Saturday, December 20, 2014

Podcasting Jesus on Duke devilTech

I sat down yesterday to talk to my friend and colleague Stephen Toback about my NT Pod and my future plans for the podcast, including venturing into video podcasting. We talked in Duke's new MPS studio, which I am greatly looking forward to using in the coming weeks. Our discussion, on the latest Duke devilTech, is available here:

Many thanks to Stephen for the invitation to appear on Duke devilTech and the chance to learn more about the MPS studio.

Jesus Films this Christmas

I am greatly looking forward to teaching a new course on Jesus in Film next semester here at Duke.  I'm encouraging those signed up for the class to begin their work over the break by seeking out Jesus films on the TV.  I have drawn up a list for them of films to look out for and it occurred to me that it would be worthwhile sharing it here on the blog too.  These are, of course, those available to those living in the USA:

Sunday 21 December:

The Bible (2013): History Channel

Monday 22 December

Bible Secrets Revealed (2013): History Channel

The Nativity Story (2006): AMC (repeated 23rd, 24th & 25th)

Tuesday 23 December

King of Kings (1961), TCM

Monday 29 December

The King of Kings (1927), TCM

For those who have have Netflix, the following films are also currently available:

Jesus of Nazareth (1977) [But note that this is the abridged movie version, not the full-length TV miniseries]

The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)

The Passion of the Christ (2004)

The Bible (2013)

For those who have Amazon Prime, the following film is also available:

The Greatest Story Ever Told (1964)

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Richard Bauckham, Assessing the Lost Gospel: All in one

All seven parts of Richard Bauckham's assessment of Simcha Jacobovici and Barrie Wilson, The Lost Gospel: Decoding the Ancient Text that Reveals Jesus' Marriage to Mary Magdalene (New York: Pegasus, 2014), are now available combined into one article, which I have uploaded here:

Assessing The Lost Gospel [PDF] [Word]

Many thanks to Steve Walton for doing this and sending it over.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Richard Bauckham, Assessing the Lost Gospel: All Seven Parts

Richard Bauckham's assessment of Simcha Jacobovici and Barrie Wilson, The Lost Gospel: Decoding the Ancient Text that Reveals Jesus' Marriage to Mary Magdalene (New York: Pegasus, 2014) is now complete.

I have been posting his responses over the last two weeks, and I am happy now to gather links to all seven parts here.  In each case, the main link is to a PDF of the article.  Word versions are linked in square brackets:

Part 1: The Chronicle of Pseudo-Zachariah Rhetor – Content and Context [PDF] [Word]

Part 2: Misinterpreting Ephrem [PDF] [Word]

Part 3: Misreading Joseph and Aseneth (i) [PDF] [Word]

Part 4: Responding to Simcha's Responses [PDF] [Word]

Part 5: Misreading Joseph and Aseneth (ii) [PDF] [Word]

Part 6: On Mary Magdalene and Magdala [PDF] [Word]

Part 7: Conclusion and Pauline Postscript [PDF] [Word]

Many thanks to Prof. Bauckham for this fine, detailed critical analysis.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Richard Bauckham, Assessing the Lost Gospel, Part 7

Here is the seventh and final instalment of Richard Bauckham's assessment of the new book by Simcha Jacobovici and Barrie Wilson, The Lost Gospel.

Assessing the Lost Gospel
Part 7: Conclusion and Pauline Postscript

by Richard Bauckham

The above link is to a PDF of the article.  A Word version is also available.  Part 1 is here. Part 2 is herePart 3 is here. Part 4 is here. Part 5 is here. Part 6 is here.

I will gather all seven parts into a single post a little later on for ease of access.

I would like to thank Prof. Bauckham, on behalf of all the readers of this blog, for a masterful series of articles.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Richard Bauckham, Assessing the Lost Gospel, Part 6

Here is the sixth instalment of Richard Bauckham's assessment of the new book by Simcha Jacobovici and Barrie Wilson, The Lost Gospel.

Assessing the Lost Gospel
Part 6: On Mary Magdalene and Magdala

by Richard Bauckham

The above link is to a PDF of the article.  A Word version is also available.  Part 1 is here. Part 2 is herePart 3 is here. Part 4 is here. Part 5 is here. (When the response is complete, I'll gather links to all the parts in a single post).

Richard Bauckham, Assessing the Lost Gospel, Part 5

Here is the fifth instalment of Richard Bauckham's assessment of the new book by Simcha Jacobovici and Barrie Wilson, The Lost Gospel. In it, he continues the response begun in Part 3: Misreading Joseph and Aseneth (i):

Assessing the Lost Gospel
Misreading Joseph and Aseneth (ii)

by Richard Bauckham

The above link is to a PDF of the article.  A Word version is also available.  Part 1 is here. Part 2 is herePart 3 is here. Part 4 is here.  (When the response is complete, I'll gather links to all the parts in a single post).

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Richard Bauckham, Assessing the Lost Gospel, Part 4

Here is the fourth instalment of Richard Bauckham's assessment of the new book by Simcha Jacobovici and Barrie Wilson, The Lost Gospel. In it, he responds to Simcha Jacobovici's Response to his reviews found here: Response to Prof. Bauckham’s critique of The Lost Gospel Part 1 and Part 2.

Assessing The Lost Gospel
Part 4: Responding to Simcha's Responses

by Richard Bauckham

The above link is to a PDF of the article.  A Word version is also available.  Part 1 is here. Part 2 is here and Part 3 is here.  (When the response is complete, I'll gather links to all the parts in a single post).

Richard Bauckham, Assessing the Lost Gospel, Part 3

Here is the third instalment of Richard Bauckham's assessment of the new book by Simcha Jacobovici and Barrie Wilson, The Lost Gospel:

Assessing The Lost Gospel
Part 3: Misreading Joseph and Aseneth (i)

by Richard Bauckham

The above link is to a PDF of the article.  A Word version is also available.  Part 1 is here. Part 2 is here.  (When the response is complete, I'll gather links to all the parts in a single post).

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Richard Bauckham, Assessing the Lost Gospel, Part 2

Here is the second instalment of Richard Bauckham's assessment of the new book by Simcha Jacobovici and Barrie Wilson, The Lost Gospel:

Assessing The Lost Gospel
Part 2: Misinterpreting Ephrem

by Richard Bauckham

The above link is to a PDF of the article.  A Word version is also available.  Part 1 is here.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Richard Bauckham, Assessing the Lost Gospel

I am delighted to be able to post here a piece by Richard Bauckham assessing the new book by Simcha Jacobovici and Barrie Wilson, The Lost Gospel:

Assessing The Lost Gospel
Part 1: The Chronicle of Pseudo-Zachariah Rhetor – Content and Context

by Richard Bauckham

The above is a link to a PDF of the article.  A Word version is also available.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

N. T. Wright, Why and How Paul Invented "Christian Theology" at Duke

In my previous post, I linked to the Tom Wright's Panel Discussion with Douglas Campbell, Ross Wagner and Susan Eastman at Duke Divinity School.  This was the first of several events in the area featuring N. T. Wright.  Yesterday lunchtime, Professor Wright gave a lecture "Why and How Paul Invented 'Christian Theology'" and with thanks to Reed Criswell, it is now available on Youtube here:

Make sure that you stay all the way to the end.  There are some enjoyable Q&As at the end, including one from Joel Marcus.

