“The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” and the Value of Provenance

A new investigation into a controversial artifact highlights the importance of historical provenance research.


Last week, The Atlantic‘s Ariel Sabar published an exposé of “The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife,” a business-card-sized papyrus that purports to demonstrate Jesus’ marital status.  The Gospel has been among the most controversial of recent discoveries since Harvard historian Karen King declared it to be authentic in a widely-publicized 2012 press conference near the Vatican.  King’s team carbon-dated the Gospel’s papyrus fibers, analyzed the composition of the ink, and analyzed its Coptic composition, finding each to be authentic.  What King did not do, surprisingly for a historian, was to examine the historical provenance of the document: its chain of custody dating back millennia.  Sabar’s article does this, and it demonstrates convincingly — and King now concedes — that the Gospel is almost certainly a forgery. Continue reading ““The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” and the Value of Provenance”

New Essay on Agency at S-USIH Blog

Last month, my essay, Beyond the Agency Debate, was published at the Society for U.S. Intellectual History blog. In the essay, I discuss the concept of unintentional agency, an idea which I believe is suggested by my research on charismatic followers. Click over to the S-USIH blog to read the whole thing.