Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Interview with Ariel Sabar on the NT Pod

Ariel Sabar, Veritas
Over on my podcast, I enjoyed a conversation earlier today with Ariel Sabar, author of Veritas: A Harvard Professor, A Con Man and the Gospel of Jesus's Wife. It is an hour and thirteen minutes long and you can find it here:

NT Pod 95: Interview with Ariel Sabar, Author of Veritas (mp3) 

Or go to that page to find links to Apple Podcasts, Duke's Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, etc. 

Monday, August 24, 2020

"Tahime . . . She's true and not fake!"

Over the last eight years or so of blogging about the Gospel of Jesus's Wife, I have occasionally thought about posting a piece of fun speculation. Every time I think about it, I think "Shall I post this?" and then I think, "Nah; it's stupid. Move on." To be fair, I often think that about a lot of things. 

I probably would have forgotten all about it if it were not for one of the journalists covering the Jesus's Wife story seriously wondering if there might be something in it when I told her about it for a laugh. Even so, they wisely did not publish on something so speculative. Andrew Bernhard and I have talked about this occasionally, and after chatting about it this morning, I have decided there is nothing to lose at this point in airing my fun speculation.

So I preface this with the comment: this speculation is probably ridiculous! 

But here's the thing. The Urban Dictionary allows people to go in and create words and definitions of the kind of everyday slang that would never find its way into proper dictionaries. Back in September 2012, I was wondering how easy it would be for a forger to find the Coptic phrase tahime ("my wife") on the internet given that it would not have been possible for the forger to find it in Coptic Thomas. So I googled the transliterated tahime and found very little except this, in Urban Dictionary:


She is a girl that is very unique, cool ,calm, and a little bit loud. She has a temper. She is so pretty and very beautiful. She always has little self-confidence because she doesn't feel accepted or pretty. She thinks nobody likes her. That isnt [sic] true. She is loved by everyone! She is a sensitive girl and tries to make everyone happy. She doesn't bitch at people. SHE IS SOOO FUNNY!!! She is true and not fake. She will be your best friend till forever. She sometimes may act a little cocky and nerdy. She is so random at times but it will make you laugh. She loves friends.

"Hey that girl is so Tahime." "You mean she's unique?" "HELL YEAH BRO! "

I wouldn't have given it a second look but for a couple of things. "She is true and not fake" made me wonder, and then there is the author / date stamp:

 by goo goo gaa gaa 456 December 07, 2011

Karen King's article gave the date of the owner's visit to Harvard, to hand over the fragment, as "December 2011", the same month that this entry was added to Urban Dictionary by "goo goo gaa gaa 456". Sabar dates the visit to December 14, 2011, within a week of the entry appearing.

There is no evidence that I can find anywhere that Tahime has any such meaning. Absolutely nobody uses it that way. And in so far as Tahime crops up, it is as a male name (e.g. the character "Tahime Sanders" in Life of a King), and not a female slang term.

It is, of course, highly likely to be a coincidence. This is just some random entry by who-knows-who? about who-knows-who? in what is probably an in-joke that will never be known to others.

Yet one of the things that made me dismiss the possibility of a link every time I considered it was that I couldn't imagine the forger of the fragment being so playful, and imitating, in a rather irritating way, how he imagines young people speak. I was working on the assumption that his motivation was financial given all the talk about selling the manuscripts in King's article. But now, having read Sabar's Veritas, I can't help wondering again if Fritz might just have done this in another attempt at humour. There are so many playful elements that Sabar reveals, including Fritz's love of Monty Python, and his use of "abdicate" in his interlinear, that I am now wondering if it is really quite as ridiculous as I had first thought that this too could be a playful addition by the forger himself.

This blog post will self-destruct as soon as someone points out the flaw in the comments below!

* "The current owner contacted Karen L. King via email requesting that she look at the fragment to determine its content. The owner then delivered the papyrus by hand to Harvard Divinity School in December, 2011, and generously gave permission to publish" (Karen King, "Jesus said to them . . . " draft, September 17 2012, p. 3).

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Ariel Sabar's Veritas, and the latest on the Gospel of Jesus's Wife

Regular readers will know that I have posted many, many times over the years on the Gospel of Jesus's Wife, whether breaking news, offering round-ups of the latest news, or hosting contributions from others like Andrew Bernhard and Francis Watson. I have just finished reading Ariel Sabar's remarkable new book about the affair, and I realized that it's time, once again, to return to this topic.

The new book is out today, and I strongly encourage you to read it. It's very, very good: Ariel Sabar, Veritas: A Harvard Professor, A Con Man and the Gospel of Jesus's Wife (New York: Doubleday, 2020). I have podcasted my thoughts here:

NT Pod 94: Review of Ariel Sabar's Veritas (mp3) 

In providing this update, I realized that I hadn't also drawn attention to earlier podcasts in the series, which I released as classes were all going online in March in the wake of the pandemic. (I was at the time teaching my Non-canonical Gospels class). Here are some links to those podcasts:

I realize that podcasts are not to everyone's tastes, and the good news is that there is already some excellent academic commentary on the release of Sabar's book. I would draw special attention to the following:

James McGrath (ReligionProf Blog)

Candida Moss (Daily Beast; not her title!)

Brent Nongbri (Variant Readings Blog)

More to come!