Thursday, June 30, 2016

HTR won't retract GJW article

THE GOSPEL OF JESUS' WIFE — THE AFTERMATH CONTINUES: Harvard Theological Review Refuses to Pull Fake 'Jesus Had a Wife' Papyrus Story (BRANDON SHOWALTER, Christian Post).
A Harvard journal is refusing to retract a 2014 article it published about an infamous scrap of papyrus suggesting Jesus had a wife even though the professor who authored it now admits the fragment is a forgery.

Harvard Divinity School professor Karen King told the Boston Globe last week that "it appears now that all the material [Ernest (should be "Walter" - JRD) Fritz, owner of the fragment, ] gave to me concerning the provenance of the papyrus ... were fabrications."

This is a tricky one. When scientific journals discover that they've published an article based on faked data, they do retract the article. But I can understand the reasoning of HTR as well:
The Harvard Theological Review, where King's original article was published, issued a statement defending it's refusal to retract the essay about the fake Coptic papyrus, saying:
Acceptance of an essay for publication means that it has successfully passed through the review process. It does not mean that the journal agrees with the claims of the paper. In the same issue (HTR 107:2, April 2014) in which HTR published Professor Karen King's article and the articles on the testing that were represented or misrepresented in some circles as establishing the authenticity of the fragment, it also published a substantial article by Professor Leo Depuydt arguing that it was a crude forgery. Given that HTR has never endorsed a position on the issue, it has no need to issue a response.
That sounds pretty much right. My only reservation involves the section "Modern Period" on p. 31 of Professor King's article, which gives the information the owner passed on to her about the modern provenance of the papyrus, information that she now acknowledges to be false. That seems worthy of a brief note of correction in a future issue of HTR.