For four years, Karen L. King, a Harvard historian of Christianity, has defended the so-called “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife” against scholars who argued it was a forgery. But Thursday, for the first time, King said the papyrus—which she introduced to the world in 2012—is a probable fake.Professor King qualifies that judgment a little:
She reached this conclusion, she said, after reading The Atlantic’s investigation into the papyrus’s origins, which appears in the magazine’s July/August issue and was posted to its website Wednesday night.
“It tips the balance towards forgery,” she said.
King said she would need scientific proof—or a confession—to make a definitive finding of forgery. It’s theoretically possible that the papyrus itself is authentic, she said, even if its provenance story is bogus. But the preponderance of the evidence, she said, now “presses in the direction of forgery.”I don't disagree with her, but I would phrase it (and repeatedly have phrased it) more sharply: it is still conceivable that we won the lottery. But I don't think so.
That said, Professor King is to be commended for her intellectual honesty. She has invested a lot in this fragment, supporting the possibility that it was authentic but carefully keeping open the possibility that it was a forgery. Now that new evidence has emerged, she has changed her opinion in light of it. She has set a good example. This is what scholarship is about.
I hope Harvard continues to study the papyrus and the evidence for its provenance and production. That process may turn out just to be mopping up, but it is still important.
Meanwhile, for the record, I called it correctly as soon as the existence of the papyrus was announced and I maintained that position throughout all the twists and turns of the story over the last three and a half years. That was always where the facts pointed.
Background here and oh so many links.
Below are a few posts on the latest developments in the GJW story by bloggers who have also been following and, often, contributing to the story. I know there are more, but that's all I have time to track down at the moment.
Mark Goodacre: The Owner of the Gospel of Jesus' Wife is Unmasked
Peter Gurrey: The Owner of the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife Unveiled
Christian Askeland: More on the Gospel of Jesus Wife and Walter Fritz
Larry Hurtado: Jesus’ Wife Fragment: The Back Story and Out of Date? Indifferent? What?