Friday, September 21, 2012

Gospel of Jesus' Wife: a documentary? Noooo!

THE STORY ON THE GOSPEL OF JESUS' WIFE continues to develop rapidly.  James McGrath has another invaluable roundup of blog posts and media coverage, along with a fill-in-the-blank caption contest.  And Mark Goodacre has a good summary post on the latest developments:  The Gospel of Jesus' Wife: The Story is Moving Fast! As you can tell from my post title above, I share his disappointment that a television documentary is already in the works and evidently has been for months.  We simply do not yet know enough about the fragment to warrant that kind of television coverage.

Background here and links.

As usual, watch this space.

UPDATE:  Mark Goodacre publishes a brief but quite significant essay by Professor Francis Watson of Durham University:  The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife: How a fake Gospel-Fragment was composed, by Francis Watson. Summary:

Six of the eight incomplete lines of GJW recto are so closely related to the Coptic GTh, especially to Sayings 101 and 114, as to make dependence virtually certain. A further line is derived from Matthew; just one is left unaccounted for. The author has used a “collage” or “patchwork” compositional technique, and this level of dependence on extant pieces of Coptic text is more plausibly attributed to a modern author, with limited facility in Coptic, than to an ancient one. Indeed, the GJW fragment may be designedly incomplete, its lacunae built into it from the outset. It does not seem possible to fill these lacunae with GTh material contiguous to the fragments cited. The impression of modernity is reinforced by the case in line 1 of dependence on the line-division of the one surviving Coptic manuscript, easily accessible in modern printed editions. Unless this impression of modernity is countered by further investigations and fresh considerations, it seems unlikely that GJW will establish itself as a “genuine” product of early gospel writing.
Plus, in relation to the Secret Gospel of Mark:
The Jesus of the Secret Gospel likes to consort naked with young men at night, while seeming hostile to women. By contrast, the new gospel fragment has Jesus speak disconcertingly of “my wife”. Has this new heterosexual Jesus been created to complement [Morton] Smith’s homosexual one?
UPDATE: James McGrath is not persuaded by Watson's arguments: Is the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife a Fake?

UPDATE:  Lots of interesting comments at Mark's post above.  This one by Richard Bauckham strikes me as quite important:
It occurs to me we've missed something that Watson's argument really does demonstrate: that the text of this fragment (whether ancient or modern) was composed in Coptic, not translated from Greek. The Nag Hammadi Gospels and related texts were translated from Greek. So this is at best a late, not an early 'Gnostic" text, dependent on the Coptic version of Thomas. Not, therefore late 2nd century, as Karen King suggests.
Richard also offers some support for my Zeitgeist argument here.

Also, over at Hypotyposes Steven Carlson avers that Roger Bagnall should have a higher opinion of the ingenuity of forgers:  Brief Thoughts on the New Coptic Fragment.