Monday, July 20, 2015

The Jesus' Wife Fake Latest

In my previous post, Gospel of Jesus' Wife in New Testament Studies, I drew attention to the free-for-all access to the latest issue of New Testament Studies in which several scholars clearly, fairly and persuasively set out the case that the Gospel of Jesus' Wife is indeed a modern fake.

It is now almost a month since the NTS issue came out so it is perhaps worth taking stock on the latest reactions. Larry Hurtado has a helpful round-up post on his blog today:

“Jesus’ Wife” Fragment: The Collective Negative Judgment

And over on Hypotyposeis, Stephen Carlson draws attention to the "red flags" of forgery that we should have had our eyes open for:

Red Flags of Forgery: What ‘Archaic Mark’ and the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife have in common

For those who are looking for a useful, "lay person's" summary of the key issues, Simon Gathercole provides this on Christianity Today:

5 Reasons Why the Gospel of Jesus' Wife Is a Fake
How other scholars and I verified the fragment's inauthenticity.

Simon's article begins with an allusion to the wonderful Coleman-Norton "amusing agraphon" forgery, which I discussed in NT Pod 40: "Teeth will be provided": the joke, the hoax, the story". Simon's article is a strong piece and very helpfully illustrates the case for forgery. [Minor comment: I think there is a small error here:
The Jesus’ Wife fragment did not come to Harvard on its own. It was delivered alongside another manuscript in the same handwriting and similar ink: a copy of the Gospel of John. 
According to Karen King, the John fragment was "received on loan by Harvard University for examination and publication (November 13, 2012)" ("Jesus said to them, 'My wife . . . '", 154, n. 107), whereas the Jesus' Wife fragment was delivered almost a year earlier, in December 2011 ("Jesus said to them, 'My wife . . .'", 154).]

Other than these selected blog posts and articles, there has been surprisingly little reaction to the NTS volume. This may, of course, simply be a question of time, but I hope that in due course Harvard Divinity School will reassess its somewhat robust website announcing the ancient nature of the fragment. Its most recent update is dated to May 2015 but as far as I can tell, the only additions to the site are the following on the Q & A page:
13. Can I see the fragment?
The fragment is available for study in its digital form on this site. The original is extremely fragile and access has to be strictly limited. If your research requires such access, contact the curator of early books and manuscripts at Houghton Library ( to arrange an appointment. 
14. Where is the fragment being kept?
In May, 2015, an agreement was signed by Harvard University and the owner of two Coptic papyrus fragments (the Gospel of Jesus' Wife fragment and a Coptic fragment of the Gospel of John).  It provides for the fragments to be deposited at Harvard for a ten-year period (renewable) for purposes of study and research. 
I hope that in due course, HDS will add a note on the NTS volume in order that readers can get a more balanced picture of the current state of discussion on the fragment.

Meanwhile, apparently undaunted by the evidence of forgery, Smithsonian Channel is going ahead with four repeat showings of its documentary on the fragment, the first airing last Saturday, and the next three to air over the coming weeks:

The Gospel of Jesus's Wife

If this documentary continues to be broadcast at regular intervals in this way, and if there is no comment from those who have previously defended its authenticity, should we conclude that the voices of those who have argued for forgery are being ignored?

Update (25 July 2015): the "May 2015" update of the Harvard Divinity School Gospel of Jesus' Wife site also appears to have taken most of the Harvard Theological Review materials offline. Originally, the entire volume was available free for all online but now only Karen King's two articles are available, "Jesus said to them, 'My wife . . .'" and her Response to Depuydt.