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.

lecture series at uchicago divinity school: the matter of israelite religion

University of ChicagoDon’t miss this excellent lecture series at the University of Chicago Divinity School entitled, “The Matter of Israelite Religion.” The four-part lecture series, cosponsored by the Chicago Center for Jewish Studies:

“will highlight recent material finds relevant to, and theoretical advances in, the study of ancient Israelite religion, with implications for biblical literature and ideas.”

The lectures are scheduled as follows:

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 1
Dr. Jonathan Klawans (Boston University): “Symbol, Function, Theology and Morality: On Rules and Rituals in the Priestly Literature of the Hebrew Bible”
4:30 p.m., Swift Common Room (1st floor)

Jonathan Klawans (Religion, Boston University), specialist in the religion and religious literature of ancient Judaism, on “Symbol, Function, Theology and Morality: On Rules and Rituals in the Priestly Literature of the Hebrew Bible.” Klawans teaches courses in Western Religion, the Hebrew Bible, the Dead Sea Scrolls, ancient Jewish history, and Rabbinic literature. He is the author of Impurity and Sin in Ancient Judaism (Oxford University Press, 2000) and Purity Sacrifice and the Temple: Symbolism and Supersessionism in the Study of Ancient Judaism (Oxford University Press, 2005), as well as numerous articles. His current research project focuses on the theological views of Josephus and the ancient Jewish sects (Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes).

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 18
Dr. Matthew Suriano (University of Maryland): “Death in the Kingdom of Judah: The social process of dying and the ritual context of the dead”
4:30 p.m., Swift Hall Common Room (1st floor)

Matthew Suriano, University of Maryland, speaking on “Death in the Kingdom of Judah: The social process of dying and the ritual context of the dead.”  Matthew Suriano, Assistant Professor in the Meyerhoff Center for Jewish Studies at the University of Maryland, was born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago and studied history as an undergraduate at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He began his graduate studies in Israel, first at Jerusalem University College and later at the Hebrew University. His Ph.D. in Hebrew Bible and Northwest Semitics is from the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at the University of California, Los Angeles. Matthew has participated on several archaeological excavations and has been a fellow at the Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem. He is currently a member of the Tel Burna Archaeological Project.

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 8
Dr. Jeremy Hutton (University of Wisconsin-Madison): “Upon the Roof of the Temple: Reconstructing the Phenomenology of Altar Usage from Archaeological and Textual Remains”
4:30 p.m., Classics 110

Jeremy Hutton, University of Wisconsin-Madison, speaking on “Upon the Roof of the Temple: Reconstructing the Phenomenology of Altar Usage from Archaeological and Textual Remains.” Hutton is Assistant Professor of Classical Hebrew Language and Biblical Literature at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is the author of The Transjordanian Palimpsest: The Overwritten Texts of Personal Exile and Transformation in the Deuteronomistic History (deGruyter, 2009), along with many additional articles.

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 29
Dr. Nili Sacher Fox (Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion): “Fashion vs. Ideology: Biblical Laws Pertaining to Israelite Dress”
4:30 p.m., Swift Hall Common Room (1st floor)

Nili Sacher Fox, Professor of Bible and Director of the School of Graduate Studies at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, Ohio, on “Fashion vs. Ideology: Biblical Laws Pertaining to Israelite Dress.” Fox holds a Ph.D. in Biblical Studies from the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Fox teaches Bible, Archaeology, Ancient History and Languages, and is co-director of the Graduate Summer-in-Israel Program. She has written on various topics relating to the history and culture of ancient Israel, including: In the Service of the King: Officialdom in Ancient Israel and Judah and Mishneh Todah: Studies in Deuteronomy and Its Cultural Environment in Honor of Jeffrey Tigay. Currently she is working on a monograph entitled “On the Ancient Catwalk: Dress and Identity in the Biblical World.”

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