Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Gospel of Jesus Wife and Grondin's Interlinear


Breaking News

Andrew 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 Interlinear

I 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 Transcription

A 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 Image

Although 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.

What’s Next

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.


  1. Thanks so much for your kind words, Christian. As you know, I've preserved the 2002 page-by-page version of my interlinear for historical purposes, although I've made quite a few changes since then - including restoring the letter I inadvertently deleted in 2002 which played a rather significant role in this story some ten years later.

  2. Thanks, Mike, for pointing this out!

  3. Thank you, Prof. King, for making this information available.

  4. For what it's worth, the other font in the document is Arial which has been licensed for Windows since 3.1 in 1992. Also the superscript "th" after the ordinal has been a common autocorrect feature of Word since at least version 2007 and maybe earlier. Also, apparently XMP 4.1 was released in March 2007 but I'm thinking that the Feb 19 date here is the date of the XMP version not necessarily the date when this image was created.

    1. Peter - Does all that you've said indicate that the image is 2007 or later? Thanks, Andrew

    2. I found tons of allusions to documents with the same XML date ... to the second. I am guessing that you are correct, Peter. The XML date is worthless, and may have no direct link whatsoever to the image.

    3. The XML date is at best a terminus a quo for the creation of the image, and it could precede that the event for a number of years. It would be nice if we can use it to identify which (Adobe or licensee) product produced the version id, but the Adobe XMP Core may be too popular to narrow down the possibilities much.

  5. I'm trying to figure out how the forger could be so incompetent so as to confuse the djandja with the delta or whether the person who prepared/typeset the document is not the forger himself but an associate of the former. There is no delta in the GJW, right? Is there one in the John fragment?

  6. It's plain that Munro and Fecht never saw this text. Were their names chosen to be recognized by Prof. King? Was Laukamp a random name pulled from a obituary list or somehow involved or known by someone involved? Laukamp reportedly died in 2002, the year of Grondin's November Interlinear--too early to be involved?. How many of the following, and which ones, are identical, and in what sequence: 1) the current owner, who reportedly "didn't read Coptic" (meaning zero or tiny knowledge?-- Harvard Magazine), but who obtained Coptic and Greek and Arabic [note the Arabic date range] papyri; and who reportedly had read King's 2003 Gospel of Mary Magdalene (Harvard Magazine); 2) the forgery author; 3) the papyrus cutter; 4) the papyrus surface obtainer; 5) the ink brusher; 6) the "translator"; 7) the computer keyer....

  7. SC,
    Good point. There is no Delta written in either fragment.

    Yes, although this new evidence further confirms forgery, it only leaves us with more questions about the modern history. IMO, the chief gain may be to further suggest that the fragment was created shortly before the owner shared an image with King. Notably, in 2010, the 2002 PDF version of the interlinear was still accessible.

  8. "The brave man who may have risked his life in 1963 Germany for the Gospel of Jesus' Wife" is the headline in Deseret News of an imaginative scenario (by Herb Scribner, Oct. 11).

    Would it be fair to consider that scenario improbable and perhaps confirmation-bias influenced?

    Rather, as many have suggested, the ms was likely inked after the Nov. 22, 2002 version posting of Mike Grondin's Interlinear of the Coptic Gospel of Thomas. And likely after the Dec. 6, 2002 death of H.-U. Laukamp (thanks to O. Jarus for that date). And likely after the 2003 publication of The Gospel of Mary of Magdala by Prof. King. And perhaps (if someone involved likes symbology) after Prof. King moved to Harvard (1997) and perhaps after taking a named chair (July, 2009). After all, the ms fragment is largely a combination of Gospel of Thomas snippets and a scenario borrowed from the Gospel of Mary--Berlin ms.

    A step that could help: not misleading science reporting, but making available the claimed provenance documents.