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« Challenge Response: Shouldn't Christians Retreat? | Main | How Can I Trust the Gospel Accounts When Some Are Missing Important Details? »

April 11, 2014


This is proves, if anything, that people were skeptics and sensationalist (a.k.a., stinkers) even back in the 4th century. :^)

"This is proves, if anything, that people were skeptics and sensationalist (a.k.a., stinkers) even back in the 4th century. :^)

We even a record in the actual NT itself of this kind of behaviour...when the tomb guards reported to the Pharisees Jesus' resurrection, notice the lie they concocted: a conspiracy theory. So skepticism goes back even to the 1st century!

I've looked at the text and read the arguments.

I'm not convinced that the text isn't a reference to Christ's wife...the Church.

I agree with you, on that, WL. That was my very first thought when the fragment first appeared. Although, I still don't understand how it could not be a forgery, given that it replicates the exact error of an online version of the text it's quoting. Maybe they have a reasonable explanation for that now.

Although, I still don't understand how it could not be a forgery, given that it replicates the exact error of an online version of the text it's quoting.
I don't think there's much we can really infer from that sort of 'evidence' of dependence.

The argument is like this (What I about to give is an English analog that shows the basic form of the argument).

In the argument below, the bits in brackets are where the manuscript is damaged and scholars have filled in as best they could

  1. A fragment of Thomas says "For my mother [...], but my true [mother] gave me life."
  2. An online PDF transcription of the same portion of the Gospel of Thomas says "For my mother [...], but my true [mother] gave me ife"
  3. The Jesus' Wife Fragment says "My mother gave to me i[fe…]"
  4. THEREFORE, because of the copying of the erroneous "ife" for "life", the Jesus' Wife fragment is a forgery based on the online PDF.
By itself this argument is a joke. The rest of the Jesus' Wife fragment is different from the portion of the Gospel of Thomas surrounding the typo. What are we supposed to think? That for that one line of text the forger copied this online edition?

Actually, yes, that's what we're supposed to think.

Very little could induce me to think that way. But let's pretend for a bit that we ignore all the good general reasons we have for bursting out in derisive laughter on that.

Notice that the word where the initial letter is supposedly left out by scribal error, the word for "life", is itself only half there in the Jesus' Wife fragment, because of manuscript damage.

I don't think there's even sufficient reason to translate that word as "life". Let alone infer a scribal error.

Details: In Coptic, the word for "life" used in the Gospel of Thomas has five letters. In the Jesus' wife fragment, if the corresponding word is "life", we are missing the last two letters because of damage, and we infer that the first letter is left out by scribal error.

That leaves two letters that are actually on the fragment. Well guess what? The second of these two survivors is really only halfway there, again because of damage.

So we have, really, one and a half letters from the five-letter word for "life". I'm already convinced that we simply do not know that the word even is the word for "life".

To return to the english analogy, for all we know, the text that contained the Jesus' wife fragment actually reported that Jesus said that his mother gave him an illness. (The letter "i" being the second letter in "life" and the letter "l" being kinda like half of the third letter in "life").

Actually, the case is even worse for the word with the typo being "life". In the Gospel of Thomas, the first two letters of the word translated as "life" actually mean something like "of the". The fact that the whole thing means "of the life" doesn't even come in until you add the third, fourth and fifth letters. Well, in the Jesus' Wife manuscript, the fourth and fifth letters just aren't there, and you only have half of the third letter.

So really, we're supposed to assume that the word where the supposed typo was copied is "life", the word that the entire argument for forgery rests upon, based on half a letter.

No sale.

But Bernhardt and presumably Goodacre also think the rest of the fragment shows 'dependence' line-by-line on the Gospel of Thomas. So the forger is actually cribbing the whole text from Thomas, presumably from the the online PDF as 'proven' by the typo.

Here's what the Jesus' Wife fragment says:

  1. “not [to] me. My mother gave to me {something with a 'pi' and maybe an 'omega'}…”
  2. The disciples said to Jesus, “
  3. deny. Mary is worthy of it
  4. …” Jesus said to them, “My wife…
  5. …she will be able to be my disciple…
  6. Let wicked people swell up…
  7. As for me, I dwell with her in order to…
  8. an image ”
Apart from line 1, which we have already discussed, the supposed dependence on the Gospel of Thomas is that, for example, the phrase found on line 2, "The disciples said to Jesus" actually also occurs in several places in the Gospel of Thomas exactly the same way as it does in the Jesus' Wife fragment! What an unusual phrase to be repeated!

What's more, the words "deny", "Mary" and "worthy" found on line 3, are also used in the Gospel of Thomas. My goodness, Dr. King might as well have just rolled out a Xerox machine to make this obvious copy!

The arguments from Bernhardt's article go downhill from there, I won't bother.

