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

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:

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.

Laboratory tests can’t always catch modern forgeries - as Harvard Theological Review has (inadvertently) proved

I am happy to have the opportunity to post a guest blog entry by Andrew Bernhard.  Those who have been following the discussions over the Jesus' Wife Fragment will know Andrew from his all-important contributions showing its dependence on Grondin's interlinear edition of the Gospel of Thomas (especially Jesus' Wife Fragment: Further Evidence of Modern Forgery and The Jesus' Wife Fragment: How the Forgery was done):

Laboratory tests can’t always catch modern forgeries - as Harvard Theological Review has (inadvertently) proved
Andrew Bernhard

We now know that laboratory tests used to assess the age of papyrus fragments don’t always catch modern forgeries.

In the April 2014 issue of Harvard Theological Review, the results of numerous laboratory tests run on a papyrus fragment were published (some in the periodical, some online). The tests were performed by top scientists from Harvard University, Columbia University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and the University of Arizona.

The papyrus fragment was studied by Micro-Raman Spectroscopy, which revealed the ink consistently had a chemical composition “very similar to carbon-based inks studied for a wide variety of manuscripts including several dated from the early centuries of the Christian era.”

The papyrus fragment was studied by Fourier Transform Infrared Microspectroscopy, which revealed that it was “composed of oxidized cellulosic material, which is consistent with old papyrus.”

Radiocarbon measurements of the papyrus fragment were carried out by accelerated mass spectrometry twice, first showing the fragment dated between 681 and 877 CE, then showing it dated between 648 and 800 CE (median 718 CE).

This papyrus was a fragment of the Gospel of John: nothing in the laboratory tests suggested it was a modern forgery . . . but it is.

Since seeing images of the papyrus fragment on Harvard Divinity School’s website last Thursday, Christian Askeland has demonstrated that this Gospel of John fragment simply cannot be a genuine ancient manuscript. It shares all 17 of its line breaks with another manuscript of John (Codex Qau). Given that scribes had different size handwriting, page widths varied, etc., authentically ancient manuscripts just don’t have this kind of similarity with each other.

And they certainly NEVER have the same kind of relationship Askeland has noted here. The recently examined Gospel of John fragment copies every other line break from Codex Qau . . . with one exception. The last two line breaks copied from Codex Qau are consecutive – it’s a page break in an edition of the codex published in 1924 that separates them instead.

While science has given us many exciting and powerful tools that can be used in laboratory analysis, these tools unfortunately can’t always answer the questions we would like. In the future study of manuscripts, we would all be better served if we gave other types of analysis (textual, paleographic, etc.) the consideration they genuinely deserve.

If one modern forgery could escape detection in laboratory tests, is there any reason to suspect that another couldn’t as well?

Friday, April 25, 2014

Illustrating the forgery of Jesus' wife's sister fragment

I blogged last night on Jesus' Wife and her Ugly Sister, picking up on Christian Askeland's devastating post, Jesus had an ugly sister-in-law, in which he drew attention to the the Coptic Gospel of John fragment that emerged from the same collector at the same time as the Jesus' Wife Fragment.  Askeland noted that this fragment, which is in the same hand as the Jesus' Wife Fragment, is clearly a forgery.

Alin Suciu, Christian Askeland finds the "Smoking Gun", helpfully illustrated how the verso of the John fragment was clearly copied from Herbert Thompson, The Gospel of St. John According to the Earliest Coptic Manuscript (London: British School of Archaeology in Egypt, University College, 1924), line breaks and all.

What I would like to present here is the same kind of graphic illustrating how the recto of the John fragment copies from Thompson.  Often in this kind of work, a graphic is worth a thousand blogged words because it enables one to see the point quickly and straightforwardly (click on the pic for a larger version):

Herbert Thompson's Gospel of St John, page 7 (left); Coptic John fragment recto (right),
illustrating how the forger copied every second line of this text of John 5.26-30, line breaks and all

Thompson's edition is based on the Cambridge Qau Codex and like Grondin's Interlinear Gospel of Thomas that appeared to have been used for the Jesus' Wife Fragment, it is available online.  It is not clear from the ETANA website when the PDF was uploaded, but the properties of the PDF itself show that it was created in 2005 and modified in 2008, well within the time frame for the presentation of these fragments to Prof. Karen King.

The graphic above should speak for itself but essentially the point is this: the forger appears to have copied mechanically every other line from the Thompson edition.  Every line break is the same.  It is beyond reasonable doubt that this is a fake, and this conclusion means that the Jesus' Wife Fragment is a fake too.

