Veritas: A Harvard Professor, a Con Man and the Gospel of Jesus's Wife

Ariel Sabar


What happens when an academic is offered the physical support for their theories? This is the story of the "Gospel of Jesus' wife", a Coptic fragment purporting to contain and almost-contemporaneous quote of Jesus referring to Mary Magdalene in this way. If that sounds like The Da Vinci Code, well, yes it does – and one of the many ironies is that the academic receiving the fragment was a consultant on the film....

The details of this simple-sounding con – and it does sound like a con, even from such a short description – involve a deep-dive into the provenance of ancient documents, the international market in papyri, the intricacies of Coptic linguistics, and other high-culture sub-cultures. Very few people come out well.

But there's no physical evidence to link the papyrus' creation to the specific individual, and while the circumstantial case is compelling, there's still something slight unsatisfactory about the investigation. Why did the forger – if indeed he was the forger – do it? He seems to have had no motive. Even though he had the background, did he have the practical skills? And indeed, might he have been more skilled than he turned out to be?

Finished on Sat, 20 Mar 2021 00:00:00 -0700.   Rating 4/5.