The “Jesus’s Wife” Hoax: One Year Later

One year ago, I was writing about a scholar who had produced a fragment of papyrus that allegedly contained a reference to the “wife” of Jesus.

The fragment was of dubious provenance and even more questionable content, and the professor–Karen L. King of Harvard University–had produced a singularly unimpressive body of work, largely on Gnostic texts from a historical revisionist perspective.

The mainstream media, led by the cheerleaders of the New York Times, ran with the “JESUS HAD A WIFE!” idea. To her credit, King did not make bold claims that her fragment constituted historical evidence, but as with so many Gnostic scholars of her generation, she left things fuzzy and vague enough so that people were welcome to make their own conclusions.

Scholars pounced on the text, quickly finding hallmarks that indicated it was a fake. Professor King sent the fragment off for testing–something that should have been done prior to her massive publicity push, including a book and TV show–and promised we’d hear the results soon.

One year later, I search in vain for any such results.  If she ever produced the results of the test, it’s so well hidden that none of my usual sources has it. King’s Harvard page lists her as on sabbatical for the Fall term.

If the document had been anything other than a clear forgery, she would have been shouting it from every rooftop. Revisionist scholars and Jesus Seminar alums have the ever-credulous Laurie Goodstein of the New York Times on speed-dial, always ready to report on the latest Really Real Historical Jesus find.

After lots of ink spilled and people being misled, Jesus’s wife gets shoved down the memory hole along with the other Bold New Facts That Will Shake Christianity to Its Foundation For Reals This Time No Seriously You Guys!

Meanwhile, the actual divine spouse, the Church herself, continues to do the work He entrusted her to do, building up the Kingdom. Scholars come and go, but the gates of the netherworld cannot prevail against the true bride of Christ.


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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.