April 11, 2014
Purported ‘Gospel Of Jesus’s Wife’ Is Not A Modern Forgery
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
A faded fragment of papyrus that allegedly includes a passage in which Jesus Christ refers to “my wife” is not a modern forgery, according to scientific analysis of the document itself and the ink-like pigments used to write it appearing in the Harvard Theological Review.
The document, which has been dubbed “The Gospel of Jesus’s Wife” and was unveiled by Harvard divinity professor Karen L. King at the International Coptic Congress in Rome in September 2012, contained a phrase – “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife...’ ” – that does not appear in any other gospel, according to Laurie Goodstein of the New York Times. Furthermore, it also contained a second phrase – “she will be able to be my disciple” – which has led to some debate about whether women should be permitted to be priests.
While those theological debates will continue, any dispute that the document is a modern forgery has all been put to rest following a thorough analysis by electrical engineering, chemistry and biology professors from Harvard, Columbia University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Goodstein added. Those experts reported that the paper resembles ancient papyri from the fourth to the eighth centuries. A fourth analysis conducted at the University of Arizona and deemed unreliable by the scientists responsible, dated to it before the birth of Jesus.
According to The Boston Globe’s Lisa Wangsness, the analysis also revealed that the document likely originated from Egypt, and the chemical composition of the ink was “consistent with carbon-based inks used by ancient Egyptians.” Furthermore, microscopic imaging revealed no suspicious-looking ink pooling that those doubting its authenticity believed were present in lower-resolution images – a possibly indicator that the ink had actually been applied more recently, in relative terms.
The text that references Jesus’s alleged wife is written in the ancient Egyptian language Sahidic, suggesting that it could be a transcription of an earlier Coptic text based on a Greek copy, as was the case for several early Christian gospels, Harvard Magazine added. The similarity and subject matter to the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Mary, and the Gospel of Philip suggests that the text of this document could date back as far as the second half of the second century C.E.
In an interview, King told reporters that she hoped the publication of the studies would allow experts to “move past the issue of forgery to questions about the significance of this fragment for the history of Christianity.” She had received the fragment from its original owner in December 2011, and took it to New York the following year to be analyzed by Roger Bagnall, director of the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at New York University. Based on handwriting and other features, he determined it was an ancient document, though obviously his assessment led to a more detailed, extensive examination of the papyrus fragment.
“Malcolm Choat from Macquarie University examined the fragment at HDS and offered an independent assessment of the handwriting,” the university noted in a statement. “Microscopic and multispectral imaging provided other significant information about the nature and extent of the damage and helped to resolve a variety of questions about possible forgery… After all the research was complete, King weighed all the evidence of the age and characteristics of the papyrus and ink, handwriting, language, and historical context to conclude the fragment is almost certainly a product of early Christians, not a modern forger.”