The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife May Be a Forgery

Two recent articles appeared in The Atlantic  which appear to put the nail in the coffin of the badly named Gospel of Jesus’ Wife.

The first article shows the dodgy provenance (chain of custody) of the piece.  It is a bit long but worth the read.  You can read it here or here’s the URL to that article:

The second article may be the most important, because in it Karen King, the Harvard scholar who brought the fragment too light and has defended its authenticity, now concedes it is probably a fake.  You can read it here or here is the URL:

As Simon Gathercole said to me, now we don’t have to worry about that text.  The forged text and our response to it tell us more about ourselves than about the ancient church.








Jesus’ Wife Fragment is almost certainly a forgery

Scholars have been weighing in on the badly named “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” fragment since Harvard University’s Karen King announced it about 20 months ago.  Now after publication in the Harvard Theological Review, closer scrutiny by scholars has almost certainly determined the fragment is a forgery.  By whom we do not know?

Gospel of Jesus' Wife
Fragment containing phrase reference to Jesus’ wife alongside a Coptic fragment (also forged) of GJohn

The most up-to-date presentation of the details can be found on Mark Goodacre’s blog on May 5, 2014.  Here is the link:

Forgeries of antiquities are nothing new.  A lot of money has been made by creating fake relics and smuggling them out of their supposed countries of origin.  Likewise, careers have been made (and sometimes broken) by scholars who discover and argue for the authenticity of new documents, particularly when those documents present information which goes against the prevailing knowledge of a field.

Let’s not be too hard on Dr. Karen King and Harvard University.  This is exactly how scholarship is supposed to work.  Research is conducted and ideas are put forward by a scholar in a publication. Those ideas are tested and examined by another group of scholars.  Over time–it sometimes takes several years–the truth comes out.