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Postscript: A Final Note about the Origin of the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife *

  • Andrew Bernhard (a1)
Abstract

The owner of the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife provided Karen King with an interlinear translation of the text. Like the Coptic of the papyrus fragment, the English of this interlinear translation appears dependent on ‘Grondin's Interlinear Coptic/English Translation of the Gospel of Thomas’. It shares a series of distinctive textual features with Grondin's work and even appears to translate two Coptic words found in the Gospel of Thomas but not in the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife. Consequently, the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife seems undeniably to be a ‘patchwork’ of brief excerpts from the Gospel of Thomas created after November 2002.

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Special thanks: Mary Elizabeth Guest (ⲙⲁⲣⲓⲁⲙ ⲧⲁϩⲓⲙⲉ).

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1 Bernhard, A., ‘The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife: Textual Evidence of Modern Forgery’, NTS 61 (2015) 335–55.

2 The first public suggestion that GJW was a ‘patchwork’ text came three days after it was revealed on 18 September 2012, and scholars collaborating internationally via the internet soon pointed out that practically all of the text in GJW could be traced back to GTh. See F. Watson, ‘The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife: How a Fake Gospel-Fragment was Composed’, NT Blog, 21 September 2012, http://ntweblog.blogspot.com/.

3 All references to Grondin's Interlinear in this article are to the 2002 PDF version, which is the only version that omits the direct object marker ⲙ̄– before ⲡⲱⲛϩ in GTh 101 (NHC ii 50.1); the same typographical (and grammatical) error appears to be repeated in GJW →1. The PDF is available at http://gospel-thomas.net/gtbypage_112702.pdf. The thesis that GJW was prepared by someone using Grondin's work was originally formulated in a series of essays posted online from 24 September to 9 November 2012 (now archived at https://oxford.academia.edu/AndrewBernhard).

4 This interlinear translation is available through the link labelled ‘Image: transcription and translation supplied by the owner to King (June 2011)’, at http://web.archive.org/web/20150921130124/http://gospelofjesusswife.hds.harvard.edu/introduction. Although labelled a ‘transcription and translation’ on Harvard Divinity School's GJW website, the document can be described more concisely as an interlinear translation because it presents ‘the same text in different languages printed in alternate lines’. Cf. J. A. Simpson and E. S. C. Weiner, The Oxford English Dictionary (20 vols.; Oxford: Clarendon Press, 19892) vii.1111.

5 L. Wangsness, ‘Revelation or Hoax?’, The Boston Globe, 29 November 2015, A1, A14–15, at A15.

6 A seven-word excerpt from this translation was quoted in a Smithsonian article released the day King unveiled GJW. See A. Sabar, ‘The Inside Story of a Controversial New Text About Jesus’, Smithsonian.com, 18 September 2012, www.smithsonianmag.com/history/the-inside-story-of-a-controversial-new-textabout-jesus-41078791. On the basis of just this brief excerpt, Mark Goodacre and the present author jointly discerned the potential significance of the translation in April 2014. See A. Bernhard, ‘The Gospel of Jesus's Wife: Missing Evidence of Antiquity’, Academia.edu (2014) 1–2, at 2, www.academia.edu/25937694/The_Gospel_of_Jesuss_Wife_Missing_Evidence_of_Antiquity_April_25_2014_. Cf. Bernhard, ‘Textual Evidence’, 335, 347–48, 355.

7 The appellation ‘Owner's Interlinear’ and similar others (e.g. the ‘owner's edition of GJW’) used here are intended only to indicate that the owner of the GJW provided the document to King, not that the owner necessarily prepared it.

8 See A. Bernhard, ‘The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife: “Patchwork” Forgery in Coptic … and English’, NT Blog, 28 August 2015, http://ntweblog.blogspot.com/; C. Askeland, ‘The Gospel of Jesus Wife and Grondin's Interlinear’, 29 August 2015, http://evangelicaltextualcriticism.blogspot.com/.

9 According to Sabar, Fritz initially denied that he was the owner of the papyrus fragment, then explained that an unidentified friend owned it, and finally emailed the statement quoted above. See A. Sabar, ‘The Unbelievable Tale of Jesus's Wife’, The Atlantic, July/August 2016, 64–78, at 69, 74–5. Similarly, journalist Owen Jarus has shared that Fritz denied that he was the owner of GJW during a phone interview in April 2014 (pers. comm., 2 July 2016).

10 According to Sabar, Fritz initially said that ‘someone in Germany’ had translated GJW but then claimed he had done it himself. See Sabar, ‘Unbelievable Tale’, 75–6.

