An ancient Coptic papyrus fragment experts claimed provided proof Jesus Christ had a "wife" is almost certainly fake, the Harvard professor who discovered it has admitted.
The "The Gospel of Jesus's Wife" contains the words "Jesus said to them, My wife," indicating that some people believed that Jesus was married and had a wife. It also makes reference to "Mary", which has been interpreted as referring to Mary Magdalene.
At the time, King suggested that the papyrus contained a fourth-century Coptic translation of "a gospel probably written in Greek in the second half of the second century."
However, last week, she admitted the tiny fragment, which experts say dates back to 741 AD, "tips the balance towards forgery."
"It appears now that all the material Fritz gave to me concerning the provenance of the papyrus... were fabrications," King told the Boston Globe.
She added, however, that she could not be "utterly definitive" until scientific tests proved the fragment was fake or someone confessed to forging it.
Her admission came after The Atlantic magazine's website published an investigative article examining the background of the parchment's original owner, Walter Fritz, a former student of Egyptology, owner of an auto parts company and pornographer.
"By every indication, (Walter) Fritz had the skills and knowledge to forge the Jesus'-wife papyrus. He was the missing link between all the players in the provenance story. He'd proved adept at deciphering enigmatic Egyptian text. He had a salesman's silver tongue," writes journalist Ariel Sabar, in part. "Perhaps most important, he'd studied Coptic but had never been very good at it."
Fritz, a Florida native, still maintains he didn't know whether the card-sized fragment was genuine, and he denied forging it.
"I asked Fritz whether there was anyone alive who could vouch for any part of the provenance story," the author continues. "Did he have a single corroborating source to whom he could refer me?"
"I don't," Fritz told him. "It's very unfortunate."
Mark Goodacre, a New Testament scholar at Duke University, told The Boston Globe that Harvard should swiftly update the special Divinity School Web page about the fragment, which still declares: "Testing Indicates 'Gospel of Jesus's Wife' Papyrus Fragment to be Ancient."
This, he said, still gives "the very strong impression, with the Harvard imprimatur, that this was the real deal."