Thursday 20 September 2012

Coptologists on Double-Dodgy Jesus' Wife Text Fragment - Fake

A lot of convincing arguments are now coming out which seem to be pointing quite firmly to the conclusion that the so-called "Gospel of Jesus' wife" is indeed a fake as I suggested in my first post here about it. David Gill has pointed me to some interesting discussion on the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog, in particular the post which was begun from the conference in Rome where this item was (prematurely it now seems) announced.

In an update Dr Askeland announced that initial reactions among the coptological community at the International Association of Coptic studies conference were split.  
My initial perception is that those who specialize in Nag Hammadi and early manuscripts are split with about four-fifths being extremely skeptical about the manuscript’s authenticity and one-fifth is fairly convinced that the fragment is a fake.  I have not met anyone who supports its authenticity, although I do not doubt that there must be some. 
There is it seems now a growing list of prominent Coptologists who are completely convinced that this is a fake. Dr Askeland himself says: "I have no doubt that this fragment was not part of a literary document of any kind (e.g. a codex).  If I had to guess, I would have to say that this manuscript is a forgery".  He notes the appeal to authority to support the authenticity in the absence of other information. He points out that the script of the object in fact does not resemble manuscripts of a known fourth century date, and he does not accept the "nubby pen" argument. He also says "if an amateur with a basic knowledge of Coptic were to forge a text, it would look like the text under question" and asks "what other manuscripts (esp. literary) actually look like this fragment?  It looks like a fake".

In the comments, among other things, Simon Gathercole notes:
"the script is at least fishy [...] Most of it is paralleled in the Gospel of Thomas, images of which are easily accessible on the web". 
Forum member chill was concerned about the state of preservation of the object:
Does anyone else think the ink in relation to the papyrus fibers looks odd? (1) except for maybe the first 2 lines, the letters at the ends of lines seem fitted to the fragment (2) what appears to be effacement of the papyrus in a vertical strip about a third of the way across the fragment seems to have affected the surface of the papyrus but not the writing (3) I agree with Christian that it looks like it was written with a brush. 
As one forum member sums it up: "No provenance, no ink testing, unparalleled writing, grammatical errors, suspicious dependence on Thomas, ductus doesn't look right. By day 3 there are significant objections for this little scrap to overcome".

Moreover, in contrast to some comments that were being reported yesterday it emerges that it is against the 2007 ASP resolution that a papyrologist should not add "significantly to the commercial value of [stolen] papyri", which includes papyri taken out of Egypt after 1972.

So how many other scholars are going to get misled by fake antiquities surfacing from "underground" on the no-questions-asked antiquities market where the unnamed collector who now wants to sell this fragment to Harvard bought his stuff?  In the light of this train-wreck, does not the AIA resolution about its members getting involved in the publication of such material make an awful lot of sense. This stuff is double-dodgy.

Hat tip to David Gill
UPDATE 21.09.2012
Now we have Prof. Francis Watson's text "The Gospel of Jesus' Wife: How a fake Gospel-Fragment was composed", to which he added for the non-specialist an Introduction and Summary . I found this on Mark Goodacre's New Testament blog which has some other news stories about this text.

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