment.”

There’s wiggle room in there to go either way.

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  • Brian LePort

    Most recent update:

    Craig A. Evans responded via email. He says that he has been in conversation with Huffington Post journalist Jaweed Kaleem who he says he advised to contact “Helmut Koester, Karen King, and others at Harvard Divinity School and Harvard Theological Review.” Evans writes, “His column has just appeared in the Huffington Post and represents a very fair and accurate assessment of where things now stand.”

    Jaweed Kaleem’s column is “‘Jesus Wife’ Research Leads to Suspicion that Artifact is Fake” ( wherein he reports:

    - Karen King confirms that the fragment has been sent for testing. Kaleem summarizes that, “…the tests should determine if it is from the fourth century as originally proposed, or if parts of it are a modern forgery, as an increasing number of scholars of Coptology and papyrology have suggested.”

    - About the owner of the fragment: “King said the owner acquired the piece in 1997 from a German owner and wants to remain anonymous.”

    - As we reported here through Craig A. Evans’ post Helmut Koester has expressed doubt regarding whether the article will be published and he maintains that it is a forgery:

    “Helmut Koester, a professor emeritus of Harvard Divinity School and a former 25-year editor of the journal, said in an interview that he heard ‘they did not want to publish because of doubts from two respected scholars.’ Koester, who specializes in early Christianity and early Christian archaeology, added that after seeing an evaluation of King’s work from a colleague in the field, he was ‘absolutely convinced that this is a modern forgery.’”

    - King’s paper has been accepted “provisionally,” which confirms aforementioned statements by Jonathan Beasley, HDS’s spokesman.

  • Thomas L. McDonald

    Thanks for the update! As I think you pointed out: this story is moving fast. As far as I was concerned, if Koester was against it, then that’s that.

  • Georgeos Díaz-Montexano Sánchez

    Published the ‘Secunda Recensio’ of my Palaeografical Report of September 18, 2012 about Coptic Papyrus of the alleged “Gospel of Mary, wife of Jesus”. More than one score of objections and arguments based on evidences. Evidence about ethnic origin-cultural of the author of the Papyrus…

    Kind Regards,