Is the “Jesus Wife” Fragment from a Gospel or Codex?
by James Tabor
And so I would like to suggest that nothing that Watson presents in his article indicates that the work is a modern forgery, or even that calling it an ancient “fake” will usefully contribute to our understanding of the text.
Prof. James F. McGrath, Exploring Our Matrix.
Last night at dinner with friends the “Jesus wife” text was predictably brought up. The question of the hour seemed to be–just what is this text? Was it likely part of a larger “Gospel,” a treatise or tract, or just what? Karen King, who announced the discovery last week has dubbed it the “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife,” suggesting it is possibly a fragment of a sheet from a codex–meaning it would be written on both sides like printed page of a modern book–though she is not certain. However, the photo of the other side, that not too many people have given much attention to this past week, makes one wonder about this assumption.
As you can see it is very faded, with six rather than eight lines of text. There appears to be a kollesis, where two sheets of papyrus are bonded together, visible in the middle. If there are letters on the right side I can not see them in this photo but it is possible that they are “abraded” or faded away, as Karen King suggests in her article–and since I have not seen the actual papyrus in good light, or the infrared photos, I am not really in a position to comment. Of the six lines only three are clear enough to offer a possible reading:
1 ] my moth[er
2 ] three [
4 ] forth which … [
5 ] (illegible ink traces)
6 ] (illegible ink traces)
Frankly, from the photograph alone I can not make out any of these words. I have to agree with Prof. King and her consultants that this verso side, with its faded letters and spacing, argue strongly for authenticity. It is just unlikely that a forger would have, or could have, produced something like this, instead of offering another matching eight line text to tantalize and fool the experts. I am inclined to wonder if this fragment is a page from a codex at all. It might well be something else–a kind of tract or letter of some kind? Unless more fragments turn up that can be connected to this one I suppose we will never know.