Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Gospel of Jesus' Wife: Latest News

When I was blogging about this last Thursday, just a couple of days after the announcement of the Gospel of Jesus' Wife, I commented that "the story is moving fast!".  There has been no change in that pace over the last few days.  Francis Watson's three articles on the topic (plus Bible and Interpretation piece) made the papers and convinced many scholars that there is sufficient reason at least to question the authenticity of the fragment.

Watson's case is that the fragment is so clearly made up of a patchwork of pieces from our one complete Coptic textual witness of the Gospel of Thomas that scepticism about its antiquity should be the order of the day.  The issue of the parallel line break, in the very first line of the fragment, is particularly telling.  This is not a case of one text being broadly influenced by another.  It is a matter of a fragment that features a patchwork of agreement in Coptic with a specific textual witness of a work probably composed in Greek.

Watson's essay raised a couple of questions, though, about lines 6 and 7 of the fragment, which did not appear to be paralleled in Thomas.  I suggested last night that the last line is also from Thomas, something that Päivi Vähäkangas had also pointed out on Facebook (with thanks to Alin Suciu for pointing this out).  And then Oli Homron, in a comment here, noted the following parallel for line 6:

This meant that every line, practically every word, of the Jesus Wife Fragment appeared to have a parallel in Coptic Thomas as found in Nag Hammadi Codex II.

Meanwhile, Andrew Bernhard, author of Other Early Christian Gospels and the long time author of the gospels. net website, was working hard on a superb synopsis that illustrates clearly the parallels between the Gospel of Jesus' Wife and the Coptic text of the Gospel of Thomas:

Synopsis of the Gospel of Jesus' Wife and the Coptic Gospel of Thomas

And he has an article that discusses the parallels:

Could the Gospel of Jesus' Wife be a "Collage" of Words and Phrases Culled Exclusively from the Coptic Gospel of Thomas?
By Andrew Bernhard

It's a detailed, clear and also well-measured piece, that draws together others' discussions (above) though in discoveries that Bernhard made independently of them.  It also features the intriguing suggestion that a modern forger could have used not a printed edition of Coptic Thomas but Mike Grondin's interlinear edition on the net, alongside a rudimentary knowledge of the first few pages of Lambdin's grammar.  To keep up to date with Bernhard's postings, see his page at gospels.net:

The Gospel of Jesus' Wife

When a story like this is moving so fast, it is great to have James McGrath around.  He has continued to post updates and today has produced a great round-up with the amusing header:

Is Jesus' Wife Turning into Thomas?

I do not want to give the impression that opinion has all coalesced against the authenticity of the fragment, though.  Michael Peppard tonight adds the following thoughtful piece:

Is the "Jesus wife" papyrus a forgery? And other queries

And it's worth adding that the issue of whether or not the historical Jesus had a wife continues to be discussed, including this lively piece by Heather Hahn for the United Methodist Church:

Did Jesus have a wife?

The piece even has a little quotation of me, and has other new material including quotations from Mark Chancey of SMU.

At this point, though, there does not seem to be much doubt about the way that the wind is blowing, and there does seem to be sufficient doubt about the authenticity of the piece for most to feel ill at ease with some of the more sanguine assessments that were being made only a week ago.

Then this evening it was reported that Harvard Theological Review had "decided against publishing Karen King's paper on the Gospel of Jesus' Wife" (Update on the the Gospel of Jesus' Wife (from Craig Evans), via Brian LePort on Near Emmaus).  If this report is indeed accurate, I suspect that this may be a good decision given the questions that have been raised about the fragment over the last week, but of course time will tell whether there will be further twists in the tale.

I'd guess that the impact of the Smithsonian Channel's documentary (Youtube clips) will be lessened in the light of the questions over the fragment's authenticity, but I will certainly be watching and hope to live blog it too.  It's scheduled for broadcast on Sunday at 8pm and again at 11pm, either side of a documentary about the Titanic.


MattGZat said...

Is that ironic or what?
Gospel of Jesus' wife - sinking
Titanic - sinking
Gospel of Jesus' wife - sinking

Jens Knudsen (Sili) said...

I'm sure the conspiracy theorist will howl at the Moon at this "suppression of the Truth™".