Friday, April 25, 2014

Illustrating the forgery of Jesus' wife's sister fragment

I blogged last night on Jesus' Wife and her Ugly Sister, picking up on Christian Askeland's devastating post, Jesus had an ugly sister-in-law, in which he drew attention to the the Coptic Gospel of John fragment that emerged from the same collector at the same time as the Jesus' Wife Fragment.  Askeland noted that this fragment, which is in the same hand as the Jesus' Wife Fragment, is clearly a forgery.

Alin Suciu, Christian Askeland finds the "Smoking Gun", helpfully illustrated how the verso of the John fragment was clearly copied from Herbert Thompson, The Gospel of St. John According to the Earliest Coptic Manuscript (London: British School of Archaeology in Egypt, University College, 1924), line breaks and all.

What I would like to present here is the same kind of graphic illustrating how the recto of the John fragment copies from Thompson.  Often in this kind of work, a graphic is worth a thousand blogged words because it enables one to see the point quickly and straightforwardly (click on the pic for a larger version):

Herbert Thompson's Gospel of St John, page 7 (left); Coptic John fragment recto (right),
illustrating how the forger copied every second line of this text of John 5.26-30, line breaks and all

Thompson's edition is based on the Cambridge Qau Codex and like Grondin's Interlinear Gospel of Thomas that appeared to have been used for the Jesus' Wife Fragment, it is available online.  It is not clear from the ETANA website when the PDF was uploaded, but the properties of the PDF itself show that it was created in 2005 and modified in 2008, well within the time frame for the presentation of these fragments to Prof. Karen King.

The graphic above should speak for itself but essentially the point is this: the forger appears to have copied mechanically every other line from the Thompson edition.  Every line break is the same.  It is beyond reasonable doubt that this is a fake, and this conclusion means that the Jesus' Wife Fragment is a fake too.


Kevin Smith said...

This is very revealing. Thank you for your helpful blogs on this topic. I have really enjoyed and valued them.

W. Andrew Smith said...

I did this work for myself yesterday and thought someone really ought to post this for the sake of completeness--so I'm glad to see you have done so!

Richard Budelberger said...

I don’t agree with you, Dr Goodacre : the online availability of the Thompson's edition of the Gospel of John (¹) doesn’t matter, here. This edition is available since 1924 (for a readable transcription…), any forger had enough time to find one exemplar to build his fake.

The Michael Grondin’s Nov. 2002 pdf is important in the story of the GJW only if you think that the shared typo – the “Missing M” – is a “smoking gun”, the first, non convincing, smoking gun in this strange affair…

1. Based on the Cambridge Qau Codex, not Qua, please.

Richard Budelberger said...

W. Andrew Smith, we were « ten thousand people – maybe more – »,scholars and unscholars, all united in the same task, last night : to do this work !…

Like Italian Carabinieri or US Calvalry…

[But I’m still working on it…]

Mark Goodacre said...

Thanks for the correction of the typo, Richard.

Andrew McGowan said...

Interesting that there is an actual variant here though - in v.29, ⲈⲂⲞⲖ (more like standard Sahidic?) for Qau's ⲀⲂⲀⲖ (which I think is the form used on the verso). A sign the forger knew some Coptic at least.

Richard Budelberger said...

« an actual variant », twice in this fragment, Andrew McGowan, he changed ABAL in EBOL : see at Dr Suciu’s, verso l. 4 too. Maybe this forger has some knowledge of Coptic, Sahidic, and knows how to use the Herbert Thompson’s Coptic Glossary.

Stephen Goranson said...

