Fr Stephen Smuts

Posts Tagged ‘Textual

Harvard Theological Review Rejects ‘Jesus’ Wife’

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Via First Things:

The rumor is that Harvard Theological Review is now declining to publish Karen King’s paper (available here as a draft pdf) on the Coptic fragment she calls the “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife.” It’s a rumor that appears to be true, as New Testament scholar Craig Evans writes:

Is the Coptic papyrus, in which Jesus speaks of his “wife,” a fake? Probably. We are far from a “consensus,” but one scholar after another and one Coptologist after another has weighed in pointing out serious problems with the paleography, the syntax, and the very troubling fact that almost all of the text has been extracted from the Gospel of Thomas (principally from logia 30, 101, and 114). I suspect the papyrus itself is probably quite old, perhaps fourth or fifth century, but the oddly written (or painted) letters on the recto side are probably modern and probably reflect recent interest in Jesus and Mary Magdalene. The decision of the editors of Harvard Theological Review not to publish Karen King’s paper is very wise. Perhaps we will eventually learn more about who actually produced this text.

The ultimate source is apparently the great Harvard scholar Helmut Koester. The academic world is quickly becoming skeptical about the ancient provenance of this fragment. Perhaps more interesting and of more enduring significance than the fragment itself is the role the internet has played in the debate. We have had a draft of King’s paper, photos of the fragment itself, and serious and measured responses from leading scholars all made available to the public, along with the typical professional hysteria in the media and amateur hysteria in the blogosphere.

Is there a downside? Perhaps. In theory, this is the sort of debate that should be carried out in journals over months and years, so scholarship can get it right. (Note the parallels with journalism: the pressure to get it first and the pressure to get it right work against each other.) In this case, I think Watson and others contesting the fragment’s authenticity are getting it right — I’m no papyrologist, but it seems to me most likely that the fragment is a modern forgery — and I think that their work has been careful and solid. Yet time and peer review are lacking. What if we will have been too hasty in dismissing the fragment?

We happen to live in a media and internet age, however, and as sensationalism abounds I think it’s well and good that sober scholars like Francis Watson and Mark Goodacre (to whom credit goes for the h/t on this story) have the ability to react in real time. Of course, they were also trained as scholars in a prior age, meaning more than ten years ago; one wonders if a younger generation of scholars raised in internet culture will be as painstaking and measured as they.

Thought experiment: How different would things have been if the Dead Sea Scrolls had been discovered in the internet age?


Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

September 26, 2012 at 08:45

Byzantine Manuscripts Restoration

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How to repair a Byzantine Manuscript:

HT: Byzantine News


Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

March 3, 2012 at 10:05

Is this the Earliest New Testament Manuscript?

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[Background here.]

This manuscript is supposedly from St Mark’s Gospel – 5:15-18. The photo, which is doing the blog rounds, is posted and discussed here.



Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

February 21, 2012 at 05:38

The Earliest Manuscript of Mark’s Gospel?

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Near Emmaus:

According to Daniel B. Wallace the earliest manuscript of the Gospel of Mark has been discovered (see “Ehrman vs. Wallace: Round Three”). He writes the following in reference to a recent debate he had with Bart D. Ehrman:

“We have as many as eighteen second-century manuscripts (six of which were recently discovered and not yet catalogued) and a first-century manuscript of Mark’s Gospel! Altogether, more than 43% of the 8000 or so verses in the NT are found in these papyri. Bart had explicitly said that our earliest copy of Mark was from c. 200 CE, but this is now incorrect. It’s from the firstcentury. I mentioned these new manuscript finds and told the audience that a book will be published by E. J. Brill in about a year that gives all the data. (In the Q & A, Bart questioned the validity of the first-century Mark fragment. I noted that a world-class paleographer, a man who had no religious affiliation and thus was not biased toward an early date, was my source. Bart said that even so, we don’t have thousands of manuscripts from the first century! That kind of skepticism is incomprehensible to me.)”

It will be interesting to see what the scholarly community says about this in the months to come.


Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

February 6, 2012 at 13:52

Jordan Lead Codices: Exposing the Fakes

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Here is a great video that aims to explain why it is that the Jordan Lead Codices are to be considered fake:


For a background to these Codices, which came to light this year, click here, here, or here.

Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

September 3, 2011 at 18:20

Metal Codices to be Examined by Multiple Labs

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Bible via the ever vigilant Joseph Lauer:

This article in the Jordan Times has some new information about the metal codices, particularly with regard to the seven books recently recovered by Jordanian police. 

Authorities are set to send the recently recovered books to three separate labs for further analysis – in Britain, the US and at the Royal Scientific Society in Amman – in order to determine if the texts are indeed “the greatest discovery since the Dead Sea scrolls” or little more than sophisticated forgeries.

According to Saad, it will take experts three weeks to complete the tests on the recently recovered texts.

“Our position is quite clear; we need to make sure these pieces are authentic before moving forward with our case,” Saad added.

Hassan Saida, the Israeli bedouin farmer who is currently holding the cache at an undisclosed location near his home in the village of Um Al Ghanem, insists that the lead-sealed texts were passed down from his grandfather, who stumbled upon the cache while tending to his flock in northern Jordan in the early 1920s.

Saida has dismissed the department’s claims that the books were illegally excavated from Jordan some four years ago as a “publicity stunt”.

“They [the Jordanian Department of Antiquities] are going about making all these claims about these codices and they don’t even know what they are,” Saida told The Jordan Times recently.

Rather than the records of the earliest Christians, Saida claims he has proof that the books date back even earlier – predating the time of Christ – and are strictly “ancient Hebrew texts” which he intends to place in an Israeli museum.

The Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA) has previously cast doubt over the books’ authenticity and denied any interest in the texts.

The full article has more details. 

For a background on the Codices on this blog, go here, here, here, here, here, or here.

Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

April 30, 2011 at 09:52

Expert’s Evidence for Jesus’ Crucifixion

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Could these be the actual words of Jesus’ crucifixion charge sheet in the Munich Talmud?

Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

April 5, 2011 at 16:18


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