“Jesus’ Wife” Fragment: Further Thoughts
The discussion of the Coptic fragment continues rapidly on various blog/internet sites. Here’s one of many from a fellow scholar in early Christian texts: Simon Gathercole.
Having just finished reading Prof. Karen King’s lengthy and admirably documented essay on the fragment, a few immediate thoughts for now.
Assuming that the fragment is genuine, and is from a larger text, I reiterate that it is injudicious to refer to that putative text as “The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife”. Prof. King says in her essay that this is simply for convenience. But it would actually be better simply to refer to what we have, which, for convenience, we could call ”The Jesus’ Wife Fragment”. That’s actually all we have.
That the fragment may derive from a larger text is a reasonable possibility, but an inference, not a datum. That this larger text might have been some sort of “Jesus book” (my term, which I really do commend over “gospel”, which is used so widely that it has no generic content other than a book about Jesus, so why not “Jesus book”?) is also plausible, though again an inference, and not the only plausible one. (It could derive, e.g., from a sermon, a treatise of some sort, or something else.)
Whatever that larger text, it’s unlikely that it was wholly given over to Jesus’ marital status. So, it’s a bit misleading to refer to a supposed “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife”. It’s just not helpful. It plays to the news media, but it’s close to being chaff.
I do recommend that all seriously interested in the fragment read carefully Prof. King’s paper, which is available online and will be forthcoming in Harvard Theological Review.