Jesus' Wife Fragment: the Forgery of the Associated Fragment

It's just two weeks since the story of the Jesus' Wife Fragment re-emerged, with -- most importantly -- a full discussion in a peer-reviewed journal, Harvard Theological Review.  I won't dwell on these materials here -- the links can be found through following the Jesus' Wife Fragment tag on this blog.  What I simply want to draw attention to here is Christian Askeland's devastating post on Evangelical Textual Criticism, which discusses the Jesus' wife fragment's "sister" fragment:

Jesus had an ugly sister-in-law

The joke title relates to the fact that since the Jesus' Wife Fragment was released in September 2012, there has been talk of a sister fragment, a Coptic fragment of the Gospel of John.  This fragment, along with the Jesus' Wife Fragment, was alleged to have been part of a cache of six fragments, and many of us wondered whether studying this related fragment might help with establishing the authenticity of the Jesus' Wife Fragment.  The difficulty, however, was that pictures of this fragment had not been released.

It turns out, however, that the Harvard Divinity School's Website on the Gospel of Jesus' Wife in fact features several much fuller versions of the material tests published in the recent Harvard Theological Review, including a couple of pictures of the hitherto unpublished John fragment, one in the Ink Study page, specifically James Yardley's report (PDF), and one in the Infrared Microspectroscopy page, specifically Timothy Swager's report (PDF).

The images of the fragment of John are revealing. I am extracting them here from the PDF of Swager's report, which has the superior pictures:

Those of us who have spent a lot of time staring at the Jesus' Wife Fragment will have found it an eery experience to have laid eyes, finally, on this related fragment today.  It is remarkable just how similar the hand is here, as Christian Askeland points out.  Moreover, the text of the manuscript appears to replicate the text of Herbert Thompson, The Gospel of St. John According to the Earliest Coptic Manuscript (London: British School of Archaeology in Egypt, University College, 1924), line breaks and all.

Askeland's astute observations are corroborated and echoed by Alin Suciu:

Christian Askeland finds the "Smoking Gun"

Suciu helpfully lays out the parallels between the verso of the fragment (above) and Thompson's edition.  I've checked the recto and the same is true for that too.  (I'll post an illustration tomorrow if anyone is interested).  Leo Depuydt has also been in touch today to say that he has checked up on the parallels and it is clear to him too -- this fragment is copied from Thompson's edition.

Like Grondin's Interlinear Gospel of Thomas on which the Jesus' Wife Fragment appears to depend, Thompson's 1924 edition is also available online.

The point, of course, is that if this fragment of John, in the same hand as the Jesus' Wife fragment, is clearly copied from a modern edition of an ancient manuscript, it makes a mockery of the idea that the Jesus' Wife Fragment could be genuine.  Moreover, as Christian Askeland explains:
Essentially all specialists believe that Lycopolitan and the other minor dialects died out during or before the sixth century.  Indeed, the forger tried to offer two manuscripts both in Lycopolitan, but made two crucial mistakes.  First, the NHC gospel of Thomas is not a pure Lycopolitan text, but the Qau codex is.  That is we have two clearly different subdialects of Lycopolitan, which agree exactly with published texts.  Second, this GJohn fragment has been 14C dated to the seventh to ninth centuries, a period from which Lycopolitan is totally unknown.
I should make clear that unlike Christian Askeland, Alin Suciu and Leo Depuydt, I have no expertise in these manuscripts and dialects.  But not only do I trust their judgement but also I have carefully studied the Thompson edition and this fragment of John and there seems little doubt to me that the one is copied from the other.   Kudos to Askeland, who was suspicious of the Jesus' Wife Fragment from the first, for taking the time to investigate this further and for sharing his expertise.

I am hoping to comment on these developments, and others, in due course, but one quick thought at this point: a great deal of time could have been saved by releasing images of this John fragment back in 2012.  It is material evidence in the case.  Even now, the pictures have only been released inadvertently as part of a study of the ink, not in order for the manuscript and language experts to study them.  I'd like to ask now, again, for a full release of all the other related materials -- the other four manuscripts in this cache as well as the associated back-story materials.

