The Curious Case of Jesus’s Wife

Lab tests have suggested that a papyrus scrap mentioning Jesus’s wife is authentic. Why do most scholars believe it’s fake?

For six days in September 2012, some 300 participants came together at Sapienza University, in Rome, for the 10th International Congress of Coptic Studies. Among those presenting was Karen L. King. The author of five books, King is a highly respected specialist in early Christianity whose work focuses on a group of Christians commonly known as the Gnostics. Her 2003 volume, What Is Gnosticism?, is already a standard in the field. She currently teaches at Harvard Divinity School, where she is the first woman to hold the Hollis Professorship—the oldest endowed chair in the country. She is, and has long been, considered to be one of the best religion scholars in the world.

King began her lecture at 7 o’clock in the evening, during the last session on the second day, a time when most participants had moved on to dinner, at least mentally. King’s talk followed others with titles such as “A New Branch: Judas Scholarship in Gnostic Studies” and “Wisdom’s Sadness in Valentinian Cosmogony,” and hers promised to be similarly staid. Its title, “A New Coptic Gospel Fragment,” might have suggested she would be describing a newly discovered fragment of a previously known Christian text—nothing more, that is, than a minor addition to the corpus of old Christian texts, of the type that appear on the scene with some regularity. But once King began her lecture, those in the audience quickly realized that she would not be talking about a new fragment of a familiar Gospel. Instead, she would be presenting something extraordinary: a fragment of a previously unknown Gospel.

King believed that the fragment dated from about the fourth century A.D. (later testing would show that it likely dated from about the eighth century) and that it may have been a translation of a Greek text originally written in the second century A.D. The fragment was small, about the size of a credit card, and contained eight incomplete lines of text that read as follows:

1. not [to] me. My mother gave me li[fe]
2. The disciples said to Jesus
3. deny. Mary is n[ot] worthy of it
4. Jesus said to them, My wife
5. she is able to be my disciple
6. Let wicked people swell up
7. As for me, I am with her in order to
8. an image

Many aspects of the text and the papyrus were unusual. Some were not so obvious at first glance, though they would turn out to be of great significance later on. But one was momentous, and became the focus of attention: the fourth line, in which Jesus makes reference to having a wife. This was a bombshell. No such direct reference, in Jesus’s own words, had ever been discovered before in any early Christian text.

Even though the dialogue recorded in the fragment is only partial, almost anyone can understand the gist. The first line has Jesus recognizing his mother’s importance. The second and third lines have the disciples seemingly debating the worthiness of Mary—a probable reference, given the words my wife in the fourth line, not to the Virgin Mary but to Mary Magdalene, the oft-maligned patron of the Jesus movement. This Mary, Jesus says in line five, can be his disciple, and in lines six and seven he castigates those who would oppose such discipleship as “wicked,” drawing the contrast with himself, who is “with her.”

As King discussed her interpretation of the text and its importance to the history of Christian thought, those in the audience asked whether they could see a picture of the fragment. King’s computer wasn’t working, so they passed around an iPad with a photo of it. Almost immediately upon seeing the fragment, some of the scholars in the room began to openly question its authenticity. The next day, writing on his blog, Christian Askeland, a Coptic scholar currently affiliated with Indiana Wesleyan University, summed up the general feeling about the fragment. The specialists at the conference who had seen the photo were “split,” he wrote, “with almost two-thirds … being extremely skeptical about the manuscript’s authenticity and one-third … essentially convinced that the fragment is a fake.”

While the experts were airing their doubts, a very different story was being broadcast to the wider public. At about the time King was presenting her talk in Rome, the Harvard Divinity School put photos and an early draft of her commentary about the fragment online. Even before she left Cambridge for the conference, King had shown the fragment to The New York Times, The Boston Globe, and Harvard Magazine, which had taken photos of her in her office holding the framed text up for the camera. Just after King gave her talk, therefore, The Times was able to publish news of the fragment’s discovery online, in a story titled “A Faded Piece of Papyrus Refers to Jesus’ Wife.” That article, accompanied by a photo of King and the fragment, appeared in the print edition of The Times the next morning. The Boston Globe ran a similar story, misleadingly titled “Historian’s Finding Hints That Jesus Was Married.”

Much more to read found at the Atlantic.

An Italian Boy’s Confession

“Bless me Father, for I have sinned. I have been with a loose girl.”

The priest asks, “Is that you, little Joey Pagano?”

“‘Yes, Father, it is.”

“And who was the girl you were with?”

“I can’t tell you, Father. I don’t want to ruin her reputation.”

“Well, Joey, I’m sure to find out her name sooner or later so you may as well tell me now. Was it Tina Minetti?”

“I cannot say.”

“Was it Teresa Mazzarelli?”

“I’ll never tell.”

“Was it Nina Capelli?”

“I’m sorry, but I cannot name her.”

“Was it Cathy Piriano?”

“My lips are sealed.”

“Was it Rosa DiAngelo, then?”

“Please, Father, I cannot tell you.”

The priest sighs in frustration. “You’re very tight lipped, and I admire that. But you’ve sinned and have to atone. You cannot be an altar boy now for 4 months. Now you go and behave yourself.”

