Saturday, September 29, 2012

Smithsonian GJW documentary on hold

Smithsonian delays 'Jesus wife' film as doubts mount

3:40 PM, Sep 28, 2012 |

USA Today
by Doug Stanglin, USA TODAY

The Smithsonian Channel has postponed plans to broadcast a documentary on the discovery of a "Jesus wife" papyrus that a Vatican newspaper declares is a probable fake.

A promo for the documentary The Gospel of Jesus's Wife on the channel's website refers to the "damaged and fragile" ancient papyrus as "one of the most significant discoveries of all time."

While the website still carries the description of the program, a small note to the right says it is "not currently airing."

A spokesman says the broadcast has been postponed "until the text undergoes further tests," according to The Washington Post.

Events have clearly overtaken whatever the documentary said when it was filmed, and I should think it would sound very out of date if it were aired as is. A documentary should not have been planned at all before the authentication process was fully completed, one way or another.

Background on the Gospel of Jesus' Wife is here with many links.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Paananen on Watson on GJW

OKAY, OKAY, I thought I was going to be able to ignore this subject today, but it seems not.  Have a look at James McGrath: Timo S. Paananen on Methods of Forgery Detection and the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife, a rebuttal of Francis Watson's case against the authenticity of the GJW.

I agree that Watson's case does not in itself demonstrate that the text is inauthentic. But the combination of a highly suspicious coherence with the immediate Zeitgeist, plus physical irregularities that bother papyrologists, plus pretty clear dependence on the Coptic Gospel of Thomas, including (granted, possibly coincidental) hints of dependence on the same Coptic Gospel of Thomas manuscript that we have, cumulatively cast considerable doubt on the authenticity of the GJW.

Background here and links.

New book: Klawans, Josephus and the Theologies of Ancient Judaism

Jonathan Klawans, Josephus and the Theologies of Ancient Judaism (OUP)
(HT Carla Sulzbach on Facebook.)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

GJW latest

THE GOSPEL OF JESUS' WIFE is still getting lots of attention in the media and the blogosphere, but I think that for now we're entering a period of diminishing returns in terms of new information.  Nevertheless, here are some blog posts that are interesting or entertaining or both.

Mark Goodacre: Revised versions of Francis Watson's Articles on the Jesus Wife Fragment.

Christian Askeland: Was Mrs Jesus Pimped?

James McGrath: The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife at SBL in Chicago? I'll come to the session if it fits my schedule.

James McGrath: Erwin Schrödinger Cat and Karen King’s Article. There's something really comforting about quantum physics.

And, tangentially related, congratulations to Mark Goodacre: My new book has arrived!

UPDATE: Background on the GJW is here and links.

New JSIJ articles

JEWISH STUDIES, AN INTERNET JOURNAL has published some new articles, two of which are of PaleoJudaic interest. Click on the links below to download a pdf version of the whole article.
Rabin Shushtri, "Two Geniza Documents from Chapter Lulav Hagazul: A Testament to the Antiquity of the Western Text" (Heb.)

The analysis of different textual traditions is one of the foundations of academic Talmudic studies in general and of research on the Babylonian Talmud in particular. Analysis of the manuscripts of Tractate Sukka in the Babylonian Talmud shows clearly that there are two main branches of the text of this tractate: the vulgate branch and the Yemenite branch. One of the main methods for evaluating a manuscript is comparison to indirect text-witnesses. In this paper I have compared the version of the talmudic text attested by Maimonides’ writings to that found in extant manuscripts and secondary text-witnesses. There are seventeen places where Maimonides’ rulings depend upon a specific version of a sugya. My analysis shows that in fifteen of them Maimonides conforms to the Yemenite version. As for the other two instances, in one Maimonides’ version is secondary, and in the other the Yemenite branch is secondary. Thus, we conclude that Maimonides and the scribes of the Yemenite branch had a common source. Moreover, in the vast majority of places this common tradition appears to reflect the original version of the Talmud, before it was edited. This is a reflection of the high quality of the Yemenite tradition, which was hardly affected by later intervention. It is unlikely that scholars changed the text of the Talmud to make it conform with Maimonidean rulings, and indeed a study of the aforementioned passages shows this to be impossible. This tradition persisted, reaching the greatest halachic authority of Medieval times, Maimonides, and therefore when we analyse his rulings, which often do not suit the conclusion of the sugya in the text of the Talmud known to us, we must take into account the possibility that his ruling was based on a different version of the talmudic text.

Tzvi Novick, "Din and Debate: Some Dialectical Patterns in Tannaitic Texts"

The paper examines a set of technical terms employed in tannaitic literature in connection with the analysis of a din, or logical inference. I demonstrate that anonymous Akivan midrash transforms rhetorical terms that occur in debates between named parties into punctuation that structures the argumentation. In analogous contexts in Ishmaelian midrash, such punctuation does not occur. The first appendix addresses the relationship between the dialectical patterns examined in the body of the article and a collection of baraitot marked as illogical by the Bavli. The second appendix, building on one of the technical terms examined in the body of the article that employs the rhetoric of surprise, addresses the expression of surprise in homiletical contexts.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

GJW discussed on Alin Suciu's blog

JUST IN: On the So-Called Gospel of Jesus’s Wife. Some Preliminary Thoughts by Hugo Lundhaug and Alin Suciu. "In conclusion, both the physical appearance of the fragment, in particular its paleographical features, and its text give reasons for serious doubts concerning its authenticity."