Update (30 April): I have changed the original title of this post, which echoed a joke about Cinderella's "ugly sisters" in describing this "sister" fragment as "ugly".  On reflection, I realized that the joke was in poor taste, and I would like to apologize to those who were offended by it.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Smithsonian to air its documentary on the Jesus Wife Fragment

Following on from the recent re-emergence of the Jesus' Wife Fragment, and notwithstanding continued discussions about its authenticity, Smithsonian Channel is going ahead with broadcasting its documentary on the topic:

'Gospel of Jesus's Wife' debuts May 5
By Hal Boedeker

Regular readers may recall that the documentary was originally scheduled to go out on 30 September 2012, within a few weeks of the media campaign that began on 12 September 2012.  However, Smithsonian decided to put the documentary on hold, and some began to wonder if it would ever see the light of day. It then surfaced in France under the title Révélations sur la femme de Jésus and now it is slated to appear in an English version soon in the USA.

More anon.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

More doubts surface on the Jesus Wife Fragment

Live Science has been doing some digging in connection with the story associated with the Jesus Wife Fragment and this interesting article was published today:

'Gospel of Jesus's Wife': Doubts Raised About Ancient Text
By Owen Jarus, Live Science Contributor

I'm impressed that Live Science has followed leads actually to investigate the back story to the alleged discovery.  Given the owner's apparent insistence on anonymity, and given Harvard's apparent reluctance (so far at least) to publish the documents that are associated with the  fragment, one of the only avenues available in tracing the fragment's back story is to investigate the names associated with it.  The Live Science article centres on the most mysterious of the three, Hans-Ulrich Laukamp.  This is the crucial passage in the article, but it's all worth reading:
Our findings indicate that Laukamp was a co-owner of the now-defunct ACMB-American Corporation for Milling and Boreworks in Venice, Fla. Documents filed in Sarasota County, Fla., show that Laukamp was based in Germany at the time of his death in 2002 and that a man named René Ernest was named as the representative of his estate in Sarasota County. 
In an exchange of emails in German, Ernest said that Laukamp did not collect antiquities, did not own this papyrus and, in fact, was living in West Berlin in 1963, so he couldn't have crossed the Berlin Wall into Potsdam. Laukamp, he said, was a toolmaker and had no interest in old things. In fact, Ernest was astonished to hear that Laukamp's name had been linked to this papyrus . . . .
Read the whole article here.

Update (10.18pm): Alin Suciu makes the good point that Laukamp would not have had trouble, if he had West German papers, in travelling to East Germany, so it may be that this aspect of the story requires revision.

Update (Wednesday, 12.56pm): Commenter lizw notes:
"West Berliners were treated differently from other West Germans by the East German authorities. In 1963/64, the only period when an ordinary West Berliner would have been able to cross to the East was over the Christmas period, from 17 December 1963 to 5 January 1964. (Detailed chronology in the Wikipedia article at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_Berlin#Traffic_between_East_and_West_Berlin). So while it is not impossible that Laukamp obtained the papyrus in Potsdam that year, it seems unlikely for someone with no prior interest in such material." 
Moreover, Owen Jarus, author of the above article in Live Science writes:
This link discusses pass agreements between west-east Berlin.
Border crossing only started December 17, 1963 and the crosser had to
have a pass, a relative in Berlin and the pass appears to be valid
only for Berlin only. Things improved in 1972 with the passing of the
Basic Treaty.
So it appears that indeed it is the case that a 1963 purchase of the fragment by Hans-Ulrich Laukamp in Potsdam is problematic.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Karen King is interviewed about the Jesus Wife Fragment

As far as I am aware, Prof. Karen King has not been interviewed about the Jesus Wife Fragment in public since the story first broke in September 2012.  But now WGBH has interviewed Prof. King about the fragment (broadcast yesterday).  I am delighted that Prof. King is now discussing this in public, something that will definitely contribute to the broader discussion about the fragment:

The interview is typical of the grace and clarity with which Prof. King approaches this subject as well as all her scholarship.  Although I am inclined to disagree with her on the subject matter, I, for one, am delighted that the dialogue genuinely appears to have opened up.

HT: Mike Grondin on the Gospel of Thomas e-list.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Jesus' Wife Fragment Latest: Leo Depuydt responds to Karen King

It's now almost a week since Harvard Theological Review published its issue focusing on the Jesus' Wife Fragment (The Jesus' Wife Fragment is Back).  I have enjoyed spending time reading and studying the issue over the last week and I am planning to offer some of my responses to it in due course.

Francis Watson composed an initial response last week, Jesus' Wife Attempts a Comeback: Initial Response, and I would also draw attention to Christian Askeland's helpful comments, Jesus' Wife Resurrected from the Dead, alongside his fascinating post drawing attention to an element in Leo Depuydt's article, Demotic Gospel of Thomas.

