CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

So, the big news this week in textual criticism studies, is that the guy who actually owns the papyrus fragment which was marketed (and I am using that term very specifically, "MARKETED") as "The Gospel of Jesus' Wife", has been found by an investigative reporter.

(Here's a Cadre article about the fragment from back in Easter season 2014. A number of interesting things have happened since then, but if you want a refresher about the details you can try there and then come back.)

Not by just any reporter, but by the reporter originally assigned by the Smithsonian to be present waaaaaay back when Dr. Karen King, the scholar who promoted the piece, first presented her (original) paper on it to fellow scholars in Rome. In fact,

The fragment, written in the ancient language of Coptic, had set off shock waves when an eminent Harvard historian of early Christianity, Karen L. King, presented it in September 2012 at a conference in Rome." It only set off shockwaves because the Smithsonian, Harvard, and Dr. King desperately wanted it to, and only because sceptical scholars were astounded that this axis of shockery was seriously trying to shock anyone about something this silly. Who had a key hand in helping sell that initial and pointless shock? Ariel Sabar.

Sabar continues that even without the provocative title assigned by Dr. King (and her marketing allies), "[the near scrap of nothing] would have shaken the world of biblical scholarship. Centuries of Christian tradition are bound up in whether the scrap is authentic or, as a growing group of scholars contends, an outrageous modern fake." No, it wouldn't have shaken anything at all. That's Sabar continuing the marketing campaign, to justify Smithsonian's (and maybe Harvard's) rationale for running this con game. Under no sane circumstances would a scrap of a few sentences written in the 300s have "challenged the basis of priestly celibacy," nor challenge Jesus' bachelorhood on which this the celibacy was based. Nor would this scrap have in any valid way contributed to discussion over "[Jesus'] all-male cast of apostles [having] long been cited to justify limits on women’s religious leadership." Ask any Southern Baptist preacher (or almost any Protestant preacher, or most catholic branches other than the Roman Catholics) exactly how much they believe in the importance of priestly celibacy; but this would have had exactly no weight against even Roman Catholic priestly celibacy (or the requirements in some other branches of ancient catholicity for bishops to be celibate).

I have to type this in all caps bolded because people like Sabar, who surely know better, keep forgetting to mention it: EVEN DR. KING AND HER COHORTS ACKNOWLEDGED THIS SCRAP COULD NOT POSSIBLY HAVE ANY BEARING ON HISTORICAL JESUS STUDIES!! They would throw out suspicious innuendos that it maybe perhaps could in some fictional universe or something, and occasionally pretended that it might have some bearing if legitimate, but when pressed on the point they would typically concede and even voluntarily acknowledged it themselves on occasion.

Sabar is keeping a blind faith alive, so to speak, that this fragment might have been of any historical use whatsoever to anyone other than a very few paleographers. And little asides like this continue throughout the article: "Proof that some early Christians also saw Mary Magdalene as Jesus’s wife would be a rebuke to Church patriarchs who had discounted her and conflated her, falsely, with two other women mentioned in the Gospels: an unnamed adulteress in John and an unnamed woman—thought to be a prostitute—in Luke." But the patriarchs didn't do this to discount her! It was the non-Christian sceptics who discounted her in their (surviving) apologetics from the time (up through Emperor Julian the Apostate after Emperor Constantine, not incidentally). She had such a high reputation that she inspired the first Christian convents late in the 4th century. But, I have to emphasize again, THAT DOESN'T EVEN MATTER BECAUSE EVEN IF LEGITIMATE THE FRAGMENT WOULD NOT EVEN HAVE COUNTED AS CLEAR WEIGHT, MUCH LESS "PROOF", THAT SOME EARLY CHRISTIANS SAW MARY MAGDALENE AS JESUS' WIFE! Or even that they would have been of an unorthodox group had they done so: some nunneries after all still draw a lot of thematic comparisons on the idea that MaryMag was Jesus' betrothed (but chaste) wife, and that the nuns themselves follow that example!