11 According to Sabar, Fritz asserted that he ‘had never studied Egyptology at the Free University … [or] written an article for a German journal’ until Sabar verified that he had. See Sabar, ‘Unbelievable Tale’, 68, 74–5; cf. Fritz, W., ‘Bemerkungen zum Datierungsvermerk auf der Amarnatafel Kn 27’, Studien zur altägyptischen Kultur 18 (1991) 207–14, at 207 n. 1.

12 Given that scholarly debate about the authenticity of GJW appears to have concluded, this article seeks only to address lingering questions about how and when the text was prepared (not by whom). Cf. A. Sabar, ‘Karen King Responds to “The Unbelievable Tale of Jesus's Wife”’, The Atlantic, 16 June 2016, www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/06/karen-king-responds-to-the-unbelievable-tale-of-jesus-wife/487484/. King responded to the publication of ‘Unbelievable Tale’ online on 15 June 2016 at www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/07/the-unbelievable-tale-of-jesus-wife/485573/.

13 As Askeland has astutely observed, ‘The paper has creases and is bowed at the top and bottom. A few characters are cut off of one side.’ See Askeland, ‘Gospel of Jesus Wife and Grondin's Interlinear’.

14 The end of the first line is cut off in the image but presumably read, ‘probably 5–6.’

15 Twenty-eight of the core thirty letters in the Coptic alphabet appear to be identical in both fonts. In ‘CS Coptic Manuscript’, chi (ⲭ) does not descend below the baseline and shai (ϣ) is italicised; in ‘Coptic2’, chi (ⲭ) descends below the baseline and shai (ϣ) is not italicised. Cf. Askeland, ‘Gospel of Jesus Wife and Grondin's Interlinear’.

16 Superlinear strokes may have been omitted from the Owner’s Interlinear because of challenges using the font, ‘CS Coptic Manuscript’. With this older font, strokes had to be inserted in a counterintuitive manner: each had to be typed before the letter above which it was to appear. In addition, the single-width superlinear strokes often did not appear properly over the pertinent letters: e.g. strokes above iota (ⲓ) extend too far but strokes above omega (ⲱ) do not extend far enough.

17 It is unclear why delta (ⲇ) consistently appears in place of djandja (ϫ): both can be easily typed using the font 'CS Coptic Manuscipt'. While the two letters do appear similar, only a person with extremely limited Coptic proficiency would confuse them.

18 The standard papyrological conventions were laid out more than eighty years ago: Jouguet, P., Hombert, M. and van Groningen, B.A., ‘Essai d'unification des méthodes employées dans les éditions de papyrus’, Chronique d’Égypte 7 (1932) 285–87. Cf. Schubert, P., ‘Editing a Papyrus’, The Oxford Handbook of Papyrology (ed. Bagnall, R.S.; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009) 197215 , at 203.

19 Throughout this article, the ‘pertinent parallels’ to GTh are those previously identified in Bernhard, ‘Textual Evidence’, 352. The Coptic transcription of the Owner's Interlinear does not deviate from the text of the papyrus unless noted. The present author viewed the fragment at Houghton Library (Harvard University) on 16 December 2015.

20 Neither the Owner's Interlinear nor the papyrus fragment includes ⲅⲁⲣ in GJW →1.

21 I.e. assuming that the deltas (ⲇ) in ⲡⲉⲇⲉ and ⲇⲉ are supposed to represent djandas (ϫ).

22 The epsilon (ⲉ) at the start of the line in the Owner's Interlinear is surprising because the corresponding letter on the papyrus fragment looks most like a sigma (ⲥ).

23 Grondin abbreviates the name ‘Jesus’ as ‘JS’ in English; the number ‘11’ indicates the eleventh appearance of the nomen sacrum ⲓ̅ⲥ̅ in the Coptic of GTh.

24 The name ‘Mary’ is spelled ⲙⲁⲣⲓϩⲁⲙ in GTh 21 and 114, and Grondin has transliterated it as ‘Mariam’ in each instance. Cf. Bernhard, ‘Textual Evidence’, 346.

25 The second-person singular pronominal affix (ⲕ) in the Owner's Interlinear is surprising because a sigma (ⲥ) appears to have been written over (or under) the kappa (ⲕ) on the papyrus fragment so that the latter letter is all but unrecognisable.

26 E.g. Liddell, H. G., Scott, R. and Jones, H. S., A Greek–English Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996 9) 244; Bauer, W., Arndt, W. F., Gingrich, F. W. and Danker, F. W., A Greek–English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 3) 132–3.

27 For the dictionary entry, see Crum, W. E., A Coptic Dictionary (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1939) 179a. Grondin corrected the error before 2010. See https://web.archive.org/web/20090830025124/http://geocities.com/Athens/9068/log080.htm.

