Monday, August 10, 2020

Reviews of Sabar’s New Book on the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife

Ariel Sabar’s new book on the saga of the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife releases tomorrow and already there have been a slate of glowing book reviews. My copy is on pre-order so I have not read it. But all accounts so far are that it is a page-turner with important lessons for those of us who ply the scholarly trade. Here are some excerpts for you from the reviews I’ve read so far.
Veritas book cover

Lucas Wittmamn at Time Magazine
In our moment of truthiness, to borrow a term from Stephen Colbert, Veritas offers a vital lesson less about Christianity than about what happens when a scholar decides that the story is more important than the truth. King had spent her career presenting an important scholarly narrative about the need to re-evaluate and reinterpret the canonical story of Christianity, to allow for women to play a central role and to question some of the central tenets of how established churches told the world’s most famous story. But in Sabar’s convincing and damning assessment, when it came to Jesus’ wife, she bypassed the facts, ignored peers who warned her something was amiss and failed to thoroughly interrogate how Fritz came to possess this stunning artifact.
Katherine A. Powers at the Minneapolis Star Tribune
You could not find a better demonstration of the central truth about forgeries: that historical verisimilitude does not lie in reflecting the sensibility of the past but rather in fulfilling the persuasions and aspirations of the present. But there is more to this story than wishful thinking. Why did King suddenly change her mind about the authenticity of the scrap of papyrus and decide to accept it? Why did she move so quickly in presenting it to the world?

It would be unfair to tell you, for, in truth, the book is as good as a detective novel, possessing plot, subplots, hidden motives, bees in eccentric bonnets and startling revelations.
Alex Beam at the Wall St. Journal (paywalled)
‘Hotwife’ Pornographer Gulls Harvard Prof With ‘Wife of Jesus’ Hoax.” The headlines could have been worse for Karen King, the Hollis Professor of Divinity at Harvard University. But not much worse.
David Mikis in Tablet
Veritas is a gripping thriller, and a perfect beach read. I don’t want to spoil it, so I won’t reveal the possible involvement of Harvard’s administrators in the Jesus’ Wife fiasco. Suffice it to say that Harvard, not just King, fell for Fritz’s tantalizing papyrus. Sabar’s book adds to one’s sense that the ivory tower is tottering, with professors peddling wishful thinking that masquerades as scholarship, and letting their progressive values freely rewrite history.
Candida Moss in The Daily Beast
The negative reviews raise questions as to why King went ahead with her announcement and why the editors of HTR would allow publication to proceed. Under ordinary circumstances, it would have been rejected. HTR had been spooked, Sabar reveals, but published it in 2014 and without peer-reviewing the scientific data supplied in her article. (The editors at the time have recently been replaced.) Sabar adds that King refused to allow a (negative) response to be published alongside her article in HTR and that when she released her story to the press she did so on the condition that they only speak to pre-approved scholars. Had King not been a senior figure in the field, and had the editors of the journal not been her immediate colleagues, the outcome might have been different.


  1. On Oct. 29, 2015 I emailed Prof. King the following, to which she did not reply:
    The papers of Peter Munro are archived at the Museum August Kestner in Hannover.

    Munro was formerly director of the museum. Now Dr. Christian E. Loeben is curator of the Egyptian and Islamic collections. Dr. Loeben wrote an obituary of Munro, available here:

    Dr. Loeben was a student at Free Uni. Berlin in the 1980s; his teachers included Munro (with whom he also dug in Egypt) and Gerhard Fecht (who taught him Coptic).

    Dr. Loeben has very kindly offered to compare contemporary (including 1980s) archived documents of Munro, whose signature he knows well, with the content and signature of the offered provenance documents.

    I include Dr. Loeben's contact information after my signature. I hope this is helpful, and I look forward to further results of research.

  2. So, with the case against this forgery so crystal clear, why is Harvard University allowing this video to remain online in its name?