Again, Sabar later shows clear agreement that this scrap of nothing somehow would count as high stakes. During a dinner interview with her in the summer of 2012, Sabar says, "She knew how high the stakes were, for both history and her own reputation." No, the only stakes were to her reputation, and maybe for the reputation of Harvard and Smithsonian -- and for no reason other than that they wanted there to be high stakes for history.

Having tacitly pretended to justify why anyone would think this scrap was newsworthy in itself, even if it was legitimate, Sabar continues with an account of the first conference paper in late 2012, treating it as being in effect a press announcement, so that "within days doubts mounted" -- within days, not within minutes during the conference itself, although Sabar reports that "scholars there reacted with equal parts fascination and disbelief". Notice the description: "reacted", like a knee-jerk reaction, with fascination (an emotional qualifier) and disbelief. No, scholars there immediately noticed serious problems and started saying so. But the narrative has to be phrased as a religious dispute, so first out of the gate? -- "The Vatican newspaper labeled the papyrus 'an inept forgery'." Why? Oh, who cares, they could only have done so as a knee-jerk reaction of disbelief, right? After all, as Sabar writes later, "after Constantine converted the Roman empire to Christianity in the fourth century and Church leaders began canonizing the small selection of texts that form the New Testament, Christians with other views were branded heretics."

(Sigh. Constantine did not convert the Roman Empire to Christianity; the Empire was about half converted already, and he himself converted. He made the religion legal for the first time, and certainly promoted it -- we might even say unfairly promoted it sometimes -- but it was not the official religion, and plenty of non-Christians remained. His own orthodoxy was regarded as dubious at the time, and he was baptized at his death by an Arian bishop, after which his successors up through Julian the Apostate were Arians; trinitarian orthodoxy was not popular at the Imperial court, or in the military, and so far as people were branding others as heretics, they were as instrumental in their time in branding trinitarians as heretics. Church leaders did not begin canonizing the small selection of texts that form the New Testament under Constantine, but long before; the "disputatious bunch" had already agreed among themselves what texts counted and which didn't, and that continued through and after Constantine's reign. If this sounds like warmed-over Da Vinci Code hash, you won't be surprised to learn that Sabar's wife suggested reading The Da Vinci Code when discussing the case with her. Sabar was clearly impressed by Brown's work in connection "with scholars like King". You should however read Sabar's article for how that part of his research connects with investigating Fritz and his wife.)

Any mention of the massive investment by the Smithsonian (and Harvard) in promoting this thing, well before the Rome conference? Nope. Any mention of them putting that promotion partly on hold when a whole lot of someones mentioned, among many other problems, that a carbon dating hadn't even been obtained yet? Nope. Suddenly it's a year-and-a-half later and "Harvard announced the results of carbon-dating tests, multispectral imaging, and other lab analyses: The papyrus appeared to be of ancient origin, and the ink had no obviously modern ingredients." How "ancient"? Sabar doesn't bother with such a trifling detail; after all, how could the papyrus being written no earlier than the rise of Islam, be important for evaluating its shocking challenge to whatever traditions dating back six or seven hundred years earlier?

Sabar allows that the results "didn't rule out fraud" for various reasons. But "the scientific findings complicated the case for forgery." No, the findings didn't complicate that case at all, for exactly the reasons Sabar gave!

Notice that "appearances" of grammar errors and phrases "seeming" to have been lifted from the Coptic Gospel of Thomas (among other problems Sabar doesn't mention) are supposed to be "complicated" by results that only didn't immediately disprove authenticity! In fact, critics routinely noted that the tests could not add positive value to the case for authenticity: a case, by the way, largely assumed by the scrap's proponents! Sabar might give out a few scraps of the case against the scraps, but there are good reasons why not even a scrap of the case for the scrap is provided: because there was practically no case for authenticity! This is why the carbon dating result was lauded to the skies as so hugely important, despite having not even been done yet a year-and-a-half earlier when the Smithsonian and Harvard were ready to make some dang cash out of marketing the fragment! -- that carbon dating, and the ink method, as flimsy as they were, were the only "scientific" evidences of legitimacy. Yet this couldn't have all been a scrap over practically nothing from the beginning, so, "The Gospel of Jesus’s Wife had undergone—and passed—more state-of-the-art lab tests, inch for inch, than almost any other papyrus in history." Wow. That sounds impressive!

