Monday, October 1, 2012

Why is the Jesus Wife Fragment Any More Problematic than P46?

I love scholars.  They're such an open-minded bunch.  I really believe that the only reason they are raising doubts about this stupid scrap of papyrus is that 'there are just too many red flags.'  Sure.  It has nothing to do with the fact that it is challenging our entire inherited belief system about Jesus and early Christianity.  Of course.  I read this in the recent article put forward by the Vatican decrying the text a forgery:

"They both cited concerns expressed by other scholars about the fragment's authenticity and the fact that it was purchased on the market without a known archaeological provenance."

Mmmm.  I wonder where we might be able to find another manuscript like that.  Oh wait.  There's P46 also known as the Chester Beatty Papyrus.  We know almost nothing about the provenance of this text.  We are told that Sir Alfred Chester Beatty, a wealthy American entrepreneur, acquired some of these fragile papyrus manuscript leaves in Egypt in 1930. The University of Michigan was able to acquire some additional leaves from the same codex a few years later.

The real difference between P46 and this new scrap of papyrus is that P46 supports an early dating of the Pauline corpus.  Rather than turning everything upside down, it makes things 'right.'

Anyone who has ever studied the codex has thought to themselves - the person assembling this codex doesn't know what the fuck he is doing. He put too many pages in his codex and only adjusted the size of his letters once he realized his initial calculations were wrong.  It is unusual too that the doxology of Romans 16:25-27 is inserted between 15:33 and 16:1.  But the reason no one has demanded scholarship likes what Chester Beatty Papyrus says about the antiquity of the existing Pauline corpus.

I for one am not suggesting that P46 is a fake and the Jesus Wife fragment is real, only that the testimony of 'good people' no less than 'good witnesses' is rarely questioned by the authorities.  The problem is how do we arrive at our definition of 'good'?

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