Tom Wright Panel Discussion with Douglas Campbell, Ross Wagner and Susan Eastman at Duke Divinity School

We have enjoyed having N. T. Wright visiting Duke this week.  Two of the events at which he spoke are now available to view online, with many thanks to Reed Criswell for his fine work in recording and uploading them.  The first is this panel discussion on Pauline Theology which took place on Monday evening:

I was able to get to this panel discussion and I must admit that I found it really compelling stuff. The participants are my colleagues over in the Divinity School Douglas Campbell, Ross Wagner and Susan Eastman. Richard Hays was the moderator. The event was absolutely packed out. Watching Douglas and Tom spar with one another was a particular highlight. There are some great moments. The video is about 90 minutes long.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Call for Papers: Gospel Interpretation and the Q Hypothesis

I'm happy to post the following call for papers for a conference next June in Roskilde, Denmark:

Call for papers

“Gospel Interpretation and the Q‐Hypothesis”

International Conference, 21 to 24 June 2015, Roskilde (Denmark)

Organizers: Mogens Müller, Stefan Nordgaard, Heike Omerzu

This year, in June, a group of colleagues from Copenhagen held a conference on the topic of ‘Luke’s Literary Creativity’. The conference, which was headed by Prof. Mogens Müller, gave rise to a lively discussion about the Q‐hypothesis and other possible ways of explaining the similarities between Luke and Matthew, including, above all, the Farrer, a.k.a. the L/M, hypothesis. The debate was so energetic and inspiring that we, the team of organizers, decided that we quite simply had to follow up on it with another conference exclusively devoted to the topic of Luke and the synoptic problem and with the participation of both Q‐believers, Q‐sceptics and scholars who as yet remain undecided on the issue.

We have now started organizing the conference and a number of the world’s leading scholars on the topic — Stefan Alkier, Eve‐Marie Becker, Mark Goodacre, Christoph Heil, Werner Kahl, John Kloppenborg, Shelly Matthews, Clare Rothschild, Hildegard Scherer, Christopher Tuckett, and Francis Watson — have agreed to participate. We feel confident that the conference will be able to significantly further the debate between Q‐believers and Q‐sceptics, and we wish to invite anyone with an interest in the issue of the synoptic problem to submit a paper proposal for the conference. In order to allow enough time for discussion we will select up to six papers.

Paper Proposals (not exceeding one page) are to be submitted to Prof. Mogens Müller ( or Prof. Heike Omerzu ( no later than 1 February 2015.  

Applicants will be informed by 20 February 2015 whether or not their papers have been accepted. Papers accepted for the conference will be distributed in advance among all participants and will be discussed rather than read at the conference. We intend to select respondents for each paper who will introduce the discussion by a critical examination of its argument. In order for us to be able to distribute the papers in advance, accepted papers (not exceeding 20 pages) should be submitted by 23 May 2015. After the conference, contributors may be invited to submit their papers for publication in a collected volume edited by the organizers.

The conference is free of charge. It will be held at Comwell Hotel in Roskilde (Denmark) ( All expenses for food and accommodation (though not travel) will be paid for by the organizers.


The conference call (PDF) is also available here.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Podcasts Update

I've updated the NT Gateway: Podcasts page with the two new podcasts that have been established recently, T. Michael Law's Septuagint Sessions and the T & T Clark Podcast, the first episode of which features Dominic Mattos interviewing Chris Keith.

Update (4 Nov. 2014): the second episode of the T & T Clark Podcast is now available and features an interview with Francesca Stavrakopoulou.

Markus Barth on Ephesians and Colossians

Over on New Testament Perspectives, Matthew Montonini has made available Markus Barth's Lectures on Ephesians and Colossians (audio), originally published on cassette in 1969, but now digitized.

I've added a link on the NT Gateway: Ephesians and Colossians page.

Update (4 Nov. 2014): Matthew was facing so much traffic on these files that people were no longer able to access them, so I have uploaded them to my webspace and Matthew has updated the links -- all are now working again.

New Online Journal: The Journal of the Jesus Movement in its Jewish Setting

Thanks to Stephen Goranson for the notice about this new venture from Eisenbrauns:

the Journal of the Jesus Movement in its Jewish Setting (JJMJS) -


JJMJS is a new interdisciplinary peer-reviewed online journal, published in cooperation with Eisenbrauns.

A rich variety of Jewish and Christian traditions and identities mutually shaped one another in the centuries-long course of Roman Late Antiquity. A no less rich variety of scholarly approaches – from the history of Christian Origins to that of the late empire, from archaeology to Dead Sea Scrolls, from Rabbinics to Patristics – has in recent years converged upon this period, the better to understand its religious and social dynamics. JJMJS seeks to facilitate and to encourage such scholarly investigations across disciplinary boundaries, and to make the results of cutting-edge research available to a worldwide audience.

JJMJS is free of charge with complete open access. The journal is published in cooperation with Eisenbrauns and will be available in hard copy, which can be ordered from Eisenbrauns.

To download individual articles please click here. If you would like to share your ideas and interact with the articles published in our journal, please visit our Forum page. We welcome your interest and warmly invite your collaboration in this new scholarly enterprise.

For further information about the journal, please see the introduction by the co-editors in issue 1 (2014) and the About tab.


The first issue includes articles by Mark Nanos, Dieter Roth, Jonathan Klawans and Craig Evans. I must admit that I rather like the interface they are using too -- nice and clear and easy to use.

I have added a link on the NT Gateway: Journals page.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Douglas Campbell: Framing Paul Book Trailer

Eerdmans have just released this book trailer for my colleague Douglas Campbell's new book, Framing Paul:


You can see more in a full interview here:

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Philippians Videos

I'm enjoying teaching the Life and Letters of Paul this semester at Duke.  Today we reached the Epistle to the Philippians and I found a new video which I previewed in class.  It's another of the St John's Nottingham videos, and features Paula Gooder in typically lucid form:

I've added it to the NT Gateway: Philippians page just above the also excellent Bibledex: Philippians video from the University of Nottingham.

Monday, August 04, 2014

"Fifty bob Dodd"

While doing some reading today on John's Gospel, I came across an enjoyable tidbit about the great New Testament scholar C. H. Dodd (1884-1973):

"[He] had gained notoriety among scholars as “fifty bob Dodd” for his first tome on John."

This is from G. L. Borchert, John 1–11 (The New American Commentary  Vol 25A; Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996): 40.  The reference is to Dodd's The Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1958).

Borchert explains in a footnote that "When Dodd’s work was first published, scarcely any commentary at the time had cost fifty shillings, and for scholars to purchase the work was a reflection of the high regard they had for his significant work."

Having read this, I then googled "fifty bob Dodd" and it turned out that it was a googlewhack. Not for long, I'd guess, as this blogpost is now likely to come up.  I wonder how long that will take?

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Jesus and Brian Conference, Day 2

William Telford and me
After a wonderful first day, the Jesus and Brian conference began again on Saturday morning with a paper from one of the real gurus of Jesus films, William Telford. He had a superb series of reflections on the ways in which the Life of Brian parodies the Jesus films, and his paper was superbly performed.  He does not just read his paper, in the manner all too common in the guild, but he acts it.  It was compelling stuff.

Just as compelling was the second paper, "Monty Python's Life of
Philip Davies and James Crossley
Jesus", in which first Philip Davies and then James Crossley took a more subversive look at the film and argued that it is not quite so benign in its intentions as it is depicted by Burridge and others.  After a coffee break, Helen Bond gave an eloquent and fascinating paper on laughing at crucifixion.