My view is that there is not even a prima facie case to be made for contemporary forgery from this. Especially when carbon dating places it in the 700s

What there is a prima facie case for is that we produce too many Ph.D.'s in this field. So we end up with a mob of clever people scrambling to say anything just to get some recognition.

The same, of course, goes for Dr. Karen King who's as ridiculous in her claims about what the fragment shows as Bernhardt and Goodacre were in their dismissal of it as fake. She called the fragment The Gospel of Jesus' Wife (Yes, she really called it that.) To her credit, Dr. King does, at least now, not think that it is any evidence at all for the idea that Jesus was let's give her that much. However, she thinks it has a lot to say about what historical Christians thought about whether Jesus' was married.

Minus one.

It has nothing to say about that question either.

The fragment is not a contemporary forgery, but it proves absolutely nothing. Even if the text it came from is the most coldly accurate portrayal ever written of the life of Jesus. Here's what it tells us:

  1. Jesus said His mother gave Him something.
  2. The disciples said something to Jesus.
  3. One of the three or four women named "Mary" in Jesus' life is worthy of something-we-know-not-what.
  4. Jesus said something that began with the words "My wife"
  5. The idea that some unknown woman will be able to be some unknown person's disciple was considered in some unknown way.
  6. Someone decreed that wicked people would swell up.
  7. Some unknown person decided to dwell with some unknown woman.


Just to be clear, I was directing my last screed against Bernhardt, Goodacre, King and in general, scholars who ought to know better. I used your fairly innocent remark as a jumping off point. I was not lumping you in with them.

"My view is that there is not even a prima facie case to be made for contemporary forgery from this. Especially when carbon dating places it in the 700s."

Totally agree, and I think clearing the waters in this manner actually highlights what is the real issue, that even though this most likely is an authentic document in terms of an actual manuscript of something, it still holds no more weight or bearing on the facts of Jesus' life than do any other texts that make a pretense at being gospel...

In other words, given that it came from the 700s, and let's even assume it mentions something about Jesus' having a wife, I find the conclusion that therefore Jesus must have had a wife equally laughable in light of infinitely stronger evidence from the 4 actual Gospels...

Thanks y. I agree with your argument.

But there is more to learn here. The methodology used by Bernhardt to 'establish' that the fragment was faked is standard scholarship in this area. There are some scholars so convinced by the 'proof' of fakery that, in spite of the physical evidence to the contrary, they still believe it to be a fake.

This is the same methodology by which clever scholars confidently tell us about who wrote what in the Gospels, which bit was added later, who copied whom and so on. It is the method by which they prove the existence of all sorts of their fever-dreams like Q, proto-secret-Mark and on and on.

And, in my view, it is all claptrap.

It's claptrap here when it's used to 'prove' that a 1300 year-old manuscript is cribbed from a PDF. And it's claptrap when it's used to talk about the real Gospels.


His Bride is Mankind.

But, let us grant our own regular marriage to a woman despite evidence saying otherwise.

Is this supposed to be "sin"?

Or what?

Or are we to infer that the man Jesus never actually chewed real fish, swallowed, and so on, all the way to the end of the gastrointestinal tract?

Or what?

Or perhaps we think the man Jesus couldn't find it in himself to love a human being as a human being, that no one could be found to be a beloved, for, after all, we're all so unworthy, and he'd never "actually" love a "real" human being?

Or what?

Obviously the evidence is otherwise, but, I am still unclear on what is supposed to be "lost" if the man Jesus married / had a wife.


Who cares.

Can someone show me where in the NT/OT it states of him, "he never had a wife", etc.?

Such may be in there, tough, I don't recall.


I don't recall either whether there really is something to suggest that Jesus was or wasn't married. I suppose that this difficulty would arise if he were married: people would then immediately speculate that he might have had children.

My big point in this thread was not really to weigh in on that, but to highlight the methodology scholars use in this area. A methodology they apply equally to the Bible itself to tell all sorts of wonderful fairy tales about where the Bible came from. I'm actually glad that the fragment turned out not to be fake, because it is an excellent example of the use of some of their methods to definitively 'prove' something that just ain't so.

Anything written in 669 AD/CE is a forgery and a fraud. Please call it for what it is. Granted, it maybe an "original" fraud and a forgery written in 669 AD.

The cable TV series: The Bible Hunters indicates there are "early Christian writings" that date to between 100 to 200 AD, fully 70 plus years after Jesus' crucifiction....but the funny part is that NONE of these early Christian writings are considered in either the King James Version, or the Codex Sinaticus.

What does this mean? It means, that over time, what ever Christian origins there are, there were dozens of people just making stuff up...very few of whom agreed with each other.

Primitive and superstitious people with no knowledge of science, outside of the 4th Century BC Greek Atheists could discern physical facts and reality from the delusions arising out of their own imaginations.

How sad it is today, that so called preachers and priests...continue to function like ignorant, primitive and superstitious frauds, who insist that we call them "scientific scholars" when in fact they are just liars and apologists.

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