Evidently, after the revelation that "an odd typographical error... appears in both the Jesus’s-wife fragment and an edition of the Gospel of Thomas that was posted online in 2002," -- which was more than just "suggesting an easily available source for a modern forger’s cut-and-paste job", because that odd typographical error only even occurs in that modern edition -- it occurred to Sabar at last: "I wondered why no one had conducted a different sort of test: a thorough vetting of the papyrus’s chain of ownership."

Well, duhhhhh!! But an investigative reporter shouldn't have had to go far to find out why no one had conducted that test: Dr. King and her cohorts had been blocking requests for just that sort of thorough vetting from the beginning!

But Sabar isn't writing about that (although later passing close by it while asking Dr. King why she didn't do various things even now). Nor (despite a quick line, "But was there a lack of information? Or just a lack of investigation?") is Sabar writing about how those people should have dang well been doing their own thorough vetting long before October 2012 and yet somehow hadn't done so. Sabar isn't writing an article about why Dr. King and Harvard and the Smithsonian had not conducted a thorough vetting, but about the thorough vetting finally done by Ariel Sabar, who helped sell the hoax originally, when no one else thought until now to do such vetting.

And it isn't as though this obscurantism was new to Sabar! -- on the contrary, Sabar has experience of it going back four years! "King has steadfastly honored the current owner’s request for anonymity. But in 2012, she sent me the text of e-mails she’d exchanged with him, after removing his name and identifying details. His account of how he’d come to possess the fragment, I noticed, contained a series of small inconsistencies. At the time [in 2012, perhaps during the limited media marketing preparation], I wasn’t sure what to make of them. But years later, they still gnawed at me." And had been gnawing at other people for years, with not-small inconsistencies.

From here Sabar swings into a fair summary of the detective work, uncovering "a warren of secrets and lies that spanned from the industrial districts of Berlin to the swingers scene of southwest Florida, and from the halls of Harvard and the Vatican to the headquarters of the East German Stasi." Sabar does not mention that almost everything had already been worked out over the years from the dodgy clues dripped out by the conspirators once even they had to acknowledge the mountain of problems rising up against authenticity compared to the practically nothing of a molehill in favor.

Readers can follow that out for themselves in the article. What I want to draw attention to next, however, is Dr. King's response, reported in the followup article linked above.

Dr. King, after reading Sabar's article in The Atlantic -- having been at first uninterested in commenting about Sabar's findings for the article or even in hearing about them -- has decided that she knew practically nothing about the fragment's owner, Walter Fritz, at all. He lied to her about himself. And this, finally, tips the evidence she thinks toward forgery. Not all the other things, but these fairly simple facts about Fritz (and his wife) which anyone who already knew his connection to the fragment (as she herself did) would be able to find on the internet.

"I asked why she hadn’t undertaken an investigation of the papyrus’s origins and the owner’s background. 'Your article has helped me see that provenance can be investigated,' she said."

And that, my readers, is a lie. Dr. King did not need Sabar's article to help her see that provenance can be investigated. Certainly her fellow scholars at Harvard's Divinity School, and the Smithsonian Institute, would have known that provenance can and should be investigated -- even for scrappy little piffles worth nothing if legitimate except as examples of (inept) ancient scribal writing in a dead language of a particular period. But even if they had chosen to never bother her with the need for provenance checking, she had been dealing with provenance checks since October 2012, because Fritz (the owner of the papyrus) had made sure Dr. King herself would be the firewall for any provenance checks. When she started giving out provenance material in 2014, she herself wrote an article for the Harvard Theological Review on the difficulties of checking provenance for this fragment! Which Sabar reports in the first article, by the way: "King thus declared the scrap’s history all but unknowable. 'The lack of information regarding the provenance of the discovery is unfortunate,' she wrote in 2014, in an article about the papyrus in the Harvard Theological Review, 'since, when known, such information is extremely pertinent.'" But she herself was the chief reason why the provenance couldn't be easily checked!

