Thursday, June 16, 2016

More on the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife and Walter Fritz

29
Peter Gurry has just blogged on Ariel Sabar’s Atlantic article on Walter Fritz. Apparently, Fritz admitted in writing that he is the owner of the Gospel of Jesus Wife papyrus. Among other revelations, the article contends that Fritz:
  • studied egyptology at the same institution where the GJW was verified in 1982 according to the forged accompanying documents,
  • purchased www.gospelofjesuswife.com weeks before Karen King’s Rome announcement,
  • approached Sabar about writing a factually erroneous book on “the Mary Magdalene Story,”
  • and has a higher regard for the “Gnostic” gospels than the canonical gospels.
Several of us have been convinced since October 2015 that Fritz played some central role in the Gospel of Jesus Wife saga. The first player in identifying Fritz as a person of interest was Owen Jarus of LiveScience, who interviewed Fritz much earlier, and directed me to Walter Fritz and his wife’s “Nefer Art” website. Here, I encountered a picture of the above Nefer Art Forgery (above), written in the sort of minuscule script (complete with accents!) appropriate to a modern printed edition.  The cut along the left hand side resembles one on the GJW. The Greek text, apparently some sort of magical love spell, features a likely image of Venus with Cupid and references the Titan Phoebe and her daughter Hekate. I have not been able to determine the text from which this was fabricated.

This led me to one of blogs related to Fritz’s wife, namely “Cute Art World,” in which she advertises her hand-made pendants embedded with ancient papyrus and inscribed with a Coptic nomen sacrum IC (not Greek). She blogged (31 Aug 2009),
Pendants of the Virgin Mary holding Jesus in her arms. On the picture there is IC with a dash over it, which is the Coptic writing for “Jesus”. The little roundel in the lower part of the pendant contains a small, approx. 1/12” long papyrus fragment with the original black ink on it. I glued these fibers in between the picture and the glass.  These fragments are really old and come from a larger christian papyrus, dating back to the 2nd Century A.D. The larger papyrus was probably part of a gospel or an early christian text, written in the Sahidic Coptic language. Coptic is is the final stage of the Egyptian language and consists of Egyptian words, written in Greek alphabet. Early Christians used the Coptic language, besides Greek, to write down the Gospels and other early texts about Jesus.  |  This is no hoax. I can guarantee that the small fragments in the roundel are indeed over 1800 years old. They date back in a time period shortly after Jesus’ crucifixion. I got these fragments from a reputable manuscript dealer who was restoring a larger papyrus with a christian gospel on it. The fragments were left over and couldn’t be incorporated into the big papyrus any more because they were so small. I have photos of the restoring process.
This was surprising. My guess was that the Gospel of Jesus Wife had been created sometime after the death of Peter Munro (02 Jan 2009), and these images suggest that Hans-Ulrich Laukamp’s business partner has an interest in such papyri. Around the same time, Andrew Bernhard blogged about the Owner’s Interlinear, which conclusively proved his earlier hypothesis about the GJW’s reliance on Grondin’s GThomas PDF. In the wake of this new discovery, I shared some of my findings with Lisa Wangsness of the Boston Globe, who would then become the first individual to discover Walter Fritz’s 1991 article:

Walter Fritz, ‘Bemerkungen zum Datierungsvermerk auf der Amarnatafel Kn 27’ Studien zur altägyptischen Kultur 18 (1991): 207-214.


Walter Fritz thanks Prof. Dr. Jürgen Osing for the concept for the paper, having studied at the FU - Berlin with Osing in the summer of 1990. The article details a difficult reading of a Middle Egyptian Amarna tablet relating to the reigns of Amenophis III and IV, and describing the use of “Quarztlicht,” or UV light, which naturally is only useful when one is working with carbon-based inks.  One has to know about the composition of ancient inks. The GJW and related forgeries all appear to have been written with carbon (=soot) mixtures.

I offer here a timeline of where we have now arrived.

Sept 2012  Karen King announces the discovery of the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife papyrus.  Almost immediately, Francis Watson and Simon Gathercole notice a relationship between the GJW and the Gospel of Thomas.

Nov 2012  Andrew Bernhard’s Patchwork Hypothesis proves that the GJW was copied from Grondin’s interlinear.

Apr 2014  The current blog revealed that an accompanying papyrus with the same handwriting was a forgery, calling into question the authenticity of all of the accompanying documents.

Aug 2015  With the revelation of the owner’s interlinear, Bernhard’s Patchwork hypothesis becomes irrefutable.

June 2016  Walter Fritz, a former FU-Berlin Egyptology student, claims to be the owner of the GJW.

[Update: Karen King has conceded that the GJW papyrus is probably a forgery.  Fritz had lied to her, she said, according to Ariel Sabar’s update.]

