In a bombshell article, The Atlantic exposes a Harvard professor who bet her reputation on the veracity of a pornographer.
These days, people who get their theology from cable TV all seem to “know” that Jesus had a wife.
How do they know? Because the news media has told them time and time again that He did.
How does the media know? Well, there’s a celebrated professor at Harvard Divinity School – Dr. Karen King – who says so. She’s been talking up the fact from Boston to Rome.
How does she know? She possesses an ancient papyrus where Jesus tells us He had a wife. Then the prestigious Harvard Theological Review published a whole journal edition on the “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife,” and the Smithsonian Channel produced a major documentary. National Geographic confidently declared, “No Forgery Evidence Seen in ‘Gospel of Jesus's Wife’ Papyrus.” Two academic institutions did radiocarbon dating tests on it, confirming it was indeed ancient. Spectroscopy tests verified the legitimacy of the ink as well as the use of a third testing mechanism: infrared microspectroscopy. This is science, folks!
This papyrus clearly states, “Jesus said to them, My wife” and “she is able to be my disciple.” Who can argue with that?
Feminist Gnostic Scholars: 1, Traditional Christianity 0.
But not so fast. This summer the Atlantic Monthly, which in 2014 called the papyrus “a bombshell,” featured an investigative report from an honest and dogged journalist. He proved the origin and history of the papyrus itself was as fantastical as the news it announced. His unique investigative findings decimated any semblance of life and legitimacy it supposedly had. And he was not a scholar or expert in ancient texts. How did he do it? That’s the remarkable part of the story.
While the textual scholars were focused on their sophisticated technology authenticating the integrity of the physical properties of the document itself, journalist Ariel Sabar, interested himself with the question of the document’s “provenance” — its trail of ownership. Where did it come from? Not one of the scholars, including King, had cared to investigate this angle.
Sabar’s first clue of the document’s problems was found at the end of a pine-forested road along Florida’s southern Gulf Coast, the home of one Walter Fritz. He was the man who gave the papyrus to Harvard’s Karen King. Neither she nor any of her colleagues ever bothered to look into the reliability of Fritz. Shocked that this was the case, Sabar looked into it and his investigative journey took him on a wild ride, leading to some truly unbelievable discoveries. The article itself is a must-read. But let’s get right to the punch line. Fritz was a fraud of biblical proportions.
He claimed to be a serious and academically published Egyptologist. He was not. He never even finished school. What was he actually, and how did he earn a living? It’s a tale stranger than fiction and is best told in the words of Sabar himself:
Beginning in 2003, Fritz had launched a series of pornographic sites that showcased his wife…
In addition, Fritz’s explained that his wife was clairvoyant, prophetic and gifted at spiritual channeling, having channeled the voices of angels since she was 17. She could also lapse unannounced into long recitations of what Fritz assumed was Aramaic, the language of Jesus. It was not a language she had ever learned.
Sabar contacted Professor King to update her on the surprising news he had uncovered so far. She said she wasn’t interested in what he found and told him she would read his article when it hit the streets. So much for intellectual curiosity.
Eventually Fritz admitted to Sabar he was busted, so he made a proposition. Like a classic con-man, Fritz simply redirected the conversation away from the problem at hand with an allegorical shiny apple. He asked Sabar if he might be interested in working with him on a new book, a thriller on the Mary Magdalene angle of Jesus’ life and the “suppression of the female element” in the Church. Sabar would do the writing. Fritz would do the leg work on the details of the story. Fritz assured him the book would make a “million dollars in the first month or so.” Sabar was mystified that Fritz believed he could turn the man who was going to obliterate his scam into a partner on a book that already famously existed. Sabar ends his article with these two lines:
Fame and fortune would rain down on me, he’d promised. All I had to do was lower my guard and trust him with all the important details.
Sabar must clearly know the power of the imagery he created here, even if most of his readers don’t. Fritz was trying to change and challenge the reliability of God’s Word. And as Satan did with Jesus during his temptations, Fritz promised Sabar the riches of the world if he would just play along in his deception. Demonic indeed.