Tentative chronology on Coptic "Jesus Wife" fragment. [Items in brackets refer to a claimed Demotic Gospel of Thomas.] Corrections welcome. part 1

2nd century suggested date of a Greek "gospel" Vorlage
2nd-4th c. claimed date of a Coptic Gospel of John ms in the same collection (claim before C14 tests give probable date about four centuries later)
4th century claimed date of ms (claim before C14 tests give probable date about four centuries later)
[1875 Feb. 4 claimed presentation in New Orleans of a papyrus in "Unknown" language (actually Demotic)]
[1875 claimed publication of ms in (an unattested) proceedings supplement of New Orleans Academy of Sciences]
1924 Herbert Thompson, The Gospel of St. John According to the Earliest Coptic Manuscript (London: British School of Archaeology in Egypt, University College, 1924)
1945 Nag Hammadi mss discovered
1956 Coptic gnostic papyri in the Coptic Museum at Old Cairo, P. Labib. Facsimiles
1959 The Gospel According to Thomas. Guillaumont, Puech, Quispel et al. Coptic & English
1961 G. Fecht in Orientalia suggests Nag Hammadi Gospel of Truth was composed in Coptic not Greek
1963 claimed date Laukamp purchased in Potsdam, East Germany. But Smithsonian Nov. 2012 reported: "(In a later e-mail [from collector to King], however, the story seemed to change slightly, with the collector saying that the papyri had been in the previous owner's possession--or his family's--'prior to WWII.')"

Stephen Goranson said...

Timeline part 2
1970-1981 P. Munro Director of the Kestner Museum, Hannover
1977 Nag Hammadi II facsimile published
1981 June ff Munro Professor in Berlin
1982 July 15 letter from Munro to Laukamp (claimed), giving remarkably early date to Coptic Gospel of John ms
1982-1983 Karen King at Free Uni., Berlin
1982 "Holy Blood, Holy Grail" published
1983 new Egyptian antiquities law
1983 T. Lambdin, Introduction to Sahidic Coptic
1987 Fecht Festschrift, Form und Mass
[1990 claimed facsimile of New Orleans Demotic papyrus, with poor or misleading translation submitted from US to Discussions in Egyptology, Oxford]
[1991 Mark J. Smith retranslates the Demotic, containing Gospel of Thomas logia]
[1991 Demotic text recognized as a hoax by, among others, Leo Depuydt. See Financial Times, May 18 and 25]
1995 Munro ill, reportedly stays in Hannover (C.E. Loeben obituary)
1997 claimed purchase from German-American collector according to Smithsonian Nov. 2012
1999 Nov. 12 claimed purchase from H.-U. Laukamp according to HTR 2014
2002 Hans-Ulrich Laukamp death according to Owen Jarus, Live Science April 22, 2014 (and not 2001 as in K. King 2012 HTR draft page 3; and not Dec. 3 2000 [death of a Dane, Gerhard Laukamp] as commented on a Nov 29, 2012 NT Blog post)
2002 Nov M. Grondin posts Interlinear Coptic Thomas; see his account:
2003 "The Da Vinci Code" published
2003 "The Gospel of Mary of Magdala" published by King
2006 May "Da Vinci Code" film
2006 Dec. 13 Gerhard Fecht death (in Hamburg?). An undated unsigned handwritten note claimed "Professor Fecht of the opinion that this could be evidence for a possible marriage." (Compare King in HTR 2014 158 that "no serious scholar considers [the ms] to be evidence of the historical Jesus's marital status.")
[2007 Jan. 7 death of Alessandra Nibbi, editor of Discussions in Egyptology]
2007 Feb. S. Jacobovici, "The Jesus Family Tomb"
2007 March 4 TV "The Lost Tomb of Jesus"
2009 Jan. 2 Peter Munro death (not 2008 as HTR 2012 draft p.2)
2009 July K. King to Harvard
2010 July 9 email, collector to K. King; she suspects "forgery"
2011 June email, collector again to King, contacting her "before I sell it"
2011 Dec. ms to King; she (sometime) titles it "The Gospel of Jesus' Wife" (According to Smithsonian, the collector had already introduced it as "a Gnostic gospel that appeared to contain an 'argument' between Jesus and a disciple about Magdalene.")
For some more recent dates, see M. Grondin and NT Blog and Evangelical Textual Criticism Blog and Harvard Theological Review April 2014.

