Monday, May 05, 2014

Jesus' Wife Fragment Round-up

It's been a few days since the last round-up on the Jesus' Wife Fragment, and there are several things worth mentioning.  The long-delayed Smithsonian documentary on the fragment is finally due to air in the USA today (Monday 5 May), and there is a short trailer available:

The trailer is a little less sensational than the one that was initially broadcast back in September 2012. It's nice to see Dom Henry Wansbrough making an appearance (one of my teachers in Oxford, and my DPhil examiner).  It is not clear if the documentary will be in other respects the same as the one planned back then.  The documentary has already aired in France.

Meanwhile on Live Science, Owen Jarus follows up on his earlier piece with the following article:

'Gospel of Jesus's Wife' Looks More and More Like a Fake
Owen Jarus

Jarus comments on Christian Askeland's investigations as well as following up on his own investigations on the mysterious figure of Hans-Ulrich Laukamp, the alleged prior owner of the fragment, some kind of "Superman"?

In the last few days, the mainstream media has been catching up with the story, and the Daily Mail published a sceptical piece:

Is the 'Gospel of Jesus's Wife' a fake after all?
Fresh doubts cast over ancient papyrus that suggested Jesus was married after another in the collection with the SAME handwriting is proved to be a forgery
Lizzie Edmonds

Here, as elsewhere, my graphic seems to be proving popular as a means of illustrating the issues with the Lycopolitan Gospel of John.

And then the Wall Street Journal also weighed in:

How the 'Jesus' Wife' Hoax Fell Apart
The media loved the 2012 tale from Harvard Divinity School
Jerry Pattengale

Yesterday (Sunday), Prof. Michael Peppard comments on PBS News Hour:

Peppard does a great job of summarizing the issues, drawing attention to Christian Askeland's and Alin Suciu's comments, but adding that Harvard Divinity School had not yet themselves made any comments about the latest discussions.  This then changed tonight, with the publication of a news story in the New York Times, which is well worth reading:

Fresh Doubts Raised About Papyrus Scrap Known as ‘Gospel of Jesus’ Wife
By Laurie Goodstein

Goodstein is one of the three reporters who initially broke the news of the fragment back in September 2012.  The current article is a well researched and lucid and Goodstein has gone directly to several of the key figures, Christian Askeland, Roger Bagnall, Malcolm Choat and Karen King herself:
“This is substantive, it’s worth taking seriously, and it may point in the direction of forgery,” Karen L. King, the historian at Harvard Divinity School, said in a telephone interview, her first since the recent developments. “This is one option that should receive serious consideration, but I don’t think it’s a done deal.”
It is encouraging to see Karen King and Roger Bagnall taking Askeland's and others' critiques seriously, though I can't help to some surprise at this quotation:
Roger Bagnall, a renowned papyrologist who directs the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at New York University, and who early on deemed the Jesus’ Wife papyrus likely to be genuine, said in an interview about the skeptics, “Most of the people taking this view wanted it to be a fake, and they haven’t asked critical questions about their own hypothesis.”
Speaking for myself, I'd have loved it if we had a new fragment of an ancient text of this kind -- it's what scholars of Christian origins long for.  Moreover, many of the sceptics are such because they have asked the critical questions about their own hypothesis, not because they have avoided them.  But we all say daft things in interviews.  I talked with Laurie Goodstein myself this weekend and while I am grateful to her for linking to the blog, I must admit that I was somewhat relieved that she did not quote our conversation since I was a little more focused, at the time, on making sure that I was not late to the new Spider-Man film, which is excellent, by the way.


AKMA said...

“Most of the people taking this view wanted it to be a fake” — but of course, the question of what one wants when venturing an interpretive judgment cuts both ways. It's good to see Bagnall broach the topic, but it gets much more complicated than he suggests, as I wrote last week.

Mark Goodacre said...

Thanks, AKMA. I quite agree. I wrote something similar on Tony Burke's blog the other week - one's desire for authenticity is sometimes the very thing that sets off the sceptical impulse. It's facile to suggest a straightforward correlation between an alleged dislike of the fragment's contents with the case for forgery.

Jens Knudsen (Sili) said...

Good to see Peppard get an airing. I really liked his book (recommended by Vridar). The foreword was offputting, of course, but aside from a touch of reticence about drawing the obvious conclusion here and there, the book didn't show any particular bias.

Stephen C. Carlson said...

One thing that we must aware of is that the reporter must have had a lot more material from Bagnall in her interview with him, and this is one of the few things that made it into print. We don't have the context, whether there were disclaimers around it, or what kind of question is was in response to. It's possible that the quote accurately reflects how he feels but it's also possible that it is not the full picture.

Anonymous said...

Dear Friends... In Alin Suciu's Blog I writed this:

Dear Friends :

I made a brief comparative analysis of the letters , before meeting Mr Schwendner work . Now, I’m even more convinced . They are two different counterfeiters. I see a clear uniformity between all letters in the ” GJohn ” and that are better written . It could almost be considered as authentic Coptic text , were it not for the discovery of Askeland . However, the types of letters in the ” GJW ” are not homogeneous with each other. There’s more variety, were written more slowly and awkwardly. While the text of ” GJohn ” , the letters were written by someone far more dexterous, skillful , better pulse.

I have no doubt ( although difficult to prove this point) they are two different counterfeiters. The author of ” GJohn ” wrote Coptic Top quality and homogeneity , a more correct way . While the author of ” GJW ” is much more awkward. This is a mediocre forger merely trying to imitate letters ” GJohn ” . I guess , I hope ( do not lose hope ) that one day the whole truth comes out . So counterfeiters know if there are two , or if there was a single forger.

As it can achieve very high resolution photos , I can make a much more accurate opinion. Until then , this is my hypothesis : two different counterfeiters

Kind Regards,
Georgeos (Georgeos Díaz-Montexano, “Mary, Jesus’ Wife. A IV Century Coptic Papyrus. True of False?”. The first paleographical study published.) [End quote]

PS. Pi, Taw, Shay, Hōri and Janja are very different. Different enough to decide that it is not a same hand. And when the team of Dr. King make a study thoroughly, with microscopes, the result will be, just that already warned from the outset that analyzed the Palaeography and the layout of the letters of both texts, i.e. that they were not written by the same person.

Anonymous said...

This is my comment of May 1, 2014 at 21:59 in Alin Suciu's Blog:

Anonymous said...

Bagnall's colleague [from Princeton?]...what did she say? That it was IMPOSSIBLE it was a forgery? [!] Perhaps she believes it is authentic, MUST be authentic, because....

Anonymous said...

"King has remained silent on the new evidence." ...something I suspect will remain true for a number of years. Sometimes toothaches go away if they are ignored; on the other hand....