Helen Bond
The quality of the papers continued to be high. Guy Stiebel from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem talked about "Romanti Ite Domum: Identity and Expressions of Resistance in Judaea", with fine use of Powerpoint, including one picture of some kind of ancient phallus, which caused lots of sniggers (and some remarks about "bigus dickus").

Steve Mason
Last night I blogged about my hunger after the canape reception, but today I was forced to eat my words after we were treated to a delicious sandwich lunch, and I was even invited into the speakers' room where I got to hang out with the swells.  I do miss nice British sandwiches, so it was a treat, and I sneaked one last one in to enjoy with the first afternoon paper, Steve Mason on "What have the Romans ever done for us?", a really fascinating study of first century politics and relations between Judaea and Rome, with superb use of Powerpoint (and it's not often that you can say that).

Paula Fredriksen
After Steve Mason came one of my favourite scholars, Paula Fredriksen. I must admit that I still feel a little starstruck whenever  I talk to her.  Her paper was called "Are you a virgin? Biblical Exegesis and the Invention of Tradition" and the best use of clips from the film -- each short clip was followed by some reflections on the Biblical text.

The last session of the day kicked off with a fascinating piece by David Shepherd, who explored another Biblical parody, Wholly Moses, starring Dudley Moore, which was something of a critical and commercial failure.  Shepherd showed several clips and explored the difficulties with the film.  The second of his clips, in which Dudley Moore as Hershel "does God" after having come down from the mountain, I found hysterically funny, so much so that when my head fell backwards I knocked someone's bag off their desk. The last paper of the day was given by Aaron Rosen, who talked about "Sonofagod: Images of Jesus in Contemporary Art".

There was just enough time in between the end of the formal programme and the conference banquet for a swift pint in a German style bierkeller with big screens showing the World Cup, and we just caught Argentina beating Iran 1-0 in the closing minutes.

The conference dinner took place in the Inner Temple Hall, and was hosted by Robin Griffith-Jones.  Earlier in the day, Richard Burridge had mentioned that he would try to get a chance to introduce me to John Cleese, and I was delighted that he did so.  Here, for posterity is the pic.:

Richard Burridge, John Cleese, me
Joan Taylor kindly took the picture.  I was delighted to get the chance to chat to Cleese, who was utterly delightful.  At the dinner itself, the top brass sat on high table with Cleese, with Fredriksen to his left, Griffith-Jones to his right, and Ehrman opposite.  The food was excellent and the wine flowed pretty freely.  Afterwards, Cleese gave a short speech and then invited attendees to ask him questions about the film, with Michelle going around with the mic.  Cleese dealt graciously and amusingly with each of the questions and I could have listened to him all evening.  A really marvellous occasion.

Sadly, this wrapped up my attendance at a wonderful conference.  I had a conference in Roskilde, Denmark, to get to, on Luke's Rewritten Bible (on which, more anon), so I jumped on the tube to Victoria and the train to Gatwick, in time to grab a couple of hours' sleep before my early morning flight.

The conference did continue today (Sunday) with several great speakers including A-J Levine, Adele Reinhartz and Bart Ehrman.  I would also really have liked to hear Richard Burridge's talk about the Malcolm Muggeridge and Bishop Stockwood programme.  Perhaps I'll be able to catch up via the conference video.  As far as I could tell the whole thing was being video-ed.

This pic. is nicked from the T & T Clark twitter feed, via Jim West's blog, and depicts Joan Taylor interviewing film editor Julian Doyle:

Joan Taylor and Julian Doyle
It's appropriate to conclude with a picture of Joan Taylor, who did so much hard work to make this conference a success.  It was a brilliant idea for a conference, superbly organized, with tons of amazing papers from top people.  And, of course, John Cleese.

Did I mention that I met John Cleese?

Friday, June 20, 2014

Jesus and Brian Conference, Day 1

Terry Jones, John Cleese and Richard Burridge
It's not every day that you get to go to a conference on Monty Python.  Jesus and Brian Or: What Have the Pythons done for us? is the mastermind of Joan Taylor at Kings College, London, with support from Richard Burridge.  The focus is Monty Python's Life of Brian (dir. Terry Jones, 1979), and how it interacts with scholarship on the New Testament, Christian Origins, the Historical Jesus and the history of early Judaism.  The conference began today at King's College London and continues for the next two days.

As a long time fan of Life of Brian, and with an interest in Jesus films, I could not resist the opportunity to make it to this one.  Luckily, I have a conference in Denmark beginning on Sunday, and the chance to stop off in London on the way there made it irresistible.  Having said that, travel was not straightforward.  We had a flight cancelled on Wednesday evening and another on Thursday morning and only made it in in the early hours of Friday morning.  With no more than a few hours sleep over the last three nights, this does make it more of a challenge than I had expected, but I have no doubt that it will be worth it.

Joan Taylor introduces the conference
The conference began at around 4pm today.  Immediately one could see several scholarly celebrities around -- A.-J. Levine, Bart Ehrman, Helen Bond, George Brooke, Martin Goodman, Adele Reinhartz, Philip Davies, James Crossley, Eddie Adams, and so the list goes on.  Kings College is right in the heart of London, on the Strand, with theatres and swanky restaurants all around.  As long as you are not in a car, it's a fantastic location for a conference.  I tubed in from Heathrow to Covent Garden and had just a five minute walk.

Joan Taylor introduced the conference with a lively and witty piece on "the Historical Brian".  She mentioned her delight that the Pythons themselves had expressed enthusiasm about the conference and her amazement to get a phone-call from John Cleese.  She looked also at the comparison between the Life of Brian and the Hollywood Jesus films, and especially King of Kings.  

Martin Goodman
George Brooke
Martin Goodman then spoke about "The Life of Brian and the Politics of First Century Judea" and there was a lively Q&A session afterwards.  George Brooke spoke third, on "Brian as a Teacher of Righteousness", and got the best laugh so far when he said that Brian "puts the mess back into messianism".  The audience were taking a little while to warm up, but they were gradually getting there.

From this first session we went upstairs for a nice wine reception, with a few of those posh little canapés going around on trays, the kind where you need about five hundred to fill you up.  As it turned out, this was the only food of the evening, so it was important to grab as many as you could, and I'm not sure that I was quite up to the job.  Rick Trainor, Principal at Kings, gave some opening remarks, and uttered the heresy that he had not in fact seen the film!

Terry Jones, John Cleese, Richard Burridge
After the reception, we returned to the lecture theatre for the highlight of the day.  In fact, I'm sure it will prove to have been the highlight of the whole conference.  Richard Burridge interviewed Terry Jones and John Cleese for an hour.  It was an utterly compelling session.  I have to admit that I was a little starstruck.  John Cleese took the lion's share of the discussion and pretty much everything he said was quite fascinating.

Cleese expressed genuine pleasure that the film had resulted in a conference like this, and said that it might just be one of the best things the Pythons had done.  He talked about how good a director Jones was, adding that it was because he was a megalomaniac.  He talked about an alternate story line that came to nothing about Brian (or some other character) failing to make it to the last supper.  He spoke in the most disparaging way about the media ("second rate scum") and expressed little surprise when Burridge mentioned how little interest they had shown in this conference.

Jones did do a Mandy voice at one point, and he generally seemed rather chuffed with the whole discussion while broadly happy to let Cleese dominate.  Burridge did a fine job of allowing them to relax and chat while at the same time reining them in a bit and asking some very interesting questions, including a discussion of the now famous Stockwood and Muggeridge discussion of the film, with Cleese and Palin, on Tim Rice's programme.  Cleese said that he was an admirer of Muggeridge and felt sorry for him that his responses to the film were so poor.

