Archive for September, 2012

No, it proves nothing (!) and mostly (but not exclusively though) because it has no provenance. For any given antiquity, provenance is essential for credibility and historicity. That of this ancient manuscript is as yet undetermined.

[Emphasis mine.]

A discovery by a Harvard researcher may shed light on a controversial aspect of the life of Jesus Christ.

Harvard Divinity School professor Karen L. King says she has found an ancient papyrus fragment from the second century that, when translated, appears to indicate that Jesus was married.

The text from the New Testament is being dubbed “The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife.” The part of it that’s drawing attention says, “Jesus said to them, ‘my wife'” in the Coptic language. The text, which is printed on papyrus the size of a business card, has not been chemically tested to verify its dating, but King and other scholars have said they are confident it is a genuine artifact.

“Christian tradition has long held that Jesus was not married, even though no reliable historical evidence exists to support that claim,” King said at a conference in Rome on Tuesday. “This new gospel doesn’t prove that Jesus was married, but it tells us that the whole question only came up as part of vociferous debates about sexuality and marriage. From the very beginning, Christians disagreed about whether it was better not to marry, but it was over a century after Jesus’s death before they began appealing to Jesus’ marital status to support their positions.”

King, who focuses on Coptic literature, Gnosticism and women in the Bible, has published on the Gospel of Judas and the Gospel of Mary of Magdala. She presented her research Tuesday evening in Rome, where scholars are gathered for the International Congress of Coptic Studies…


The fragment has eight incomplete lines of writing on one side and is badly damaged on the other side, with only three faded words and a few letters of ink that are visible, even with the use of infrared photography and computer-aided enhancement.

The private owner of the papyrus first approached King in 2010. King said she didn’t believe the document was authentic, but the owner persisted. She then asked the owner to bring the papyrus to Harvard, where she became convinced it was a genuine early Christian text fragment. Along with Princeton University professor Anne Marie Luijendijk and Roger Bagnall, director of the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, King claims to have confirmed the document is real. The document’s owner has not been named and King said he does not want to be identified.

It’s unclear when the text was initially discovered

There is more here.

Watch as ignorant, dilettantish, sensationalist media mongers run riot with the above story and the unsubstantiated claims made in it over the next couple of days… And when you do, please remember it is an undated, incomplete, unprovenanced, fragmentary document that can be saying and meaning anything (most likely, that someone centuries after the time of Jesus was of the opinion that he may have been married). Archaeologically speaking, there is simply far too much being read into this not-so-new discovery. Moreover, it is a well-known fact that the Coptic and Gnostic writings of that period are particularly notorious for being spurious and palpably fake.

Now all that said, Dr King is a fine scholar with a good reputation. Her forthcoming journal article for the Harvard Theological Review can be read here.

See also Bible Places:

The problem with today’s headline story is not the discovery of an ancient document that suggests that someone once believed that Jesus had a wife. There were many false and unbiblical teachings in ancient times, just as there are today. The problem is the media can very easily make a minor story into something sensational that appears to threaten historic Christianity…



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If you have time:

From UrCrowdsource:

Ever wonder if old archaeological excavations were really like they are in the movies?

Find out.

Help us document a 1922-1934 excavation by reading and transcribing letters, field notes, and reports from the dig in southern Iraq.

The site of Ur, one of the earliest cities in the world, was jointly excavated by the British Museum and the University of Pennsylvania Museum for 12 years in the early 20th century. Despite many publications on the site, there is still much to learn. And new digital techniques mean we can get data to researchers more completely and efficiently.

We have a plethora of 90-year-old information to make digitally searchable. And we need help. With thousands of pages of typed letters and reports from the field and thousands more handwritten field notes in need of transcription, one or two research assistants just can’t do the job.

You can sign up and get started here. Ur is mentioned in the Bible four times in connection with Abraham: Genesis 11:28, 31; 15:7; Nehemiah 9:7.

