Harvard scholar admits 'Jesus' wife' papyrus fragment likely fake

by Elizabeth A. Elliott

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The Harvard professor who caused a stir in 2012 when her published findings about a papyrus fragment, thought to be from a Coptic gospel, fueled speculation that Jesus was married, has conceded the fragment is most likely a fake.

Emily McFarlan Miller details the unraveling of  "The Gospel of Jesus' Wife," by Karen L. King, the Hollis Professor of Divinity at Harvard University, in a piece for Religion News Service: Harvard scholar admits ‘Gospel of Jesus’ Wife’ is likely a forgery

King made the admission in an interview with The Boston Globe, after The Atlantic published the results of an investigation into King’s research.

Harvard Divinity School posted a statement yesterday from dean David N. Hempton.

"The June 15, 2016, issue of The Atlantic Monthly published an article entitled The Unbelievable Tale of Jesus's Wife. The article called into question the provenance and authenticity of a papyrus fragment, purportedly stating ‘Jesus said to them, My wife’ that is the subject of research by Professor Karen King of Harvard Divinity School," the statement read.

Hempton said that the mission of Harvard Divinity School 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," according to the statement. "HDS welcomes these contributions and will continue to treat the questions raised by them with all the seriousness they deserve."

While back in 2012, the Vatican called the papyrus fragment -- contains just 33 words across 14 lines -- a clumsy fake, expert papyrologists and scientific tests concluded it was likely authentic, according to King.

King received it from an anonymous collector and said in her original paper "nothing is known about the circumstances of its original discovery or early ownership," according to RNS.

The Atlantic traced its ownership to William Fritz, of Florida, who studied Coptic and spent years at Free University's Egyptology institute in Berlin, according to RNS.

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