BibleWorks 9 and the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife

BibleWorks 9 and the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife September 21, 2012

Today a wonderful opportunity to continue illustrating more features of BibleWorks 9 has presented itself. With the issuing of Francis Watson’s pdf arguing that the “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” is a fake, the seemingly unparalleled line 6 stands out amid other lines for which Watson claims to have found possible sources of derivation, even if some of those are themselves rather loose.

Watson suggested “The passage might conceivably echo Papias’s unpleasant description of Judas Iscariot’s grossly swollen body.” In response, Richard Bauckham (in a comment on Mark Goodacre’s blog) recommended taking a look at how Acts 1:18 is rendered in Coptic translations.

There are Coptic editions of the New Testament in various places online, including the Internet Archive. But I seemed to recall that there were free Coptic texts that could be added in to BibleWorks – and I was right. It only took a matter of minutes to download and install them.

It was then only a matter of looking up the verse and seeing that none of the Coptic versions provides a close parallel to the wording in the “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife.” (I will be the first to admit that my knowledge of Coptic, while not non-existent, is extremely limited, and so I encourage those with greater proficiency in the language to offer their perspectives on this topic).

Nevertheless, taking a look at that verse in BibleWorks reinforced to me the possibility of the connection Watson and Bauckham suggest. The reference to Judas’ “unrighteousness” in the Greek text, as well as the tradition of his “swelling up,” do indeed seem like they intersect with the snippet in line 6 of the “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife.” But the Coptic versions of the NT that I was able to access do not render the wording in a manner that is likely to have been utilized directly by the person who created the “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” – whether that took place in antiquity or more recently.


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  • Richard Bauckham

    Thanks for checking this, James. I’ve posted a comment on Watson’s article.

    • Thanks – I saw it. I was tempted to mention there that, in looking into this from work, where I don’t have any good Coptic lexical aids to hand, what I found in those available online was that there seem to be a surprisingly large number of different ways to say “swell up” in Coptic, and yet none of those I came across were the term used in the fragment. 🙂

  • Gary

    Obviously I know nothing of the subject. But doing a google on “swell up in coptic”, there are several references to not swelling up, related to Acts 28:6, Paul having no effects from a snake bite. Not so much the Judas swelling up. Wonder if the same word is used? One example

    • Gary

      Of course, I can’t let a chance of weirdness pass up. Since gnostics are into spirit, versus wicked flesh, and the entire issue revolved around wife, celibacy, etc,,,,perhaps what is swelling up is a certain body part. Sorry, I need to quit blogging. How’s that for speculation.

    • That doesn’t seem to have been the prototype for this line either – but good thinking!

  • Jim Darlack

    Thanks for the shout-out to the BibleWorks blog! 🙂