Saturday, December 21, 2013

Skepticism about Jesus' Wife Papyrus in the Chronicle of Higher Education

The Chronicle of Higher Education has an article on the Gospel of Jesus' Wife.  The news is that there is no news:

Skepticism About 'Jesus' Wife' Papyrus Grows as Test Results Lag
Tom Bartlett
I checked again this week with Jonathan Beasley, assistant director of communications at the Harvard Divinity School. He wrote in an email that "we are waiting for final reports to come in on some of the testing, and, depending on the results, for a decision about whether to do further testing."
He couldn't provide an estimate of when testing might be completed. Ms. King declined to comment, writing in an email that she had nothing to add to Mr. Beasley's statement.
There are quotations from this blog and from Larry Hurtado's blog, and a mention of Andrew Bernhard.  Bartlett's conclusion is that:
Such a flashy discovery won't just fade away. At some point we'll find out whether or not it was a hoax. In the meantime it's fair to ask why it's taking so long.
Two quick comments:

(1) It is still not clear to me if Harvard themselves are arranging for these tests or whether the owner of the fragment is arranging for these tests.  A comment in January suggested the latter.  There is clearly a major difference between the one and the other.  Does the owner currently have the fragment or does Harvard have it?

(2) Bartlett mentions that "the papyrus had already been tested".  I have heard this mentioned on several occasions but I am not sure of the source of it.  Karen King's article does not confirm this; she writes:
Given the content of this text, we took into serious consideration whether this was a genuine ancient text or a modern forgery. It would be very difficult to reproduce the kind the damage from insects or moisture that the fragment indicates, but it could have been penned on a blank piece of ancient papyrus, which are available for purchase on the antiquities market. Such a papyrus would pass a Carbon 14 dating test.
In other words, she suggests that the fragment could pass a Carbon 14 dating test even if the text itself was composed in modernity; she does not confirm that such a test was undertaken.


Keen Reader said...

On another topic, all comment -- by bloggers previously promoting it -- about the 'Bible Secrets Revealed' series has mysteriously ceased too.

I wonder why . . .

Jens Knudsen (Sili) said...

"Ms. King"?

Richard Fellows said...

I have a quick question about those who are expressing concern about the length of time that the testing is taking. Are such people specialists in the science? If not, we should note that it is natural for people to underestimate the difficulties of tasks in disciplines with which they are not familiar. I am wondering if we are being too impatient with the testing timeline. Remember that journals in our field can take more than 6 months even to read an 8 page submission, so we have no right to expect quick test results.

Stephan Huller said...

If you want to find out whether or not the tests have been conducted go back through your posts at this blog about the fragment. King's article was being held up until tests were carried out. Right? King won't say whether tests were carried out or whether her article is moving forward to publication. Right? But there might be another way to determine the answer and I will help you get there.

There is an authority (with actual authority on matters related to the fragment unlike Hurtado) - someone who shares your belief that the fragment is a fake - who, as I said, is referenced in a previous post on the Jesus Wife Fragment on this blog. That person can provide you with the answers that King won't give. I could give you other people who'd give you the same answer but I know you will only listen to people who agree with you.

Again, just think about the shape of the problem, think about the chain of events that would unfold if the tests had actually been performed. Karen King won't say whether the tests have been conducted, won't say whether her article has been published but as I said there is another person who would know all the very same things because ...

I can't say more than that. My only hint - the authority I am speaking about lives in the United States.

Merry Xmas

Jens Knudsen (Sili) said...

"Are such people specialists in the science?"

Expert, no, but my background is in chemistry, so I know more about that aspect in the papyrology.

Most tests can be carried out quite fast these days, and given the time since the original announcement, a preliminary analysis could have been published by now. Even work at a synchrotron source can be done pretty quickly now, when back by money - it's the waiting list that most researchers have to put up with.

Geoff Hudson said...

Mark, don't you think that in any case this is all about 'closing the stable door after the horse has bolted'?

looneytoonsindville said...

There is a simple explaination for this “story” about Jesus’ wife. Consider the work of liberal sycophants today. They make things up to advance their world view and agenda. Examples? Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Misquotes Ambassador Michael Oren on Israel, then denies she said it even though video footage of her statement exists) and Barack Obama (The Lie of the Year 2013, You can keep your plan, you can keep your doctor, period). People with these moral values have existed since the beginning of time. Why should anyone be surprised that some of their writings have survived the millenia? Doesn’t make them any more true than Obama’s lie.

Stephen Goranson said...

"Program at UNLV poses; Does it matter if Jesus was married?" by John Przybys in Las Vegas Review-Journal Jan 22, 2014 includes quotes from a "recent phone interview" with Prof. King. But no news on scientific tests ("It's believed that the papyrus fragment itself dates from at east the fourth century...") and no mention of the numerous scholars who propose that the text is a modern fraud.

Stephen Goranson