Monday, April 28, 2014

Tentative chronology on Coptic "Jesus Wife" fragment

I am grateful to Stephen Goranson for this updated version of his tentative chronology on the Coptic Jesus' Wife Fragment:
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Tentative chronology on Coptic "Jesus Wife" fragment
Stephen Goranson

[Items in brackets refer to a claimed Demotic Gospel of Thomas.] Corrections welcome.

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]
1923: March discovery of a Coptic Gospel of John codex, Qau el Kebir, Egypt; soon brought to England
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.')"
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: Karen King to Harvard
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 MayDa Vinci Code film
2006 Dec. 13: Gerhard Fecht death (in Hamburg?). An undated unsigned handwritten note claimed "Professor Fecht ....is 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: Elaine Pagels & Karen King, Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity
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: Karen King: Hollis Professor of Divinity, Harvard Divinity School
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, A Question of Content; NT BlogEvangelical Textual Criticism Blog and Harvard Theological Review April 2014.
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12 comments:

Christian Askeland said...

I am grateful that this is all being compiled. Would you consider a mention of the GJudas publication? Although Karen King was not one of the National Geographic collaborators, she did co-author a monograph with Elaine Pagels who was on the team. This engendered some angst from the wider Nag Hammadi community of scholars.

marquetteia said...

Prof. King writes:

“2) Even if GJW could be proved to be literarily dependent upon Gos. Thom. (and/or other texts), this would not necessarily indicate fabrication in the modern period. The similarities and differences between them can be accounted for with regard to literary practices that are well-documented in the Mediterranean world of Late Antiquity where streams of communication and modes of composition included both oral and literary aspects. The importance of memory in oral and written composition and transmission, the pedagogical emphasis upon imitation of proper style, the literary representation of a person's character and beliefs by inventing speeches and dialogue, and citational practices aiming more for the gist than for word-for-word accuracy all played a role in the compositional practices of antiquity and are specifically documented in the “redactional” activity and outright inventions of the early Jesus tradition. Consider the literary dependence among the Synoptic Gospels, the fancy of the infancy gospels, the invention in the correspondence between Jesus and Abgar, or the mixing of known and unknown sayings attributed to Jesus in Gos. Thom., Gos. Mary, or other non-canonical gospels. The fact that GJW offers something startlingly new is not itself startling or new. Recent discoveries from Egypt have offered evidence of notable diversity and creativity among ancient Christians.”
Aside from the fact the above sounds like scriptology from “The Amazing Truth About Jesus They Want To Keep From You” Eastertide serial rerun, (see her sermon as the intro to Davies 'Paean to the Cross' trans.), at some point the issue of widespread divergence of Christian views of Jesus before the third century has to be addressed. For too long different perspectives upon the import of this have taken the form of ideological whetstones and grindstones for axes without any honesty toward the fact these are historical hypotheses.

marquetteia said...

How does the Nag Hammadi cache demonstrate ubiquitous, popular divergence in early Christianity even if the writings are legitimately given to be emblematic of their own widespread dissemination? Isn't that an imaginary interpretation of their historical meaning? And if these cults had literate components writing in Egypt, mostly in Coptic, how is this supposed to be evidence for Christian fascination with gender issues vi-a-vis church authority? (Anyone who has read Elaine Pagels' “Gnostic Gospels” knows what the term 'deep underlying presumptions' means: they are essentially a reading of an imaginary postmodern psychology retroread into primary textual meanings.) In any case, it is as unclear to me how the above has relevance for the issue of forgery as Depuvdt's litany of alleged motives does. And “notable diversity and creativity among early Christians” does not constitute evidence for hearty and hefty debate all over proto-Christendom about whether Jesus came from Barbelo or the Eighth Ogdad.

marquetteia said...

