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Harvard professor forced to admit ‘Gospel of Jesus’ Wife’ papyrus likely fake

Harvard Divinity Professor Karen King – who caused a worldwide controversy in 2012 when she unveiled a 4th Century papyrus fragment that implied Jesus was married – has basically admitted the scrap is a forgery.

“It appears now that all the material Fritz gave to me concerning the provenance of the papyrus . . . were fabrications,” King recently told the Boston Globe in response to some intrepid reporting by Ariel Sabar in The Atlantic, who tirelessly pursued leads to identify the papyrus’ owner and ultimately discovered the entire situation is beyond fishy.

King prompted international headlines when she unveiled the 1.5-by-3 inch, honey-colored scrap of papyrus paper that had allegedly hailed from Egypt and that she dubbed “The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife.” It states in Coptic: “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife . . . I dwell with her…’ ”

harvardjesusAfter its debut, the scrap was roundly criticized by scholars across the globe, and the fragment underwent scientific testing.

MORE: Harvard Professor Challenges Jesus’ Celibacy

Sabar, who hunted down the owner of the papyrus, Walter Fritz, said he ultimately discovered a “wild tale” about Fritz, who once had ties to the porn industry and claims he was raped by a priest as a young boy, The Atlantic reports.

In the end, Fritz criticized how Professor King handled the whole affair in a telling interview with Sabar:

Over lunch, he said he admired King’s tenacity: She had held her ground in the face of relentless hostility and skepticism about the papyrus, at no small risk to her reputation. But he felt she’d made a cascade of strategic blunders that had exposed his papyrus to undue scrutiny and animus. Among those missteps, he said, was her sensational title for it; her decision to announce it just steps from the Vatican; and her mention, in her Harvard Theological Review article, of the 1982 Munro letter, which—if found “fishy”—could be used to tarnish the papyrus.

“If you know you are going into a confrontation, you just don’t provide ammunition to the other side,” he explained of his preference for less disclosure. Though King’s approach was perhaps “the most honest thing to do, it just wasn’t very smart.”

In other words, King’s grandstanding was the downfall of the “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife.” Funny, pride always seems to come before the fall.

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About the Author
Fix Editor
Jennifer Kabbany is editor-in-chief of The College Fix.