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Jesus' wife controversy: Growing evidence that 'wife' papyrus might be a forgery

As the air date of the documentary on the now infamous "Jesus' wife" papyrus draws near, it would seem that there is a growing amount of scholarly criticism that suggests the scrap of manuscript just might be a forgery. Since 2012, when the "Gospel of Jesus' Wife" was revealed in the Harvard Theological Review, the business-card sized document has been the center of controversy. And although speculation as to Jesus Christ's marital status might have its merits, it now appears that proponents of the argument that Jesus had a wife will be encouraged to find other evidence to support their contentions.

Live Science reported (via Yahoo News) May 2 that, along with the findings of their investigation into the "Gospel of Jesus' Wife" posted last week, what first seemed to be a momentous find was actually a momentous fraud.

Here are four points that cast doubt on "The Gospel of Jesus Wife":

  • Two sources, a representative of his estate and a business associate, claim that the supposed former owner of the papyrus, one Hans-Ulrich Laukamp, had no interest in antiquities whatsoever. Since the man died in 2002, he cannot be asked himself.
  • Laukamp is said to have obtained the papyrus in East Germany in 1963. He was in Germany at the time but on the opposite side of the Berlin Wall. He is said to have not visited East Germany at all.
  • There is a second papyrus purported to have been owned by Laukamp and given to Harvard. It was also proven a fake, according to one researcher. "The Gospel of John" resembles "The Gospel of Jesus' Wife," the handwriting and ink bearing incredible similarities.
  • Other experts have entered the controversy, voicing doubts as to the papyrus' authenticity. rather forcefully. Many question the provenance, the age, the handwriting style, and even the ink with which the small scrap of "Gospel" is written.

Many biblical scholars and historians are calling the papyrus a fake and/or a forgery. Some, like Dr. Jerry Pattengale at the Wall Street Journal, also believe that Harvard professor Karen King, who obtained and wrote the original paper for the Harvard Theological Review, and her colleagues "were the victims of an elaborate ruse." Pattengale doesn't blame King as much as he blames the media for its rush to judgment to accept that Jesus had a wife.

The piece of papyrus understandably became the center of heated debate from the moment its existence was announced. With the phrase "Jesus said to them, 'My wife . . .', it was bound to cause friction among the religious, especially among followers and students of Christianity, where the belief holds that Jesus Christ, the Christian messiah, never was married. The Vatican immediately dismissed the scrap of writing as irrelevant.

The documentary, which premiers on the Smithsonian Channel on Monday (May 8) at 8 p.m. ET/PT, will feature a more historical rather than biblical Jesus. It covers "The Gospel of Jesus' Wife" from the story's beginning, when Karen King received the e-mail from the anonymous collector who wanted the papyrus to be examined, the media frenzy that followed the announcement of the document's existence, and the thoughts of leading experts and scholars on the find and its implications.

With claims that the "Jesus' wife" papyrus is a forgery continuing to amass support and expert evidence, one thing is certain: The question as to whether or not Jesus was married cannot be definitively answered. What's more, the assertion that he had a wife will not have as its best defense the papyrus fragment known as "The Gospel of Jesus' Wife."

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