Sabar's report of her early concerns pre-October 2012 seem vacuous at best. Three experts giving a cursory look over the thing, and some reassurances that it doesn't look like a fraud; one peer review in favor; one peer review with "punishing criticism" that she received "with shock" annnnd... less than 24 hours later, one of the original three suggested some minor replies to a few problems and otherwise was unpersuaded of forgery. Sabar happened to be there just after the negative peer review arrived, and when the reassurance with minimum addressing of critiques arrived from Roger Bagnall arrived. Whew, well no risk to her career or to Harvard's reputation then! "Go, Roger!" King said, clearly buoyed.

But Sabar was there. Why didn't Sabar instantly latch onto the provenance problem and volunteer to help out if poor Dr. King just didn't know where to start and no one in all the wide, cold halls of Harvard and the Smithsonian thought to advise her on such matters (being too busy already filming the documentary at that time, perhaps)? Sabar might not have known anything about the technical issues, but a journalist writing for the Smithsonian ought to know about provenance problems! Well, when history is at stake, why bother with that, really?

Sabar continues to defend Dr. King's innocence and rational prudence even after talking about the release of the Harvard Theological Review issue totally dedicated to scholars airing their grievances -- which had been actually formal for a long time, but only now somehow counted as "taking a formal turn". "The similarities with the Gospel of Thomas were hardly incriminating. Ancient scribes often borrowed language from other texts, King wrote in the Harvard Theological Review; the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke—with their overlapping yet 'theologically distinctive' narratives—were a case in point." But that overtly and deliberately mis-characterizes the criticism: the problem with GosThom wasn't an overlapping yet theologically distinctive narrative, nor even a mere similarity of language, but similarities which could only be found in a modern edition of GosThom! And not even counting that, the similar phrasings were set up to match an English interlinear of GosThom, and just so happened to physically make no sense in relation to the purported original document the fragment was supposed to be snipped from.

"On a more practical level, she couldn’t see how a con artist cunning enough to produce a scientifically undetectable forgery could at the same time be so clumsy with Coptic handwriting and grammar," Sabar reports. But the forgery was being repeatedly detected by scientific investigation! The clumsy Coptic handwriting and grammar was itself connected to several of the many kinds of scientific arguments for the forgery!

Sabar, in other words, is being complicit in waving off the true severity of the complaints to make it look like this was a reasonable accident that could happen to anyone.

What comes through in the article, although I expect it's a coincidence (because Sabar goes a long way in defending her from culpability), is that Dr. King is just as slippery in how she has been operating as Fritz, her supplier.

When Sabar called her for an interview earlier this year, shortly before finalizing the Atlantic article, she didn't want to listen to anything because, “I haven’t engaged the provenance questions at all." Except for all the times she grudgingly did of course, under pressure, such as for the Harvard Theological Review article in 2014. “It’s all out there,” she said. “I don’t see the point of a conversation.” She wanted to talk about some new research on the ink which she felt seemed promising. Why hadn't she provided originals of the various provenance papers in the case? Those belonged to Fritz; she suggested Sabar go ask him. Well, why not at least provide her copies of the papers -- something that had not yet been done even at this late date? “I don’t think they’re good data,” [Sabar reported] she said. Nothing useful could be gleaned from a scan of a photocopy, which was, after all, just “an image of an image.”

So instead she provides not her copies, but an image of an image of an image??! The scholars have done a lot more with those than Sabar reports!

I don't want to diss the whole article. Sabar doesn't give any credit to others who have investigated the provenance, implying (as noted above) that no one even bothered to investigate. But Sabar did do a lot of investigation, beyond what others have done (even if others have even made the Fitz connection beforehand), and the article is worth reading for that in itself. It's a chilling report of a liar and con artist connected directly to the Jesus Wife Fragment, who slowly reveals more and more connections to it. One might even suspect he's making up lies about his connections! -- there are such things as hoaxers who try to get noteriety by hoaxing hoax connections to mysteries. It's hard to say.

