In the weeks since Harvard historian Karen King unveiled the papyrus fragment dubbed “The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife,” evidence rapidly mounted that the scrap could be a forgery. The latest discovery: The fragment, which contains snippets from the Coptic text of the Gospel of Thomas, replicates a small error found in an online version of that text.
Andrew Bernhard was, from what I understand, the first to suggest that the fragment was based on that version; he explains his findings in some detail on his website (PDF). Here’s the quick overview from Duke professor Mark Goodacre:
One of the difficulties with the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife fragment is that it appears to be dependent, on every line, on words and phrases from our one extant Coptic text of the Gospel of Thomas (See Francis Watson’s articles; see too Leo Depuydt’s forthcoming report; see also Andrew Bernhard). The difficulties that this poses for the authenticity of the fragment are serious (see my reflections).
Now, one of the questions that this has raised is how a forger might have gone about his or her business. A week or so ago, Andrew Bernhard raised the intriguing possibility that the forger might have been dependent not on a printed edition of Coptic Thomas, as many of us had thought, but on Michael Grondin’s Interlinear Coptic-English Translation of the Gospel of Thomas.
For a while, this was no more than an interesting piece of speculation. But in the interest of exploring it further, I raised questions on the Gospel of Thomas e-list about places where the fragment might show knowledge of Grondin’s Interlinear, including [a dropped character] on the first line of the fragment. This is an oddity that was difficult to fathom. Why was the fragment’s author missing out this direct-object marker, especially if he was dependent on Coptic Thomas which includes it?