manuscript lab

Dating, Forgery: Methods with sampling
Radiocarbon dating – forgery identification

Case Study: Gospel of Jesus' Wife

The April 2014 issue of the Harvard Theological Review published an article by Dr. Karen King that “offers a critical edition of a papyrus fragment in Coptic… in which Jesus speaks of ‘my wife.’” The papyrus, called “the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” or GJW since then, was regarded as a 4th-century copy from a Greek original tentatively dated to the 2nd century. The publication has sparked a worldwide debate concerning the authenticity of the fragment. To provide support for her claim, Dr. King submitted the debated fragment, accompanied by a reference papyrus, to scientific analysis. Radiometric dating placed both papyri in the 8th century and, therefore, effectively disputed the initial claim that GJW originated from an early Christian manuscript. Furthermore, the second papyrus, a fragment of the Gospel of John in the Lycopolitan dialect of Coptic that hitherto served as a reference of an impeccable reputation, turned out to be a modern forgery, since it was written in a dialect that no longer existed in the 8th century CE (NTS, July 2015 issue).

Results of the14C dating conducted in in the Arizona AMS laboratory and NOSAMS in Massachusetts.
(Courtesy Christian Askeland) (Enlarge)