Has a Harvard professor proved Jesus had a wife?
Amid the flash of cameras and hubbub of the excited news media, Dr. Karen King unveiled a tiny fragment of an ancient scroll, saying she was publicizing her finding so her academic colleagues could weigh in. And in an uproar, they have.
BY: Rob Kerby, Senior Editor
bought for very high prices and placed in the prestigious Israel Museum in Jerusalem where Brown worked.
They were charged not only with faking the James Ossuary inscription, but also some of Israel’s hitherto prized museum pieces, including the ivory Temple Pomegranate, the inscribed Jehoash Tablet, the Widow’s Plea Ostracon, various clay shards written on with iron-carbon ink, an inscribed wine jug, 190 seals, a stone oil lamp, a quartz bowl and the royal Manasseh Seal.
Each, it was said, had been very cleverly forged, with “fake patina manufactured with great expertise.” The Israel state authorities and private museums had spent millions of dollars for the pieces and were quite embarrassed by the discovery of the forgery ring.
In court, Golan admitted that the ossuary had come from a cache of other such pieces found in 1980 at a tomb in East Talpiyot. Soil had been applied to the box in order to support Golan’s original claim that it had been found elsewhere. However, the case of the ossuary continues to swirl with controversy – particularly after Golan was acquitted of having forged the inscription.
Today, not much agreement remains between archaeologists and those who insist the ossuary’s inscription is authentic, such as French ancient-writing expert Andre Lemaire. However, the case cast a spotlight on the shadowy-but-legal sales of antiquities in Israel. As a result, the market in illicit antiquities from unauthorized excavations “has almost been entirely halted ,” said an official for the Israeli Antiquities Authority. “This in turn has led to a dramatic reduction in the scope of antiquities robbery occurring at biblical sites.”
How Golan and others acquired the box, and what they did with it next remains mired in controversy. Scholar Rochelle Altman says the inscription is phony and “bears the hallmarks of a fraudulent later addition” in a bid to dupe some wealthy collector into paying more.
“For archaeologists, the court decision doesn’t really change anything,” says University of North Carolina archaeologist Jodi Magness, author of Stone and Dung, Oil and Spit: Jewish Daily Life in the Time of Jesus. “There is no way to tell where the ossuary came from, and without that context, the ossuary is worthless.”
So, is Dr. King’s papyrus fragment a forgery? That remains to be seen. She has agreed to have it scientifically dated by impartial experts.
However, other issues remain: “Aside from questions about the fragment’s authenticity and provenance, some scholars have questioned Dr. King’s interpretation,” writes Goodstein in the Times, “since the fragment lacks context.”
Echoing others, Darrell L. Bock, senior research professor of New Testament studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, noted that even if the fragment is somehow found to be authentic, it might well show Egyptian Christians 350 years after Jesus walked the roads of Israel telling a metaphorical story about Him.
After all, in his epistles to the early church, the Apostle Paul refers to Christ's wife repeatedly -- but it is Christians and the church who are called “the bride of Christ.”