The Dodgy Papyrus of Jesus’s Wife

Joel Baden and Candida Moss always write fascinating articles about religious studies, and as always this one is worth reading.

Was Jesus married? 


I remember having a discussion with Adrian Goldsworthy when he was researching Cleopatra about whether or not she could ride. He said no ancient source said she could, and I argued that riding a horse was something so basic in the ancient world that everyone would have assumed she could, so saying "Cleopatra can ride" would be as superfluous as saying "Cleopatra can breathe" ... even though the sources do not specifically state either, they heavily imply should could do both.

As Baden and Moss point out, the earliest Christians were much more pro women than the ones who later re-wrote Christian texts to highlight what they wanted. I have discussed in the past how similar early Christians were to Jews, and suggested that not insisting on circumcision was one reason they became more popular with converts. I think that the positive stance the early Christians took towards women may have been another reason women converted, and many of the prominent early converts were after all women.

Jesus was born in 6 BC. He is normally assumed to have died before John the Baptist, but again this may not be correct. The Gospels concentrate on his later life and death, as Baden and Moss point out, and not on the majority of his life. As a Jew of the time, it would have been normal for him to have married, and very unusual for him not to have married.

Whether this Gospel fragment is authentic or not, it would not be proof of whether Jesus was married; it could at best be proof of what some Christians thought at some point.

Karen L. King (no relation) is a very well regarded scholar when it comes to religion.

The problem here is that this piece of papyrus seems to have been made by a clever faker, and a it comes from the art market without a provenance, and seems intended to be sold again on the art market. Many great scholars have already discussed how blank papyri of the right date can be bought and ink faked; they have discussed the issues with the brush used, and the problems with the wording almost exactly copying the spacing of other texts.

They have also discussed the fact that the people given as the provenance are all dead and that the heirs of the 'owner' Hans-Ulrich Laukamp claim he never collected or owned antiquities nor had any interest in them.

The Curious Case of Jesus’s Wife - The Atlantic:
The same man provided King with five other ancient texts from his collection: a cache of papyri that he said he’d purchased from another collector, a German man named Hans-Ulrich Laukamp. The contract for the sale from Laukamp to the anonymous owner indicated that Laukamp had purchased the papyri in East Germany in the early 1960s. That was as far back as the trail went.
Once again a seemingly fake provenance to Communist era East Germany is given because those are harder to check.

The only point I would like to make in addition is a simple one. Although I was not alive in the 1960s, I spent a lot of time as a child visiting my grand-parents in Communist era Poland. They were fortunate enough to have a much better life there than the average Pole, and the black market was very active in Poland but ... there is no way in hell anyone would have been stupid enough to sign a 'contract' or issue an invoice that would provide proof of these illegal and strongly punished black market activities. Only a forger with a serious lack of a grasp of the realities of modern history would try to claim otherwise.