August 10, 2020


Anti-Catholic Porn Producer Scammed Harvard Professor with Gospel of Jesus' Wife: A new book details the backstory behind one of the most shocking historical finds in decades--which turned out to be a fraud. (Candida Moss, Aug. 10, 2020, Daily Beast)

In her talk King claimed that the fragment was a fourth century copy of a second century text about the role of women in the church. Within weeks of the initial announcement in Rome a number of scholars (full disclosure I and my sometime co-author Joel Baden were among them) had publicly begun to question the authenticity of the small credit-card fragment of papyrus. While the world waited for scientific tests to be completed a small cluster of academics--including Christian Askeland, Andrew Bernhard, Francis Watson, Alin Suciu, and Mark Goodacre--began to pull at the threads of the document's significance.

The biggest red flags were the strange sloppy handwriting, the numerous grammatical errors in the text, and the similarities between it and a particular online edition of another early Christian Coptic text, the Gospel of Thomas. The chances that an ancient papyrus fragment would reproduce a typographical error made a millennium and a half later are incalculably small.

To make matters worse, little was known about the fragment's provenance, or history of ownership. It was something, King told Sabar, that she "hadn't engaged... at all." The donor who had approached King with the artifact insisted on anonymity and King allowed only a few details of its history to enter the public domain. An accurate and complete chain of ownership would have  been helpful in ascertaining the authenticity of the fragment and, more important, its legality (Since 2007 the American Society of Papyrologists has condemned the illicit trade in papyri).

The Gospel of Jesus' Wife debate persisted through 2014 with the publication of subsequent scientific data on the age of the papyrus and the ink used on it. Experts in the humanities decried it as an obvious forgery, while others, like King, heralded revelatory ink analysis. To the irritation of scholars on both sides, each new set of scientific testing elicited an avalanche of media speculation that Jesus was actually married. This was despite the fact that the most the fragmentary text could prove is that some people in the ancient world speculated about the romantic status of first century Judaism's most well-known bachelor.

In the end though, it was Sabar himself who would drive the final nail into the coffin. The provenance information that King had received was forged. Years of meticulous research and persistent interview requests eventually brought Sabar to the door of Walter Fritz, a 50-year-old Floridian who had emigrated to the U.S. from Germany. Fritz, a failed wannabe Egyptologist, originally hailed from Bavaria, where he had been raised by a single mother in a small town. Three weeks before King's announcement in 2012, Sabar discovered, Fritz had registered the domain name online using his personal information. Digging deeper, things started to take an unexpected turn.

This was not the only domain name owned by Walter Fritz.

Posted by at August 10, 2020 12:00 AM