Monday, September 24, 2012

Gospel of Jesus' Wife: the last line is also from Thomas

Francis Watson's essay, The Gospel of Jesus' Wife: How a Fake Gospel Fragment was Composed, argues, I think persuasively, that the Gospel fragment that has been at the centre of so much discussion over the last week or so was composed by means of collecting together a patchwork of pieces from the Gospel of Thomas.

Watson suggested that the last line of the fragment (line 7), however, was taken over not from Thomas but from Matthew.  I would like to suggest that in fact this line is also derived from Thomas.

Here is the last line of the fragment:

] . ⲁⲛⲟⲕ  ϯϣⲟⲟⲡ  ⲛⲙⲙⲁⲥ ⲉⲧⲃ ⲡ [

" . I am with her on account of . . . "

This bears a striking resemblance to the last part of Thomas 30:

ⲡⲙⲁ ⲉⲩⲛ̅ⲥⲛⲁⲩ ⲏ ⲟⲩⲁ ⲁⲛⲟⲕ ϯϣⲟⲟⲡ ⲛⲙⲙⲁϥ

"The place which has two or one, I am with him"

Here we have the same three words in Coptic in sequence, ⲁⲛⲟⲕ ϯϣⲟⲟⲡ ⲛⲙⲙⲁ(ϥ / ⲥ), "I am with her / him", with just the switch from male to female.  Moreover, even the last word and a bit of the line is found in the same context -- ⲉⲧⲃ ⲡ . . ., "on account of ?" comes twice in Thomas 29, ⲉⲧⲃⲉ  ⲡ̅ⲛ̅ⲁ̅, "because of spirit" and ⲉⲧⲃⲉ ⲡⲥⲱⲙⲁ, "because of the body".  

I would like to suggest, then, that Francis Watson is bang on the money in finding the Gospel of Jesus' Wife to be a patchwork of pieces from the Gospel of Thomas, and to offer this suggestion as extending and so confirming his excellent case.

Note: I have used a Coptic unicode font above.  If you can't see the Coptic, please see this PDF of the post instead.


Stephen Goranson said...

Yes, Mark, it does appear to be largely a pastiche of Thomas. Good eye. By the way, the unsigned and undated letter purporting to give the views of now-deceased Prof. Fecht may be notable for, reportedly, claiming that he had the opinion that this ms could be evidence for a possible marriage. Unlike Prof. King, and many others, who acknowledge that this ms does not provide evidence for first-century history, would it have been typical of Prof. Fecht to make such a claim? Or might this be spin to increase sales price?

Frank McCoy said...

Thanks Mark! The anomaly of one phrase apparently based on Matthew's gospel and the rest based on Thomas's gospel called for, in my estimation, an extraordinary explanation. But you have adequately demonstrated that even this phrase actually comes from Thomas. So, Watson and yourself appear highly likely to be correct in thinking this a modern forgery.

MGVHoffman said...

I'm persuaded by the arguments that this fragment is derivative from the Gospel of Thomas, but why does that necessarily mean it is a _modern_ forgery? Couldn't it be an ancient derivative work? (I.e., something along the lines of Matthew using Mark)