Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Gospel of Jesus’s Wife ... Again


The most recent issue of the journal New Testament Studies offers a series of articles on the Gospel of Jesus’s Wife controversy, all contending that the fragment is a modern creation and not an authentic ancient manuscript.  The following list summarizes the articles:

New Testament Studies 61.3 (July 2015)

Update (TW): And here is a video interview about the story with Simon Gathercole produced by Cambridge University Press in conjunction with the NTS volume.


  1. Seems like a waste of space in a normally respected journal. We knew all this a year ago.

    1. Perhaps it seems that way, but inasmuch as it takes National Geographic readers a year to realize that National Geographic has been feeding them a pack of fabrications, the timing seems just about right: the timing of their realization will correspond with the issuance of new materials to confirm it.

      Perhaps another re-issuance should be made a year from now, for Salon readers.

  2. Watson's editorial discusses the issue, especially in relation to blogs and online discussions. Blogs don't have strict peer review and blogs don't have longevity. In 100 years if people want to reconstruct this particular controversy it may well be that NTS survives whereas ETC does not. (Of course the opposite may just as easily be the case.)
    I wasn't particularly convinced about 'strict peer review'. Blogs have immediate peer review. These articles weren't randomly submitted to the journal but recruited by the editor so they wouldn't have had the normal peer review in any case.
    So far I haven't heard anything I haven't heard before though.

  3. I'm sure it also makes a difference in public discussions. In some contexts being able to point to the consensus of this collection against the authenticity of the GJW will hold more water than pointing to a couple of blog posts. (Not of course in contexts where people actually weigh up arguments and come to their own conclusions, but in contexts where people rely on collective groupthink at least here the collective is moving in the right direction.)

  4. Perhaps by "we," Anonymous, you mean readers of this blog? And by "all this" perhaps you mean that the ms is a modern creation? The journal provides reasons for further discussion; did you, upon reading, find them inadequate? Had you already compared, for example, the Milan ms (written "with an [un]usually blunt pen") mentioned on page 375 that looks similar? I had not.
    What I have read of the issue, so far, is well done and helpful, in my view.

  5. Two further points:
    i) all the articles in NTS are scrupulously fair and clear in crediting and referencing the various online and blog-based discussions, and in several cases the scholars involved in the on-line discussions are here able to make a final statement of their view. (Among others we don't have contributions here from Francis Watson and Stephen Emmel, but their online papers are regularly referenced).
    ii) We can be proud of the role of this blog in the whole developing argument. Mostly Christian Askeland of course, who made some primary discoveries and reported them first on the ETC blog - and who deserves (and has received) appropriate credit; but with lots of input and discussion in comments and other posts as well.

  6. Here is a video interview with Simon Gathercole by Cambridge University Press (publisher of NTS) which sums up the story:

  7. One quibble: on page 378 the online presence of the Gospel of John ms is correctly noted, but, unless I missed it, it is not the case that "all of the papyri owned by the anonymous collector were also put online." Please correct me if so.

  8. Stephen,
    You are correct. Jones's article is incorrect here. The other papyri were never available online.

  9. It would be interesting to see them as well wouldn't it.

  10. I'd just like to pass on another way to help spread the gospel and it's simply this:-

    Include a link to an online gospel tract (e.g. as part of your email signature.

    An email signature is a piece of customizable HTML or text that most email programs will allow you to add to all your outgoing emails. For example, it commonly contains name and contact details - but it could also (of course) contain a link to a gospel tract.

    For example, it might say something like, "p.s. you might like this gospel cartoon ..." or "p.s. have you seen this?".

  11. By now, we know that some of the reporting on this ms has been unreliable. (Two examples, among several available: the current owner reportedly bought the fragment in 1997 or in 1999, depending on the source; claimed that "Chemical analyses show the text was written thousands of years ago," which is really not what the tests proved.)
    As to the owner's "translation" we also have incomplete information. According to King (Smithsonian Magazine) the present owner sent "an unsigned translation with the bombshell phrase, 'Jesus said this to them: My wife….'" (Mike Grondin commented on that translation with "this" at Larry Hurtado's blog: writing of the "forger" that it was not truly a translation by an "outside expert" but "rather was a statement of what he believed he had inscribed on line 4, based on his knowledge of my interlinear.") The present owner reportedly owns Greek, Coptic, and Arabic mss. (Whether the mentioned group of 6 mss are all Coptic or Coptic and Greek may not be clear in all the reporting.) According to Harvard Magazine the present owner "wrote to King after reading her [2003] book, The Gospel of Mary of Magdala: Jesus and the First Woman Apostle" The report continues: "'I was contacted in 2010 by the owner, who didn’t read Coptic,' King recalls. After she agreed to translate the text, the collector sent a photograph and indicated that the fragment 'might have something to do with Jesus being married.'" If it is reliably reported that the current owner does not know Coptic, then he would not have made the translation. Who did?