I realize that the story is now beginning to die down, and that large parts of the media are saying, "Nothing to see here; move on, move on", but there are a few things I would like to mention before the story drops out of everyone's consciousness, not least as my time has been a bit too limited to blog about it over the last few days. Today's Chronicle of Higher Education is already looking to learn the Lessons of Jesus' Wife, but I am not ready to give up on the story yet.
There is one post in particular that rewards careful consideration. In addition to Christian Askeland's video, which I mentioned the other day, there is an important post by Alin Suciu and Hugo Lundhaug, On the So-Called Gospel of Jesus’s Wife. Some Preliminary Thoughts (and see also the comments and the fresh post on a Peculiar Dialectical Feature).
For full round-ups of the latest material, James McGrath has continued with his excellent summaries and comments in Dating Jesus' Wife, and he also published a parody of Watson's article by Timo Panaanen. All of his posts the topic can be found here.
It was interesting to see how the cumulative weight of the sceptical reaction from among many scholars was enough to cause some serious questioning of the fragment's authenticity. At one stage, it looked like Harvard Theological Review were pulling back on the publication of Karen King's article originally scheduled for January 2013 but the confusion about this was eventually clarified with a statement that underlined the provisional nature of any decision (God and the Machine, with links, and elsewhere).
Nevertheless, what did become clear was that Smithsonian Channel were also anxious about some of the scholarly reaction and decided not to air the documentary last night. I must admit to a little disappointment not to see it, especially after all the hype, but Bob Cargill is surely right to give them kudos for putting it on hold, at least for the time being.
I must admit that my own view on the fragment has further crystallized into outright scepticism. I am cursed with a sceptical mentality, I know, and so you do not -- of course -- want to listen to me on these things. Heck, I don't even believe in the existence of mainstream stuff like Q, or the independence of Thomas. But the more I spend time studying what is available on the fragment, and the more I reflect on the studies by Watson, Askeland, Suciu and Lundhaug (and others), the tougher I find it to to slay the sceptical spirit.
In fact, I was even quoted in Lisa Wangsness's excellent piece in the Boston Globe, Scholars begin to weigh in on ‘Gospel of Jesus’s Wife’, to the effect that the problem with the fragment is that it appears to be dependent not just on the Gospel of Thomas (the work) but on our Coptic Gospel of Thomas (the textual witness).
One point keeps rearing its head in all of this. It is repeatedly said that the fragment could have been dependent on the Gospel of Thomas in antiquity, and so the parallels between the fragment and Thomas do not tell us anything about the authenticity of the fragment. Those who are making this point have either failed fully to understand Watson's case or they are failing to articulate their own counter-argument effectively.
The difficulty is this. Watson's analysis shows that the Jesus Wife Fragment appears to be dependent specifically on our Coptic Thomas from Nag Hammadi Codex II. (Note: this is our only complete textual witness to Thomas.) In other words, we are not talking about literary parallels between works composed in Greek (like Matthew and Mark or Egerton and John) but detailed parallels between one Coptic text (Jesus Wife fragment) and a Coptic textual witness of a Greek work (Coptic Thomas from Nag Hammadi). The reason the verbatim agreements + line breaks are important is that they suggest dependence on this one specific textual witness, not on the work more broadly.
As I see it, there are two options here. Either the author of the Jesus fragment got hold of Codex II before it went into the jar in Nag Hammadi in the late fourth century to be buried for 1500 years, or s/he got hold of it after it came out of the jar in 1945. While we cannot rule out the possibility that s/he got hold of Codex II before it went into the jar, it is much more likely that the author got hold of it in the modern period with its multiple reproductions, in print and internet, of that one witness.