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Author Topic: Ancient Papyrus Fragment Refers to Jesus' 'Wife'  (Read 2872 times)

Valentine

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Re: Ancient Papyrus Fragment Refers to Jesus' 'Wife'
« Reply #15 on: April 11, 2014, 06:29:12 pm »
Quote from: Valentine;145058
It's certainly interesting, but I don't think it will shake the foundations of the Church or anything.  It looks like the document has been verified as "real," but that just means it wasn't made up by a modern person.  It an be a genuinely old document from the right time and place, but all that means is someone at that time and place chose to write this thing--it doesn't mean that it's actually about the Jesus in question, or that it was a true statement, or tell us the context.  So people who don't want to consider the possibility won't, and people who want to believe the famous Jesus had a wife will feel justified, and most people--devout and otherwise--will file it in the same place they put every other artifact or bit of scholarship on this sort of thing, which is not caring or knowing at all.  Specialists will probably continue to get information about the thing, but it will also fade into obscurity until it's just specialists arguing about it in pretty short order.


Sorry, I know this is a super boring answer!  One thing we can say, as was said upthread, is that the early Church was a place of extraordinary diversity in positions and ideas and texts and demographics, and was only narrowed down into a proper canon later.  And that period then will always be interesting, as is being able to observe the process of such a religious community wrestling around with who and what they want to be.  We saw some of these same arguments with bigger finds like the Gospel of Thomas or the Dead Sea Scrolls--for people who only accept the canon as legitimate, they're not very relevant or easy to dismiss as people who were just wrong and not worth listening to, and for other people they Change Everything, and then the average person on the street goes "Huh?"  But the finds are still worth finding.
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stephyjh

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Re: Ancient Papyrus Fragment Refers to Jesus' 'Wife'
« Reply #16 on: April 12, 2014, 03:59:00 am »
Quote from: beith;145028
I realize this is a pretty old thread, but there's an update on the papyrus at CNN (not my favorite news source, but that's where I see it).

Article is here and links to various educational institution announcements from what I can tell.

The first half the article mentions that tests show the papyrus and characteristics of the ink are consistent with it being aged to 659-859 CE or first to eight century CE, by different institutions.

The second half contains a rebuttal by Leo Depuydt, professor of Egyptology at Brown University.  The article links to the actual publication, but quotes:



I found this update quite interesting and wanted to hang it here.  My knowledge on such things is pretty non-existent.  I'm more apt to believe in the carbon dating and scientific analysis of the document.  However, Depuydt points out that there is a Coptic grammatical mistake that is extremely unlikely to have been in the document naturally (i.e., not a faked document), the same mistake being in the Gospel of Thomas.

Any thoughts from those who are more knowledgeable about such things than I? (This means anyone with any knowledge, basically. :) )

Let me say that in regard to the grammatical mistake, people use technically incorrect variations in their native languages all the time. I mean, here in the southern US "used to could" and "a whole 'nother" are common constructions that I can't imagine being recognizable to scholars of English a thousand years from now.
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Sophia C

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Re: Ancient Papyrus Fragment Refers to Jesus' 'Wife'
« Reply #17 on: April 12, 2014, 05:58:55 am »
Quote from: stephyjh;145075
Let me say that in regard to the grammatical mistake, people use technically incorrect variations in their native languages all the time. I mean, here in the southern US "used to could" and "a whole 'nother" are common constructions that I can't imagine being recognizable to scholars of English a thousand years from now.

My understanding from Biblical Studies sources was that this was almost certainly a fake.  The error isn't just a grammatical mistake,  it's a typo that reproduces one on an online source. But I'm traveling so can't find the evidence for that right  now -  I'll see if I can find it later.
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Altair

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Re: Ancient Papyrus Fragment Refers to Jesus' 'Wife'
« Reply #18 on: April 12, 2014, 06:57:48 am »
Quote from: Valentine;145059

for people who only accept the canon as legitimate, they're not very relevant or easy to dismiss as people who were just wrong and not worth listening to, and for other people they Change Everything, and then the average person on the street goes "Huh?"  But the finds are still worth finding.


The hierarchy has already dismissed it, unsurprisingly. (One of the things they're pointing to, besides the "grammatical error," is that the term "Jesus' wife" could be a reference to the Christian church itself.) Short of Christ reappearing with government-validated I.D. and a complete, undoctored video record of those days, nothing is going to change their minds. They're invested in the myth they've got, and for a story with the status of myth, empirical facts (which this fragment may or may not constitute) are largely irrelevant.

As you note, though, for those yearning for a new myth, this could give it to them.
The first song sets the wheel in motion / The second is a song of love / The third song tells of Her devotion / The fourth cries joy from the sky above
The fifth song binds our fate to silence / and bids us live each moment well / The sixth unleashes rage and violence / The seventh song has truth to tell
The last song echoes through the ages / to ask its question all night long / And close the circle on these pages / These, the metamythos songs

Sophia C

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Re: Ancient Papyrus Fragment Refers to Jesus' 'Wife'
« Reply #19 on: April 12, 2014, 07:51:59 am »
Quote from: Naomi J;145077
My understanding from Biblical Studies sources was that this was almost certainly a fake.  The error isn't just a grammatical mistake,  it's a typo that reproduces one on an online source. But I'm traveling so can't find the evidence for that right  now -  I'll see if I can find it later.

