Deal W. Hudson.
June 27, 2016
Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, has just slapped down some theological and archeological silliness of a Harvard professor about there being a “wife” of Jesus: Read what he has to say below.
In 2012, Harvard professor Karen L. King told the world that we need to rethink Jesus’ alleged celibacy. In all likelihood, she concluded, Jesus had a wife.
Her evidence? She was in possession of a fragment of papyrus that was inscribed with the words, “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife … .’” In 2014, her article on this subject, “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife,” was published in the esteemed Harvard Theological Review. Now she reluctantly concedes that her finding is likely a forgery.
She really didn’t have much choice. The July/August edition of the Atlantic magazine offers an investigative account on the owner of the papyrus, Walter Fritz: The man is a fraud, and so is his “evidence.”
Right from the get-go, there were several notable observers who smelled a rat. Among those not fooled was the Vatican. Right after King floated her story about Jesus’ wife, the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, labeled her tiny swath of papyrus an “inept forgery.” The newspaper’s editor, Gian Maria Vian, dismissed it as “a fake.”
When King went public in 2012 about her finding, she was cock-sure that she was right. Jesus’ reference to “My wife,” she said, was so clear that those words “can mean nothing else.” She also boasted that “this is the first unequivocal statement we have that claims Jesus had a wife.” When asked if ink tests may yet prove her papyrus scrap a fraud, she replied that more likely the tests “will be the cherry on the cake.”
As it turns out, there is no cake, never mind a cherry. What we have is a mess—one that she created. King showed her arrogance again when she asserted that her little fragment rose to the level of an “unequivocal statement.” If it were “unequivocal,” she wouldn’t be walking back her remarkable claims.
Moreover, her conclusion that the words “My wife” are not open to interpretation is rather curious coming from an academic: higher education these days denies the existence of truth, subjecting the plain words of a text to constant deconstruction. So why, all of a sudden, should her account be considered definitive?
King is not the only one to eat crow about her Jesus’ wife story. Roger Bagnall teaches at New York University’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World. In 2012, after looking at the images of the papyrus with his colleagues, he said, “we were unanimous in believing, yes, this was OK.” He was confident it was not a forgery. “You’d have to be really kind of perversely skilled to produce something like this as a fake.”
Bagnall was duped. So was Princeton’s AnneMarie Luijendijk, a professor of religion (King served on her doctoral dissertation committee). She dug herself in deep when she exclaimed, “It would be impossible to forge.” Does she now believe in miracles?
Gnostic gospel scholar Elaine Pagels, who had previously collaborated with King on a book, told Ariel Sabar, the author of the Atlantic article, that “she had little doubt about the authenticity of the papyrus King had studied.” But how would she know? This is the same Princeton professor of religion who does not believe in the Virgin Mary, the Resurrection, and other central tenets of Christianity, but expects us to put our faith in her opinion.
When King’s “ground-breaking” story surfaced, I was more than skeptical—I was cynical. Admittedly, my New York University doctorate in sociology yields no expertise in this area. But there were sufficient grounds, right from the start, to be dismissive.
Here is what I wrote on September 19, 2012, the day the story broke in the New York Times: “We know nothing about when the scrap [of papyrus] was discovered. We know nothing about where it was discovered. We know nothing about how it was discovered. We know nothing about the context in which the words were written. And we know nothing about the owner.”
These were not the only reasons I had to be suspicious. On the same day, after doing some quick research on King, I wrote the following: “King is known for her fertile imagination. For example, she previously claimed that Mary Magdalene was one of the apostles. Even better, in the book in which she made this extraordinary claim, she ‘rejects his [Jesus’] suffering and death as the path to eternal life.’ Not much after that.”
I concluded, “So after first inventing an apostle for Jesus—who the divinity professor says is not the Savior—King has invented a wife for him. Her generosity, if not her scholarship, is beyond dispute.”
One does not have to hold a Ph.D. in any discipline to wonder why the media, and some academics, were popping the champagne. It is not hard to figure out why: they were ideologically predisposed to (a) believing King’s account and (b) rejecting the biblical one. This is not a matter of conjecture.
As soon as King’s fable was announced, she exposed her agenda. Her work, she said, casts doubt “on the whole Catholic claim of a celibate priesthood based on Jesus’ celibacy. They always say, ‘This is the tradition, this is the tradition.’ Now we see that this alternative tradition has been silenced.”
This is nonsense. No one was silenced, and she knows it. Why didn’t she name names? Who was silenced? Who did the silencing? Where is the evidence?
To read the remainder go here.
Originally published at http://www.cns.com.