And what can you tell us about this recently published fragment of papyrus known as “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife” in which Jesus refers to “my wife”, Mary?
The so-called Gospel of Jesus’s Wife? Nothing more than what we already know. Christian Askeland of Indiana Wesleyan University has definitively demonstrated that the fragment is a modern forgery.
Did you suspect that?
Not you? No offense to Karen Leigh King, the editor of this text, but it already had all the characteristics of a forgery, including the complete lack of traceability. And it seems obvious that its content has been written only to meet the concerns of the modern public. As if by chance, the famous words “the Wife of Jesus” are the only real novelty of this pseudo-document!
When did it appear?
In 1982. And this is no coincidence! 1982 is the year of publication of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, a successful essay in which Mary Magdalene is presented as the companion of Jesus. Dan Brown was also inspired by this book when he was writing TheDa Vinci Code.
And how did the forger produce it?
It is relatively simple. He first bought an old piece of papyrus: it can be found in antique markets. He then cut it and reduced it to the size of a credit card.
I see: the smaller the writing support, the shorter the text and the more difficult it is to unmask the fraud.
Yes indeed, but not only: the cutting was skilfully carried out. It was important for the forger to prevent continued reading of the text.
And what about the ink?
Unlike the writing support, the ink is recent. The counterfeiter made it himself with soot. But, of course, there is a too small quantity of ink on the fragment for a carbon-14 analysis to be done. Therefore, the text itself cannot be dated precisely.
But then how was the forgery proven?
Thanks to the text itself: he needed a template. That is what betrayed him. He copied some parts of Coptic manuscripts of which he had photographs (they are all downloadable now in PDF format): Askeland identified them with precision. Ultimately, all of these precautions proved useless. As Abraham Lincoln said (or would have said): “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.”