Well, Professor Karen King’s ‘earth-shattering’ discovery of a fragment of parchment claiming that Jesus was married has gone up in flames, ladies and gents:
Mr. [Christian] Askeland [—a Coptic specialist at Indiana Wesleyan University] found, among the online links that Harvard used as part of its publicity push, images of another fragment, of the Gospel of John, that turned out to share many similarities—including the handwriting, ink and writing instrument used—with the "wife" fragment. The Gospel of John text, he discovered, had been directly copied from a 1924 publication.Oops. Now, it’s possible, as the article points out, that Professor King and Harvard were in fact ‘victims of an elaborate ruse’; the question is, why would they have fallen for it? Mr. Pattengale states:
"Two factors immediately indicated that this was a forgery," Mr. Askeland tells me. "First, the fragment shared the same line breaks as the 1924 publication. Second, the fragment contained a peculiar dialect of Coptic called Lycopolitan, which fell out of use during or before the sixth century." Ms. King had done two radiometric tests, he noted, and "concluded that the papyrus plants used for this fragment had been harvested in the seventh to ninth centuries." In other words, the fragment that came from the same material as the "Jesus' wife" fragment was written in a dialect that didn't exist when the papyrus it appears on was made.
It is perhaps understandable that Ms. King would have been taken in when an anonymous owner presented her with some papyrus fragments for research. What is harder to understand was the rush by the media and others to embrace the idea that Jesus had a wife and that Christian beliefs have been mistaken for centuries. No evidence for Jesus having been married exists in any of the thousands of orthodox biblical writings dating to antiquity. You would have thought Thomas Aquinas might have mentioned it. But this episode is not totally without merit. It will provide a valuable case study for research classes long after we're gone and the biblical texts remain.Certainly, scholars and scientists have been duped by forgeries before; that’s all the more reason to tread carefully when it comes to antiquities, particularly those which come anonymously and have no provenance.
As for the wholehearted acceptance of this forgery by the media and others, Mr. Pattengale answers his own question: ‘…that Christian beliefs have been mistaken for centuries.’ There’s a greed among members of our relativistic and secular society to debunk the Bible in any way they can – that’s why they’re drawn to this kind of thing like wasps to honey. If they can debunk the Bible and 2000-plus-years of Christianity, they can then live their lives without guilt and without apology.
Or so they wish.