Terry Jones, John Cleese, Richard Burridge
If anything, the discussion with Cleese and Jones was too good.  The hour went too quickly, and I could have continued listening for hours.  There followed an opportunity to watch the film (via DVD projection) in the same theatre, but over half the audience including most of the top brass flocked out, perhaps having realized that two or three canapes is not quite enough for dinner, and going in search of food and drink.  If the timing was not ideal, it was still nice to have a chance to watch the film again, all the more so in appreciative company, and good to brush up on it ahead of a whole raft of lectures tomorrow, all of which look like they will be fascinating.

The first day of the conference was every bit as good as I thought it would be and better.  Richard Burridge has an article in the Church Times here: Is he more than a 'naughty boy'? and there is a pre-conference podcast here.

I will continue to live-tweet the conference tomorrow, along with several others, and all your reactions, using the #JesusandBrian hashtag.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Jesus and Brian Conference in London - tickets still available!

I'm surprised that this one is not already sold out, but the good news is that tickets are still available for conference about The Life of Brian coming soon:

Jesus and Brian: What did the Pythons ever do for us?
Kings College, London, 20-22 June

Full details are at the link above.  As a life-long fan of Life of Brian, I am really excited about this event.  In fact, I booked my ticket back in March, as soon as I heard about the conference.  I hope to live-blog most of it too (though sadly I'll have to miss the Sunday because I'll be heading to Denmark for another conference, on more of which anon).

There is a stellar cast of scholars lined up to speak at the conference, including Paula Fredriksen, Adele Reinhartz, Helen Bond, Bill Telford, Bart Ehrman, James Crossley, Philip Davies, Martin Goodman, George Brooke, Steve Mason, Amy-Jill Levine, as well as locals Joan Taylor and Richard Burridge, and so the list goes on.

While the programme lists Richard Burridge engaging in a "conversation with mystery guests" for the Friday evening, I have it on good authority that the guest will be Terry Jones himself!  Julian Doyle (editor) is also lined up to appear on the Sunday.  And there is another "mystery guest" for the Saturday evening who can't yet be named.

Booking details are here.  I look forward to seeing lots of you there for what is likely to be a really wonderful event.

He's not the Messiah.  He's a very naughty boy.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Maurice Casey (1942-2014)

Maurice Casey in April 2008,
Synoptic Problem Conference,
Lincoln College, Oxford
I was so sad to hear of the death of Prof. Maurice Casey at the weekend (see JimWest, Dominic Mattos, Larry Hurtado, Jim Davila).  Anyone familiar with contemporary New Testament scholarship will know of the massive contribution that he has made.

His enduring legacy will probably be the stimulation to rethink the Son of Man question, in two key works, one in 1979 (Son of Man: The Interpretation and Influence of Daniel 7) and the other in 2007 (The Solution to the Son of Man Problem), which we were delighted to have in the Library of New Testament Studies series.  Alongside this, and equally important, is his underlining of the necessity to study the Aramaic sources of the Gospels, especially in Aramaic Sources of Mark's Gospel (1998) and An Aramaic Approach to Q (2002).  In spite of the importance of these contributions, he made his mark in other major ways too.

His book on New Testament Christology, the result of his Cadbury Lectures in Birmingham in 1985, is probably the best, clearest presentation of the view he so clearly articulates in its title, From Jewish Prophet to Gentile God, and I still assign students passages from this book when we discuss early Christology.

Like almost all of his writing, the strength of that book is that it develops a coherent and stimulating thesis and argues it with clarity and force.  There is no messing about in Casey's writing.  He doesn't just present data for the sake of it but marshalls evidence as part of a stimulating argument.  He does what he needs to do without going on for ever, and his prose is crystal clear.  One of his much underrated books is Is John's Gospel True? (1996) in which he robustly lays out the case for distancing John's Gospel from the historical Jesus.  While many contemporary scholars disagree with the book, it's an ideal starting point for getting to the heart of the debate about John and history.

Casey was writing right to the end of his life and although I am not as fond as his recent book on Jesus mythicism as I am of his other works, it would be fair to say that his big book on the historical Jesus, Jesus of Nazareth: An Independent Historian's Account of his Life and Teaching (2010), makes a major contribution to Jesus research.  It's a lively read but it is also intense, passionate and full of the emphases that made Casey so important a scholar -- the emphasis on reading the source materials in their original languages, the importance of understanding accurately Jesus' historical context, and the stress on working as an historian and resisting the urge to warp the evidence with contemporary theological concerns.

I was lucky to meet Maurice on many occasions while I was teaching at the University of Birmingham.  Maurice was down the road at the University of Nottingham and was a regular at the conferences, and it was always a pleasure to chat to him at the British New Testament Conference.  I think the first time I met him was in a taxi I shared with Maurice and Michael Goulder.  They had been good friends for years, and my association with Michael instantly put me in Maurice's good books -- I always felt like I bathed a little in Michael's reflected glory.  Although I never heard them talk about this, I suspect that they respected one another not least because it's not always easy being a scholar of religion when you don't believe in God.

I have been sorry not to see more of him since I have lived in America, but I have happy memories of long discussions over dinner at the Oxford Synoptic Problem conference in April 2008.  In spite of his occasionally acerbic and witty remarks about others, I always found him delightful, kind and very funny.  I still remember clearly several elements in our conversation at dinner, at which his much-loved graduate student and close friend Stephanie Fisher was also present.  One was the observation that scholars often get much more conservative the closer they get to the grave -- they are trying to write their way into heaven, he claimed.  The other was a lengthy discussion about the properties of port, which, he felt, were insufficiently appreciated by many of those present at the conference.

And so I am pouring a glass of port now and raising it to Maurice, who will be dearly missed, and whose like we may never see again.

Friday, May 09, 2014

Jesus' Wife Fragment: Another Round-Up

It's time for another quick round-up on the latest in the Jesus' Wife Fragment.  Now that the documentary has aired, and people have had time to reflect on some of the recent developments, it looks like we are at the point where the story will begin to receive less attention on the blogs, and certainly less attention in the media.  There is a kind of cycle here, and the experience of the last four weeks has been similar to the experience of September-October 2012.

The major difference this time around was that the documentary, originally scheduled for 30 September 2012, actually aired (trailer).  I must admit that I didn't watch it live, and although some of us have in the past live-tweeted documentaries like this, there didn't seem to be quite the appetite this time.  So I went to our local cinema grill to watch the first two episodes of the new 24 instead, and watched the Jesus' Wife documentary on the DVR when I got home.  I'm sorry if I sound shallow, but for me Jack wins over Jesus' Wife every time.

The documentary itself was very little changed from the version that aired in France several months ago.  There are several things I really enjoyed about the piece.  The interviews with Karen King were captivating, and I greatly appreciated her lucidity and enthusiasm -- she is an absolute natural in front of camera.  Likewise, AnneMarie Luijendijk was great.  I had not seen her on TV before, and she was also a natural.  Whereas all Prof. King's interviews appeared to take place at Harvard, Prof. Luijendijk was seen at Nag Hammadi (and we even got a retelling of the classic "find" story, jinn and all, in a single-person version, with an actor playing Mohammed 'Ali Al Samman) and the Coptic Museum in Cairo.

