'Gospel of Jesus's Wife': Doubts Raised About Ancient Text



’Gospel of Jesus’s Wife’: Doubts Raised About Ancient Text

The authenticity of the “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife” has been debated since the papyrus was revealed in 2012. Now, new information uncovered by Live Science raises doubts about the origins of the scrap of papyrus. The gospel, written in the ancient Egyptian language Coptic, has made headlines ever since Harvard University professor Karen King announced its discovery. The business-card-size fragment contains the translated line “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife …’” and also refers to a “Mary,” possibly Mary Magdalene. If authentic, the papyrus suggests that some people believed in ancient times that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married.
At the time of the discovery, King tentatively dated the papyrus to the fourth century A.D., saying it may be a copy of a gospel written in the second century in Greek.

Recently, several scientific tests published in the journal Harvard Theological Review have suggested the papyrus is authentic, but a number of scholars, including Brown University professor Leo Depuydt, dispute the papyrus’s authenticity.
The document’s current owner has insisted on remaining anonymous, and King has not disclosed the person’s identity. However, in a recent Harvard Theological Review article, King published a contract provided by the current anonymous owner that King said indicates it was purchased, along with five other Coptic papyrus fragments, from a man named Hans-Ulrich Laukamp in November 1999 and that Laukamp had obtained it in 1963 from Potsdam in then-East Germany.

Provenance of a papyrus
In an effort to confirm the origins of the papyrus and discover its history, Live Science went searching for more information about Laukamp and his descendents, business partners or friends.
Our findings indicate that Laukamp was a co-owner of the now-defunct ACMB-American Corporation for Milling and Boreworks in Venice, Fla. Documents filed in Sarasota County, Fla., show that Laukamp was based in Germany at the time of his death in 2002 and that a man named René Ernest was named as the representative of his estate in Sarasota County.
In an exchange of emails in German, Ernest said that Laukamp did not collect antiquities, did not own this papyrus and, in fact, was living in West Berlin in 1963, so he couldn’t have crossed the Berlin Wall into Potsdam. Laukamp, he said, was a toolmaker and had no interest in old things. In fact, Ernest was astonished to hear that Laukamp’s name had been linked to this papyrus.

Good to see some real journalistic digging going on. Probably won’t deter the true believers.


The way this has been reported has fascinated me, although not surprised me. The initial headlines after the results of the carbon dating said that the results were that it was probably not a modern forgery. Those eventually changed to “likely authentic,” and then, “it’s the real deal!” Each new article seemed to cut more and more out, or shove relevant facts (like the dates of the samples varying by as much as 1200 years) further toward the bottom of the piece. A couple articles I read left out Professor Depuydt entirely. I suspect that these latest developments will be ignored by the mainstream press entirely.


Also see this observation on this particular news.


Appreciate the new information. Thanks.


In my opinion, it is likely either a forgery or the product of some heresy. There is no possible way it could be true. We Catholics know without a doubt that Jesus Christ was celibate because the Catholic Church teaches us that He was celibate infallibly.


Those who want to discredit christianity want this to be seen as authentic. I believe the smithsonian channel is already doing a show on this on monday. Not sure if this is part of their new series bible hunters or not.
How do they know who wrote it or why?
How can they name it a gospel when it is such a small piece of parchment?


What teachings of Jesus would possibly change if he were married? He sure liked marriage. He blessed the wine at the marriage at Cana.


The fragment doesn’t invalidate Christian belief. In John 18:20 Christ said “My kingdom is not of this world.” He could be saying in the fragment “My wife is not of this world,” since the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19:9) was not consummated when He walked the earth.
The marriage of the Lamb and his bride is a spiritual union, not a physical one. His voluntary acceptance of the Crucifixion also argues against having a physical wife at that time.


His teaching about who His Bride truly is…


In so many of these “ancient” items, the owner wishes to remain anonymous. To me this is always a red flag. :nope: :tsktsk:


How the ‘Jesus’ Wife’ Hoax Fell Apart

…Then last week the story began to crumble faster than an ancient papyrus exposed in the windy Sudan. Mr. Askeland found, among the online links that Harvard used as part of its publicity push, images of another fragment, of the Gospel of John, that turned out to share many similarities—including the handwriting, ink and writing instrument used—with the “wife” fragment. The Gospel of John text, he discovered, had been directly copied from a 1924 publication.

“Two factors immediately indicated that this was a forgery,” Mr. Askeland tells me. “First, the fragment shared the same line breaks as the 1924 publication. Second, the fragment contained a peculiar dialect of Coptic called Lycopolitan, which fell out of use during or before the sixth century.” Ms. King had done two radiometric tests, he noted, and “concluded that the papyrus plants used for this fragment had been harvested in the seventh to ninth centuries.” In other words, the fragment that came from the same material as the “Jesus’ wife” fragment was written in a dialect that didn’t exist when the papyrus it appears on was made.

Mark Goodacre, a New Testament professor and Coptic expert at Duke University, wrote on his NT Blog on April 25 about the Gospel of John discovery: “It is beyond reasonable doubt that this is a fake, and this conclusion means that the Jesus’ Wife Fragment is a fake too.” Alin Suciu, a research associate at the University of Hamburg and a Coptic manuscript specialist, wrote online on April 26: “Given that the evidence of the forgery is now overwhelming, I consider the polemic surrounding the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife papyrus over.”

Having evaluated the evidence, many specialists in ancient manuscripts and Christian origins think Karen King and the Harvard Divinity School were the victims of an elaborate ruse. Scholars had assumed that radiometric tests would return an early date (at least in antiquity), because the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife fragment had been cut from a genuinely ancient piece of material. Likewise, those familiar with papyri had identified the ink used as soot-based—preferred by forgers because the Raman spectroscopy tests used to test for age would be inconclusive.

It is perhaps understandable that Ms. King would have been taken in when an anonymous owner presented her with some papyrus fragments for research. What is harder to understand was the rush by the media and others to embrace the idea that Jesus had a wife and that Christian beliefs have been mistaken for centuries. No evidence for Jesus having been married exists in any of the thousands of orthodox biblical writings dating to antiquity. You would have thought Thomas Aquinas might have mentioned it. But this episode is not totally without merit. It will provide a valuable case study for research classes long after we’re gone and the biblical texts remain.


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