Background here and links.

UPDATE:  James McGrath: Are Reports of the Death of the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife Greatly Exaggerated?

HTR rejects King's GJW article?

RUMOR at the First Things blog: Harvard Theological Review Rejects “Jesus’ Wife.” The report is that the information comes from Helmut Koester via Gesine Robinson, but I have seen no direct verification.

Background on the Gospel of Jesus' Wife is here and links.

UPDATE:  Daniel Burke at Religion News Service reports Harvard Theological Review: Gospel of Jesus’ Wife NOT rejected.  But the acceptance is still conditional.  This on the authority of an e-mail from Harvard Divinity School spokesman Jonathan Beasley.  (HT David Meadows.)

Talmudic "Chaucerian verve"

DAF YOMI COLUMN: This week Adam Kirsch writes on Talmudic Pride and Prejudice in The Tablet.
For me, one of the powerful lessons of reading Berachot, the tractate on prayers, has been to see just how ancient and continuous the Jewish tradition really is. The Shema, the Amidah, the Birkat—we still recite all these prayers today, in almost or exactly the same form as the Tannaim, the rabbis of the Mishna, did 2,000 years ago. What has changed, as suggested by this week’s reading—which is largely focused on the prayer after meals, the Birkat Hamazon—is our attitude toward precedence and rank.

For the rabbis of the Talmud, as for the elite of any premodern society, gradations of prestige and authority were part of the nature of things. At many moments in this week’s Daf Yomi, we see that they could be as touchy about these distinctions as any courtier at Versailles. The difference is that, in post-Temple Judaism, the lack of traditional power structures—a royal court, an army, a functioning priesthood—meant that new forms of hierarchy had to be created; and they were based, in a way that came to seem essentially Jewish, less on birth or wealth than on learning.

Includes some interesting discussion of the am haaretz—the "people of the land."

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

More on Thomas and GJW

MARK GOODACRE: Gospel of Jesus' Wife: the last line is also from Thomas.  Oh oh.

Background on the GJW is here and links.

The name of God in Judaism and Islam

ROBERT WRIGHT brings Arabic and Syriac philology to The Atlantic, which you don't see very often: Allah = God.

On prostitution

TALI ARTMAN-PARTOCK: Of prostitutes and prophets. A long discussion in Haaretz of prostitution as a theme in late antique Christian and Jewish literature. Excerpts:
Feminine monasticism and following in the footsteps of Jesus enabled women in Christianity to have freedoms that life in a family framework would have denied them. They became leaders, miracle workers, independent; they gained recognition as significant active subjects, and even as saints. Yet this "liberation" exacted a price: It required the woman to forfeit a family life, which also perpetuated the view that a woman is defined by her sexual function. The monastic option transforms the woman into a "non-woman," and therefore into a person capable of carrying out masculine tasks and climbing to the heights of thought and belief. The woman can become a saint only when she is essentially a man.

The moral of the story is obvious: Even a prostitute, who serves the devil, can repent, particularly in light of her special skills. The monastic lesson is, of course, that we should learn humility, and that only he who is capable of seeing beyond the flesh, like Nonnus, is a true saint.


The discussion of prostitution and monasticism, then, is not merely a debate held at the upper and lower margins of society, but one that is at its very foundations - its understanding of what closeness to God is and what femininity is.

The Christian model, which views femininity as an obstacle to holiness, since it alone is the embodiment of sexuality, converts the prostitute into a nun.

The Jewish model is different. In it, sexuality does not possess the same negative value, and the desire to sin is located in the man. The Talmudic story has no need for either a female or a male monasticism, because holiness is found everywhere, even in sex, which is embodied here in the ultimate form of the harlot. The process of consciousness, which maintains that sin - like salvation - is found deep in the soul, and is not dependent on any institution or any encounter with a saintly figure, is another conclusion to be drawn from the Talmudic story, which symbolizes the widening gap between the two religions in late antiquity.

Yom Kippur

YOM KIPPUR, the Day of Atonement, begins this evening at sundown.  An easy fast to all those observing it.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Gospel of Jesus' Wife update

JAMES MCGRATH has a roundup on the Gospel of Jesus' Wife which covers recent media and blogospheric activity, while cautioning wisely that the jury is still out regarding the fragment's authenticity: Jesus – Married too Soon?

Background here and links.

Carnivalesque 89

CARNIVALESQUE is still around—I haven't heard about it for some time—and is being hosted this time by Judith Weingarten at Zenobia: Empress of the East: The 89th Carnival of Ancient and Medieval History Blogging. PaleoJudaica appears a number of times in this issue.