Stephen Goranson

pithom said...

Someone should update Wikipedia. The relevant Wiki article contains far less proof of forgery than it should.

Mark Goodacre said...

Thanks, Andrew, yes. The fact that he has some elementary Coptic does make it curious. We know that also from the Jesus Wife Fragment too. The emphasis should be on elementary, though.

Mark Goodacre said...

Thanks, Stephen. I'll promote the timeline to a main post once I'm back at the blogging machine, hopefully tomorrow.

Mark Goodacre said...

Agreed, Pithom. Perhaps you could do it? Journalists do read Wikipedia.

Richard Budelberger said...

Waste of time, Dr Goodacre : articles are mediocre – the best one is the Finnish, even with its big lie… –, by definition : so-called “verified reference source”, according to those morons, are Press papers… written in turn reading… Wikipedia !… (See Antoine Compagnon’s complaint : “ et” – don’t know Pr Compagnon ? top seller of books, last year, with his Un été avec Montaigne !… –, and my (not yet…) civil comment…)

[Ask also Roger Pearse… (And here.)]

Richard Budelberger said...

« Corrections welcome. », says Stephen Goranson… Not very important, but the Western text is the best – even in its non-interpolations… –, and too much is better than a vacuum… Maybe add something like :
— March 1923 : near the village of Qau el Kebir in Egypt, surfaced a codex – since known as Qau Codex –, quickly brought to England. See here.

Mike Grondin said...

It seems I'm in the minority in having doubts that the Jn fragment is a forgery, while still maintaining that JWF is. My reasoning on the Jn fragment is that the evidence is far less convincing than first appear. If it is a forgery, it doesn't have the visible signs that JWF does. Furthermore, unlike JWF, it had to have been exceptionally well done, for the contents of the back side of the fragment suggest a page-size of 61 lines, which is large, but proportional to what must have been a relatively large width (based on the typical size of two Qua lines). That having been said, I suppose it's a net good if some folks who had been on the fence about JWF are now coming over.

Richard Budelberger said...

As I have said here, I have found another evidence – a little sister of my “Missing M” given to this Wild World – proving that our Dear Forger – I have my idea about his identity… ;-) – is a stupid guy, a Wikipedian-like moron… But I need more time to publish it : I’m very tired, and, first of all, I’m waiting for some other posts, telling something like « my attention has recently been drawn – by whom ? by the Holy Ghost, oczywiście !… – to the fact… », and he « checks the file, sees that “evidence”, but doesn’t make it public » and he « sees it, but doesn’t make anything of it, since he is already aware of » that… and he does… and he doesn’t… (cf. Falsificatio For Dummies, The Guardian Press…) Sixteen days, already, since the publication of this John’s Gospel… those posts won’t last long…

[Note : If you’re a Kingist, use #GJW – Gospel of Jesus’s Wife – ; being a Depuydtist ? no problem, write #JWF – Jesus’ Wife Fragment !…]

Mike Grondin said...

Richard - Your comment is rather incoherent, but you seem to be quoting stuff from my timeline, with some disapproval. Please contact me and we'll talk about it. (mwgrondin gmail com)

Peter M. Head said...

Mark, I'm surprised you haven't mentioned that Thompson always refers to this manuscript as Q (p. XI).
It makes for some interesting sentences: "Each leaf of Q measured originally about 10 inches ... in height by about 5 inches ... in width." (p. XII).
[Not sure if this could be a clue or not.]

Mark Goodacre said...

Haha, yes, I have been enjoying that! But I'm much more interested in fictional Qs than real ones.

Mike Grondin said...

As embarrassing as it is, I have to retract an earlier comment. I've just become aware (from Christian Askeland's latest blog post) that the Jn fragment failed to follow its pattern of every-other line on the last line of the verso - which happens to be the very spot where Thompson switches from one page to the next of Qau. My previous reluctance to support the forgery theory for Jn is now untenable.