The documentary tended to play to a narrative that scholars of Christian origins will find familiar -- an ecclesial authority that is associated with celibacy and suppression of women is pitted against an anti-ecclesial counter-narrative in which the Jesus' Wife Fragment is now alleged to play a part.  In order to represent this visually, those speaking in favour of the fragment's authenticity -- Profs. King, Luijendijk and Bagnall -- were all presented in academic contexts, at their computers, in archaeological sites, in museums, whereas the other contributors, Dom. Henry Wansbrough and Robin Griffiths-Jones, were presented in churches and in recognizably ecclesial garb.  In so far as the forgery hypothesis came up, it was generally linked with "the Vatican", and the viewer was encouraged to think that it is only conservative types who were doubting the authenticity of the fragment.

The most disappointing element about the documentary was that it only appended one minute of additional material at the end to reflect recent developments, showing headlines in which the fragment was declared authentic.  The documentary concluded with the following statement:
"In short, there's much new evidence for its authenticity and none that it's a modern forgery.  The fragment will continue to stir controversy.  Scholars will continue to debate its meaning.  It will be some while yet before we can say whether the Gospel of Jesus' Wife is a footnote or a new chapter in the greatest story ever told" (emphasis original).
However, if the documentary itself came across as advocating very strongly for the authenticity of the fragment, the media more broadly has very much caught up with recent developments.  The highlight might just be Michael Peppard's remarkable turn on CNN:

(See the CNN HD version here). Like King and Luijendijk, Peppard is an absolute natural in front of camera -- he has a lightness of touch, and runs with the host's humour, but at the same time he is informative and lucid. By standing in front of graphic representations of the fragments, he is able to draw attention to some of the issues, including the writing round the hole.  (Yet still, we are dependent on images extracted from Harvard Divinity's PDFs; it would be wonderful to see good digital images released for detailed study).

Meanwhile, there are at least a couple of blog posts that are well worth reading for reflections on the fragment and the recent scholarly discussion.  First, Larry Hurtado comments:

The “Jesus’ Wife” Controversy: Scholarship, Publicity, and The Issues

And then Peter Head has some very helpful reflections on the lessons we can learn from this affair:

Pseudo-Gospel of Jesus' Wife as Case Study

Further, Münster has today issued a press-release that focuses on Christian Askeland's key contributions, featuring an endorsement from Prof. Stephen Emmel:

Gastforscher Dr. Christian Askeland entlarvt angeblich antikes Schriftstück / "Der sichere Beweis hatte gefehlt"
. . . . Prof. Dr. Stephen Emmel vom Institut für Ägyptologie und Koptologie der WWU, der den Nachwuchsforscher betreute, war von der Arbeit seines Zöglings fasziniert. Erstaunt habe ihn, der schon 2012 Zweifel angemeldet  hatte, die Entdeckung der Fälschung allerdings nicht, sei sie doch so offensichtlich gewesen: "Bislang hatte einfach der absolut sichere Beweis gefehlt", meint Stephen Emmel.
Dass Christian Askeland seine Wege von der Kirchlichen Hochschule Wuppertal, seinem derzeitigen Arbeitgeber, an die WWU führten, sei ein glücklicher Umstand gewesen: "Er hat über die koptische Übersetzung des Johannesevangeliums promoviert. Somit war er genau der Richtige, der das entdecken konnte", sagt Koptologe Stephen Emmel. Die Fälschung hält er sogar für recht jung. "Sie dürfte in den vergangenen zehn Jahren entstanden sein", mutmaßt der Experte.
Meanwhile, there has been some interesting discussion about the language in which some of the blog posts have been couched, culminating in a thoughtful piece on the Religion Dispatches blog:

"Gospel of Jesus’ Wife" Less Durable Than Sexism Surrounding It
Eva Mroczek

The article is well worth reading, and focuses on the issue of the language in which some of the discussion of the Jesus' Wife Fragment has been couched.  Eva is too gracious to mention that I also participated in the very thing she exposes here, by echoing language about the Lycopolitan John fragment as "ugly sister", and about which I apologized sincerely.  Since many have expressed bafflement at the use of this metaphor, and since Eva herself does not explain its origins, I should perhaps explain that it was an ill-advised attempt to play on Roger Bagnall's description of the Jesus' Wife Fragment on the day of its publication:
""We put it up on the screen, and we all sort of said, ‘Eeew,’ ” said Bagnall, one of the world’s leading papyrologists. “We thought it was ugly. And it is ­ugly. The handwriting is not nice — thick, badly controlled strokes made by somebody who didn’t have a very good pen.” (Boston Globe, 18 September 2012). 
The point was to note that its sister fragment was equally as ugly.  Nevertheless, I do see that the use of the metaphor is unfortunate and offensive, and I would like to reiterate my apology also in this context, and to thank Eva for drawing attention to it.

Update (Saturday, 1.42am): I forgot also to add a link to a characteristically interesting post by Jim Davila on Paleojudaica, Papyrus Forgeries?, in which he picks up on Roger Bagnall's statement, "I don’t know of a single verifiable case of somebody producing a papyrus text that purports to be an ancient text that isn’t" (New York Times).  See also Jim Davila's earlier comments in GJW: Another Goodacre Round-Up.

Note also that April DeConick is asking What are the facts about the Gospel of Jesus' Wife?, adding a note of caution about some bloggers' claims, and getting some strong support from James Tabor and Simcha Jacobovici, both of whom remain convinced about the authenticity of the fragment.  Simcha complains about pseudo-academic nay-sayers like me.  He calls us "sleeper-agents of Christian theology", though at the same time he notes that we "never sleep".

Thursday, May 08, 2014

The Library of New Testament Studies has a new editor!

I decided several months ago that after several years as editor of the Library of New Testament Studies book series, the time had come for me to step down.  I have greatly enjoyed working on the series, and I am proud with what we have achieved over the last few years, with a fantastic editorial board and tireless work from Dominic Mattos at Bloomsbury, and recently with help from Katie Broomfield.

I have been editing the series almost as long as I have had a blog!  When I took over as editor in 2004, I was living in Birmingham, England, and the series was known as the Journal for the Study of the New Testament Supplement Series ("JSNTSup" or "JSNTS").  It was published by Sheffield Academic Press, and it was of course associated with JSNT.  I was approached by Philip Law and Rebecca Mulhearn, who were working for Continuum Publishers, which had just taken over Sheffield Academic Press, T & T Clark and Trinity Press International, eventually combining Biblical Studies and Theology titles all under the imprint T & T Clark International (later just T & T Clark).

It was always a pleasure to work with Rebecca Mulhearn, and then also with Rebecca Vaughan-Williams and in recent years with Dominic Mattos.  In fact, the scale of the work involved would make it absolutely impossible if it were not for such great publishers.  We changed the series name to the Library of New Testament Studies in about 2005, if memory serves.  This had become a necessity when the journal went to be published by Sage, so severing the link between the journal and the series.  The new name was easy to choose, not least because T & T Clark were already using "Library of Biblical Studies" in advertisements, and it cohered with other series that had come from Sheffield to the T & T Clark stable like the Library of Hebrew Bible / Old Testament ("LHBOTS") and the Library of Second Temple Studies.

While a great deal of the work is done by exchange of emails, running to thousands over the last decade, one of the most pleasurable aspects of the job are the contacts we have, and board meetings, at SBL Annual Meetings, International Meetings and so on.  I think it's those contacts that I will miss most now that I am stepping down.  I will also miss the intellectual stimulation that comes from discussing so many interesting and diverse projects with prospective authors, and scouting for strong manuscripts for the series.  There is nothing more satisfying than pursuing a project with a new author, and seeing it through from its beginnings in a simple email, a tip or a conference presentation, to its full maturity as a published book.