Methinks certain parties for certain reasons seek to establish a consensus in terms of historical presuppositions by means of the volt-force of the startling nature of what manuscript discoveries have 'unearthed about Christian origins,' and it has become quite an enterprise for the book vendors. But none of this has to do with two historical hypotheses: (1) Christian Gnosticism was begun by disgruntled visionaries who began their own small versions of the faith by means of a variety of cosmic assertions as the Jesus-meant road to salvation; versus (2) Christian Gnosticism was so huge and popular because of its equally valid claim to apostolic legitimacy it required an ongoing ecclesiastical burning campaign to destroy its writings. To wit: does the existence of these manuscripts imply any sort of widespread disagreement about salvific methods and necessities except between and among the Gnostics themselves? And how can the nature and extent of these disagreements be demonstrable from the discovery of said manuscripts as to what they contain?
For even if I accept the indubitable factual status of all of the above assertions, of Prof. King, as tools, let us say, for properly envisioning the situation, her argument points toward an anachronistic historical understanding where an ancient, rather than recent forgery seems to have taken place. As indeed it has, if the papyrus dating is correct. For all that: why can't GJW be a deliberate reworking of the exact GT we have? (Given that the fragment is composed by brushstrokes and written non-scribally, why couldn't it indeed be a piece of magical incantation by someone trying to verbatim copy—right down to line-breaks—the existing GT we have? Or did being literate in Coptic require scribal training in letter formation across the board? For King is indeed seeking to suggest that the writer lived at a time when oral transmission and thought-provoking emendations of the Jesus legend were commonplace.) But even if they were, this still fails to demonstrate that such fabulosities constitute the kind of ongoing controversy within ancient Christianity she suggests. Those are presumptions of a very interesting kind because they have acquired the status of truisms. Both similarities and differences with GT can be accounted for by the cultural mileau and its strange version of intellectual integrity; yet none of these potent generalizations, be they accurate, are real responses to the question of what warrants skepticism toward the fragment in terms of GT. So what if someone sought to make an emended copy of GT for whatever reason: the issue the find raises is what matters, even if the find appears to be fraudulent. That is what I am hearing in the nearly hysterical reiterations of scholars hellbent on giving any kind of historical power to the notion that GT et.al. should be accorded genuine status as indices of what actually constituted the faith of ordinary Christians. The fragment is Egyptian, Coptic, and religious. To what extent did Gnostic Christians believe in magical incantation in non-liturgical settings and what is the paleographic evidence for this, in terms of quantity of remains and quality of obvious textual meanings? --James Barlow

Mark Goodacre said...

Thanks, Christian. Added.

Stephen Goranson said...

Thanks, Mark and Christian. This tentative chronology is admittedly incomplete, and may contain some items that will eventually be dropped as not particularly relevant. But it shows, I think, that the provenance claims are not only doubtful for more than one reason but are even internally contradictory. Also, the timeline, as an heuristic exercise, may help encourage others to contribute further information.
For a bit more on Gerhard Fecht, including that he moved from Heidelberg to Berlin, where he taught from 1967 to 1987 (except for a year in Cairo), see an obituary note by John Baines in Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 93 (2007) viii (available via JSTOR).

Stephen Goranson said...

Thanks, Mark and Christian. This tentative chronology is admittedly incomplete, and may contain some items that will eventually be dropped as not particularly relevant. But it shows, I think, that the provenance claims are not only doubtful for more than one reason but are even internally contradictory. Also, the timeline, as an heuristic exercise, may help encourage others to contribute further information.
For a bit more on Gerhard Fecht, including that he moved from Heidelberg to Berlin, where he taught from 1967 to 1987 (except for a year in Cairo), see an obituary note by John Baines in Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 93 (2007) viii (available via JSTOR).

Stephen Goranson said...

My mistake. From Prof. Karen King's CV: 2007 July is not the date of arriving at Harvard but the date she was appointed the Hollis Professor of Divinity. Date of arrival at Harvard was 1997. Apologies for my error.

Stephen Goranson said...

Though Prof. King in HTR 2014 p. 153 reports "an unsigned and undated handwritten note in German," for whatever reason Harvard Magazine May-June 2014 ("New Gospel Revealed")reported that Munro showed the ms to [start quote] Professor Gerhard Fecht (now deceased), who believed it to be “the sole example of a text in which Jesus uses direct speech with reference to having a wife. Fecht is of the opinion that this could be evidence for a possible marriage,” read a note dated 1982, written in English, that accompanied the fragment, the prior provenance of which is unknown.[end quote] English? Dated 1982?

Stephen Goranson said...

2005, the date of AnneMarie Luijendijk's Harvard Ph.D. dissertation. Karen King, Roger Bagnall, and the late Fran├žois Bovon, committee members.

Stephen Goranson said...

Though Prof. King in HTR 2014 p. 153 reports "an unsigned and undated handwritten note in German," for whatever reason Harvard Magazine May-June 2014 ("New Gospel Revealed")reported that Munro showed the ms to [start quote] Professor Gerhard Fecht (now deceased), who believed it to be “the sole example of a text in which Jesus uses direct speech with reference to having a wife. Fecht is of the opinion that this could be evidence for a possible marriage,” read a note dated 1982, written in English, that accompanied the fragment, the prior provenance of which is unknown.[end quote] English? Dated 1982?

Mark Goodacre said...

I've made those corrections, Stephen. Thanks.

Curious about the note in English. Presumably a mistake.