Otheus said...

Askeland's logic is not compelling to me, a nobody with no experience in this field. I see no reason why the Jn papyrus might not have been wide enough the the inkist simply condensed from the original (or that it was copied from another "double-wide" unknown extant). Line breaks would have otherwise been kept consistent in order for ease of comparison and proofing (assuming such things were done).

Mike Grondin said,

I've just become aware (from Christian Askeland's latest blog post) that the Jn fragment failed to follow its pattern of every-other line on the last line of the verso - which happens to be the very spot where Thompson switches from one page to the next of Qau. My previous reluctance to support the forgery theory for Jn is now untenable.

Askeland's blog shows the relevant pages from Qau, but I don't see the unskipped line. Nor do I follow the suggested the logic that the alleged forger concluded that the original was a two-column codex. That would make sense if a forger were going from one columns to two columns, but not the reverse.

And if it sounds like I'm speaking nonsense, you're probably right. I'm looking for a more accessible explanation (with compelling logic) to substantiate this forgery.

Mike Grondin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mike Grondin said...

A lot of water has gone under the bridge since this blog entry was posted, and I don't know whether Otheus is just behind the times or approval of the comment was long-delayed, but I'm so flattered to be quoted that I'll respond to a couple points: (1) the original Suciu image visually comparing Thompson's transliteration of Qau with the verso of the John fragment was incomplete. It did not include the last line. I don't believe it's ever been redone to show that. (2) As for the reasoning about a two-column page, I don't follow that either.

Stephen Patterson said...

Not a regular here, but thought I would throw in my two cents, Mark. Back in the mid-80s I spent two years reading Coptic manuscripts of this vintage in the Bode Museum in East Berlin. For much of that time Karen King was with me. We were reading very poorly preserved Manichaean texts. The John MS is clearly a forgery. The line breaks make this impossible to avoid. But it also looks like a forgery. Perhaps this is easier to see when one knows that it is, but I think I would have said this looking at it cold. With the real thing, the writing and the papyrus have aged for 1500 years in the same way. So where the papyrus sucks, the letters suck too. Look at line 2, recto. Where the papyrus is dark, the letters are still clear. Where the letters are missing, the papyrus seems fine. Just looking at a photograph here, so I may be mislead. But it just doesn't look real to me. The papyrus is old but not the writing. That said, none of this appears to be true of the GWF manuscript. I have been convinced of its authenticity since the first time I saw good photographs. It reads just like the real deal, especially the verso. I'm sure that is what Karen must have thought too, though we have not talked about it. The smudginess of the letters is just like what you encounter; the way ink sticks to individual fibres where there is no pith, the places where stray fibres run over letters and are pressed into the papyrus... I just can't imagine how someone could fake that. I think that actually takes 1000 years to do. I am no Roger Bagnall, but If there is a forger out there, bravo, because GJW is fooling me.

One more word, if I may, on the missing M, and the vocalization differences people are commenting. I am not convinced by any of that. Reading published Coptic gives one enough of a sense of how variable all this is in Coptic. With actual manuscripts the problem is even worse. You really never know what you're going to see, so that you always make allowances. The variations are from several sources. One is the orality of the language: scribes transcribe things like they say them instead of how they should be. Also, where Sahidicisms are at play, you may have an Achmimic or Subachmimic scribe trying to write good Sahidic. Layton calls this phenomenon in Thomas Crypto-Subachmimic. All that is to say, arguments from grammatical mistakes and misspellings are not very compelling.

At this point I am convinced that the John MS must be a modern forgery, but I'm still pretty sure GJW is not.
Steve Patterson

Mark Goodacre said...

Many thanks for your comments, Steve, which are very much appreciated.

On the Jesus' Wife Fragment, do you not find the parallel line break with NH2 also at least curious, especially as it comes on the same line as the grammatical oddity of the missing mu?