The Bizarre "Gospel of Jesus's Wife" Story
In a newly published article by The Gospel Coalition ("Closing the Case on the Gospel of Jesus's Wife"), Christian Askeland discusses the forgery that has come to be known as the Gospel of Jesus's Wife. The number of scholars that have dedicated many hours dealing with this forgery is tragic on the one hand and instructive on the other. The tragedy is that it served as a distraction from so many other endeavors that could have had immediate value. However, analyzing forgeries can be useful to refining the work of manuscript studies. This controversy has raised some valuable questions regarding the use of material sciences with manuscript analysis, potential problems with peer review, and the necessity of careful provenance investigation.
For my own part, the presentation of the Columbia team (mentioned in Askeland's article) at the 2016 SBL Annual Meeting in San Antonio prompted me to dig deeper into material science and perform Raman spectral analysis on P. Duke Inv. 1377 (later given the GA identifier P136). Ultimately, I could not replicate the work of the Ancient Ink Laboratory, which had suggested that there was a link between the age of a carbon-based ink and the shape of its Raman spectrum. But that investigation has sparked my own interest in material analysis of manuscripts (which would have otherwise gone unnoticed) and led to the publication of a new papyrus of Acts.
Though I have followed the scholarly discussion of the Gospel of Jesus's Wife over the years, I am looking forward to reading Ariel Sabar's Veritas: A Harvard Professor, a Con Man and the Gospel of Jesus's Wife over the winter break to learn more about the people involved. The story is stranger than fiction and promises to be a real page turner.