Copied error from online translation may be 'smoking gun,' scholars say
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A copied error from an online translation of the Gospel of Thomas may be the "smoking gun" that strongly suggests the Gospel of Jesus' Wife, a controversial papyrus fragment that supposedly refers to Jesus being married, is a forgery, scholars say. If the text is fake, it would represent an extraordinary tale of how an amateur with no knowledge of a long-dead language could fool some of the world's leading experts by using a readily available Internet tool -- and how scholars countered by rallying online to swiftly investigate the case together.
The business card-size fragment of papyrus stirred up worldwide controversy with a line of text that reads "Jesus said to them, 'My wife ...'" Many skeptical scholars suggested the document was a forgery in the weeks following the announcement of the discovery by Harvard historian Karen King -- and their early suspicions have evolved into solid theories and findings as they talked through Facebook posts, blogs and e-lists.
One of the most compelling arguments for the fragment being a forgery has emerged from Andrew Bernhard, an Oxford University graduate and author of the book "Other Early Christian Gospels" (T & T Clark, 2006). He published an online paper last week pointing out a pattern of similarities between the Gospel of Jesus' Wife and the Coptic Gospel of Thomas -- similarities that include grammatical errors and line breaks found only in the online word-by-word translation of the Gospel of Thomas.
"It's remarkable that a forger could have forged something like this using a simple tool on the Internet," Bernhard said. "It's equally stunning how quickly scholars could respond and analyze the text."
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