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“Jesus’ Wife” Fragment: Latest Developments

February 11, 2014

Several sources (including hints from Prof. Karen King) suggest that we will soon be hearing more about the controversial “Jesus’ Wife” fragment, brought to public attention back in 2012 by King.  It appears that Harvard Theological Review will soon publish an article that will likely reflect the results of those tests that were to have been made on the fragment.  These likely involve tests to determine if the fragment of papyrus is genuinely ancient, and perhaps whether the ink is as well.  But we will have to wait for specifics.

In addition to the questions susceptible to physical testing, it will be interesting to see if the article addresses questions lodged by specialists in Coptic about the text.

And, of course, in any event, as Prof. King herself has emphasized repeatedly, if authentic, the fragment is an artefact of some early Christian, or circle of Christians, from the 4th/5th century, perhaps deriving from an earlier Greek text, but of no direct significance for questions about the historical figure, Jesus.  The possible value of the fragment is what it may reflect about developments of ideas and issues in late-antique Christianity.

Another curious development was noted by Mark Goodacre in a blog-posting several days ago:  It appears that the made-for-TV film sponsored by the Smithsonian Channel that was put on ice in 2012 (or some revised version of it) has now been aired  . . . in French/France (but not, yet, in English).  The link to Goodacre’s post is here.

The French version of the film is now available on Youtube here.  It features Prof. King and others, especially those disposed favourably on the issue of authenticity.  Malheureusement, nous n’avons pas le film en Anglais!

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  1. I note that Brice Jones had published (and perhaps removed?) a blog post recording an email in French from Prof. Louis Painchaud which indicated the fragment would appear in the next issue of HTR. I have noted Jones’ post here. The relevant email is as follows:
    J’apprends d’une source bien informée que le dossier complet relatif au fragment de papyrus présenté dans les médias sous le titre d’ « Évangile de la femme de Jésus » sera publié dans la prochaine livraison du Harvard Theological Review.

  2. Geoff Hudson permalink

    Larry, it is a 4th/5th century Coptic manuscript for heavens sake! Academia makes a load of fuss about nothing.

    • Mmmmm, no, Geoff, it isn’t “about nothing.” The fragment purports to be an artefact of some version of late antique Christianity. If it’s authentic, that’s interesting. Not so much for the focus of my own research or this particular blog site, but I wouldn’t say it’s “about nothing”.

  3. Because they decided to produce the film no matter what. My impression is that they don’t really care if the fragment is authentic or a fake – if it will be declared authentic then everybody’s happy, if declared a fake, then people will say that Roman Church and the “academia” are trying to hide the truth. Either cases, a win-win situation for King, Bagnall and all who will make good money out of it 🙂
    Pace Jesus’ wife.

    • Well, your comment seems to me a bit harsh, and simplistic. To speak for King, Bagnall & Luijendijk, I respect them as scholars and I don’t know that they’re down to make money off the item. As for those who produced the film (and so invested in it), I can’t say. But there’s probably been far too much shrill accusation from various “sides” in what needn’t be so polarized. Let’s wait & see how the scholarly analysis proceeds.

    • Donald Jacobs permalink

      Did Bagnall get mixed up in this too? I’d be extremely surprised. When it comes to evaluating and interpreting papyri he literally wrote the book!

      A very good book it is too, easy to read, deals with theory as well practice, and discusses the limits of what can be done with ancient sources.

      • Yes, Bagnall is a very good scholar (although I remain critical of some of his ideas in his book on Christian books in Egypt), and he was one of the experts Prof King consulted about the fragment. He is reported as finding no reason to doubt its authenticity.

  4. James Ernest permalink

    Malheureusement should be heureusement. But that’s an opinion, not a typo. ;-).

  5. “Malheureusement, nous n’avons pas le film en Anglais!”

    Heureusement, dr. Hurtado, heureusement.. 🙂

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