The Jesus’ Wife Fragment: How the Forgery Was Done

From Prof. Mark Goodacre’s (Duke University) Blog

By Prof. Mark Goodacre

Prof. King with her sensational found

I am grateful to Andrew Bernhard for sharing his full exposition of how the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife was forged, on the basis of Michael Grondin’s online interlinear Gospel of Thomas website.

I have previously blogged about Andrew Bernhard’s research on the fragment (Jesus’ Wife Fragment: Further Evidence of Modern Forgery), where I drew attention to what I regarded as a possible “smoking gun” for the case, the fact that the fragment takes over a typographical error in the PDF of Grondin’s Interlinear.  Andrew’s essay, How the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife Might Have Been Forged: A Tentative Proposal, provided a brilliant analysis of the links between the fragment and Grondin’s Interlinear.

But now Andrew has produced a complete analysis of the links between these works in a new essay that he has published here:

Notes on the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife Forgery

The piece is a well-written, persuasive account of how he sees the forger of the fragment working, and I would encourage you to read it all with care.

Here, courtesy of Andrew Bernhard, is a summary of the findings:

1. Gos. Jes. Wife borrows the framework for a simple dialogue between Jesus and his disciples from Gos. Thom. 12.

2. All decipherable words in Gos. Jes. Wife appear in Gos. Thom. with a single exception: TAHIME (“my wife.”)

3. The words of each line of text in Gos. Jes. Wife are found in close proximity to each other in Gos. Thom.

4. The forger has slightly redacted Gos. Thom. by making masculine pronouns feminine and (attempting to) transform affirmative/negative statements into their opposites.

5. More than half a dozen notable textual features in Gos. Jes. Wife can be attributed to a forger’s dependence on Grondin’s Interlinear.


I think it is now fair to begin openly describing Gos. Jes. Wife as a modern forgery.  Although it is admittedly a novel type of forgery, its text can be explained too easily and too completely as a “patchwork” of words and short phrases drawn from the Gos. Thom. by a forger relying on Grondin’s Interlinear. The possibility that Gos. Jes. Wife is a genuinely ancient writing seems extremely remote.

Gos. Jes. Wife is intended to appear as a basic dialogue between Jesus and his disciples, and the words of both Jesus and his disciples are introduced using the same words found in the basic dialogue of Gos. Thom. 12. Every word in Gos. Jes. Wife (except one) can be traced back to Gos. Thom., and every line of text in Gos. Jes. Wife contains words found in close proximity to each other in Gos. Thom. – even when there is no obvious relationship between them (e.g., line 3). Where a word might easily have been spelled differently in the different texts, both Gos. Jes. Wife and Gos. Thom. have the same spelling (i.e., NAEI). In addition, the forger’s redactional tendencies, namely switching third-person pronouns from masculine to feminine (lines 2, 5, 7) and attempting to invert affirmative / negative statements  (lines 5 and 6), can be identified. The forger has also inadvertently included several tell-tale peculiarities in grammar and spelling that reveal the modern origin of Gos. Jes. Wife.

The forger’s “fingerprints” are discernible in every line of text that has more than one word in it. In line 1, the forger has reproduced a typographical error from Grondin’s Interlinear (the omission of a direct object marker) and a line break from NHC II. The second line has been copied verbatim from Gos. Thom. 12, except the forger has changed a third-person pronoun from masculine to feminine. In line 3, the forger has used a Coptic spelling for the name “Mary” that is barely attested in antiquity but could well be derived from the English translation in Grondin’s Interlinear. In line 4, the forger has omitted a conjunction (JE) that would ordinarily be expected, probably as the result of a line break in NHC II. Line 5 contains a simple inversion of a negative phrase found in Gos. Thom. 55, and the forger has switched its subject from masculine to feminine. Once the intended text of line 6 is recognized, it seems clear that a forger tried to compose the line of Coptic while thinking in English; relying on the translation in Grondin’s Interlinear, the forger attempted to transform an affirmative statement from Gos. Thom. 45 into a negative version but made a pair of grammatical errors in the process (i.e., two verbal prefixes modifying a single infinitive; a non-definite noun modified by a relative). In line 7, the forger has merely rearranged text from Gos. Thom. 29 and 30, switching a masculine pronoun to its feminine equivalent (for the third time in seven lines) in an effort to mask the identity of his or her source.

In the end, only a single Coptic word in Gos. Jes. Wife could not have been copied directly from Gos. Thom. This word, which instantly transformed Gos. Jes. Wife into an international sensation, appears near the center of the small papyrus fragment. It is a compound of a possessive article and feminine noun that could easily have been formed by anyone using Grondin’s Interlinear and the most widely available Coptic-English dictionary in the world: TAHIME (“my wife”).

Renewed thanks to Andrew for making this clear and convincing study available.

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4 Responses to The Jesus’ Wife Fragment: How the Forgery Was Done

  1. toadspittle says:

    Well, Toad is convinced.

    The real point is (he wonders) why should anyone bother?


  2. kathleen says:

    Ah Toad, can you really ask such a question? 😉

    Don’t you know that the greatest stumbling block to Satan and his devils is the Bride of Christ, the Catholic Church? So any way they can discredit Her to the world at large, even if they have to resort to lies and forgeries, is all with that goal in mind.


  3. toadspittle says:

    back should have read, “Ah Toad, can you really ask such a question with a straight face?
    So, if it wasn’t for The Bride of Christ, the Devil would be laughing, would he? (Probably a “leftie” anyway.)


  4. Pastorious says:

    Prof Goodacre thanks Andrew “for making this clear and convincing study available.”

    Sorry – it’s anything but that. To make any sense of this, one would need to be armed with previous study and comment, and be totally engaged with the research. Findings 1-5 are not all supported by evidence; much is assertion. It might be valid, but not based on this text. And who is Prof. King “with her sensational found [sic]”?.

    I have no idea if the premise is valid or not based on this obscuring article. The title gives cause for concern, ‘How the Forgery was done’ – a fait accompli . And the proof for that assertion is not here.


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