Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Gospel of Jesus' Wife Latest: Boston Globe Update

The Boston Globe today presents a thorough, well-researched, and fair update on the saga of the Gospel of Jesus' Wife:

The Case of the Gospel of Jesus' Wife Still Isn't Closed
Lisa Wangsness

Regular readers will of course know of my own interest in this topic, and I am pleased that Lisa Wangsness has returned to the topic after over three years. It is worth bearing in mind that she is one of the three reporters given special access in the early stages back in September 2012. What is truly impressive is the research that she has put into this piece.

She has interviewed me, Karen King, Malcolm Choat, Andrew Bernhard, Christian Askeland, Tony Burke, Caroline Schroeder and several others. But more importantly, the graphics contribute really impressively to explaining the case for forgery.


Stephen Goranson said...

The interlinear translation that the owner shared with Prof. King was a copy and not the original, yet, when made accessible, it provided telling information about the case. Similarly, making available copies of the three remaining putative provenance documents might help. Or, since Prof. King stated that originals are better for research and that the owner has complied with all of her requests, why not ask for the originals to be made available for research?
The close scrutiny of the ink on this scrap of medieval papyrus should come as no surprise, given the way it was announced.

Mike Grondin said...

I agree, Stephen. King's position on the supposed authenticating documents is so unreasonable that it smacks of intentional withholding of evidence.

Jason Pratt said...

Until or unless Harvard or Smithsonian or whoever launches formal charges of forgery (I don't know whether that would be criminal or civil law, but either way), I'm betting we never see the provenance trail any farther than we already have. From a technical standpoint her lawyers would be advising Dr. King not to do anything that might either incriminate her or expose her to a counter-suit for defamation of the docs' current owner (whoever that is).

And without that provenance trail, the case is as closed as it's going to get: just open enough for Dr. K and related institutions to quietly hold the bluff until something else comes along in a year or two to prostitute out for attention. It's almost Christmas, and Easter is not far around the corner; what's on the radar for controversy this year...? said...

Lawyers advising and counter suits!!! Why such talk? Things are getting nearly as bad here in the UK. No-one will be able to breath in a minute. Surely academics could let it all out, and say what they want to, without fear or favour.

Stephen Goranson said...

"Whodunnit?" is an interesting word choice to end the Boston Globe article. It seems to me quite likely that the story has not fully ended. Eventually I expect the broad consensus--that the medieval papyrus surface was inked in recent years--will extend yet even further. Many scholars contributed evidence, thanks to the photographs and other information Prof. King made public; Owen Jarus at Live Science helpfully examined the Laukamp provenance claims; and the Peter Munro archives remains available for research in Hannover. Several journalists have mentioned further Columbia U. ink tests that have been submitted for publication. *If* such tests involve attempts to use Raman spectroscopy to date ink, then I refer back to what I commented earlier (after the Sept. 8 post) on Sept. 13 and 14: that some relevant specialist scientists reportedly argue that such an approach can not give reliable dating. Further, that the text is not genuinely ancient writing has been proven to such a degree that chance of success by attempts by scientists to rehabilitate it seems vanishingly small--though I'll read it, if available. Just as it may be still worthwhile to comment on, say, the Piltdown Man hoax (as a recent book did) or on differing stories of the Nag Hammadi finds (as Mark and others did), more may be revealed here. Also, in the meantime, it could be considered whether the following scenario may not be advisable in future: going to a public relations department before contacting a wider circle of scholars and before science tests--contrary to a partially misleading Sept. 10 article in The Atlantic--and undervaluing the two negative HTR reviewer reports and keeping the dealer anonymous and arranging for reporters to agree to a date embargoing the news and, as well, to promise before then not to contact any outside experts.

Jason Pratt said...

I'm only making a guess about the lawyers, as a (sort-of) charitable explanation for why she won't just make the provenance trail more available for study if she's primarily interested in the truth of the thing.

I suppose another (sort-of) charitable guess might be that she herself (as she routinely said back at the start of this whole circus) doesn't believe there are enough people primarily interested in the truth of the thing, to judge her evidence in true criticism rather than as hostile critics.

She used to write off criticisms broadly as being based on a desire for Jesus not to have had a wife -- as if even on her own best case scenarios the fragment would count as even the slightest evidence of that. {eyeroll} (But then she used to say things in popular promotion as though it really did have some kind of weight that way.) I don't recall offhand if she's still Bulverizing her critics that way, but she caught a ton of flack and ridicule for doing so. That might have been, to her mind, a real and too-prevalent motivation which would still exist, to her; so that even if she doesn't _say so_ anymore, she might still _think_ that's an unsurmountable road block for fair assessment of the scrap in the scholarly community, and so she could be unwilling to expose the provenance trail to (what on this theory she would still be seeing as) such unfairness.

I could think of much less charitable, and to my mind more probable, explanations, too. But I'm trying to be nice. :)