Breaking NewsAndrew Bernhard, independent scholar, has produced new evidence that once again demonstrates the modern origins of the Gospel of Jesus Wife (GJW). For the technical details, I refer the reader to Bernhard’s analysis, here.
Grondin’s InterlinearI am a huge fan of Michael Grondin’s online resources. He has been a trailblazer in terms of making resources related to the Gospel of Thomas and related topics accessible online for more than a decade. As Bernhard argued in 2012, Grondin’s interlinear translation of the Gospel of Thomas was particularly helpful to the forger of the GJW in creating a patchwork text in which Jesus says “my wife.” Several facets of the Coptic clearly were gleaned from the Grondin PDF, indicating that the GJW itself could be no older than the PDF uploaded in 2002.
The Owner’s TranscriptionA modern owner of the GJW wife provided Karen King with a transcription and translation of the papyrus, which is now available online. Bernhard has shown that this transcription is not itself a transcription and translation from the GJW fragment, but clearly a reiteration of Grondin’s PDF. The cumulative weight of the agreements is startling and irrefutable. I mention only one of many agreements, here, as it reflects a Greek term. The third line of the GJW uses the Greek-Coptic loanword derived from ἀρνέομαι. Both Grondin and the Owner’s Translation render this loanword as “abdicate,” a gloss not found in, for instance, the LSJ or BDAG.
Some Notes on the ImageAlthough I leave the content of the Owner’s Transcription to Bernhard, my own analysis can be downloaded as a PDF (cf. link below). I would like to note some contextual clues which this new document provides to our story:
- This Owner’s Transcription was prepared after the inscription of the GJW papyrus, since it cites the forger’s own errors.
- The owner has apparently photographed a print-out of this document with a cell phone. The paper has creases and is bowed at the top and bottom. A few characters are cut off of one side. The manila coloring derives from indoor lighting on normal printer paper. There is a small hole or blemish in the midst of the transcription.
- I would guess that the forger has used the ASCII font CS Coptic Manuscript. This document was not prepared by Peter Munro in the 1980s on a typewriter! The document includes numerous typos, some of which indicate a weak knowledge of Coptic.
- The file creation date has been wiped. One can only read the XMP version (Adobe XMP Core 4.1-c036 46.276720, Mon Feb 19 2007 22:13:43). Please let me know if you can make anything of this.
- The wording of the title is definitely leading since the text contains no clearly Gnostic material, “Coptic Papyrus, Sahidic, Gnostic Gosple (sic), probably 3-5th Centruy (sic) A.D.” This could be a synthesis of popular opinion on the Gospel of Thomas, or could reflect opinion on the Gospel of Judas, which was big around 2008. I would suggest that the GJW emerged from the latter hype — and probably after the death of Peter Munro (2 Jan 2009).
- As already mentioned, this is sloppy on many levels and suggests that the forger has a weak command of Coptic at best, and probably no experience with editions of ancient manuscripts.
- I always wondered if the forger had any riddles built into the seemingly unreadable verso. The Owner’s Transcription does not offer any clues to what was written on the verso.
This only proves beyond question what essentially all specialists already had concluded. If we are to continue the discussion with this forged papyrus, as has recently been suggested, then the next step is pursue the remaining documents to attempt to identify the forger. Who knows what the other documents may hold in terms of clues? In particular, I would like to see the handwritten note, which probably preserves the forger’s hand. If the current owner is the person mentioned in the bill of sale, then he/she has some interesting questions to answer. I enthusiastically thank Karen King for uploading the Owner’s Transcription, and would like to request that the remaining documents (bill of sale, handwritten note and typed note) also be shared, if possible.