29 comments :

  1. Just a note: you accidentally typed Peter Gentry instead of Peter Gurry

    ReplyDelete
  2. And "2016" should be "1990"?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Looks like Karen King has come around now:

    “It tips the balance towards forgery.”

    http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/06/karen-king-responds-to-the-unbelievable-tale-of-jesus-wife/487484/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, and apologies to both Peter's Gurry and Gentry. Thanks again to Peter Gurry for his prior post on behalf of which I grant him an honorary doctorate from East Pee-Land University.

      Delete
    2. I am humbled by this great honor!

      Delete
  4. 'He lied to me', case closed? Really? A Harvard professor conned like this? Help us here. Had this whole soap opera been playing off at an evangelical college where someone fraudulently created a first century gospel papyrus, would the guild not have rained down on the scholar and institition? Is King and Harvard not treated with gloves here? Just asking...

    ReplyDelete
  5. Karen King was played. She is simply the last person to realise what some could see from the beginning and has now pretty much been played out. She had her own interests in the whole thing (which was a major part of the sting). Other colleagues who supported the authenticity of the fragment might also wonder about their judgement.
    Evangelical "scholars" are just as liable to accept as "evidence" things which support their general positions but which might not be as clear as they seem (e.g. first century Mark).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sure Pete,
      Looking back, what procedures would you have followed had you been given the fragment?

      Delete
    2. It seems that right from the git-go the peer-reviewer's negative feedback should have been taken more seriously. I mean, isn't that the whole point of peer-review, to push-back against our biases? Looking back though, I think that anyone is capable of being duped into something like this, so we should not be quick to condemn Dr. King, she is the victim here.

      Delete
    3. Procedures to follow when large wooden horse is left outside the city gate:
      a) engage brain
      b) be suspicious
      c) check the details

      Delete
  6. He feels the gnostic gospels are more reliable than the canonical gospels . Such blatant bias. I am appalled. So grateful no one on etc displays bias.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I prefer to only have the right biases.

    ReplyDelete
  8. All of us have biases. A limited perspective is part of being creatures and not the Creator. There is nothing unethical about seeing the evidence from the perspective of your own paradigm. What is unethical is to deliberately distort, ignore, or invent the evidence in order to further one's own agenda.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Christian,

    Just a question to clarify:

    I read all of Sabar's article, and really enjoyed the read. I mean, it was a great story.

    My reading of it was though that Sabar was claiming that he was the one who first dug up and figured out many of these connections and identifications, e.g. Fritz' identity, etc.

    My reading of your post, however, is that many of those conclusions were already being bandied about by different people.

    So what exactly is happening here?

    1) My readings of both Sabar and your post are correct, and Sabar is taking investigative credit for findings that other people already knew

    2) My reading of Sabar is incorrect, and he was not taking credit for those discoveries, he was merely summarizing the findings of others

    3) My reading of your post is incorrect, other people did not have that information prior to Sabar

    4) something else entirely?

    thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can not be certain of the timeline, but I and another scholar interviewed Fritz before Sabar, based on some comments Fritz made to me. The Cute Art World blog and later the 1991 journal article raised many questions for me. I had no idea about the many other issues raised by Sabar who really did some outstanding investigative journalism here. Kudos to Sabar for having the guts to pursue this all the way. The pictures of Fritz from the 90s are decisive discoveries, and surely contributed to eliciting Fritz's acknowledgement of ownership. Fritz denied having attended the FU-Berlin and also denied that he spoke German. Fritz has a mild German accent! IMO, Owen Jarus basically had this whole thing figured out a very long time ago, but I don't think that he had the ad nauseam evidence which Sabar produced to demonstrate ownership and history. Lots of people were keenly interested in provenance, especially Jarus who was publishing on it repeatedly. Andrew Bernhard was also particularly interested in the supporting documents.

      Just to be clear, Sabar's work is clearly original. The large majority of his presentation is material uniquely discovered by him. He may have independently hooked onto Fritz or someone may have suggested Fritz. I have no idea. (Sabar mentions "Nefer" as signaling a knowledge of Egyptian language.) I can not claim to have made the association on my own. We could say however that there was significant material pointing to Fritz before Sabar started looking, and that many of us who had been collaborating on this were fairly convinced that Fritz was somehow uniquely involved with the papyrus's journey to Karen King. We knew that he was an Egyptology student and had published digital images of a parallel forgery (the Nefer Art Greek forgery, which he claimed was a stock image).

      Delete
  10. To add to the previous question, Christian, I'm unable to find any Jarus posting in which he even mentions Walter Fritz. What am I missing?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Mike,
      Jarus was very kind to share data with me and others. He was definitely onto Fritz weeks after the first GJW announcement, and his publications on Laukamp derived from his suspicions. Jarus was the first to suspect that the GJW was not the only forged item. Indeed, the entire corpus of supporting materials and the entire Laukamp saga were forged, Jarus argued. I will not say more. Owen summarizes his own contributions, here.

