The Latest on the So-called “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” and the Benefits of Scholars Blogging

So-called Gospel of Jesus’ Wife Appears to be a forgery, in which the forger accidentally copied a typo from an online PDF translation of the Gospel of Thomas.

Jeremy Hsu at FoxNews has published an article entitled, “Did Jesus have a wife? Scholar calls parchment ‘forgery’“, that highlights the benefit of university professors, trained graduate students, and professional scholars using online resources like blogs and Facebook to share their research and findings regarding archaeological claims to craft together viable theories based in evidence.

This account was impressive:

The smoking gun
All the grammatical anomalies in the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife suggest the writer was not a native speaker or even an academic expert in Coptic — the ancient, dead language of early Christians living in Egypt. Instead, Bernhard says that the pattern of errors and suspiciously similar line breaks suggests an amateur might have forged the “patchwork” text using individual words and phrases taken from Michael Grondin’s Interlinear Coptic-English Translation of the Gospel of Thomas. [Most European Languages Unlikely to Survive Online]

“There’s this general pattern in that everywhere the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife could diverge from gospel of Thomas, it doesn’t, and in places where it does [diverge], it appears it’s following Mike’s Interlinear,” Bernhard told TechNewsDaily.

One the most suspicious grammatical errors in the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife appeared to be a direct copy of a typo in the PDF file version of the Interlinear translation — a connection that Grondin himself made when he was examining his translation. He shared that knowledge with Mark Goodacre, an associate professor of New Testament at Duke University, who had been writing up a blog post independently about the possibility of the “Jesus’ Wife fragment” being a forgery.

Goodacre and Bernhard eventually got in touch and agreed to coordinate the online publishing of their respective blog post and paper. Goodacre credits Bernhard with first making the connection between the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife and the online version of the Gospel of Thomas.

“I would have already put money on this thing being problematic, given the links between the fragment and the Coptic Gospel of Thomas,” Goodacre explained. “But the link with the online Interlinear version of the Gospel of Thomas really makes, for me, the case of authenticity a very difficult one.”

It is amazing how the internet is evolving with scholarship, and how scholars are beginning to harness the power of social media to share preliminary research. Of course, these results must still be subject to academic peer review, but because social media allows many more scholars to provide initial feedback (either making additional contributions by highlighting potentially overlooked evidence, or by encouraging the discard of poorer arguments through scholarly criticism and refutation), the arguments are usually much stronger by the time they reach the publisher’s desk. This is a good thing.

Check out the article. And read the summaries of the scholarly consensus, which appear to be leaning toward declaring the unprovenanced document, acquried from an anonymous antiquities dealer, as some sort of forgery. Of course there are some amateurs and pseudoscientists and pretend scholars who, for reasons of their own financial gain, attention, or conspiracy mongering, really really want this to be authentic. But those scholars who use scholarship to share evidence and debate claims and craft together a working theory based in fact are trending toward forgery.

And kudos to my colleague, Mark Goodacre!!

More:
http://www.ntweblog.blogspot.com/2012/10/jesus-wife-fragment-further-evidence-of.html
http://www.ntweblog.blogspot.com/2012/10/divorcing-mrs-jesus-leo-depuydts-report.html
http://www.ntweblog.blogspot.com/2012/10/the-gospel-of-jesus-wife-latest.html
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2012/10/jesus-wife-an-egyptologists-perspective.html

kudos to smithsonian channel for putting “gospel of jesus’ wife” documentary on hold

Smithsonian ChannelWord from the Smithsonian Channel is that they’ve decided to shelve a new documentary on the so-called “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” due, in part, to a high degree of scholarly criticism ranging from claims that the fragment is an outright fake to claims that it appears to be a cut-and-paste job of verses taken from the Gospel of Thomas.

This is a good thing! Kudos to Smithsonian for listening to the facts, weighing the evidence, and evaluating the scholarly critique instead of rushing to air a sensationalized documentary that may turn out to be nothing but an hour of strained speculation sold to a cable channel in the hopes of making quick money, archaeology be damned.

I applaud Smithsonian Channel. And I applaud Harvard Divinity School’s Dr. Karen King. Dr. King released this fragment the way it should be released in this new digital era of immediate feedback: first to a group of scholars for review, and then to a professional conference of her peers for review, and only then to the public.

And, when the scholarly experts began to raise doubts and voice their concerns about the authenticity of the object and its interpretation, the planned documentary was put on hold to preserve the credibility of the network and of the scholar making the claim, despite the fact that there was quick money to be made. There is no highly speculative, popular book to recall because Dr. King went through the academy first. And now that the scholarly community has voiced its desire for more research, Dr. King (who has repeatedly expressed her own doubts about the fragment’s authenticity) appears all the more professional and the Smithsonian Channel looks all the more responsible.

It’s a shame that other networks can’t follow Smithsonian’s lead and cancel other documentaries they believe to be highly problematic, factually challenged, speculative, and mere attempts to make a quick buck on potentially pseudoarchaeological claims.