What isn't hard to say, is that people are soft-pedaling the involvement of Dr. King, and whoever was involved with this scandal at Harvard Divinity and the Smithsonian. And that damned well should stop.

Why does the "Gospel of Jesus' Wife" (which really ought to be called the "Late Coptic Jesus Wife Fragment") bother me so much if I have no ideological stake in its legitimacy or not? After all, I did write a rather ranty article on it back before its fellow-text, a late Coptic fragment of the Gospel According to John, was clearly exposed as a fraud; and after all, I posted my ranty article on a Nicean Christian apologetics web journal. And here, after all, is yet another ranty article!

The fragment per se doesn't bother me in the least. What bothers me is just how far certain highly regarded scholarship groups in North America are willing to go, to try to drum up controversy over early Christian origins, and thus over the legitimacy of Christianity, and just how little ground they're willing to stand on to make such attempts if necessary (more like flapping desperately on vapors) -- and yet they will never suffer serious cultural blowback from it. Next year, or later this year, they'll try again, intentionally trying to upset people over practically nothing worth being upset over, and once again it will be another shell game. But the corrosive innuendos are being thrown into the marketplace, to get attention, by the people who ought to have been the first out of the gate applying careful learning and erudition.

What bothers me is that other people (who don't have the advantages of years of training, and access to people with far more expertise on such matters than I do) are being bothered for no good reason; and the bother-ers will never be seriously called to account, but will continue to trade on their (otherwise sometimes well-earned) reputations as license to perpetually launch these little grenades into the public, expecting the public to trust that they have good reason to launch these little grenades.

Dr. Karen King may have acted with (mostly) sober professionalism in dealing with criticisms so far, and she (much moreso Harvard) may not be directly involved in having forged the texts. But she and Harvard, and the Smithsonian (who spent a nice bit of money on a glossy documentary well ahead of extensive scientific study of the text), have been directly and knowingly involved in perpetrating fraud.

This wasn't an accident. These groups and people had access to the same scholars who in the space of a few weeks tore the case for the Jesus Wife Fragment apart. They actively and consciously rushed to create what they thought was the greatest public attack on Christianity possible out of such flimsy material -- material so vague that there is not even any good reason to believe, if it's legitimate, that the actual theology of the writer is non-orthodox! -- mostly out of hot air and suppositions. And they rushed to make this wildly overstated case (and again I'll stress the case would have been wildly overstated even if the text was legit) before exposing the case materials to the broad academy of scholars worldwide; and only held back a couple of years after initial pre-release criticism seemed problematic, until they could get (after two tries) one and only one scientific result with limited implications to sort-of weigh in favor of the text's legitimacy (the other scientific examination being neutral at best but misleadingly marketed to look like a positive support), after which they told the event horizon of the situation to go to hell and launched themselves with rocket boosters into publicizing their still-practically-groundless assertions and accusations, despite never having yet addressed all the other initial problems.

Maybe this is indicative of the mythical or even quasi-religious awe that has settled over the problematic science of radiocarbon dating (and there's a whole cargoship of worms I won't be opening), although credentialed experts still ought to know better than to base their cases on such a shaky one-leg foundation -- and keep in mind that the original, and with that documentary also costly, 2012 media marketing had been prepared and ready to release long before any such testing.

So no, this isn't a case of people being innocently spoofed by inexperienced naivety concerning radiometric dating results. Dr. King and related parties have consistently, from the beginning, gone out of their way to downplay and disregard, and even sometimes outright hide, key evidence pertaining to the question of the text's legitimacy, and key details about what can be feasibly inferred about the text (which isn't much) even if it's legitimate. The Smithsonian not only insisted on scheduling its documentary after the single radiocarbon evidence in its favor (finally, after a repeated attempt) came in, and not only insisted on running its documentary despite mounting scholarly criticism; but then also only added to its original documentary a brief epilogue of headlines about the fragment, and a short printed paragraph beginning with, "In short, there's much new evidence for its authenticity and none that it's a modern forgery." With its own italicized emphasis on "none". Granted, some of the most damning evidence hadn't shown up yet when that epilogue was added, but there were two outright lies in that statement: there was not "much new evidence" in its favor, only one new evidence in its favor (maybe two if ascertaining the ink to be lamp black instead of, say, magic marker counts); and there was emphatically more than no-evidence of it being a modern forgery, even at the time the epilogue was added.

