CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Weeks after scientists said testing indicated the papyrus known as "The Gospel of Jesus' Wife" was not a fake, new doubts have been brought forward about its authenticity.
The papyrus, which contains the words "Jesus said to them, 'My wife,' " has been the subject of debate since Harvard Divinity School historian Karen King unveiled the fragment at a conference in Rome in 2012. After almost two years of testing, the school said in a statement there was no evidence the fragment was a fake and that the document dated back to between the sixth and ninth centuries CE.
However, Harvard's publication of the testing results gave those who were skeptical of the papyrus' authenticity more material to investigate, according to the New York Times. Christian Askeland, a Coptic specialist at Indiana Wesleyan University, said he found new evidence the document is a modern forgery and others have taken note.
"This is substantive, it's worth taking seriously, and it may point in the direction of forgery," King told the New York Times. "This is one option that should receive serious consideration, but I don't think it's a done deal."
Among the materials released by Harvard was an image of another papyrus known as the "Gospel of John," which was given to King by the same owner of "The Gospel of Jesus' Wife." The two fragments share similarities in handwriting, ink and writing utensil, Askerland said.
The "Gospel of John" fragment appears to have been copied from another John text known as the "Codex Qau," which was discovered at a Egyptian gravesite in 1923, according to Askerland. He told the New York Times he thinks a forger copied the codex from a picture on the Internet.
"Two factors immediately indicated that this was a forgery," Askeland is quoted as saying in an editorial that appeared in The Wall Street Journal. "First, the fragment shared the same line breaks as the 1924 publication. Second, the fragment contained a peculiar dialect of Coptic called Lycopolitan, which fell out of use during or before the sixth century."
He said if the "Gospel of John" text is a forgery, then "The Gospel of Jesus' Wife" is likely a forgery as well because they appear to have been written by the same person.
Other researchers cautioned that the fragments still can't be determined to be fake until more testing is done. They said it is possible the John texts were copied during ancient times and pointed out it is not clear if the two texts actually were written by the same person.