Monday, May 05, 2014

Is the Jesus' Wife fragment fake?

Thus far I haven't commented on the controversy surrounding the Jesus' Wife fragment. That's because this is a "developing story," so anything I link to is apt to be out-of-date shortly thereafter. For those who wish to follow the developments, one good resource is Larry Hurtado's blog: 

That said, I wish to make a general point: the way the issue has been framing is misleading. At the moment, controversy swirls around the question of whether this fragment is a modern forgery. Certainly that's a legitimate question, worth pursuing in its own right. After all, if it's a modern forgery, then that debunks it at one stroke.

But a problem with concentrating on the forgery angle is that it may lead some people to think that if it's not a fake, then it's true. The antonym of fake is authentic. So admitting that it's "authentic" or "ancient" might seem to carry connotations of veracity or historicity. But that's a fallacious inference. 

Even if it's not a forgery, that carries no presumption that it's historical or true. From about the mid-2C and beyond, lots of apocryphal stories about Jesus were produced by various sects. At best, this is pious fiction, with no connection to the historical Jesus. 

To take a comparison, The Da Vinci Code was ostensibly written by Dan Brown in 2003. And that's true. Dan Brown is the real author. And the ostensible date of publication is correct. It's not pseudepigraphal. It's not a forgery. It wasn't written at a different date by someone impersonating Dan Brown. In that sense, The Da Vinci Code is "authentic."

That, however, has no bearing on whether the content of The Da Vinci Code is historically accurate.  As many scholars have documented, The Da Vinci Code is tabloid fiction masquerading as church history.

By the same token, even if the Jesus' Wife fragment is "authentic," that doesn't mean it's factual or probably factual. 


  1. >Even if the Jesus' Wife fragment is "authentic," that doesn't mean it's factual or probably factual.

    Good distinction, Steve.
    But why should it matter if it is factual or not?

    1. Matter as in whether or not Jesus actually had a wife?

    2. Yes.

      According to Christianity Today, it would only matter in that it would suggest that 'we have an inept canon'-

      And that 'it really doesn't matter if Jesus is actually a eunuch'.

      I think it matters, and blogged on it a while back-

      But my reasoning might be inept :)