Another Twist in the Story of the "Jesus' Wife" Fragment

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
May 5 2014 4:23 PM

Another Twist in the Story of the "Jesus' Wife" Fragment

screen_shot_20140505_at_4.15.31_pm
The alleged fragment referring to Jesus' wife.

Karen L. King

We’ve come to another round in the debate over whether a scrap of paper that makes reference to Jesus having a wife is a fake, and it lands in the "probably a forgery" column.

The papyrus fragment contains the phrase “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife …’ ” Harvard's Karen King made it public in 2012. Then other scholars questioned its authenticity. Then, last month, a group of scientists from Columbia, Harvard, and MIT concluded that it was most likely real based on analysis of its paper and ink. But now Christian Askeland, a specialist at Indiana Wesleyan University, has thrown another wrench into the works. Jerry Pattengale, executive director of the Green Scholars Initiative of which Askeland is a part, took to the Wall Street Journal last week with the update, which regards another text publicized by King, known as the Gospel of John. King says she got the Gospel of John from the same source as the Jesus' wife papyrus.

Mr. Askeland found, among the online links that Harvard used as part of its publicity push, images of another fragment, of the Gospel of John, that turned out to share many similarities—including the handwriting, ink and writing instrument used—with the "wife" fragment. The Gospel of John text, he discovered, had been directly copied from a 1924 publication.
Advertisement

And if the Gospel of John fragment is 1) a fake and 2) made from the same ink with the same writing implement as the Jesus' wife fragment, then the Jesus' wife fragment must be a fake as well, right? Even King says as much, in the Times:

“This is substantive, it’s worth taking seriously, and it may point in the direction of forgery,” Karen L. King, the historian at Harvard Divinity School, said in a telephone interview, her first since the recent developments. “This is one option that should receive serious consideration, but I don’t think it’s a done deal.”

The Times notes that Askeland's theory might have some potential holes of its own, and hints—tantalizingly, to the many aficionados of this story!—at the possibility that it could eventually lead to the revelation of the identity of the anonymous donor who gave King the controversial fragments in the first place.

Kelly Tunney is a Slate intern in New York City.

TODAY IN SLATE

History

The Self-Made Man

The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.

Michigan’s Tradition of Football “Toughness” Needs to Go—Starting With Coach Hoke

Does Your Child Have “Sluggish Cognitive Tempo”? Or Is That Just a Disorder Made Up to Scare You?

The First Case of Ebola in America Has Been Diagnosed in Dallas

Why Indians in America Are Mad for India’s New Prime Minister

Damned Spot

Now Stare. Don’t Stop.

The perfect political wife’s loving gaze in campaign ads.

Building a Better Workplace

You Deserve a Pre-cation

The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.

The GOP Senate Candidate in Iowa Doesn’t Want Voters to Know Just How Conservative She Really Is

Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD

The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 30 2014 5:19 PM Social Outcasts Republican candidates are retreating from debates on abortion, gay marriage, and contraception.
  Business
Building a Better Workplace
Sept. 30 2014 1:16 PM You Deserve a Pre-cation The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.
  Life
Education
Sept. 30 2014 1:48 PM Thrashed Florida State’s new president is underqualified and mistrusted. But here’s how he can turn it around.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 30 2014 3:21 PM Meet Jordan Weissmann Five questions with Slate’s senior business and economics correspondent.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 30 2014 4:45 PM Steven Soderbergh Is Doing Some Next-Level Work on The Knick
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 6:43 PM Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Is Skipping Windows 9
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 30 2014 6:44 PM Ebola Was Already Here How the United States contains deadly hemorrhagic fevers.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.