Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Ex-Wife of Jesus

The manuscript fragment "The Gospel of Jesus's Wife" is again in the news. This time, another expert on ancient manuscripts is weighing in on its authenticity. Both the papyrus and the ink have been authenticated as ancient. This is physics and chemistry.

An American academic at a University Wuppertal has raised some doubts. I found interesting the New York Times description of Professor Askeland's background:
Dr. Askeland is an evangelical Christian who is also affiliated with Indiana Wesleyan University, an evangelical college in Marion, Ind., and the Green Scholars Initiative. That organization was founded by the Christian owners of the Hobby Lobby chain of arts and crafts stores
Given his background, the obvious question is whether the unorthodox nature of the document is the reason for his skepticism, but he notes that “there are many gospels, many texts, that say all kinds of things about Jesus.”

Dr. Askeland bases his theory on the apparent coincidence that the line breaks on a associated document in the same hand, a fragment of the Coptic version of the Gospel of John, match those in the Codex Qau. Dr. Askeland says that this "defied confidence."

I am not a papyrologist, however it seems to me that one other possible explanation is that the scribe who wrote these two documents was trying to make a fairly exact copy of the Codex Qau (as Dr. Askeland assumes) at a time when the codex was a fairly new document.

In other words, if it were made in the twentieth century, or even the fifteenth, it's fair to call it a forgery. But if it were made in the eighth century, it's not really a forgery, just a copy of an old text.

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