Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Jesus' Wife is Dead

The story about the Jesus' wife papyri seems to have run its course. The biggest news to come out in the last  few weeks is that it looks like the script on the fragment may have been copied from a Gospel of Thomas website. The reason this has been suggested is that the version of Thomas on the website has a typo, the scholar transcribing the text left out the direct object marker. When the papyri is compared to the website it has the same typo. It looks like someone may have forged the fragment from the website, but didn't know Coptic or Thomas well enough to realize the problem.

For more on the story see:
Mark Goodacre  and James McGrath. Also, a nice overview of the story and how it has played out can be found in the Guardian, the NYPOST and Tech News Daily.

May she and this story rest in peace.


  1. Amen.
    As an aside, I read Dr. King's draft article for HTR, and found some potential parallels from the Wisdom of Solomon (a popular deuterocanonical work in the early Church, along with its cousins, Sirach and Proverbs) and the Gospel of Jesus’s Wife:

    GosJesWife 4 ]……” Jesus said to them, “My wife…
    GosJesWife 5 ]… she will be able to be my disciple . . .
    Wisdom 8:2] I loved her (sophia) and sought her from my youth, and I desired to take her for my bride and I became enamored with her beauty.

    GosJesWife 6 ] Let wicked people swell up …
    Wisdom 7:25] For she is a breath of the power of God, and a pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty; therefore nothing defiled gains entrance into her.

    GosJesWife 7] As for me, I dwell with her in order to ...
    Wisdom 8:9] Therefore I determined to take her to live with me.

    GosJesWife 8] …an image…
    Wisdom 7:26] For she is a reflection of the eternal light, a spotless mirror of the working God, and an image of his goodness.

    In the same vein, in citation 79 (pg 35)of her paper, Dr. King noted the proximity of wisdom/sophia, koinônos and Mary Magdalene in a pericope from the Gospel of Phillip (GosPhil 63:29-64:5), though, not suprisingly, she disputed Dr. Schenke’s reading of the passage, which made wisdom Jesus’ consort rather than Mary. In any case, I would think that the heretical sects (Marcionites, Ebionites, et al.) with non-divinity and/or pseudo-adoptionist creeds might have found a spiritual marriage between Jesus and Sophia (rather than Jesus himself embodying Wisdom and the logos) to be a fitting theological allegory.

    As B. Metzger pointed out in The Canon of the New Testament, no scholar has satisfactorily explained the inclusion of Wisdom in the Muratorian catalogue.

  2. Hans-Martin Schenke was one of the best on the Gospel of Philip. I twice had him as a professor (seminars). He knew his stuff, and was a wonderful teacher (he would come to seminar with 5-6 pages of prepared notes for the students).
    I think the issue of Jesus and the divine feminine (generally speaking) is worth pursuing, but it is far more complex and difficult than only abstracting (platonized) Hellenistic texts will reveal.

    1. Thank you for the reply, sir! I really appreciate the anecdote about Professor Schenke. I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment, though my narrow goal was simply to raise the idea of possible textual similitudes between GosJesWife and a widely circulated piece of wisdom lit amongst the church fathers and heresiarchs, who were themselves quite a Hellenized lot (their affinity for Philo and Neo-Platonist ideas being well known). I was disappointed that Dr. King only begrudgingly mentioned Dr. Schenke’s analysis and the relevant pericope from Phillip, which she had truncated in the main body of her article to exclude the section about wisdom, in her footnotes.
      I’m an amateur (BA in History, with no formal theological or biblical language training), but when this ‘Jesus wife’ story broke, I was struck by the fact that two chapters of Wisdom (7 and 8)also contain first-person metaphors about matrimony, cohabitation and collaboration with the ‘divine feminine’. One additional item I forgot to mention was that the first extant lines of this ‘gospel’ and the opening of Wisdom 7 begin with the narrator declaring that he is the offspring of a human mother. I guess what I am suggesting is that if this thing was written in the 3rd or 4th century AD, which I think most of us doubt, the (Gnostic) author may have been borrowing from what he viewed as a canonical prophetic text.