A Harvard professor who caused a huge splash when she unveiled a small fragment of papyrus that she said referred to Jesus being married now says it is likely to be a forgery.
Harvard Divinity School professor Karen King revealed the piece of papyrus in Rome in 2012. The fragment, written in Coptic, includes the phrase, “Jesus said to them, My wife.”
Right from the beginning, it sparked controversy and debate among scholars.Doubts about its authenticity emerged almost immediately.
King said it is more likely than not that the fragment is a modern forgery. She cited an investigative article published last week on the website of the Atlantic magazine that raised questions about the owner of the papyrus, Florida businessman Walter Fritz. The Atlantic also was the first to report her concession that the papyrus is likely to be a fake.
“If you ask me today which direction am I leaning more toward – ancient text or a modern forgery – based on this new evidence, I’m leaning toward modern forgery,” King told Associated Press.
The Atlantic found inconsistencies in Fritz’s story about how he came to acquire the papyrus and in a document he gave to King purporting to authenticate it.
“This evidence does make a difference in judging whether it was a forgery or not, and it pushes the evidence toward it being a forgery,” King said.
A valid telephone number could not be found for Fritz. In an email sent to the AP on Monday, Fritz included a letter he sent to the Atlantic in which he denied forging, altering or manipulating the papyrus or its inscription.
Mark Goodacre, a professor of religious studies at Duke University in North Carolina, said doubts about the fragment were raised within hours of King exhibiting the text at a conference in Rome.