So this post comes by way of a massive thank you to those I have worked with over the last few years, my wonderful editorial board, all those who have read manuscripts for us, Rebecca, Rebecca, Alinda, Katie and most of all Dominic, who is a true star.

But more importantly, this post is to announce that the new editor is Chris Keith, Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity and Director of the Centre for the Social-Scientific Study of the Bible at St. Mary's University College, Twickenham.  I could not be leaving the job in better hands.  Chris and I have been working together in the last few months during the transitionary period and I know he'll do a fantastic job. I am absolutely delighted that Chris will be at the helm and I want to wish him all the very best, and hope that he enjoys the job as much as I have.

Monday, May 05, 2014

Jesus' Wife Fragment Round-up

It's been a few days since the last round-up on the Jesus' Wife Fragment, and there are several things worth mentioning.  The long-delayed Smithsonian documentary on the fragment is finally due to air in the USA today (Monday 5 May), and there is a short trailer available:

The trailer is a little less sensational than the one that was initially broadcast back in September 2012. It's nice to see Dom Henry Wansbrough making an appearance (one of my teachers in Oxford, and my DPhil examiner).  It is not clear if the documentary will be in other respects the same as the one planned back then.  The documentary has already aired in France.

Meanwhile on Live Science, Owen Jarus follows up on his earlier piece with the following article:

'Gospel of Jesus's Wife' Looks More and More Like a Fake
Owen Jarus

Jarus comments on Christian Askeland's investigations as well as following up on his own investigations on the mysterious figure of Hans-Ulrich Laukamp, the alleged prior owner of the fragment, some kind of "Superman"?

In the last few days, the mainstream media has been catching up with the story, and the Daily Mail published a sceptical piece:

Is the 'Gospel of Jesus's Wife' a fake after all?
Fresh doubts cast over ancient papyrus that suggested Jesus was married after another in the collection with the SAME handwriting is proved to be a forgery
Lizzie Edmonds

Here, as elsewhere, my graphic seems to be proving popular as a means of illustrating the issues with the Lycopolitan Gospel of John.

And then the Wall Street Journal also weighed in:

How the 'Jesus' Wife' Hoax Fell Apart
The media loved the 2012 tale from Harvard Divinity School
Jerry Pattengale

Yesterday (Sunday), Prof. Michael Peppard comments on PBS News Hour:

Peppard does a great job of summarizing the issues, drawing attention to Christian Askeland's and Alin Suciu's comments, but adding that Harvard Divinity School had not yet themselves made any comments about the latest discussions.  This then changed tonight, with the publication of a news story in the New York Times, which is well worth reading:

Fresh Doubts Raised About Papyrus Scrap Known as ‘Gospel of Jesus’ Wife
By Laurie Goodstein

Goodstein is one of the three reporters who initially broke the news of the fragment back in September 2012.  The current article is a well researched and lucid and Goodstein has gone directly to several of the key figures, Christian Askeland, Roger Bagnall, Malcolm Choat and Karen King herself:
“This is substantive, it’s worth taking seriously, and it may point in the direction of forgery,” Karen L. King, the historian at Harvard Divinity School, said in a telephone interview, her first since the recent developments. “This is one option that should receive serious consideration, but I don’t think it’s a done deal.”
It is encouraging to see Karen King and Roger Bagnall taking Askeland's and others' critiques seriously, though I can't help to some surprise at this quotation:
Roger Bagnall, a renowned papyrologist who directs the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at New York University, and who early on deemed the Jesus’ Wife papyrus likely to be genuine, said in an interview about the skeptics, “Most of the people taking this view wanted it to be a fake, and they haven’t asked critical questions about their own hypothesis.”
Speaking for myself, I'd have loved it if we had a new fragment of an ancient text of this kind -- it's what scholars of Christian origins long for.  Moreover, many of the sceptics are such because they have asked the critical questions about their own hypothesis, not because they have avoided them.  But we all say daft things in interviews.  I talked with Laurie Goodstein myself this weekend and while I am grateful to her for linking to the blog, I must admit that I was somewhat relieved that she did not quote our conversation since I was a little more focused, at the time, on making sure that I was not late to the new Spider-Man film, which is excellent, by the way.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

More evidence of forgery in the Jesus' Wife Sister Fragment

Over on Alin Suciu's blog, Joost L. Hagen has a guest post in which he reports on an analysis of the Lycopolitan Gospel of John fragment with the Coptic Reading Group of the DDGLC Project at the University of Leipzig, Germany:

A reading of the text of the Lycopolitan fragment of the Gospel of John, with remarks about suspicious phenomena in the areas of the lacunae and a note about the supposed Gospel of Jesus’ Wife
Joost L. Hagen

The post is also available as a PDF.  It's all worth reading, but there is one particular piece that is worth highlighting: the scribe writes around a large hole in the fragment that was already present.  As the scribe writes letters around the hole on the recto, his  ⲛ (N), in particular, is almost comically small.  In other words, the papyrus was already damaged before the scribe wrote on it.  This is problematic because the writing on the verso goes into the hole and not around it, as if the damage happened after writing and not before.  It is a scenario that only makes sense if we are dealing with a modern forger writing on an ancient scrap of already damaged papyrus.

Let's take a closer look.  Here is a picture of the recto of the fragment, extracted from the Infrared Microspectroscopy report on the Harvard Divinity School website:

Lycopolitan John, Recto, extracted from the Infrared Microspectroscopy Report
The lacuna in question is in the upper middle part of the fragment.  It's the largest hole you are looking at, and it spans lines 4 and 5 (bear in mind that 1 is illegible).  Hagen writes [font]
 - [ⲛ]ⲉ̣ⲛ̣ⲧⲁⲩ, for us, was the final "smoking gun" of this fragment: I had already noted that there is no place for ⲛⲉ in the lacuna, and that the surviving trace does not present a convincing , when Frederic Krueger drew our attention to the fact that ⲛⲧⲁⲩ clearly seems to have been written under and next to an already existing gap in the papyrus: notice how is only half the height of the other letters of the line, how is already able to get somewhat bigger, and how ⲩ is finally able to stretch to full normal height. According to me, if the damage had occurred after the writing of the text, at the very least the should look different.
Well done to Frederic Krueger for this key observation.  He's quite right -- ⲛ̣ⲧⲁⲩ (NTAU) is clearly written with the hole already present in the papyrus.  Let's take a closer look:

Detail of lacuna in Lycopolitan John 

The ⲛ (N), is very small and is written right underneath the hole; the ⲧ (T) next to it is larger, as proportions of the hole allow, and then the ⲁ (A) is larger and the ⲩ (U) larger still.

Harvard Divinity School have not yet released high definition images of this fragment and we are reliant on the one image that appears on the online PDF of the  Infrared Microspectroscopy report, and this is the best that I can do with them; when we magnify any further, they simply degrade.  Nevertheless, it's worth taking a second look at the detail of what we have just so that we can be sure we are not seeing things:

Another detail of lacuna in Lycopolitan John

It might be argued that the fragment was already damaged in late antiquity and that it is an eighth century scribe rather than a twenty-first century forger who wrote around the hole here.  However, a hypothesis like this would run into problems in the light of the evidence from the verso, where the scribe appears to be writing as if there was no such hole.  It is the curious nature of the scribal behaviour here that is so striking, simultaneously acting as if there is a hole present and as if there is not.

