The Latest on the So-called “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” and the Benefits of Scholars Blogging

So-called Gospel of Jesus’ Wife Appears to be a forgery, in which the forger accidentally copied a typo from an online PDF translation of the Gospel of Thomas.

Jeremy Hsu at FoxNews has published an article entitled, “Did Jesus have a wife? Scholar calls parchment ‘forgery’“, that highlights the benefit of university professors, trained graduate students, and professional scholars using online resources like blogs and Facebook to share their research and findings regarding archaeological claims to craft together viable theories based in evidence.

This account was impressive:

The smoking gun
All the grammatical anomalies in the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife suggest the writer was not a native speaker or even an academic expert in Coptic — the ancient, dead language of early Christians living in Egypt. Instead, Bernhard says that the pattern of errors and suspiciously similar line breaks suggests an amateur might have forged the “patchwork” text using individual words and phrases taken from Michael Grondin’s Interlinear Coptic-English Translation of the Gospel of Thomas. [Most European Languages Unlikely to Survive Online]

“There’s this general pattern in that everywhere the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife could diverge from gospel of Thomas, it doesn’t, and in places where it does [diverge], it appears it’s following Mike’s Interlinear,” Bernhard told TechNewsDaily.

One the most suspicious grammatical errors in the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife appeared to be a direct copy of a typo in the PDF file version of the Interlinear translation — a connection that Grondin himself made when he was examining his translation. He shared that knowledge with Mark Goodacre, an associate professor of New Testament at Duke University, who had been writing up a blog post independently about the possibility of the “Jesus’ Wife fragment” being a forgery.

Goodacre and Bernhard eventually got in touch and agreed to coordinate the online publishing of their respective blog post and paper. Goodacre credits Bernhard with first making the connection between the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife and the online version of the Gospel of Thomas.

“I would have already put money on this thing being problematic, given the links between the fragment and the Coptic Gospel of Thomas,” Goodacre explained. “But the link with the online Interlinear version of the Gospel of Thomas really makes, for me, the case of authenticity a very difficult one.”

It is amazing how the internet is evolving with scholarship, and how scholars are beginning to harness the power of social media to share preliminary research. Of course, these results must still be subject to academic peer review, but because social media allows many more scholars to provide initial feedback (either making additional contributions by highlighting potentially overlooked evidence, or by encouraging the discard of poorer arguments through scholarly criticism and refutation), the arguments are usually much stronger by the time they reach the publisher’s desk. This is a good thing.

Check out the article. And read the summaries of the scholarly consensus, which appear to be leaning toward declaring the unprovenanced document, acquried from an anonymous antiquities dealer, as some sort of forgery. Of course there are some amateurs and pseudoscientists and pretend scholars who, for reasons of their own financial gain, attention, or conspiracy mongering, really really want this to be authentic. But those scholars who use scholarship to share evidence and debate claims and craft together a working theory based in fact are trending toward forgery.

And kudos to my colleague, Mark Goodacre!!



10 Responses

  1. Considering Jesus was not well known until hundreds of years after his death and that it was not an uncommon first name it would be unlikely get any actual documents for Jesus of Nazareth.

  2. Once again, Men have found a way to deny our rightful place in the pantheon for want of a jot/tittle.

  3. lol. Susan, as you know, I don’t care if he was married or not, or if he had kids or not. He very well may have for all I care.
    But this fragment isn’t evidence of it.

  4. I do not understand what is the problem here. In the 1st century ALL Jewish males HAD to be married. If they were not, it was viewed as an AVEYRA, a deliberate sin against God.

  5. Shalom,
    Jesus. a common Jewish name from the first century, thats a really good one considering there is not now nor has there ever been a “J” in the Hebrew and/or Aramaic languages, in fact the letter J wasn’t added to the English language until the 16th century and English as a language did not exist in the first century and we wonder why we have “scholars” such as the ones who are trying to perpetuate this theory, whew what else can happen.
    Bob I completely agree with you on the marriage of Yeshua, what does it matter!


  6. Rabbi, You’re not thinking like a church father or a modern evangelical. Jesus HAS to be lots of things or else the text of the NT is not historical and we certainly can’t have that… ;-)
    Hope you are well. -bc

  7. I think the Rabbi is correct. Mystic Judaism placed the divine feminine at the apex of seventh heaven. Christianity can’t seem to get past the sexual “sin” of the sixth. They even turned the Shekinah into a male! God the Father (male) Son (male) Holy Ghost (male). We women are mere photos in a binder.

  8. good segue to the debate!

  9. Mr.RAbbi..- can explain more on Aveyra. My theory is that in regard |Matthew 19:12+ Q (Luke 14:27@20- Jesus rejects “wife@children”)-not in Matthew, after his conversion: Mark 1:4@9, Jesus follows radical way of Jeremiah, Elijah@others. Nazareth scene of rejection of |Jesus (in all Synoptics) does not mention a wife-why? Wifes were nothing at that time or already dead if Jesus was married or….sth else?

  10. […] those who’ve posted updates about the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife are Mark Goodacre, Bob Cargill, and Tommy Wasserman. Loren Rosson has responded to Hershel Shanks’ piece, while James Tabor […]

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