Jesus’s Wife: Textual Fingerprints of a Forger

Mark Goodacre continues to post outstanding coverage on the “Jesus’s Wife” fragment. His blog has become the main clearing house for news on the forgery, and now he has a new scoop. There’s an error in the fragment that is reproduced from an online version of the Gospel of Thomas.

You should read Goodacre’s whole piece, as well as the report from Andrew Bernhard examining how the forgery might have been done. Briefly, the point is this: The “Jesus’s Wife” fragment appears to be dependent on pieces from the Coptic Gospel of Thomas. The question then becomes which version was used, and the answer Bernhard offered was that it was based on the online Interlinear Coptic-English Translation of the Gospel of Thomas created by Michael Grondin.

Digging further, Goodacre learned that there’s an error in the PDF of the text that’s not reflected in the online version, which is very accurate. Basically, there’s a missing supralinear stroke over a letter. That stroke is also missing from the fragment. Given the accuracy of the online version, this is a striking point of similarity. The online version is remarkably clean. The idea that this exact error was also made by a scribe 1600 ago years beggars belief.

I captured these images to show the the correct online version (top) and the erroneous PDF (bottom):

The online version: how it should look.

The PDF version, with error.

Note the [M + supralinear stroke] on the top version for the word “the life” (just before the ‘pi’) and how it’s missing on the PDF version.

This error from the PDF is replicated in the forged fragment:

“Jesus’s Wife” forgery: the matching characters from Thomas: “to-me The-Life

The book is still not closed on this one until we see the results of the testing, but this is yet another strike against its authenticity.

Read more about the “Jesus’s Wife” hoax.

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The Three Pillars of Lent
The Judas Tree, And Other Legends of the Betrayer
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About Thomas L. McDonald

Thomas L. McDonald writes about technology, theology, history, games, and shiny things. Details of his rather uneventful life as a professional writer and magazine editor can be found in the About tab.

  • Dan Krischke

    I am amazed at how many manuscripts are cropping up from the sands of the Middle East and from the hands of forgers that try to debunk Sacred Scripture. I’ve read some about the Gnostic gospels and they are pretty much “stuff”. I think Old Scratch is up to his tricks in trying to confuse the public about Scripture and what is right and wrong. After all, that’s his job, eh? Peace and God bless.
    PS: Thomas, you have some pretty neat columns. I’m glad I found you a couple of months ago.

  • Michael Snow

    This is a fascinating story and great object lesson on the state of journalism in the lame stream media.
    But what amazes me, is how many comments Christians have made that ‘it does not matter’ if Jesus was married. While the textual scholars have done there job, where are the theologians when you need them?
    Whether fraud or false teaching from the fourth century, the key point in all this is that it is heresy.

  • victor

    Given what we now know, the iStockPhoto watermark on the papyrus also should have been a dead giveaway.

  • Ted Seeber

    I consider this to be merely proof that Karen King’s generation doesn’t understand computers enough to actually plagiarize properly.

  • victor

    Heh. “No, no, Grandma. Scan the document, THEN copy and paste. No! Don’t save-as the image from the Internet! Scan it! Okay, now you’re sure you dragged over the right image to the Microsoft Paint file? What do you mean you’re not sure? They’re BOTH ‘untitled.jpg’?! Grandma!!!”