At this point, I can't help thinking of Leo Depuydt's remarks in his article in the latest Harvard Theological Review with respect to the Jesus Wife Fragment.  Like that fragment, it seems clear that this is a forgery, "and not a very good one at that" (HTR 107:2 [2014]: 172–89 [172]).  Of course we await HDS's release of better pictures of this fragment, but on the evidence of what we have I am strongly inclined to agree with Krueger's and Hagen's judgement on Suciu's blog.

It's in the Forgery 101 textbook that you do not write your text around existing lacunas in the papyrus fragment that you are using.  

To borrow a comment from Hugo Lundhaug, we now have enough smoking guns for an entire platoon.

Update (2 May, 7.29am): I have revised the wording of the post above to take more careful account of a useful point raised by Brice Jones in comments, adding an extra sentence or so to paragraph 3 and writing a fresh paragraph just under the last illustration, beginning "It might be argued . . ."

Update (2 May, 6.48pm): four typos corrected, with thanks to Mike Grondin.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Jesus' Wife Fragment Round-up

There are several items of interest on the Jesus' Wife Fragment that have emerged over the last few days or so and I hope readers won't mind if I draw attention to these in a "round-up" post.  If I have missed anything important, please comment and I'll add those too.

At this point, almost all of the important discussion about the fragment is taking place in the blogs and social media.  Today, there is a sign that the tide is turning, with CNN's Belief Blog featuring the following piece:

New evidence casts doubt on 'Gospel of Jesus' Wife'
Opinion by Joel S. Baden and Candida R. Moss, special to CNN

This is a clearly expressed, very useful piece that will bring people who have not followed recent developments up to speed.  Well done to Candida and Joel.  Incidentally, and this is just a sidenote, the piece illustrates the forgery of the Coptic John fragment using the graphic I produced for the NT Blog, including my caption, though without acknowledgement (which I don't mind too much -- the key thing is that the article gets this information out there).  [For the original, much clearer version, see here.]

Up to this point, the media at large had not caught up with the latest developments, with the exception of an excellent piece by Charlotte Allen:

The Deepening Mystery Of the 'Jesus' Wife' Papyrus
Charlotte Allen

Allen's post helpfully follows up on her earlier Weekly Standard piece, The Wife of Jesus Tale, which bucked the rather triumphalistic tone of the broader media coverage that somewhat prematurely announced the fragment's authenticity earlier in the month.  Her latest piece incorporates the key insights found in Christian Askeland's post and Alin Suciu's post, also discussed here (with illustration) in which the "sister" to the Jesus' Wife Fragment, a piece of Coptic John, shows very clear signs of modern forgery.

My favourite line in Allen's post is "This is getting into monkeys-with-typewriters territory."  She concludes with a call to Harvard Divinity School and the Harvard Theological Review to reveal everything that they have about the fragment.  Given the increased difficulties about the provenance of the fragment, it indeed seems essential now to release these materials, especially the undated, unsigned hand-written note in which Prof. Fecht is alleged to have associated the fragment with Jesus' marriage.

Meanwhile, Andrew Bernhard has three new "News Briefs" in which he sets out the case for the forgery of the Jesus' wife fragment with admirable clarity, including graphic representations, which regular readers will know is something I greatly value:

The Gospel of Jesus's Wife: A Key to the Patchwork Text
Andrew Bernhard

The Gospel of Jesus's Wife: Internet Forgery
Andrew Bernhard

The Gospel of Jesus's Wife: Missing Evidence of Antiquity
Andrew Bernhard

Also of key importance is a fresh post from Christian Askeland in which he clearly and carefully discusses the new fragment, with pertinent observations and helpful graphics:

The Forgery of the Lycopolitan Gospel of John
Christian Askeland

And before bowing out of the discussion, Alin Suciu offers some further useful reflections:

The Gospel of Jesus' Wife Papyrus: Final Reflections
Alin Suciu

There are several other helpful and interesting pieces also worth studying.  Gregg Schwendner has uploaded several useful "work in progress" articles to  Note in particular:

The "Gospel of Jesus' Wife" as a Questioned Document: What Would Simulated Ancient Writing look like?
Gregg W. Schwendner

Chart comparing the letter forms in GJW and the Simulated GJohn
Gregg W. Schwendner

Christopher Jones has an excellent piece that I have been meaning to mention for some time, also on
The “Jesus’ Wife” Papyrus
Christopher Jones
I quote here a part of his piece, which provides a salutary lesson: Finally, a lesson might be drawn from the debate over the supposed drawings of Galileo Galilei in two copies of his Sidereus Nuncius, one of them allegedly the proof-copy; the story is set out in an article by Nicholas Schindle [sic] in a recent New Yorker (“A Very Rare Book,” issue of December 16, 2013). One of the copies, alleged to contain Galileo’s own drawings, appeared in 2005, and was offered to a New York bookseller. A team of researchers at the Humboldt University in Berlin tested the book extensively, and declared that it was genuine. They published their findings in a two-volume work, Galileo's O, edited by Horst Bredekamp (Berlin, 2011). Independently, Nick Wilding, assistant professor at Georgia State, began to investigate the claims, and finally traced the book back to Massimo De Caro, previously Director of the Biblioteca Statale dei Gerolamini, Naples, who is now in prison and claims to have forged the book as a joke.
It therefore becomes imperative to trace the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife papyrus back to its source . . . 
I was not previously familiar with this fascinating case, but here is the link:

A Very Rare Book: The mystery surrounding a copy of Galileo’s pivotal treatise
Nicholas Schmidle

And note also his earlier useful contribution, Clement of Alexandria and the Celibacy of Jesus

Further, Michael Grondin is continuing his coverage of the latest developments:

The Jesus' Wife Fragment: 2014 Update

Finally, for the time being at least, Carrie Schroeder has a most helpful discussion of the issues in an interview over on the Jesus Blog:

Interview with Caroline T. Schroeder re: Jesus' Wife Fragment

Monday, April 28, 2014

Tentative chronology on Coptic "Jesus Wife" fragment

I am grateful to Stephen Goranson for this updated version of his tentative chronology on the Coptic Jesus' Wife Fragment:

Tentative chronology on Coptic "Jesus Wife" fragment
Stephen Goranson

[Items in brackets refer to a claimed Demotic Gospel of Thomas.] Corrections welcome.

