Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife: “Patchwork Forgery” in Coptic . . . and English (Recap)

Guest post by Andrew Bernhard


[Unicode Coptic Font available here. If you are having trouble seeing the Coptic, there is also a PDF of this post available here.]

On Thursday, Karen King generously posted online the “translation” of the
Gospel of Jesus’Wife that the owner of the papyrus fragment provided her. All seven lines containing more than a single word in the owner’s “translation” show obvious dependence on Grondin’s Interlinear:

  • Line 1. The Coptic text in this line of the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife does not include a word meaning “for,” but this English word is included in the owner’s “translation”; Grondin’s Interlinear presents the word “for” in the exact same place as the owner’s “translation” does in the corresponding passage.
  • Line 2. The Coptic conjunction ϫⲉ (je) in this line of the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife is rendered incorrectly as “this” in the owner’s “translation”; Grondin’s Interlinear translates ϫⲉ as “this” in the corresponding passage.
  • Line 3. The Coptic infinitive ⲁⲣⲛⲁ (arna) in this line of the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife is rendered bizarrely – and arguably incorrectly – as “abdicate” in the owner’s “translation;” Grondin’s Interlinear translates ⲁⲣⲛⲁ as “abdicate” in the corresponding passage.
  • Line 4. The Coptic conjunction ϫⲉ (je) is unexpectedly missing from this line of the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife, but it is still rendered (incorrectly, as in line 2) as “this” in the owner’s translation; Grondin’s Interlinear includes ϫⲉ with the English translation “this” beneath it in the corresponding passage.
  • Line 5. The Coptic ⲛⲁϣ (naš) in this line of the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife is rendered incorrectly as “can” in the owner’s “translation”; Grondin’s Interlinear translates ⲛⲁϣ as “can” in the corresponding passage.
  • Line 6. The Coptic ⲙⲁⲣⲉⲣⲱⲙⲉ (marerōme) in this line of the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife is rendered incorrectly as “no man” in the owner’s “translation”; Grondin’s Interlinear translates ⲙⲁⲣⲉⲣⲱⲙⲉ as “no man” in the corresponding passage.
  • Line 7. The Coptic ⲁⲛⲟⲕ ϯϣⲟⲟⲡ (anok tišoop) in this line of the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife is rendered distinctively as “I exist” in the owner’s “translation”; Grondin’s Interlinear translates ⲁⲛⲟⲕ ϯϣⲟⲟⲡ as “I exist” in the corresponding passage.

While a number of additional features of the owner’s “translation” suggesting that it was prepared from the English of Grondin’s Interlinear could also be mentioned, I think the representative sample above will suffice for the discussion here.

The bottom line is: the extensive verbal correspondence between the owner’s translation and Grondin’s Interlinear cannot be reasonably attributed to anything but direct literary dependence, especially since the owner’s “translation” of the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife includes repeated translations of Coptic words not even present on the papyrus, incorrect translations of Coptic text, and surprisingly distinctive translations as well (all of which are clearly attributable to Grondin’s Interlinear).

Given that the owner’s “translation” was just released on Thursday and Grondin’s Interlinear has been online for more than a decade, the direction of literary dependence must be from Grondin’s Interlinear to the owner’s “translation” (not vice versa) The owner’s “translation” is not actually a translation, it was prepared by someone (with extremely limited knowledge of Coptic) who depended directly on the English of Grondin’s Interlinear. There is no other plausible alternative.

For a more detailed analysis of the owner’s translation, please see the preceding blog post.

6 comments:

Geoff Hudson said...

I just wonder how long the academic community are going to keep this up? Is Karen King deliberately stirring things up? The forger, whoever he/she is, must be laughing up his/her sleeve, thinking what next could he/she throw into the fray. The effort in refuting the claims isn't exactly research, is it?

Stephen Goranson said...

It is exactly research, Geoff.

Stephen Goranson said...

According to the Sept. 17, 2012 Smithsonian Magazine article ("The Inside Story...") narration, the current owner emailed Prof. King on July 19, 2010. She asked for additional information. "The man responded the same day, saying he’d purchased it in 1997 from a German-American collector who acquired it in the 1960s in Communist East Germany. He sent along an electronic file of photographs and an unsigned translation with the bombshell phrase, “Jesus said this to them: My wife…” (King would refine the translation as “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife … ’”)"
I bring this up because it is another case of differing dates in the reporting. The Harvard website now gives the date of the "translation" as (received in?) June 2011, not July 19, 2010.
This discrepancy could be added to the "Tentative Chronology on Coptic "Jesus Wife' fragment"
http://ntweblog.blogspot.com/2014/04/tentative-chronology-on-coptic-jesus.html

Mark Goodacre said...

Thanks, Stephen. That's an interesting discrepancy. July 9 2010, though, rather than 19? Also there's a difference between the two versions of Sabar's article. The second version does not date it "the same day".

17 Sept, http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/the-inside-story-of-a-controversial-new-text-about-jesus-41078791/#UOeFcLb5SYwcpv7F.99

"On July 9, 2010, during summer break, an e-mail from a stranger arrived in King’s Harvard in-box. Because of her prominence, she gets a steady trickle of what she calls “kooky” e-mails: a woman claiming to be Mary Magdalene, a man with a code he says unlocks the mysteries of the Bible.

This e-mail looked more serious, but King remained skeptical. The writer identified himself as a manuscript collector. He said he had come into the possession of a Gnostic gospel that appeared to contain an “argument” between Jesus and a disciple about Magdalene. Would she take a look at some photographs?

King replied that she needed more information: What was its date and provenance? The man responded the same day, saying he’d purchased it in 1997 from a German-American collector who acquired it in the 1960s in Communist East Germany. He sent along an electronic file of photographs and an unsigned translation with the bombshell phrase, “Jesus said this to them: My wife…” (King would refine the translation as “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife … ’”)"

November 2012, http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/update-the-reaction-to-karen-kings-gospel-discovery-84250942/#3dEfZ880AG9Vcr5J.99

"On July 9, 2010, during summer break, an e-mail from a stranger arrived in King’s in-box. Because of her prominence, she gets a steady trickle of what she calls “kooky” e-mails: a woman claiming to be Mary Magdalene, a man with a code unlocking the mysteries of the Bible.

This one looked more serious. The writer identified himself as a manuscript collector. He said he had acquired a Gnostic gospel that appeared to contain an “argument” between Jesus and a disciple about Magdalene. Would she take a look at some photographs?

King asked for more information: What was its date and provenance? The man replied that he purchased it in 1997 from a Berliner who had obtained it in Communist East Germany in the 1960s and later immigrated to the United States. (In a later e-mail, 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.”) The collector sent an electronic file of photographs and an unsigned translation with the bombshell phrase about Jesus’ wife."

Geoff Hudson said...

So someone writes an email to an academic wise person saying that he has a photograph of an old manuscript about Jesus having a wife. Others in the academic community rise up in indignation and research all the reasons why this is false and cannot be so. Amid the developing rumours and innuendos of intelligent people, an air of respectability is given to the subject. The wise academic, whose sympathies appear to be opposite to the indignant ones, encourages the opposite view. Many question is it really true that Jesus had a wife? Surely, they say, if this man ever existed, there is a high probability that he had a wife, and children for that matter.

If this 'research' says anything, it tells me how much of history was created in the first century.

Stephen Goranson said...

Yes. Thanks, Mark.