To Catch A Papyrus
Honestly, I had forgotten all about this, but it is a story that would make Dan Brown jealous for not having thought of it first.
In 2012 Karen King, a prestigious scholar at Harvard Divinity School, announced the academic discovery of a lifetime: a scrap of papyrus, purportedly from the early days of Christianity, in which Jesus refers to a woman as “my wife.”
The text also includes the words “Mary” and “she is able to be my disciple.”
It seemed, at first, like a blockbuster finding for feminist scholars and an existential threat to the Catholic Church’s all-male priesthood.
King, who unveiled her find just steps from the Vatican, thought the fragment could validate her life’s work: claiming a place for women in the early days of Christianity.
But instead of overturning years of religious scholarship, King’s “discovery” capsized her career.
The “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife,” as King called it, was exposed by scholars as fake, and the prestigious professor’s name has become a watchword for academics hoodwinked by con men.
In 2016, after journalist Ariel Sabar published an article in The Atlantic uncovering the ownership history of the “Jesus’ Wife” fragment, King herself publicly acknowledged the papyrus is likely a forgery.
Four years later Sabar is back with the fascinating full story in his new book, “Veritas: A Harvard Professor, a Con Man and the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife.”
Sabar painstakingly unspools the threads that lead to King’s demise, seeking to explain why she would stake her reputation on promises from a mysterious Florida man she’d never met.
You can see evidence of the fragment’s fakeness on Sabar’s website.