The Gospel of Jesus’ Fake Wife, or the Fake Gospel of Jesus’ Wife?

The Gospel of Jesus’ Fake Wife, or the Fake Gospel of Jesus’ Wife? September 27, 2012

The Boston Globe has an article about the conversation among scholars about the fragment. Bart Ehrman is quoted as saying what many cautious scholars would say based on the currently-available evidence: “[T]he jury is out still, but it’s not looking good for authenticity.”

Mark Goodacre shared updated copies of Francis Watson’s pdf articles.

Andrew Bernhard posted another pdf article. In drawing my attention to it, he also wrote the following:

Just to clarify in case there has been any confusion, my goal in writing about a possible relationship between The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife (GJW) and The Gospel of Thomas (GTh) is not to establish that GJW <i>was</i> composed by copying words and short phrases from GTh. My interest is merely to examine whether a modern author with perhaps limited knowledge of Coptic <i>could</i> have used GTh to create a fragmentary text (such as GJW) that appeared to be of ancient origin. The answer appears to be, “yes.”

In a new article I have just posted on my web page (“On the Possible Relationship between The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife and The Gospel of Thomas”), I explain how virtually every line of the text of GJW could have been composed simply by juxtaposing words and phrases from the GTh. The only exception is line 6 on the recto of GJW, and I point out that those who would suggest that GJW is merely derived from GTh still need to explain how this line was compose. The article also includes a one page synopsis illustrating potential parallels, so that anyone can examine them quickly.

Ultimately, I am aware that there is a distinct difference between demonstrating that GJW <i>could</i> have been composed using GTh and that it actually </i>was. While I now believe that it is reasonable to be skeptical about the antiquity of GJW because a plausible explanation for how a modern author could have composed it has been offered up, I also think that it would be a mistake to conclude that the case is closed.

Additional experts need to examine the manuscript first-hand and the appropriate scientific tests need to be conducted to establish the age of both the papyrus and the ink. Karen King has always advocated further scrutiny of GJW, and I hope the process of peer review proceeds quickly and provides conclusive results about whether the papyrus and the controversial text it contains is genuinely ancient or not.

Christian Askeland has shared a video about peculiarities of the writing on the papyrus:

Alin Suciu and Hugo Lundhaug have posted some more thoughts about line 6.

Charles Halton shared thoughts from Gesine Robinson.

Unreasonable Faith looks at how Christian fundamentalists have reacted to the news about the fragment.

Michael Kubin offers the complete text of the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife. And Reg Henry pokes fun by suggesting things that Jesus’ wife might have said.

See also posts by Larry HurtadoTheresa Johnson, Jim Davila, Brian LePortMichael Pahl, David Meadows, and Michael Kruger.

Finally, here’s Karen King speaking in the upcoming Smithsonian documentary:

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  • Jim West

    best post title of the week.

  • Susan Burns

    The handwriting, to me, looks as if the writer does not know how to hold a stylus properly. A calligrapher holds a pen so that the nib is always at a 45 degree angle. Some of these letters do not show the variation in thickness that a properly held stylus would achieve. To Christian Askeland, this is an indication that the fragment is fake. It’s true that professional scribes are obviously trained in how to hold a stylus so that the graduated thickness of strokes are uniform. Trained scribes were an important element of Temple worship because each Hebrew letter is divine and contains a boatload of meaning in each stroke. How each letter is written is just as important if not more important than the contents of the passage. The GJW was written by someone that was less concerned with the letters than they were with the meaning of the passage. To me this is a point for the authentic team. If a forger went to all the trouble to use ancient materials, surely they would have found a calligrapher that knew how to hold a stylus. It seems as if the author was more concerned about getting out the Good News than in his handwriting. Just because this fragment was not officially sanctioned by heirarchical powers that were in charge of the message does not mean it is a forgery. Hmm… sounds like modern biblical scholars. If it was not for Shanks (member of unwashed masses) 99.99% of the rest of us would not know what the Dead Sea Scrolls even look like.

    • Susan Burns

      Then the question is; why didn’t this literate author use his regular writing implement? If he knew how to write with a pointed instrument, why did he use the stylus with a slanted nib? I think the reason is because he had to use a stylus for the document to be holy. He knew he needed to use a stylus, he just didn’t know how to do it. It takes a lot of practice.
      The Hebrew word for stylus is shevet and also can mean sceptre. The stylus was a cultic item from the Temple of the People of the Book. When Moses received the law on slabs of stone, the letters were cut all the way through so that the glory of God shone through. The letters are a portal into the Kingdom of God and so must be created in a ritualized cultic procedure. The person that wrote (or copied) this gospel wanted to follow the magic forumula for the creation of a holy scripture.

  • Georgeos Díaz-montexano

    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,