The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife: Update

Categories: Theology / Biblical Studies

The evidence now suggests that the “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” is almost certainly a fake.

Not long ago I offered some thoughts on the alleged discovery of a previously unknown Gospel, referring to Jesus’ wife. It is a very brief fragment, but it bears similarities to already known Gnostic writing. Even if it was everything that Dr Karen King claimed it to be, it would still only have been a work from the fourth century that was arguably first written in the late second century, at a time when plenty of far-fetched gnostic writings were being produced. Not exactly earth shattering. However, quite a number of scholars at the time had serious doubts that this fragment was even as interesting as that, suspecting that it was nothing more than a much later forgery, written to look like an earlier gnostic work but in fact simply plagiarising the Gospel of Thomas.

Those suspicions have now been resoundingly confirmed: the fragment is almost certainly a fake. I say “almost certainly” because of course it’s nigh-on impossible sometimes to prove such things with 100% certainty, but we now have about as much certainty as anyone could hope for. Not only does the alleged Gospel fragment strongly resemble the Gospel of Thomas in terms of language and content (however brief), but it contains an unusual typo – the very same typo that an online version of the Gospel of Thomas contained.  For more detail, see the analysis over at Mark Goodacre’s NT Blog.

What is especially interesting is that Mike Grondin, who produced the online interlinear translation of the Gospel of Thomas, chimes into the conversation himself, adding:

Having consulted my records, I am now quite sure that anyone copying the mistake at line 50.01 of the pdf version of my interlinear must have done so no earlier than 11 Nov 2002. Prior to that, my website contained a set of gif images, wherein line 50.01 was correct.

Not only can we identify that the composer of this fragment used the Gospel of Thomas, but it appears that we can actually identify exactly which copy they used – a smoking gun that would often be impossible to discover. This is looking like a very recent forgery indeed. Conveniently, it appears to have been carried out just late enough so that anyone who had allegedly known of the document previously is no longer alive. Little would have been established had the document not been a fake, let’s remember. But it very probably is.

Glenn Peoples

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{ 4 comments… add one }

  • Francis October 21, 2012, 3:22 PM

    I await One News updating the nation with as much zeal as when they announced that this fragment had proved Biblical claims about Jesus were bunk.

  • jeremy October 22, 2012, 8:20 AM

    In that case prepare yourself for a long wait and disappointment.

  • Nick October 22, 2012, 8:55 AM

    One ‘News’ might be the wrong use of language for a story like this being reported in the media. ‘Finding’ news and reporting it without further inquiry or caution is the spin we have to deal with.
    Through Scholarship the sensational claims of Christ’s Wife seem to be not much more than that familiar sound of the fizzing balloon in the room, losing air, losing momentum. Scholars who are experts in their field are going to investigate these claims very thoroughly as the links show. They probably don’t have many such documents appear during their career, so this presents a great opportunity to look into the past. Or, as this case shows, expose a recent fraud. They can view relevant documents online and speed up the process. One News has access too, if they are looking. Shall we take bets on how long it takes to be reported?

  • Pulse of Religion December 11, 2012, 9:10 AM

    It seem interesting that Jesus himself did not write and secure that his writings would be passed on. If he counted on scribes doing it for him would he have not known what would happen with all the conjectures and various fragments, scripts, scrolls and papyrus? Their is no archaeological proof of a Moses or Abraham or most of the Old Testament claims of peoples. There is no proof of the stories told about Jesus though he may have been a person who lived at the time before any of the New Testament “proofs” we have today. But, that is not to say that stories and myths don’t have power. They have always had power over the human spirit and psychy.

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