28 I.e. assuming that the delta (ⲇ) in ⲡⲉⲇⲉ is supposed to represent djanda (ϫ).

29 The word ‘this’ does not correspond to any of the Coptic text in GJW →4.

30 Grondin abbreviates the name ‘Jesus’ as ‘JS’ in English; the number ‘12’ indicates the twelfth appearance of the nomen sacrum ⲓ̅ⲥ̅ in the Coptic of GTh.

31 The conjunction ϫⲉ was most likely omitted by accident from GJW because it is separated from ⲡⲉϫⲉ ⲓ̅ⲥ̅ ⲛⲁⲩ (‘Jesus said to them’) by a line break in NHC ii. See Bernhard, ‘Textual Evidence’, 347–8. Neither the Owner's Interlinear nor the papyrus fragment includes ϫⲉ in GJW →4.

32 Based on the apparent rendering of ϫⲉ as ‘this’ in GJW →2 and →4, the person responsible for the Owner's Interlinear seems to have possessed extremely limited knowledge of Coptic.

33 The Coptic particle ⲁⲛ (‘not’) appears to have been deliberately omitted from GJW. See Bernhard, ‘Textual Evidence’, 348.

34 There is no indefinite article (ⲟⲩ) in the Coptic, as the grammatical construction does not require one.

35 A. Suciu and H. Lundhaug, ‘A Peculiar Dialectal Feature in the Gospel of Jesus's Wife, Line 6’, Patristics, Apocrypha, Coptic Literature and Manuscripts, 27 September 2012, http://alinsuciu.com.

36 Bernhard, ‘Textual Evidence’, 341–2.

37 The phrase ‘is he?’ is certainly not a valid translation of the meaningless Coptic text ϣⲁϥ ⲉⲛⲉ. The only other question mark in the Owner's Interlinear appears next to the nu (ⲛ) at the end of GJW →3, and it evidently indicates uncertainty about the text.

38 For a discussion of the dialect of NHC ii, see B. Layton, Nag Hammadi Codex ii, 2–7 together with XIII,2*, Brit. Lib. Or. 4926(1), and P.Oxy. 1, 654, 655 (NHS xx; 2 vols.; Leiden: Brill, 1989) i.3, 6–14.

39 Layton, B., Coptic Gnostic Chrestomathy (Leuven: Peeters, 2004) 189.

40 See A. Suciu and H. Lundhaug, ‘Peculiar Dialectal Feature’.

41 Given the absence of a definite or indefinite article before ⲣⲱⲙⲉ, the noun may be understood as referring to a class of persons (i.e. those ‘who are wicked’).

42 It is assumed that ‘within’ is a typographical error similar to ‘Gosple’ and ‘Centruy’ in the title.

43 I.e. ⲙⲁⲣⲓⲁⲙ in GJW →3, ⲧⲁϩⲓⲙⲉ in →4, the second-person singular pronominal suffix (ⲕ) completing ⲙ̄ⲙⲟ⸗ in →3, the third-person singular feminine pronominal prefix (ⲥ) at the start of →5 and the third-person singular feminine pronominal prefix (ⲥ) completing ⲛⲙⲙⲁ⸗ in →7.

44 In this analysis, the English word ‘within’ in GJW →7 is regarded as a typographical error for ‘with’, and the Coptic text ϣⲁϥ ⲉⲛⲉ marked with ‘(Sic!)’ at the end of →6 is not considered an agreement with ϣⲁϥⲉⲓⲛⲉ in the pertinent parallel to GTh.

45 In GJW →2, the Owner's Interlinear has ‘The disciples said’ instead of ‘Said-the-disciples’ (as in the pertinent parallel to GTh in Grondin's Interlinear). Similarly, in GJW →4, it has ‘Jesus said’ instead of ‘Said-JS’ and ‘this to them’ instead of ‘to-them this’.

46 The word ‘for’ in GJW →1 appears to be a translation of ⲅⲁⲣ in GTh 101, and ‘this’ in GJW →4 appears to be a mistranslation of ϫⲉ in GTh 12. The text of GJW →1 does not include ⲅⲁⲣ and GJW →4 does not contain ϫⲉ.

47 Grondin cannot have copied from the Owner's Interlinear: it was not provided to King until June 2011 or released publicly until August 2015, long after he commenced his work on GTh.

48 Prior to the release of the Owner's Interlinear, significant evidence supporting this thesis had already been accumulated on the basis of the Coptic text of GJW alone. See Bernhard, ‘Textual Evidence’, 335–55.

* Special thanks: Mary Elizabeth Guest (ⲙⲁⲣⲓⲁⲙ ⲧⲁϩⲓⲙⲉ).

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