Ziggurat of Ur from the east    Photo: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, LC-DIG-matpc-13196

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The Key to David’s City:

Eilat Mazar has resumed excavations in the (so-called) Ophel, and her partners at Armstrong College plan to provide regular updates. They begin with an on-location interview of Mazar.



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On the ancient city site. e! Science News:

The Old Testament Studies and Biblical Archaeology division of the Faculty of Protestant Theology at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) and the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) this year again conducted excavations on the ancient hill of Jaffa in Israel. The recent excavations have not only shed new light on the destruction of elements of the fortification, but also unearthed evidence pointing towards the presence of an Egyptian population on the site. Historically, Jaffa, now part of the city of Tel Aviv, is the oldest port documented in world history. Ever since the 2nd millennium B.C., Jaffa has been home to intense trading activity. The remains of a gateway belonging to an Egyptian fortification dating to the dynasty of Ramses II (1279-1213 B.C.) had already been discovered during excavations led by the former municipal archaeologist Y. Kaplan in the 1950s. However, the findings from Kaplan’s digs have never been extensively published. The Jaffa Cultural Heritage Project, whose partners include the universities in Mainz and Los Angeles as well as the Israeli Antiquities Authority and the Old Jaffa Development Company, not only aims to publish the findings of these older excavations, but also conduct new digs at sites around the city.

The goal of this year’s excavations was to clarify the history of settlement during the 2nd millennium B.C. by investigating the phases of the fort’s destruction and the nature of the Egyptian presence. The German site director Dr. Martin Peilstöcker of JGU explains that it has now become clear that the gate itself was destroyed and rebuilt at least four times. Moreover, it also appears that there is more than just the mud brick architecture and household pottery that reflect Egyptian tradition. In fact, a rare scarab amulet has been found that bears the cartouche of the Egyptian Pharaoh Amenhotep III (1390-1353 B.C.), thus also attesting to the presence of an Egyptian community in the city. Some of the discoveries made during the excavations are to be put on display in a special exhibition at the Bible Experience Museum Frankfurt in 2013.


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Ahead of Judaism’s High Holy Days when hundreds of thousands will visit the holy site, engineers inspect Western Wall to ensure stability • Office of the rabbi of the Western Wall confirms that site is safe and ready to receive the faithful.

A team of engineers closely examined Jerusalem’s Western Wall — a remnant of the ancient Temple destroyed in 70 C.E. — on Tuesday. The inspection is carried out annually to the check stability of the site ahead of the High Holy Days.

With less than two weeks to go before the Jewish New Year and the start of the most important days in Judaism ahead of Yom Kippur, when hundreds of thousands of people are expected to visit the site, engineers examined the ancient stones.

The office of the rabbi of the Western Wall, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, said there were no abnormal findings in Tuesday’s test. Tests in previous years have uncovered stones damaged by bad weather, but no problems were found this year.

In 2003 an engineering survey of the Western Wall was undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority which mapped the stones in the wall and physical problems, and undertook to monitor the state of the wall’s preservation. A survey by engineers in 2009 spotted detached building material and found that stones in the upper courses of the wall were in danger of falling. Conservation efforts were undertaken to remove hazards and stabilize the original stones. The wall was stabilized and annual maintenance is now carried out to monitor the situation.

Source:  Israel Hayom


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There’s a video (in Hebrew) out on the recently discovered reservoir near the Temple Mount (which we mentioned here).


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The Thanksgiving Hymns are the creation of poets who became the Community of priests who left the Temple (or were cast out, as indicated by this collection); they eventually settled at Qumran. The poetry rivals, sometimes, the heights obtained by the stellar poets who bequeathed us the Psalter (the Davidic Psalms). In my judgment, the Thanksgiving Hymns are the mystical ruby in the breastplate of the Qumranic priests.

Read the rest of James H Charlesworth’s essay on psalm or poem in 1QHa 16.5-17.37 and the translation thereof here.


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