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. ;-)]

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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.

new fragment of ben sira discovered (via Zwinglius Redivivus)

A new manuscript of Ben Sira has been uncovered in the archives of the Taylor-Schechter Geniza Research Unit at Cambridge:
A New Fragment of Ben Sira

The importance of the book of Ben Sira, composed shortly before the Maccabean revolt, for the study of early post-biblical language and literature cannot be overestimated. It provides evidence of the transition from Biblical Hebrew to the Hebrew of the Rabbinic sages. Furthermore, it constitutes a link in the chain of development leading from the poetics of biblical verse to those of the Hebrew liturgical poetry (piyyuṭ) that emerged in Palestine in the Byzantine period.  With the great progress made in the systematic investigation of the Genizah materials in the latter part of the twentieth and the beginning of the twenty-first centuries, the prospects of finding further Ben Sira fragments in the various collections have dwindled significantly. It is against the background of this fact that we must judge the excitement of the discovery of a new fragment in the Additional Series of the Taylor-Schechter Collection: T-S AS 118.78. Here one is reminded of a judgment offered over a decade ago by Stefan Reif: ‘There may be other Ben Sira items lurking among the smaller and less legible contents of some of the Additional Series binders’ (Reif 1997). It is, furthermore, particularly gratifying that this latest fragment bears the name of Schechter, whose life-work is so intimately connected with the discovery of the Genizah in general and the Hebrew Ben Sira in particular. … Read More

via Zwinglius Redivivus

new 4th century fragment of the book of hebrews announced

a new biblical manuscript has been announced on the textual criticism of the bible group: introducing p126.

I am pleased to announce to you that we have a new New Testament papyrus.

I noted it in the last volume of the PSI a NT. It contents He 13,12-13.19-20, and it has still not been remarked by the NT field.

the text is a fragment of hebrews 13:12-13, 19-20 and is dated to the fourth century.

hebrews 13:12-13, 19-20 reads (nrsv):

Heb. 13:12: Therefore Jesus also suffered outside the city gate in order to sanctify the people by his own blood.
Heb. 13:13:  Let us then go to him outside the camp and bear the abuse he endured.
Heb. 13:19:  I urge you all the more to do this, so that I may be restored to you very soon.
Heb. 13:20:  Now may the God of peace, who brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant,

editio princeps: “G. Vitelli,” Papiri Greci e Latini, vol. 15 (Firenze: Le Monnier/Istituto papirologico, 2008) , 171-172.

(with thanx to the etc blog and to jim west for the tip.)

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