Category Archives: Jesus’ Wife

Fascinating exposé of the Jesus’ Wife Papyrus forger, Walter Fritz

Investigative journalism at its finest. Thank you, Ariel Sabar.

You really can’t make this stuff up about the guy who made the Jesus’ Wife stuff up: disgruntled grad student and former museum employee who specialized in Egyptology; victim of abuse by a Catholic priest; car salesman with a penchant for wheeling and dealing; friend and former business associate of those claimed as previous owners of the papyrus; a Dan Brown devotee, together with his wife who writes in a similar vein; pre-release purchaser of the domain; and even, together with his wife, a maker of online porn with spiritual overtones.

I’ve succinctly summarized the salient details here because I want to encourage people to read this article, in its entirety.

P.S. Karen King refused to answer Sabar’s questions. The scholarly community, including the faculty of Harvard, need to ask those same questions and get honest answers. It’s one thing to be duped. It’s another thing entirely to participate in and enable an ongoing charade.

Rumor Has It: Oddities in the Initial Chemical Testing of the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife (GJW)

A rumor is floating around at this year’s SBL among scholars close to the events of the initial publicizing of the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife fragment. Namely, the claim is that the initial chemical analysis was done in a quick and unconventional manner (comparing the GJW fragment with the Gospel of John fragment from the same collection) by someone at MIT (apparently Timothy Swager) who happens to be a close friend of the husband of Karen King. This is merely hearsay at this point and has not been substantiated in a peer-reviewed publication. Still, it should be examined by those close to the situation and either confirmed or debunked. If the rumor is debunked, this blog will make due note of it.

– Mark Bilby

Gospel of Jesus’ Wife: Summary of Developments

In an article for The Atlantic this past Monday (Nov. 17), Joel Baden and Candida Moss wrote a wonderful, thorough account of scholarship and mass media developments related to the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife and related texts.

The upshot is that the scholarly consensus is that the text is a forgery, but that the mass media is still tending to maintain its authenticity.

My sense is that Karen King’s hesitancy to accept the evidence of forgery is probably a significant factor in the ongoing play of the mass media narrative.

See the full article here.

– Mark Bilby

Jesus, the Scandalously Good Nuclear Family Dad

Scandal breaks yet again… Newspapers and television reports around the world are touting a new book that asserts that Jesus married the Magdalene and had two kids, and his kids’ names are about to be disclosed for the first time in history.

The most apt response so far is by Diarmaid MacCulloch, as quoted in the Washington Post, “It sounds like the deepest bilge.” Jacobovici has a long history of profiting off of ridiculous theories about archeological findings and literature, and this is apparently the latest attempt.

Besides the obvious, a couple quick clarifications should be made to the reports circulating.

The media is reporting that Jacobovici and Wilson are claiming as their main proof an Aramaic text from the British Library. If the images flashed on the screen of the ABC report are any indication, we are looking more precisely at a Syriac text. We will have to await the identification of the text for a proper response from Syriac experts.

They are also claiming that a story about Joseph and Asenath is in fact a mysterious, symbolic parable about Jesus and Mary Magdalene. If they are referring to the apocryphal narrative of Joseph and Asenath, this is quite a novel and unfounded interpretation. Battifol and others have asserted a Christian, rather than Jewish, provenance to that text, but to my knowledge no scholar has ever claimed it was a parable of the relationship of Jesus and the Magdalene. Again, we should await a response from experts on that text, if in fact that is the text in question.

While the reports hype up the “controversy” around this, the plot seems to me quite predictable and trite. According to these supposedly radical reconstructions, Jesus fits quite nicely into a modern Western nuclear family role of the good dad who saves the woman he marries, has kids, and lives happily ever. That Jesus isn’t scandalous at all, but rather quite respectable. It’s quaint and picturesque, but unfortunately has nothing to do with the historical Jesus.

– Mark Bilby


A reader pointed me to a more thorough response by Robert Cargill that deals especially with the absurd allegorical reading of the Syriac story of Joseph and Asenath as an historical parable about Jesus and the Magdalene:

Update 2:

Here is an ably written piece by Greg Carey debunking the whole charade.

The tallest tale ever: Emmel on the inauthenticity of the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife

Stephen Emmel recently made a guest post on Alin Suciu’s blog. Emmel has calculated the size of the Gospel of John fragment written by the same modern prankster who created the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife fragment. Based on the size of the fragment and its exemplar (the Qau codex), a full leaf of the Gospel of John fragment would represent either “the tallest (or widest)” of any papyrus codex “yet known.” This adds further proof against the inauthenticity of the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife papyrus. To put it another way, while the physical dimensions of the Gospel of John fragment would make it the tallest tale ever, that epithet might just as aptly suit the content and creation of the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife.

Here is the link to the post, which provides a summary as well as the full text of the full paper detailing Emmel’s codicological analysis.

– Mark Bilby

Jesus’ Wife Papyrus Forgery: From Blogs to Mass Media in a Week

What was noted on several blogs (including this one) on April 24 has, a full week later, finally started making the rounds in mass media venues:

April 30, Daily Mail

May 1, Wall Street Journal

May 4, New York Times

May 4, PBS NewsHour

May 5, Discovery News

The unfolding of events presents a good case-in-point for the increasingly important role that blogs are playing in the study of Christian origins and scholarly communication more generally. It also shows how important open, digital access to original source texts is to the cause of scholarly inquiry and debate.

– Mark Bilby

Case Closed: Jesus’ Wife Papyrus a Forgery

A couple weeks ago, the Jesus’ Wife papyrus was making the rounds again in mass media, mostly in articles citing chemical/material analysis “proving” its authenticity. Here is one such article:

Back in October of 2012, when Karen King (a professor at Harvard) first announced the text at a conference in Rome, I wrote the following op-ed for a student newspaper:

Just today, a blogger friend and adept Coptologist (Alin Suciu) cross-posted and confirmed the finding of a “smoking-gun” which definitively proves that the “Jesus’ Wife Papyrus” is a forgery:

The piece of paper used was authentic, but its content is just a modern forgery. Sadly, it probably sold for quite a profit on the antiquities market. Even more worrisome is how the forgery so easily fooled various scholars and how the mass media became an echo chamber, probably because the “finding” so nicely fit the trope of the scandalous and controversial, turning upside down traditional/customary beliefs about the celibacy of Jesus. Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code and its conspiracy theories about Jesus’ secret love relationship with Mary Magdalene make for good entertainment, but not solid grounds for evaluating ostensibly ancient texts.

– Mark Bilby