Thursday, February 06, 2014

Sappho and Jesus' Wife

DAVID MEADOWS has an interesting discussion of some indirect implications of the announcement of the recent discovery of two new poems of the Greek poet Sappho for the Gospel of Jesus' Wife. If you haven't heard the latter story yet, see David's Rogue Classicism post A New Sapphic Poem ~ Wading into the Morass for initial background. Briefly, an anonymous private collector has made available to Cambridge paleographer Dirk Obbink an unpublished papyrus containing a couple of hitherto unknown poems attributed to Sappho. The papyrus is unprovenanced, but is perhaps from Oxyrhynchus. Based on its physical characteristics and the content of the poems, it is the judgment of Obbink (and dude knows his stuff) that it is genuine and the poems are by Sappho.

Okay, cool, but what has this to do with Jesus' wife? According to Obbink the owner "submitted the papyrus to autopsy and multi-spectral photography, as well as Carbon 14 testing of an uninscribed portion of the papyrus sheet itself by an American laboratory, that returned a date of around 201 AD, with a plus-minus range of a hundred years." As David asks, "So it appears that it really isn’t that difficult to arrange for this sort of testing. The obvious question: what’s taking so long to get it done with the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife?" To be fair, the TLS article does not say exactly when the owner commissioned the tests, but the implication seems to be that this was done after the papyrus was made available to scholars for evaluation. But it would be helpful to have clarification on exactly when the tests were done.

Cross-file under "Asking The Important Questions." Background on the Gospel of Jesus' Wife is here with many links.