Agreeing to a legal contract (assuming such a thing even exists -- and perhaps incidentally Sabar does not report such a contract) to hide the provenance trail of the text from examination, is no excuse. That instead should have been one of the first signs something was wrong (after several other signs); but even once the associated Coptic GosJohn fragment forgery was exposed (after itself being generally hidden from view, on purpose), Harvard and Dr. King did not immediately make the people involved in the provenance trail known.

And even setting aside initial serious problems with the legitimacy of the text, which would have been better exposed by earlier and wider exposure of the text to critical assessment, nothing at all even remotely can excuse the prepared attempts in 2012, which mirror the released attempts in 2014 (modified to the minimum allowed by such an unexpectedly late material dating), of trying to use the slight data of the text, itself of highly contestable interpretation, as some kind of evidence about 2nd century alternate Christianties -- much less as some kind of evidence against the propriety of a known prevalent mainstream 'orthodox' Christianity.

And even setting that aside, there is no excuse for Dr. King and the Smithsonian and Harvard (either of the latter of whom had a responsibility to eliminate such rhetoric when working doubtless from Dr. King's presentation materials) to consciously pretend (and it was demonstrably a conscious pretense) that the only opposition to Dr. King's arguments and data set (i.e. the text and its legitimacy and interpretation) came from people ideologically troubled by the text's claims somehow, who were only offering their ideological troubles (in effect) as rebuttal to Dr. King -- especially when Dr. King's whole approach was steeped in and colored by her own flagrant ideological agendas about what the content of the texts surely must mean. This wasn't just the pot calling the kettle black, this was the pot calling the kettle marijuana.

I fully expect there will never be any fallout from this for the parties involved. Because what does professional irresponsibility (at best) matter, compared to the chance to use even only the thinnest possible innuendo of suspicion to present a mere feeling that religious faith (and one specific type of religious faith) is being undermined somehow? Fraud of this sort is a victimless crime, as far as its perpetrators and their culture are concerned, and might even be helpful to the interests of the people involved despite having been exposed.

But even if I was sceptical of Christian religious claims, I would insist that this kind of thing must stop! Would it not be better to let Christians (from this perspective) be the ones who are so desperate to promote and save their positions that they're uncritically eager to latch onto the thinnest possible support, and then to outright and repeatedly cheat in order to make that support look meaningful? The truth cannot be served by lies, even lies told about an otherwise innocuous scrap of almost unintelligible fluff from the 700s or 800s

Look, I want to be fair, and I try to be fair. Past articles clearly demonstrate I don't normally attribute malicious intention to opponents. I know perfectly well that people on all sides of the aisle can and sometimes do miss seeing The Invisible Gorilla (a famous perception experiment worth an article in itself someday) standing out in plain sight for protracted periods of time.

But the evidence of how Dr. King, and her associates at the Smithsonian and the Harvard Divinity School, have treated this text, shows malicious intention on their part. Part of me wants to be sorry about the scourging Dr. King might (but realistically, probably won't) be getting as the media pointman on this topic -- but then I remember she didn't only ask for it, she demanded it. If the text had been soberly presented in a proper scholarly process, maybe there would have been some knee-jerk poohing of it, but mostly it would have been a technical issue to be studied pro or con, not worth being worked up about.

And she didn't want that. She didn't want to humanize and normalize the dialogue. And no, her/their public marketing was not an attempt at doing that by bringing the public into a situation of specialist critique. That would have been a laudable goal, but there were ways to try that which wouldn't have involved doing what she, Harvard, and the Smithsonian actually did.

No, she/they wanted as many people to be worked up about it as much as possible. Which is the utter reverse of normalizing the dialogue, and only humanized it in the worst ways by trying to provoke knee-jerk responses.

