In 2012 We Knew The ‘Jesus Wife’ Fragment Was a Fake

In an essay titled Divorcing Mrs. Jesus, in the Brown University student paper…

 Leading Coptic grammarian and Brown University Professor Dr. Leo Depuydt said, “The evening before, when I saw it online [on the Times website] before it was in print, I already knew it was a fake.”

Anyone with any sense at all can tell it’s a fake.  Furthermore

Professor Leo Depuydt sits in his barren office in the Egyptology Department building at Brown, proud to be playing the role of scholarly detective. Depuydt leaves no room for question. To him the answer is obvious: the fragment is a forgery.  Upon reading the article in the Times, Depuydt cautioned The Harvard Theological Review: “I said literally [in an email to the HTR], ‘The danger of making a fool of oneself is real’.” Taking Depuydt’s comment to heart,The Harvard Theological Review solicited a counter-report from him. Within a matter of days, Depuydt had compiled an independently researched, comprehensive, 14-page report, denouncing any chance of authenticity.  “There is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that the text … is a patchwork of words and phrases from the published and well-known Coptic Gospel of Thomas… It is therefore clear that the Text is not an independent literary composition at all,” Depuydt wrote in his report. King acknowledged the Gospel of Thomas, but only to the extent that it offers certain phrases similar to those in the ‘Gospel of Jesus’ Wife.’

In his report, Depuydt shows, blow by blow, that the vast majority of the text is directly taken from the Gospel of Thomas, and clumsily at that. So careless are the grammatical errors that Depuydt postulates, “An ancient native speaker of Coptic who can select and combine words and phrases from the Gospel of Thomas with any understanding could not possibly have produced said grammatical blunders.” Depuydt believes the author is a modern forger, possibly someone intending the controversial marital reference to be tongue-in-cheek. Nothing is known about the forger, but Depuydt suspects the forger may have come out of Germany: “We [Depuydt and a friend] are focusing on Germany and specifically Berlin because that is where the piece first turned up. But no success so far. The forger’s Coptic is not good. So it could be someone in the periphery of scholarship who never became a scholar.”

“I am at peace … I don’t need any papyrus or ink tests. I already know it is a fake,” said Depuydt, but one issue still leaves him unnerved: “The whole problem so far has been that the media has been so much faster on the trigger than the academics and that has not been a good thing.” Depuydt, who was taught by Shisha-Halevy in the ’80s, believes that his former professor’s comment personally confirming the authenticity of the fragment tipped the balance. “[The Times] saw his report as a watershed. You leave the door just a little open, and they blew it open.”

And that was back in 2012.  So why is Harvard trying this again?  Do they think we have forgotten?  Or are they just crassly publicity hunting?