2nd century: suggested date of a Greek "gospel" Vorlage
2nd-4th c.: claimed date of a Coptic Gospel of John ms in the same collection (claim before C14 tests give probable date about four centuries later)
4th century: claimed date of ms (claim before C14 tests give probable date about four centuries later)
[1875 Feb. 4 claimed presentation in New Orleans of a papyrus in "Unknown" language (actually Demotic)]
[1875 claimed publication of ms in (an unattested) proceedings supplement of New Orleans Academy of Sciences]
1923: March discovery of a Coptic Gospel of John codex, Qau el Kebir, Egypt; soon brought to England
1924: Herbert Thompson, The Gospel of St. John According to the Earliest Coptic Manuscript (London: British School of Archaeology in Egypt, University College, 1924)
1945: Nag Hammadi mss discovered
1956: Coptic gnostic papyri in the Coptic Museum at Old Cairo, P. Labib. Facsimiles
1959: The Gospel According to Thomas. Guillaumont, Puech, Quispel et al. Coptic & English
1961: G. Fecht in Orientalia suggests Nag Hammadi Gospel of Truth was composed in Coptic not Greek
1963: claimed date Laukamp purchased in Potsdam, East Germany. But Smithsonian Nov. 2012 reported: "(In a later e-mail [from collector to King], however, the story seemed to change slightly, with the collector saying that the papyri had been in the previous owner's possession--or his family's--'prior to WWII.')"
1970-1981: P. Munro Director of the Kestner Museum, Hannover
1977: Nag Hammadi II facsimile published
1981: June ff Munro Professor in Berlin
1982: July 15 letter from Munro to Laukamp (claimed), giving remarkably early date to Coptic Gospel of John ms
1982-1983: Karen King at Free Uni., Berlin
1982: "Holy Blood, Holy Grail" published
1983: new Egyptian antiquities law
1983: T. Lambdin, Introduction to Sahidic Coptic
1987: Fecht Festschrift, Form und Mass
[1990 claimed facsimile of New Orleans Demotic papyrus, with poor or misleading translation submitted from US to Discussions in Egyptology, Oxford]
[1991 Mark J. Smith retranslates the Demotic, containing Gospel of Thomas logia]
[1991 Demotic text recognized as a hoax by, among others, Leo Depuydt. See Financial Times, May 18 and 25]
1995: Munro ill, reportedly stays in Hannover (C.E. Loeben obituary)
1997: Karen King to Harvard
1997: claimed purchase from German-American collector according to Smithsonian Nov. 2012
1999: Nov. 12 claimed purchase from H.-U. Laukamp according to HTR 2014
2002: Hans-Ulrich Laukamp death according to Owen Jarus, Live Science April 22, 2014 (and not 2001 as in K. King 2012 HTR draft page 3; and not Dec. 3 2000 [death of a Dane, Gerhard Laukamp] as commented on a Nov 29, 2012 NT Blog post)
2002: Nov M. Grondin posts Interlinear Coptic Thomas; see his account.
2003: The Da Vinci Code published
2003: The Gospel of Mary of Magdala published by King
2006 MayDa Vinci Code film
2006 Dec. 13: Gerhard Fecht death (in Hamburg?). An undated unsigned handwritten note claimed "Professor Fecht of the opinion that this could be evidence for a possible marriage." (Compare King in HTR 2014 158 that "no serious scholar considers [the ms] to be evidence of the historical Jesus's marital status.")
[2007 Jan. 7 death of Alessandra Nibbi, editor of Discussions in Egyptology]
2007: Elaine Pagels & Karen King, Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity
2007 Feb.: S. Jacobovici, The Jesus Family Tomb
2007 March 4: TV The Lost Tomb of Jesus
2009 Jan. 2: Peter Munro death (not 2008 as HTR 2012 draft p.2)
2009 July: Karen King: Hollis Professor of Divinity, Harvard Divinity School
2010 July 9: email, collector to K. King; she suspects "forgery"
2011 June: email, collector again to King, contacting her "before I sell it"
2011 Dec.: ms to King; she (sometime) titles it "The Gospel of Jesus' Wife" (According to Smithsonian, the collector had already introduced it as "a Gnostic gospel that appeared to contain an 'argument' between Jesus and a disciple about Magdalene.")

For some more recent dates, see M. Grondin, A Question of Content; NT BlogEvangelical Textual Criticism Blog and Harvard Theological Review April 2014.

Laboratory tests can’t always catch modern forgeries - as Harvard Theological Review has (inadvertently) proved

I am happy to have the opportunity to post a guest blog entry by Andrew Bernhard.  Those who have been following the discussions over the Jesus' Wife Fragment will know Andrew from his all-important contributions showing its dependence on Grondin's interlinear edition of the Gospel of Thomas (especially Jesus' Wife Fragment: Further Evidence of Modern Forgery and The Jesus' Wife Fragment: How the Forgery was done):

Laboratory tests can’t always catch modern forgeries - as Harvard Theological Review has (inadvertently) proved
Andrew Bernhard

We now know that laboratory tests used to assess the age of papyrus fragments don’t always catch modern forgeries.

In the April 2014 issue of Harvard Theological Review, the results of numerous laboratory tests run on a papyrus fragment were published (some in the periodical, some online). The tests were performed by top scientists from Harvard University, Columbia University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and the University of Arizona.

The papyrus fragment was studied by Micro-Raman Spectroscopy, which revealed the ink consistently had a chemical composition “very similar to carbon-based inks studied for a wide variety of manuscripts including several dated from the early centuries of the Christian era.”

The papyrus fragment was studied by Fourier Transform Infrared Microspectroscopy, which revealed that it was “composed of oxidized cellulosic material, which is consistent with old papyrus.”

Radiocarbon measurements of the papyrus fragment were carried out by accelerated mass spectrometry twice, first showing the fragment dated between 681 and 877 CE, then showing it dated between 648 and 800 CE (median 718 CE).

This papyrus was a fragment of the Gospel of John: nothing in the laboratory tests suggested it was a modern forgery . . . but it is.

Since seeing images of the papyrus fragment on Harvard Divinity School’s website last Thursday, Christian Askeland has demonstrated that this Gospel of John fragment simply cannot be a genuine ancient manuscript. It shares all 17 of its line breaks with another manuscript of John (Codex Qau). Given that scribes had different size handwriting, page widths varied, etc., authentically ancient manuscripts just don’t have this kind of similarity with each other.

And they certainly NEVER have the same kind of relationship Askeland has noted here. The recently examined Gospel of John fragment copies every other line break from Codex Qau . . . with one exception. The last two line breaks copied from Codex Qau are consecutive – it’s a page break in an edition of the codex published in 1924 that separates them instead.

While science has given us many exciting and powerful tools that can be used in laboratory analysis, these tools unfortunately can’t always answer the questions we would like. In the future study of manuscripts, we would all be better served if we gave other types of analysis (textual, paleographic, etc.) the consideration they genuinely deserve.

If one modern forgery could escape detection in laboratory tests, is there any reason to suspect that another couldn’t as well?

Friday, April 25, 2014

Illustrating the forgery of Jesus' wife's sister fragment

I blogged last night on Jesus' Wife and her Ugly Sister, picking up on Christian Askeland's devastating post, Jesus had an ugly sister-in-law, in which he drew attention to the the Coptic Gospel of John fragment that emerged from the same collector at the same time as the Jesus' Wife Fragment.  Askeland noted that this fragment, which is in the same hand as the Jesus' Wife Fragment, is clearly a forgery.

Alin Suciu, Christian Askeland finds the "Smoking Gun", helpfully illustrated how the verso of the John fragment was clearly copied from Herbert Thompson, The Gospel of St. John According to the Earliest Coptic Manuscript (London: British School of Archaeology in Egypt, University College, 1924), line breaks and all.

What I would like to present here is the same kind of graphic illustrating how the recto of the John fragment copies from Thompson.  Often in this kind of work, a graphic is worth a thousand blogged words because it enables one to see the point quickly and straightforwardly (click on the pic for a larger version):

Herbert Thompson's Gospel of St John, page 7 (left); Coptic John fragment recto (right),
illustrating how the forger copied every second line of this text of John 5.26-30, line breaks and all

Thompson's edition is based on the Cambridge Qau Codex and like Grondin's Interlinear Gospel of Thomas that appeared to have been used for the Jesus' Wife Fragment, it is available online.  It is not clear from the ETANA website when the PDF was uploaded, but the properties of the PDF itself show that it was created in 2005 and modified in 2008, well within the time frame for the presentation of these fragments to Prof. Karen King.

The graphic above should speak for itself but essentially the point is this: the forger appears to have copied mechanically every other line from the Thompson edition.  Every line break is the same.  It is beyond reasonable doubt that this is a fake, and this conclusion means that the Jesus' Wife Fragment is a fake too.