Leo Depuydt's article in HTR is entitled The Alleged Gospel of Jesus's Wife: Assessment and Evaluation of Authenticity, and it is followed by a response from Karen King.

Depuydt has now responded to Karen King's article, and I am happy to post that response here, with his permission:

Leo Depuydt

Update (Thursday, 8.50am): Jim Davila criticizes the sarcastic tone of Depuydt's response on Paleojudaica, concluding with the comment "I am still quite skeptical that the Gospel of Jesus' Wife is an ancient artifact, but King has made a real effort to keep the tone high and the skeptics should do the same."

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Jesus Mysteries, National Geographic Channel

Mary Magdalene (Alice Marshall), The Jesus Mysteries
(Juniper TV; National Geographic)
This weekend, National Geographic Channel are showing a two hour documentary entitled The Jesus Mysteries.  It is written and directed by David Caldwell Evans for Juniper TV and it is being shown internationally, including Australia (Friday 18th), the UK (Easter Day, 20th; Radio Times), Sub-Saharan Africa (Easter Day, 20th), and the USA (Saturday, 19th).  Here's the series blurb:

Jesus Christ is one of the most famous names in the history of mankind. But Gospel writers left out crucial details about pivotal events in Christ's life - historical moments that have been adapted, embellished and rewritten over the course of hundreds of years. This special re-examines elements of Christ's life and ministry, such as the nativity, the miracles and the crucifixion - questioning basic modern assumptions to reveal some surprising and often shocking details.

There are a couple of clips available.  The first focuses on "Rabble Rousing" and discusses the temple incident and features Bart Ehrman, Helen Bond, Larry Hurtado and me:

The second discusses Mary Magdalene, "Prostitute or Disciple", and features Kate Cooper and Helen Bond, alongside Alice Marshall as Mary Magdalene:

I was interviewed for this in July in St Andrews, Scotland, just before Helen Bond was interviewed too.  Although I have not seen it yet, I like the look of the mix of drama and CGI reconstructions with scholars' interviews.  And the handsome Jesus figure is played by Nick Simmons, son of Gene Simmons from the legendary rock band Kiss.  Here he is in the boat with Joseph of Arimathea:

Nick Simmons as Jesus in The Jesus Mysteries, National Geographic

This and other photographs suggest that there will be some idiosyncratic elements covered, including legends like Jesus in England.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Jesus' Wife Attempts a Comeback: Initial Response, Francis Watson

I am grateful to Prof. Francis Watson, Research Chair of Biblical Interpretation, Durham University, for permission to post here his initial response to the recent re-emergence of discussion on the Jesus' Wife Fragment (see The Jesus' Wife Fragment is Back):

Jesus' Wife Attempts a Comeback: Initial Response
Francis Watson

Earlier pieces by Prof. Watson on the fragment are gathered here.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Jesus' Wife Fragment is Back

Regular readers of the NT Blog will know of my interest in the so-called Gospel of Jesus' Wife and after several months without news, a whole raft of news, features, interviews and -- most importantly -- articles in the Harvard Theological Review, all emerged today.  The media reaction to the news is often predictably over-simplified and over-stated, but the key resources for study are the following:

The Gospel of Jesus' Wife 2014 Update

Here, Harvard Divinity School provide a major update and revision of their earlier (September 2012) website on the fragment, with a new press release, an introduction, a revised Q & A, new digital photographs and scientific reports. Much of this is new material and repays careful reading.

The Harvard Magazine also has an article today:

The Jesus Wife Fragment: The Scientific Evidence

Most important, though, is the latest edition of HTR, which is dominated by materials on the fragment:

Harvard Theological Review

There are several articles on the fragment, including a massively revised version of Karen King's “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife . . .'”: A New Coptic Papyrus Fragment, several scientific analyses of the papyrus and ink, a paleographical discussion by Malcolm Choat, an article arguing for forgery by Leo Depuydt, and a brief rejoinder from Karen King.

Media coverage has included pieces in the Boston Globe and the New York Times.

There has already been some strong discussion of the latest news in the blogs.  I would particularly recommend the pieces by Jim Davila, Larry Hurtado, Christopher Rollston and Bob Cargill, as well as the typically helpful round-up from James McGrath.

I have been in meetings all day, and at an enjoyable dinner for a retiring colleague this evening, so I have not had time to analyze the fresh evidence with the kind of care necessary to blog about it today, so I will wait until I have a moment to make some observations.  I have now had the chance to read almost everything, but I need to take some time to digest everything properly before adding my own additional comments.