Update: 6/16/2016 – Karen King does the right thing in her response to the essay below, owns her mistake.]
Jim West directs our attention to (in his words) “this damning essay” in The Atlantic that “sheds light on the fraud perpetrated on segments of the gullible public by the publication of the ‘Jesus Wife’ nonsense fragment.”
The essay amounts to an unflattering portrait of Karen King of Harvard University, the scholar who brought the fragment to the public eye. The major blemish is King’s failure (or perhaps apathy toward) doing the detective work necessary to establish the fragment’s provenance. Ariel Sabar, author of the article, observes, “The owner of the Jesus’s-wife fragment, whoever he was, had told King a story about where, when, and how he’d acquired it. But the closest thing he had to corroboration was a photocopy of a signed sales contract.”
That ain’t good.
Sabar does the grunt work of tracing the particulars of the story and “what lies beneath” the fragment’s origin. It’s too bad that couldn’t have been done at the beginning.
I think King is irritated by the whole thing. It will be interesting if she has any session in November at SBL on the whole affair.
Gnostic texts have a good amount of material about “sacred marriage” which involved ritual intercourse language, but that’s not the same as the sort of orgiastic thing you’re thinking of (irrespective of what modern cults do with it).
That whole story was thoroughly entertaining. It had everything, including internet porn swinger sex orgies (I really did not expect that from an investigation into the Jesus Wife papyrus). It could be a movie starring Tom Hanks as Walter Fritz, which would have a nice ring of irony to it., especially when he starts talking about his idea for a novel.
I’m puzzled by what appears to be Prof. King’s purposeful and deliberate disinterest in the fragment’s provenance. I’m only an amateur, with just a BA in history, but as I understand it, the provenance of artifacts is always of interest to scholars studying them. King, by contrast, appears to have knowingly refused even to consider how it got into her hands.
Holy Investigative Journalism Batman!!! 2,000 years later and Gnosticism is still just as much of a threat now as it was then. It’s actually gaining in numbers as the Church numbers dwindle. I’m overjoyed that journalists like Sabar aren’t entirely extinct… Saddened that a piece like this was even necessary for a scholar of King’s level.
It’s a lesson to everyone how dangerous prejudicial blindspots can be… not only to the Faith but also to one’s career.
Thank you for sharing!