Friday, April 11, 2014

"Gospel of Jesus' Wife" Not A Fake: What That Actually Means

Recently, the papyrus named the "Gospel of Jesus' Wife" has been receiving a lot of attention from the mainstream media. It's a papyrus found in Harvard University's collection written in Coptic (ancient Egyptian.) There are eight mostly legible lines on the front and six faded lines on the back. The entire fragment is around the size of a business card.

When experts call it "not a fake," it doesn't mean that Jesus wrote it or that Jesus' wife wrote it. What it means is that it dates back to the time period it claims to be from, which in this case is the sixth to ninth centuries (at minimum) and possibly as far back as the fourth century AD. A lot of church scholars and the Vatican immediately dismissed it as a fake without any analysis because it conflicts with their beliefs.

What the papyrus actually tells us is that ancient Egyptian Christians believed that Jesus could have had a wife. It doesn't offer any strong evidence that he did, it simply gives us a better look at prevailing opinions and attitudes among the Christian community of the time.

There are too many people that are all too willing to cover their ears and yell "I'm not listening" over and over when they hear something that conflicts with their belief or opinion. That's not how you learn and that retards your growth. New evidence is always something that should be considered. Once you look at the new evidence and hear an opinion contrary to your own on the subject, then you have more of a reason to say something like "I don't agree with that" or "I don't believe that." Saying those things without listening to new evidence just because that's not the way you want the world to be makes your opinion easy to disregard because its an uninformed opinion.

Brown University Egyptology professor Leo Depuydt argues that the fragment is a fake. He gives two main reasons:

1. The papyrus makes too many grammatical mistakes that a native Coptic writer wouldn't have made.
2. The papyrus contains "a patchwork of words and phrases from the published and well-known Coptic Gospel of Thomas."

So there is a renowned academic who claims that the fragment is a fake. The difference between his opinion and an uniformed one is that he's an Egyptology professor who examined the papyrus and came to conclusions based on what he saw. He didn't simply say "I'm a really smart guy and I don't like this. It's obviously a fake. Listen to me, I know what I'm talking about." He looked at the new evidence before he formed his opinion (which is based on his observations.)

For a while now I've wanted to find time to read the Gospel of Thomas, just for fun. After this, I might actually go do it. It would be interesting to compare the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Jesus' Wife. I just need to find a little extra time. New information is not the devil, even if it contradicts what we currently believe. As a person with a degree in history, I was always taught to keep an open mind because new authentic evidence could appear tomorrow that refutes the prevailing academic theory of the time. If you'd like to read more about what the papyrus actually says, check out the Huffington Post article on the topic, which you can read here.

1 comment:

  1. does it make a difference? .... did Jesus have women companions? Did Buhdda ?, Did Mohammed? They were all men that wanted to make the world a better place! ..and suceeded!