Tuesday, October 06, 2015

The recent history of the GJW

MORE IMPROBABILITIES: 'Gospel of Jesus's Wife': Records Hint at Improbable Journey of Controversial Papyrus (Owen Jarus, Live Science). Mr. Jarus has uncovered some sources about the life of the man who reportedly originally bought the Gospel of Jesus' Wife in the 1960s, Hans-Ulrich Laukamp. The current, anonymous owner claims to have bought the fragment from Laukamp. A couple of excerpts:
Laukamp died in 2002, and the claim that he owned the text has been strongly disputed by Rene Ernest, the man whom Laukamp and his wife Helga charged with representing their estate. Ernest told Live Science that Laukamp had no interest in antiquities, did not collect them and was living in West Berlin in 1963 and thus couldn't have traveled to Potsdam from across the Berlin Wall. (West Berliners were not allowed to visit Potsdam at that time.)

Similarly, Axel Herzsprung, Laukamp's friend and business associate, told Live Science that Laukamp never had an interest in antiquities and never owned a papyrus. Laukamp has no children or living relatives who could verify these claims.


If the "Jesus's Wife" papyrus is authentic, it would mean that Laukamp would have had to figure out a way to reach Potsdam in 1963. In that year, West Berliners could only travel to East Berlin at Christmas, and only if they had family on that side of the city, according to historical records from that time period. President John F. Kennedy himself protested these conditions, flying to West Berlin in 1963 to give his famous "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech.

If Laukamp did try to reach Potsdam, he would have risked being caught and would have had to explain to East German, and possibly Soviet, authorities that the papyrus he was carrying, with the Coptic handwriting, was simply an ancient papyrus and not a coded message.
The story doesn't sound very likely. On the one hand, the history that actually happened frequently sounds pretty unlikely. But on the other, the problems with the story of the recent history of the GJW just add to the pile-on of unlikely things we have to believe if we take it to be a genuine ancient artifact. As I have said before, maybe we won the lottery this time, but I remain to be convinced.

The main significance of the material that Mr. Jarus has uncovered is that it provides lines of inquiry that could illuminate the story further, such as copies of Laukamp's signature that could be compared to the unpublished sale document bearing a signature that is supposed to be his.

Read it all. Background here and many links.