They were also willing to short-circuit the proper study of the material in order to get people to be worked up about it as much as possible. Remember, the Smithsonian had already produced and was ready to release that documentary (with Dr. King's involvement and several other scholars pro or con -- but with the con scholars being presented as church-y authorities and the pro scholars being presented like professional scholars) without any positive scientific evidence at all for the fragments legitimacy! It was going to happen. A website had already been created and released at Harvard -- it was only modified when they finally got a usable radiocarbon date. Peer review results of the article were the only reason brakes were stomped (sort of) until radiocarbon dating could be done. The moment a somewhat favorable result was (finally) reached, all the naysayers, including those whose critiques as peers in peer review were strong enough to put temporary brakes on the project, were dismissed under the rubric of having no, emphatically no, reason to object other than ideological dismay about the contents. And remember, those dismissals were launched in articles and a media campaign that was coordinated for Easter week, a time that had literally no connection at all to the Jesus Wife Fragment (or "The Gospel of Jesus' Wife" as its proponents insisted on calling it for no good reason) except that people were being especially reverent about Jesus that week.

So Dr. King insisted on getting the attention -- at any cost. And Harvard insisted on it. And the Smithsonian reaaallly insisted on it.

And now, they've got it.

But everyone has already made their money on it (except maybe Fritz), so they'll quietly whiffle it away -- while still promoting it quietly for as long as they think they can get away with it -- and ten years from now some fringe people will still be talking about the Gospel of Jesus' Wife, as though it means anything more or other than the willingness of honored scholars and institutions to hoax people.

Because they wouldn't have been complicit in this mess to begin with, had they been truly willing to avoid promoting a hoax.


Rant achieved! Registering for comment tracking.


really good arteriole Jason but need more backgrounjd

I thought I provided lots and lots of background as I went! {g}

But in case that wasn't a humorous poke at the length of the article, I'll move up a reference link to a previous Cadre article from Easter season 2014. (A number of things have happened since then of course.)


no I really not followed that case at all

Jason, fantastic article. I disagree with Joe - you provided plenty of information and links to know get the background story. This may be the best entry you have written for the CADRE. Nice job. I hung on every word, and agree totally with you.

Thanks, BK; I'm glad I was even coherent! {lol!}

If you haven't done so yet, you should read Sabar's article, too. Despite my problems with his spin, his work on hunting down the owner is laudable and not a little freakish. The final interview will make your skin crawl! -- it made Sabar's, for good reason.

I should probably do a follow-up article on the 1st century Mummy!Mark fragments, which last I heard through the grapevine at the start of the year were still a going concern. Even if they're legitimate, we should manage our expectations -- which I know we did waaaay back in an article when we first heard rumors of it, but given the implosion going on with this fiasco a re-iteration of what can be reasonably expected or not expected would be nice.


Slight but unsurprising non-update: David Hempton, Dean of the Harvard Divinity School, added a short update to the page today sometime (before 2:50pm Central Standard), acknowledging the Atlantic Monthly article; Dr. King's follow-up statement to the Atlantic; and an interview with the Boston Globe (which can be found here) where she now thinks all the provenance material provided by Walter Fitz were fabrications.

The key paragraph at the end of the short update (which, as noted above, was the first and only since March 2014), reads:

"The mission of Harvard Divinity School, its faculty, and higher education more generally is to pursue truth through scholarship, investigation, and vigorous debate. HDS is therefore grateful to the many scholars, scientists, technicians, and journalists who have devoted their expertise to understanding the background and meaning of the papyrus fragment. HDS welcomes these contributions and will continue to treat the questions raised by them with all the seriousness they deserve."

Well, y'all sure didn't treat them very seriously back in March 2014! -- including the provenance question, which you should have treated with utmost seriousness long, lonnnnnng before October 2012.


Opps, forgot to add the link to the Boston Globe article:

The dodging of personal responsibility in this mess by Dr. King is par for the course. She clearly expects people to give her a pass in pity for her now.


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