If you recall, there was a bit of a dust up 18 months ago when Harvard Professor Karen L. King released the “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife” that detailed the contents of the text of an ancient Egyptian papyrus referring to Jesus being married. A Vatican newspaper and other experts denounced it as a forgery but a new article in the respected Harvard Theological Review says that there is no evidence of a forgery after the application of various tests. King believes it was part of a debate over the role of women among early Christians.
One critic even suggested that the fragment contained a typo found in an online source — suggesting a poor effort at a forgery.
The original carbon-dating test by the University of Arizona Accelerator Mass Spectrometry Laboratory put the date at 400 to 200 years before the birth of Jesus. A second carbon-dating test by Noreen Tuross of Harvard and put a mean date of 741 A.D.
Columbia University researchers used a technique called micro-Raman spectroscopy to investigate the ink’s chemical composition and compared to the ink in many of the ancient papyri in Columbia’s collection.
However, carbon dating puts the papyrus around the eighth century in Egypt, which is 400 years later than King originally thought. A break down of the ink is consistent with those used by the ancient Egyptians. Since the papyrus is the size of a business card, conventional testing would have destroyed much of the historical piece. However, a new technique at Columbia allowed for a new dating.
King does not argue that this is proof that Jesus was married. Indeed, it is dated long after the gospels were written.
King has never argued that the fragment is evidence that Jesus was actually married. It would have been composed much later than the gospels of the New Testament, which are regarded as the earliest and most reliable sources on the historical Jesus and which are silent on that question.
Even with this test, Leo Depuydt, an Egyptologist at Brown University, insists that it is still a forgery and a modern-day cut-and-paste job with several glaring grammatical that no native speaker of Coptic would have written. He is quoted as saying “Nothing is going to change my mind, . . . “it is bad to the point of being farcical or fobbish.”
King believes the document may have been copied from earlier Greek text. King insists that the grammatical issues Depuydt raises are either errors of his own analysis or that similar grammatical constructions, including the same mistake as the apparent typo in the online Gospel of Thomas, exist in other Coptic texts.
In order for this to be a forgery, the creator had to find ink from the period and avoid telltale signs of modern creation on a microscopic level. Of course, none of this means that Jesus was married or that this fragment holds any determinative weight.
Of course, if Jesus were married, it would add to the call for priests to be able to marry in the Church. That will take however a bit more than a credit card sized piece of parchment.
Source: Boston Globe
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