Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Jesus' Wife Fragment Round-up

There are several items of interest on the Jesus' Wife Fragment that have emerged over the last few days or so and I hope readers won't mind if I draw attention to these in a "round-up" post.  If I have missed anything important, please comment and I'll add those too.

At this point, almost all of the important discussion about the fragment is taking place in the blogs and social media.  Today, there is a sign that the tide is turning, with CNN's Belief Blog featuring the following piece:

New evidence casts doubt on 'Gospel of Jesus' Wife'
Opinion by Joel S. Baden and Candida R. Moss, special to CNN

This is a clearly expressed, very useful piece that will bring people who have not followed recent developments up to speed.  Well done to Candida and Joel.  Incidentally, and this is just a sidenote, the piece illustrates the forgery of the Coptic John fragment using the graphic I produced for the NT Blog, including my caption, though without acknowledgement (which I don't mind too much -- the key thing is that the article gets this information out there).  [For the original, much clearer version, see here.]

Up to this point, the media at large had not caught up with the latest developments, with the exception of an excellent piece by Charlotte Allen:

The Deepening Mystery Of the 'Jesus' Wife' Papyrus
Charlotte Allen

Allen's post helpfully follows up on her earlier Weekly Standard piece, The Wife of Jesus Tale, which bucked the rather triumphalistic tone of the broader media coverage that somewhat prematurely announced the fragment's authenticity earlier in the month.  Her latest piece incorporates the key insights found in Christian Askeland's post and Alin Suciu's post, also discussed here (with illustration) in which the "sister" to the Jesus' Wife Fragment, a piece of Coptic John, shows very clear signs of modern forgery.

My favourite line in Allen's post is "This is getting into monkeys-with-typewriters territory."  She concludes with a call to Harvard Divinity School and the Harvard Theological Review to reveal everything that they have about the fragment.  Given the increased difficulties about the provenance of the fragment, it indeed seems essential now to release these materials, especially the undated, unsigned hand-written note in which Prof. Fecht is alleged to have associated the fragment with Jesus' marriage.

Meanwhile, Andrew Bernhard has three new "News Briefs" in which he sets out the case for the forgery of the Jesus' wife fragment with admirable clarity, including graphic representations, which regular readers will know is something I greatly value:

The Gospel of Jesus's Wife: A Key to the Patchwork Text
Andrew Bernhard

The Gospel of Jesus's Wife: Internet Forgery
Andrew Bernhard

The Gospel of Jesus's Wife: Missing Evidence of Antiquity
Andrew Bernhard

Also of key importance is a fresh post from Christian Askeland in which he clearly and carefully discusses the new fragment, with pertinent observations and helpful graphics:

The Forgery of the Lycopolitan Gospel of John
Christian Askeland

And before bowing out of the discussion, Alin Suciu offers some further useful reflections:

The Gospel of Jesus' Wife Papyrus: Final Reflections
Alin Suciu

There are several other helpful and interesting pieces also worth studying.  Gregg Schwendner has uploaded several useful "work in progress" articles to academia.edu.  Note in particular:

The "Gospel of Jesus' Wife" as a Questioned Document: What Would Simulated Ancient Writing look like?
Gregg W. Schwendner

Chart comparing the letter forms in GJW and the Simulated GJohn
Gregg W. Schwendner

Christopher Jones has an excellent piece that I have been meaning to mention for some time, also on academia.edu:
The “Jesus’ Wife” Papyrus
Christopher Jones
I quote here a part of his piece, which provides a salutary lesson: Finally, a lesson might be drawn from the debate over the supposed drawings of Galileo Galilei in two copies of his Sidereus Nuncius, one of them allegedly the proof-copy; the story is set out in an article by Nicholas Schindle [sic] in a recent New Yorker (“A Very Rare Book,” issue of December 16, 2013). One of the copies, alleged to contain Galileo’s own drawings, appeared in 2005, and was offered to a New York bookseller. A team of researchers at the Humboldt University in Berlin tested the book extensively, and declared that it was genuine. They published their findings in a two-volume work, Galileo's O, edited by Horst Bredekamp (Berlin, 2011). Independently, Nick Wilding, assistant professor at Georgia State, began to investigate the claims, and finally traced the book back to Massimo De Caro, previously Director of the Biblioteca Statale dei Gerolamini, Naples, who is now in prison and claims to have forged the book as a joke.
It therefore becomes imperative to trace the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife papyrus back to its source . . . 
I was not previously familiar with this fascinating case, but here is the link:

A Very Rare Book: The mystery surrounding a copy of Galileo’s pivotal treatise
Nicholas Schmidle

And note also his earlier useful contribution, Clement of Alexandria and the Celibacy of Jesus

Further, Michael Grondin is continuing his coverage of the latest developments:

The Jesus' Wife Fragment: 2014 Update

Finally, for the time being at least, Carrie Schroeder has a most helpful discussion of the issues in an interview over on the Jesus Blog:

Interview with Caroline T. Schroeder re: Jesus' Wife Fragment


marquetteia said...

In King's response to Depuvdt she writes, “The meaningfulness of statistical analysis for such a limited data sample is problematic for me to assess but in any case rests on a premise that 'every single phrase of the Text [GJW] can be found in the Gospel of Thomas' (178). That premise, however, requires an inadequate dismissal of the many differences between the two work[s].” [Then in footnote adds:] “Depuydt writes, for example: 'The deviations do not in the least affect the striking individuality of the phrases as distinct from all other possible phrases of the Coptic language' (180). In the line-by-line analysis, he himself repeatedly notes that not every word or phrase in the text comes from GJW.”

What 'text' does she mean? That not every phrase in the text comes from the text? Or that not every phrase in the text comes from GT.?

Mike Grondin said...

Need to get the correct date of that one Charlotte Allen piece. It says May 5th.

Adrift said...

Avoid the comments of the CNN article at all costs.

Mark Goodacre said...

Well spotted, marquetteia. Presumably she means not "GJW" but "Gospel of Thomas".

Mark Goodacre said...

Thanks, Mike. I assume that that is the date of the printed magazine, so it's got a later date than the blog post even though it's written earlier.

Geoff Hudson said...

An interesting question is where does this fraudulent production of manuscripts end? What should be one's attitude to any manuscript that purports to be of a biblical or religious nature, even if it comes from a source of known provenance? There have been artists of chicanery around from time immemorial, as Larry Hurtado illustrates with his article on Simonides.

marquetteia said...

One's attitude should be that if it ostensibly supports the ideological concerns of anyone currently living it should be suspect. It is not to the credit of intellectual integrity in general when King lately asserts she wishes we could all just get beyond the forgery issue and get into a discussion of why the notion of a married Jesus is pivotal for comprehending early Christian discussions about celibacy, sex, gender, etc. Especially since the April 10th Globe article has it that the note of Fecht is only a photostat of a note from Fecht, making that document impervious to modern forensic examination for authentication. If the May 5th tee-vee extravaganza goes forward without a genuine disclaimer then we are clearly in the realm of social agendas. The notion that things become true merely by believing them true isn't wasted on a culture that wants to believe in nazi space aliens and grassy knoll conspiracies. -James Barlow