Thursday, September 27, 2012

Was Mrs Jesus Pimped?

I know of no excuse for hyping a fragment whose origins and significance are so uncertain.  A reporter in Rome informed me that his media outlet had an agreement with King to interview only persons on a list.  In exchange, his publication got a jump on the story.  At least one newspaper had a similar deal, and a slew of journalists were on the scene for (it seems) two press conferences.  One colleague told me that this was the new way of doing things.
More than a week after Karen King's spectacular public unveiling of the new gospel fragment, discussion and speculation continue.  (N.B, the Harvard Theological Review will publish her article -- the only question is when.)  Generally speaking, the debate has turned to composition and readings from Thomas (Watson etal., HT: NTBlog).  My concerns still lie with the likelihood of forgery, and I would like to raise this issue on final time before I move on.
The issue of dating has essentially been ignored.  King's citation of the Schøyen Middle Egyptian Matthew, the Nag Hammadi Genesis cartonnage, and other manuscripts did more to hurt than help her fourth century date, since they bear no close resemblance to the relevant fragment.  Although a few older scholars still assign dates paleographically, the practice is broadly considered indefensible by those in the guild (e.g. Layton, Emmel, Schüssler, and many others).  Hugo Lundhaug and Alin Suciu have outlined their various concerns about the fragment's authenticity in a key post on the subject, here.  Below, my own video describes some the key peculiarities of this manuscript which potentially support the forgery hypothesis.  The video is intended for a non-specialist audience.

We know what the media does with these stories. Consider the following misinformation which has King making statements which seem to blatantly contradict her article.  Never let facts get in the way of a good story!

Other interesting posts (to be updated)
PBS interview with Smithsonian reporter, Ariel Sabar
"War Jesus womöglich heiratet?" - Deutsche Welle.
Mike Kruger (argument about the verso)
Stephen Emmel (coptologist)
Alberto Camplani (IACS congress organizer, Vatican publication) 
Gesine Robinson (coptologist, via Charles Halton)
Stephen Colbert (news satire)
Jon Stewart (news satire)
Lutherans mock GosJesWife hype (recommended)

Top-notch Coptologist Judges Gospel of Jesus' Wife a Fake

Top-notch scholars including several coptologists, Helmut Koester (Harvard University), Bentley Layton (Yale University), Stephen Emmel (University of Münster), and Gesine Robinson (Claremont Graduate School) judges the Gospel of Jesus' Wife to be a fake, according to Dan Wallace. On this ground, Harvard Theological Review are hesitant to publish the fragment.

Here is the "news flash" from Daniel Wallace:

 News flash: Harvard Theological Review has decided not to publish Karen King¹s paper on the Coptic papyrus fragment on the grounds that the fragment is probably a fake.” This from an email Dr. Craig Evans, the Payzant Distinguished Professor of New Testament at Acadia University and Divinity College, sent to me earlier today. He said that Helmut Koester (Harvard University), Bentley Layton (Yale University), Stephen Emmel (University of Münster), and Gesine Robinson (Claremont Graduate School)–all first-rate scholars in Coptic studies–have weighed in and have found the fragment wanting. No doubt Francis Watson’s comprehensive work showing the fragment’s dependence on the Gospel of Thomas was a contributing factor for this judgment, as well as the rather odd look of the Coptic that already raised several questions as to its authenticity.

 Yesterday, however, Religion News Service published a statement by a spokesperson of Harvard Divinity School, Jonathan Beasley, denying that the publication of the fragment had been outright rejected – there is suspicion about the fragment which is therefore subject to testing:

Dr. King’s `marriage fragment' paper, which Harvard Theological Review is planning to publish in its January, 2013, edition – if testing of the ink and other aspects of the fragment are completed in time – will include her responses to the vigorous and appropriate academic debate engendered by discovery of the fragment, as well as her report on the ink analysis, and further examination of the fragment.

See also Near Emmaus.