‘Jesus wife’ Coptic papyrus is a fake, declares Vatican newspaper
Citing concerns about fragment’s authenticity and its origin, the paper also criticized Harvard, a Vatican newspaper declared the so-called “Jesus wife” papyrus a fake.
Nine days after early Christianity scholar Karen King announced the discovery of an ancient text suggesting that some Christians believed Jesus was married, the debate has been seemingly nonstop about the Coptic fragment’s authenticity and its role in understanding Jesus’ life.
“The newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, published an article Thursday by leading Coptic scholar Alberto Camplani and an accompanying editorial by the newspaper’s editor, Giovanni Maria Vian, an expert in early Christianity. They both cited concerns expressed by other scholars about the fragment’s authenticity and the fact that it was purchased on the market without a known archaeological provenance,” the Associated Press reported Thursday.
Last week, Harvard Divinity School professor Karen King cited the ancient text during a presentation at a conference for Coptic scholars in Rome. The text while not declaring that he was married, suggests some early Christians believed he had a wife.
Camplani, a professor at Rome’s La Sapienza university who helped organize Tenth International Congress of Coptic Studies, said he and other attendees questioned King’s understanding of the text.
Some religion blogs recently reported that the Harvard Theological Review declined to publish her paper. The academic journal plans to feasture her research in the January edition pending testing of the fragment.
“Dr. King’s ‘marriage fragment’ paper, which Harvard Theological Review is planning to publish in its January, 2013, edition – if testing of the ink and other aspects of the fragment are completed in time - will include her responses to the vigorous and appropriate academic debate engendered by discovery of the fragment, as well as her report on the ink analysis, and further examination of the fragment,” according to a statement released Wednesday by the Harvard Divinity School.
On Sept. 18, the Harvard Divinity School professor announced her findings at a conference of Coptic scholars held in Rome.
“Christian tradition has long held that Jesus was not married, even though no reliable historical evidence exists to support that claim,” King said in a divinity school news release. “This new gospel doesn't prove that Jesus was married, but it tells us that the whole question only came up as part of vociferous debates about sexuality and marriage. From the very beginning, Christians disagreed about whether it was better not to marry, but it was over a century after Jesus's death before they began appealing to Jesus's marital status to support their positions.”
King posted a draft of the paper as well as a question-and-answer and pictures of the fragment on a page on the Harvard Divinity School Web site.
Smithsonian Channel, which planned to chronicle the story behind King’s discovery in a documentary on Sunday, postponed the program. The channel delayed the broadcast “until the text undergoes further tests,” a spokesman said Thursday. A new premiere date won’t be announced until it’s determined when the tests take place.
Since the headline-grabbing announcement, scholars have weighed in on the discovery.
“Several top Coptic specialists dismissed the fragment as a probable forgery almost immediately after King’s presentation at a major gathering of scholars in Rome,” the Boston Globe reported. “And a British New Testament scholar, Francis Watson, posted several short papers online during the last week arguing — persuasively, to some in the field — that the fragment’s text is probably a modern forger’s pastiche of words and phrases taken from the single surviving copy of the Gospel of Thomas.”