[N.B.: We have yet to hear if the documentary’s producer has decided to sue Joe Zias for millions of dollars because a growing majority of the scholarly community has questioned the validity of the documentary’s claims, causing it to be shelved and potentially canceled. Because obviously, any documentary related to the Bible and archaeology that is shelved due to a growing critique of the sensational claims by a number of scholars must be Joe’s fault alone. ;-)]

Dr. Paul Dilley on the “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” Announcement

The so-called "Gospel of Jesus' Wife"

The so-called “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife”

Here’s a blog post from my University of Iowa Classics and Religious Studies colleague, Paul Dilley, who was at the Coptic conference in Rome when the big announcement was made.

He writes:

Professor Karen King of Harvard presented a tiny, poorly-written portion of a manuscript page, owned by a private collector, which features a dialogue between Jesus and his disciples in which he mentions “my wife.”  King, working with Professor AnneMarie Luijendijk of Princeton, has made a draft of their editio princeps, English translation, and study of this “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife”, forthcoming in Harvard Theological Review, available for download:

http://www.hds.harvard.edu/faculty-research/research-projects/the-gospel-of-jesuss-wife

They suggest that the text was written in the second century, citing denials that Jesus was married by Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian of Carthage, as well as parallels with other apocryphal texts usually dated to this era; this is certainly a plausible hypothesis.  But regardless of the original date of composition, it seems to me that Jesus’s marital status would have been an even more poignant topic for debate among Christians in Late Antiquity, after the rise of the ascetic/monastic movement, with controversies about the relative value of celibacy and marriage occupying center stage.

It will be interesting to see the case made for the authenticity of the fragment and translation of the text, as well as whether the fact that the manuscript is unprovenanced, was acquired from an antiquities dealer, and that the present owner wants to sell the document to Harvard adversely affects the credibility of the discovery.

And check out Dr. Dilley’s blog, Hieroi Logoi: Digital Resources for Religion in Late Antiquity, when you get a chance and add his valuable blog to your blogroll.

on egyptian muslim solidarity with coptic christians

I made a few comments on the recent demonstration of Muslim solidarity with Coptic Christians in Egypt in my “Jerusalem, the Holy City” course at UCLA. The the report on the terrorist suicide bombing here. I previously wrote on the Egyptian Muslim demonstration of solidarity here, and about the Coptic candlelight peace vigil here.

video from the 1-11-11 coptic prayer vigil in westwood village, ca

I have uploaded a short video from last night’s Coptic candlelight prayer vigil in Westwood Village, CA (corner of Wilshire and Veteran) near UCLA on Jan. 11, 2011. The vigil was to commemorate those Coptic Christians slain at a New Year’s Eve mass in Alexandria, Egypt.

Read the report on the terrorist suicide bombing here.

You should also read about the wonderful expression of solidarity and social justice exhibited by the Egyptian Muslim community, who gave themselves as human shields so that their Coptic Christian brothers and sisters could worship in peace.

It is essential that we promote expressions of support for all those who are victims of religious oppression, regardless of faith tradition. Likewise, it is imperative that we promote nonviolent expressions of resistance to all forms of religious and intellectual intolerance.

Candlelight prayer vigil for peace in Westwood, CA, 1/11/2011.

image

To commemorate the Coptic Christians recently slain in Egypt.

social justice in action: egyptian muslims form human shields for egyptian coptic christians

Muslims form a human shield around various Coptic churches during Coptic Christmas eve mass services around the country and at candle light vigils held outside, offering their bodies and their lives as protection while Coptic Christians worship inside.

Muslims form a human shield around various Coptic churches during Coptic Christmas eve mass services throughout Egypt and at candle light vigils held outside, offering their bodies and their lives as protection while Coptic Christians worshiped inside.

Rarely in modern times do we witness acts of solidarity and social justice that are truly life threatening. I am honored to say that I am proud of the Egyptian Muslims who protested the terrible militant attacks against Coptic Christians at the Saints Church in Alexandria, Egypt on New Years day. But it was the way in which they protested that was both impressive and self-sacrificial.

A mass of Egyptian Muslims formed human shields around various Coptic churches during Coptic Christmas eve mass services throughout Egypt and at candle light vigils held outside. They offered their bodies and risked their lives as protection against militant Muslim terrorists while Coptic Christians worshiped inside. It was an act of solidarity with their Christian Egyptian neighbors that spanned their different religions and got to the heart of both faiths: love of neighbor as social justice towards all.

Among those shields were movie stars Adel Imam and Yousra, popular preacher Amr Khaled, the two sons of President Hosni Mubarak, and thousands of citizens who have said they consider the attack one on Egypt as a whole.

“This is not about us and them,” said Dalia Mustafa, a student who attended mass at Virgin Mary Church on Maraashly. “We are one. This was an attack on Egypt as a whole, and I am standing with the Copts because the only way things will change in this country is if we come together.”

Egyptian Muslims literally offered their lives for their Coptic Christians brothers and sisters. They spoke with their bodies, uniting as one in Egypt against terrorism and religious intolerance.

Very, very well done. There is indeed hope for humanity if we can only see the inner light in every human being, as these advocates did today.

HT: JW

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