Wednesday, September 19, 2012

the gospel of jesus' wife

That's the title given to a 4th century Coptic papyrus fragment [or modern forgery? see below] that has surfaced recently. The title comes from a line in the text, in which Jesus refers to "my wife," apparently Mary. Karen King of Harvard Divinity School has done the initial work on it; images, a transcription, a translation, and a draft of King's pre-publication paper on the fragment are available here: The Gospel of Jesus's Wife: A New Coptic Gospel Papyrus.

Mark Goodacre has the best blog post on this that I've seen: The Gospel of Jesus' Wife. Mark links to a couple of news articles on the story and offers some perceptive "initial impressions" on the papyrus and its significance.

The bottom line: We'll have to wait until other papyrologists and Coptic and Gnostic scholars are able to interact with this to see what the consensus is on questions of the papyrus' authenticity and significance. Regardless, this may well tell us something about 2d-3d century Gnostic Christianity, but it tells us little to nothing about 1st century nascent Christianity—and still less about the historical Jesus.

Update: See also the comments by Simon Gathercole at the Tyndale House website.

Further update: See Mark Goodacre's most recent posts (here and here). The second includes a link to a short article by Francis Watson, arguing that the papyrus is not authentic (i.e. not an ancient text but a modern forgery).

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