      Delete
    2. Yes, I've read the summary, Christian, and indeed it's a couple sentences in it that provoked my question. Jarus writes writes that "A number of scholars suspected that Fritz was the owner; Live Science's prior investigations also revealed that he might have been the owner," and he provides a link from "prior investigations" as if to imply that the linked article has something about Walter Fritz. But it doesn't. Doesn't even mention him in fact. So what I gather is that Jarus shared his suspicions with you and others but never publicly divulged them. In fact, you now say that Jarus was "onto Fritz weeks after the first GJW announcement", which was of course in 2012, yet three years later, in his LiveScience article of Oct 2015, Jarus still seems to be entertaining the possibility that Laucamp might have been behind it.

      Delete
  11. A bit more here: https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2016/06/17/the-gospel-jesus-wife-fake/qvl3Vf3EXY8cJ31pqTQoOJ/story.html

    ReplyDelete
  12. From the Globe article,
    "Another critic, Leo DEPUYDT , a Brown scholar who is among King’s harshest detractors, said Friday evening: “I see that King is still at Harvard. Unbelievable.”"

    That raises an interesting question: what, if any, repercussions do you all think would be appropriate here? Do you think, as Depuydt apparently does, that King should be dismissed?

    I have never been in administration, but my instinct is that the embarrassment and damage to her reputation she has already endured are more than enough. I can't see any need for further "disciplinary" action.

    She made a mistake, one fueled by her own biases, but we can't go around dismissing people for that, or else we'd have to fire everybody!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If anyone should be dismissed, it should be DePuydt. The comment you quoted is only one of several exhibiting personal animosity of a degree rarely seen among academics, and perhaps contributing to the lengthy stalemate. Aside from that, however, I would say that his 2014 HTR article was sadly deficient and should have been written by someone with more academic impartiality.

      Delete
    2. Or King should hav admitted along time ago that she was duped! It sounds like maybe you have some personal animosity towards Depuydt. He has been at the forefront of addressing the issues with King, who has ignored them and still seems to be unconvinced. Even in academia there should be consequence for blatant disregard of the obvious.

      Tim

      Delete
    3. Your comments aren't well-thought-out, Tim. How can a person admit to being duped BEFORE they believe they've been duped? As to DePuydt, I've read several pieces in which he belittles King; have you seen those? That is not acceptable scholarly behavior, whatever you think, and several well-known scholars have pointed that out. But I suspect you won't pay any attention to anything that questions your anti-King stance, so why am I wasting my time trying to state what should be obvious?

      Delete
  13. There is not going to be any disciplinary action against Professor King, nor should there be. There is no indication of misconduct, which Harvard would need to prove in order to revoke her tenure. She messed up, I think pretty badly, and I'm more persuaded of that after reading this blog than I was just from the Atlantic articles. She told the Atlantic that she only now understands that you can investigate provenance. That's a strange remark in itself, but all the worse if in fact there were suspicions being aired about this guy Fritz some time ago and she just ignored them.

    I think you can make a good case that King was sloppy and gullible. But sloppiness and gullibility are not misconduct. They're qualities that the university is supposed to screen for before awarding tenure, or before appointing a prominent scholar from another university to one of its named chairs. Presumably Harvard thinks -- or hopes -- that this was an uncharacteristic, one-time mistake on King's part, not her regular M.O. Anyway, it's too late for them to do anything about it now.

    ReplyDelete
  14. A somewhat related paper and discussion led by Eibert Tigchelaar concerns "Dead Sea Scroll" mss that appeared on the market in the 21st century--are some of them genuine and some fake? What texts? What hands? What provenance information? (Also mentioned in the discussion: so-called "palm pen/stylus" objects supposedly from Qumran sold to two private collections and an apparent mix-up of Qumran silver hoarded coins mixed in with non-Qumran provenance coins in the Amman museum, apparently leading a few to misdate the Qumran coin hoards.) If interested see:
    https://www.academia.edu/s/281d6818e8

    ReplyDelete
  15. There's a skewering...

    http://babylonbee.com/news/authentic-papyrus-fragment-turns-toddlers-crayola-art/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oops, I just noticed you posted the same link!

      Delete
  16. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  17. David Meadows offers some comments worth reading:
    https://rogueclassicism.com/2016/06/24/returning-to-the-gospel-of-jesus-wife-reflections-and-implications-i/
    Here's an example that may be worth further attention, regarding the Nefer Art Greek papyrus, that Walter Fritz reportedly told Christian and another scholar was a "stock image." That may be doubtful. In any case David wrote:
    "....In passing we might mention the apparent ‘fascinum’ approaching the nude female, which might suggest someone was looking at items from Pompeii, but that’s speculation."
    To this I'll add speculation: perhaps a flying fascinum.

    ReplyDelete