Joey walks back to his pew, and his friend Franco slides over and whispers, “What’d you get?”

“Four months vacation and five good leads!”

The FBI Is Very Excited About This Machine That Can Scan Your DNA in 90 Minutes

Rapid-DNA technology makes it easier than ever to grab and store your genetic profile. G-men, cops, and Homeland Security can’t wait to see it everywhere.

Robert Schueren shook my hand firmly, handed me his business card, and flipped it over, revealing a short list of letters and numbers. “Here is my DNA profile.” He smiled. “I have nothing to hide.” I had come to meet Schueren, the CEO of IntegenX, at his company’s headquarters in Pleasanton, California, to see its signature product: a machine the size of a large desktop printer that can unravel your genetic code in the time it takes to watch a movie.

Schueren grabbed a cotton swab and dropped it into a plastic cartridge. That’s what, say, a police officer would use to wipe the inside of your cheek to collect a DNA sample after an arrest, he explained. Other bits of material with traces of DNA on them, like cigarette butts or fabric, could work too. He inserted the cartridge into the machine and pressed a green button on its touch screen: “It’s that simple.” Ninety minutes later, the RapidHIT 200 would generate a DNA profile, check it against a database, and report on whether it found a match.


A scanner, quickly: The RapidHIT 200 can generate a DNA profile in about 90 minutes. IntegenX

Read it all HERE.

What is Lake–Effect Snow?

Which Endangered Species Would You Save?

World War II Vet Returns To France 60 Years Later To Realize He’s Become A European Legend

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Free tool detects ‘government surveillance spyware’

Free software that can detect the presence of surveillance spyware has been launched by a global coalition of human rights and tech organizations.

Organizations including Amnesty International, Privacy International, Digitale Gesellschaft and Electronic Frontier Foundation have teamed up to unveil the open source tool Detekt.

Detekt, they say, is the first publicly available tool that spots surveillance spyware that has been “increasingly” used by governments to read private emails and remotely turn on a computer’s camera or microphone to secretly record activities.

The tool was developed by German security researcher Claudio Guarnieri, who was part of the team that first identified that the commercially available FinFisher spyware sold to law enforcement and governments had been found running on computers all over the world.

According to Guarnieri, the goal of Detekt is not to create a generic malware detector but a “free and open source utility for human rights workers and concerned citizens to try to detect the potential presence of spyware we’ve observed being used against civil society”.

Guarnieri told BetaNews: “The tool is a utility, but it’s also a message and an attempt to raise awareness on the issue of governments’ abuse of largely misunderstood and unregulated surveillance technologies. Hopefully people will engage and initiate a debate before it’s too late to change anything”.

Earlier this year, WikiLeaks released copies of surveillance software developed by German company FinFisher, which it said would ‘help the tech community build tools to protect people from it’.

More HERE.


The drone war in Pakistan.

At the Pearl Continental Hotel, in Peshawar, a concrete tower enveloped by flowering gardens, the management has adopted security precautions that have become common in Pakistan’s upscale hospitality industry: razor wire, vehicle barricades, and police crouching in bunkers, fingering machine guns. In June, on a hot weekday morning, Noor Behram arrived at the gate carrying a white plastic shopping bag full of photographs. He had a four-inch black beard and wore a blue shalwar kameez and a flat Chitrali hat. He met me in the lobby. We sat down, and Behram spilled his photos onto a table. Some of the prints were curled and faded. For the past seven years, he said, he has driven around North Waziristan on a small red Honda motorcycle, visiting the sites of American drone missile strikes as soon after an attack as possible.

Behram is a journalist from North Waziristan, in northwestern Pakistan, and also works as a private investigator. He has been documenting the drone attacks for the Foundation for Fundamental Rights, a Pakistani nonprofit that is seeking redress for civilian casualties. In the beginning, he said, he had no training and only a cheap camera. I picked up a photo that showed Behram outdoors, in a mountainous area, holding up a shredded piece of women’s underwear. He said it was taken during his first investigation, in June, 2007, after an aerial attack on a training camp. American and Pakistani newspapers reported at the time that drone missiles had killed Al Qaeda-linked militants. There were women nearby as well. Although he was unable to photograph the victims’ bodies, he said, “I found charred, torn women’s clothing—that was the evidence.”

Since then, he went on, he has photographed about a hundred other sites in North Waziristan, creating a partial record of the dead, the wounded, and their detritus. Many of the faces before us were young. Behram said he learned from conversations with editors and other journalists that if a drone missile killed an innocent adult male civilian, such as a vegetable vender or a fruit seller, the victim’s long hair and beard would be enough to stereotype him as a militant. So he decided to focus on children.

Many of the prints had dates scrawled on the back. I looked at one from September 10, 2010. It showed a bandaged boy weeping; he appeared to be about seven years old. There was a photo of a girl with a badly broken arm, and one of another boy, also in tears, apparently sitting in a hospital. A print from August 23, 2010, showed a dead boy of perhaps ten, the son of an Afghan refugee named Bismillah Khan, who lived near a compound associated with the Taliban fighting group known as the Haqqani network. The boy’s skull had been bashed in.

More HERE.

All hail to Caesar!

hail caesar

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