“Jesus’s Wife” Hoax: The Plot Thickens

Kudos to LiveScience for doing an actual investigation into the provenance claims of the so-called “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife.” The results are fascinating.

Karen King initially put the document forward as a copy of a 2nd century lost “gospel” before retreating, in the face of inconclusive testing, to the possibility of it being an 8th or 9th century text. Evidence for it being a plain ole forgery remains pretty strong, however, and it just got stronger.

Harvard and King refuse to identify the source of the document, citing his desire to remain anonymous. However, King released a copy of the contract, which claims the fragment and five others were purchased by the source in November 1999. The seller was a man named Hans-Ulrich Laukamp, who is supposed to have purchased it in Potsdam, East Germany in 1963.

The problem, according to LiveScience’s research, is that this almost certainly untrue:

Our findings indicate that Laukamp was a co-owner of the now-defunct ACMB-American Corporation for Milling and Boreworks in Venice, Fla. Documents filed in Sarasota County, Fla., show that Laukamp was based in Germany at the time of his death in 2002 and that a man named René Ernest was named as the representative of his estate in Sarasota County.

In an exchange of emails in German, Ernest said that Laukamp did not collect antiquities, did not own this papyrus and, in fact, was living in West Berlin in 1963, so he couldn’t have crossed the Berlin Wall into Potsdam. Laukamp, he said, was a toolmaker and had no interest in old things. In fact, Ernest was astonished to hear that Laukamp’s name had been linked to this papyrus.

Another acquaintance of Laukamp — Axel Herzsprung, who was also a co-owner of ACMB-American Corporation for Milling and Boreworks — told Live Science (in German in an email) that while Laukamp collected souvenirs on trips, he never heard of him having a papyrus. To his knowledge, Laukamp did not collect antiquities, Herzsprung said.

There’s more, and it’s all very interesting.

LiveScience presented their research to Harvard and King, who have thus far refused to comment.

That’s not stopping the Smithsonian Channel from charging ahead with their postponed documentary. As expected, they will now run the show which they shelved last year in the face of mounting evidence of a hoax.

In the wake of scientific results indicating that the text fragment, known as the Gospel of Jesus’s Wife, is authentically ancient and not a modern fake, Smithsonian Channel will premiere the full, definitive story of the ground-breaking fragment’s discovery and expert analysis of what it means. The one-hour special, The GOSPEL OF JESUS’S WIFE, debuts Monday, May 5 at 8 p.m. ET/PT.

“Authentically ancient” is meaningless (the papyrus could be ancient but not the text) and “not a modern fake” remains unproven. But, hey, given the junk that usually appears on Smithsonian, this is probably a step up.

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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.