This is a report of the earlier evidence that it was a forgery: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2012/oct/16/gospel-jesus-wife-modern-fake-typo I'd like to see how this is squared with the new evidence.
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Sophia C

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Re: Ancient Papyrus Fragment Refers to Jesus' 'Wife'
« Reply #20 on: April 12, 2014, 07:56:16 am »
Quote from: Altair;145079
The hierarchy has already dismissed it, unsurprisingly. (One of the things they're pointing to, besides the "grammatical error," is that the term "Jesus' wife" could be a reference to the Christian church itself.) Short of Christ reappearing with government-validated I.D. and a complete, undoctored video record of those days, nothing is going to change their minds. They're invested in the myth they've got, and for a story with the status of myth, empirical facts (which this fragment may or may not constitute) are largely irrelevant.

As you note, though, for those yearning for a new myth, this could give it to them.

I'm not at all sure what the hierarchy (of what -  the church? Which one?) thinks about this. Biblical Studies is not theology - it's a largely secular discipline that critiques the Bible, its contexts and uses. Evidence for a new early text about Jesus is something they will strongly demand -  the null hypothesis has to be disproven here, before we can say it is ancient or that it refers to a specific woman who was married to Jesus. That's science.
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beith

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Re: Ancient Papyrus Fragment Refers to Jesus' 'Wife'
« Reply #21 on: April 14, 2014, 12:37:30 pm »
Quote from: DavidMcCann;145052
The dating shows that the papyrus is old and the ink is the sort used in antiquity, but not when the writing was added. These days, no forger would be silly enough not to use authentic materials. There's a good collection of links here
http://harvardmagazine.com/2014/04/jesus-wife-fragment-appears-real


Thank you for pointing this out.  I took the ink being the sort used in antiquity to mean the ink was on the papyrus in antiquity, but of course that isn't what it really means.

Quote from: DavidMcCann;145052
The real point is that if the papyrus were genuine, it wouldn't be very interesting: all sorts of weird and wonderful things have been written. Think of the docetists, who believed that Jesus didn't actually have a material body and that the crucifixion was an illusion. A document written hundreds of years later saying he had a wife whom all the early sources forgot to mention is nothing beside that. Of course, if the first dating to about 200 BC were accurate, that would be interesting.


I think all old things that are authentically old are interesting, whether it means anything about Jesus or not.  But perhaps that's just me.

Quote from: DavidMcCann;145052
It would be interesting to see the rest of the document. Jesus was a common name. There was a Jesus son of Ananias who was arrested by the Sanhedrin in 62 AD for blasphemous prophesies, for example.

 
Absolutely.  I don't think the document as is, if it is genuine and if it is referring to the Jesus the Christ, tells us anything.  There's too little to the fragment and no context.  But like I said, I like old things and it's interesting to me just by being an old thing.  I'm fascinated my early language, including writing.

beith

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Re: Ancient Papyrus Fragment Refers to Jesus' 'Wife'
« Reply #22 on: April 14, 2014, 12:43:27 pm »
Quote from: Valentine;145059
Sorry, I know this is a super boring answer!  One thing we can say, as was said upthread, is that the early Church was a place of extraordinary diversity in positions and ideas and texts and demographics, and was only narrowed down into a proper canon later.  And that period then will always be interesting, as is being able to observe the process of such a religious community wrestling around with who and what they want to be.  We saw some of these same arguments with bigger finds like the Gospel of Thomas or the Dead Sea Scrolls--for people who only accept the canon as legitimate, they're not very relevant or easy to dismiss as people who were just wrong and not worth listening to, and for other people they Change Everything, and then the average person on the street goes "Huh?"  But the finds are still worth finding.

 
Not boring at all, thank you for taking the time to reply!  My interest is more on authenticating the age of the document rather than how it would affect modern Christianity.  I'll be curious to see how this plays out and wish I knew enough about the grammatical mistake made in the document and how one could draw the conclusion that it is fake based on that.

But I do agree with your point that it won't shake the foundations of Christianity or anything like that.  Even if it was proven genuine and it had more context to give actual information about a potential wife of Jesus (as it stands, the document really gives us no information on this), there would be people who still believed only the canon, as you pointed out.

I think the politics of establishing the canonical gospels is interesting too.  So much I could learn and study, so little time...

beith

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Re: Ancient Papyrus Fragment Refers to Jesus' 'Wife'
« Reply #23 on: April 14, 2014, 12:48:13 pm »
Quote from: Naomi J;145080
This is a report of the earlier evidence that it was a forgery: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2012/oct/16/gospel-jesus-wife-modern-fake-typo I'd like to see how this is squared with the new evidence.

 
Thank you so much for passing this along.  I'd like to see how this fits with the new evidence as well.

I'll be reading more about the typo once I am off work (ha, like that happens anymore) and can install the proper alphabet in my web browser.  Thank you again for this info.  A typo certainly has a different connotation than a grammatical mistake (as Stephy points out, such "mistakes" could be part of everyday language).

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