A Fake Coptic John And Its Implications For The ‘Gospel Of Jesus’s Wife’ -- By: Christian Askeland

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 65:1 (NA 2014)
Article: A Fake Coptic John And Its Implications For The ‘Gospel Of Jesus’s Wife’
Author: Christian Askeland


A Fake Coptic John And Its Implications For The ‘Gospel Of Jesus’s Wife’

Christian Askeland

Summary

The recent revelation of a Coptic Gospel of John fragment from the same source as the so-called ‘Gospel of Jesus’s Wife’ has decisively altered the discussion concerning the authenticity of the ‘Gospel of Jesus’s Wife’ fragment. The Coptic John fragment is a crude copy from Herbert Thompson’s 1924 edition of the ‘Qau codex’ and is a product of the same modern writing event as the ‘Gospel of Jesus’s Wife’ fragment. Both texts are modern forgeries written on genuinely ancient fragments of papyrus.1

1. Introduction

Approximately a week before Easter 2014, the Harvard Theological Review released an issue largely dedicated to a Coptic papyrus fragment purportedly containing a ‘Gospel of Jesus’s Wife’ (GJW), including a total of eight related articles. Several reports detailing Raman spectroscopic and multispectral imaging studies of the ink and radiometric datings appeared simultaneously on a dedicated website, contending that the GJW fragment is ‘ancient.’2

Approximately eighteen months earlier, on 18 September 2012, at the Tenth International Congress of Coptic Studies in Rome, Karen L. King of the Harvard Divinity School had publicly announced the

existence of the so-called ‘Gospel of Jesus’s Wife.’3 Although a few initial sceptical observations pointed out the unusual palaeography and grammar of the GJW fragment,4 criticism quickly focused on its uncanny textual parallels to the Gospel of Thomas and the possibility of GJW being forgery. A crowd-sourced discussion resulted in a final paper by Andrew Bernhard which galvanized those opposed to hasty acceptance of GJW as being authentically ancient.5 By means of his ‘patchwork theory,’ Bernhard has demonstrated that several grammatical anomalies can all be explained by a forger’s reliance upon a PDF file of a Coptic-English interlinear version of the Nag Hammadi Codex II version of the Gospel of Thomas which had been available online since 2002.6 Notably (in view of the role that online sources seem to have played in the forger’s hoax), the main discussion concerning the authenticity of GJW occurred via the internet.7

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