Reflecting on Forgery: Gospel of Jesus’ Wife Revisited

NTS61_03In April 2014, Harvard Theological Review published a barrage of articles on the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife…the controversial scrap of papyri that early Christian expert Karen King brought to light back in 2012. Although the edition was chock full of scientific studies dating the papyri and ink, by the time they hit the public, the academic community had already concluded that the writing was a modern forgery.

Since then we haven’t heard much about the fragment. As a “closed case,” academic bloggers didn’t really feel a need to talk about it (despite many among the public still viewing it as an authentic document…something i try to combat in my video blog over on YouTube).

Thankfully the academic journal New Testament Studies has provided the “autopsy” we’ve been needing that reflects on the hype surrounding the fragment. The tenor of this edition differs a lot from the HTS publication since all of these articles come from the understanding that the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife is indeed a forgery. So rather than slogging through dense chemical analyses, we get some interesting pieces on the context of forgery and how the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife gained “viral status” online.

Even better…all of these articles are open-access, so I highly recommend you check them out here.

What do you think? Why did the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife generate so much hype?


Andrew Henry is a PhD student in early Christianity at Boston University. His research focuses on the popular and domestic religion of the eastern Mediterranean, particularly the magico-religious rituals deployed to harness and direct ritual power.

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