Thursday, June 16, 2016

Latest on the Gospel of Jesus' Wife — a major breakthrough?

THIS COULD BE IMPORTANT: The Unbelievable Tale of Jesus’s Wife. A hotly contested, supposedly ancient manuscript suggests Christ was married. But believing its origin story requires a big leap of faith (Ariel Sabar, The Atlantic).

At first I thought this was just going to be another survey of the story of the publication of the Gospel of Jesus' Wife and the controversy over its authenticity (which has now nearly universally been rejected). There have been many such and they are useful as recaps, but not very exciting. In fact, this article is a major piece of investigative journalism which, if its claims are verified and followed up, could possibly lead to the solution of the whole mystery. It's a long article and impossible to excerpt helpfully, but here's one brief quote:
With King and her critics at loggerheads, each insisting on the primacy of their evidence, I wondered why no one had conducted a different sort of test: a thorough vetting of the papyrus’s chain of ownership.

King has steadfastly honored the current owner’s request for anonymity. But in 2012, she sent me the text of e-mails she’d exchanged with him, after removing his name and identifying details. His account of how he’d come to possess the fragment, I noticed, contained a series of small inconsistencies. At the time, I wasn’t sure what to make of them. But years later, they still gnawed at me.

The American Association of Museums’ Guide to Provenance Research warns that an investigation of an object’s origins “is not unlike detective work”: “One may spend hours, days, or weeks following a trail that leads nowhere.” When I started to dig, however, I uncovered more than I’d ever expected—a warren of secrets and lies that spanned from the industrial districts of Berlin to the swingers scene of southwest Florida, and from the halls of Harvard and the Vatican to the headquarters of the East German Stasi.
Mr. Sabar claims to have established that the owner of the GJW is a man named Walter Fritz. Sabar reports on his interviews with Mr. Fritz and his extensive investigation of him. Mr. Fritz denies that he himself forged the papyrus or had anything to do with any possible forging of it. Beyond that, it gets very complicated indeed. As soon as you can, stop what you're doing, get some of whatever it is you drink, and sit down and read this article through.

There are many, many past PaleoJudaica posts on the Gospel of Jesus' Wife. Start here and follow the links. This post from October of 2015 is useful as background to Sabar's article.