You can download the PDF version of Joost’s article HERE.
In this post, I share the result of my work preparing for reading the supposed Gospel of Jesus’ Wife and the related Lycopolitan fragment of the Gospel of John for the Coptic Reading Group of the DDGLC Project at the University of Leipzig, Germany, on the 29th of April 2014. Most of the work was done on Sunday the 27th, and its starting point was the (re)discovery of the Gospel of John piece and its dependence of the text of the Qau Codex by Christian Askeland that was so widely taken up in the days before. I used the photos of the manuscript and the parallel text presented on the websites of Mark Goodacre (Recto) and Alin Suciu (Verso), as well as some further text of the Qau Codex mentioned to me in subsequent correspondence with Christian Askeland (for line 9 of the Verso).
My remarks are not meant to be exhaustive but made in order to demonstrate that it is possible to say more about the Lycopolitan Gospel of John fragment than that it was copied from the Qau Codex with only every other line being copied as well as exactly the same line breaks being used. In the damaged areas of the papyrus, strange things seem to be going on, and several of them are highly suggestive of forgery. These facts should be added to the debate about the fragment, not least because they are also relevant for the discussion of the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife. During the reading of the texts with the group (we only had time for the Recto), my colleague Frederic Krueger came up with a brilliant remark that I and the others considered to be the ultimate ‚smoking gun‘ of this fragment (see below). I would like to thank the participants for listening to and elaborating my arguments, which I hereby present to a wider audience.
Reading and reconstruction of the text
For the following presentation of the text of the Lycopolitan Gospel of John piece, both on the papyrus and not on the papyrus, I took the fragment itself as my point of departure, and not its supposed Vorlage, the Qau Codex, as was done by Alin Suciu, Mark Goodacre and Christian Askeland. From the edition of the Qau Codex, however, I took the words and letters missing on the fragment as it is now, in order to get a better feeling for what a complete original would have looked like.
For the same reason I added notes about the number of letters per line, both on the preserved part and for the reconstructed missing part, giving the presumed total number on the right. I have no further remarks to make about these numbers, except for one important observation that was made independently by Christian Askeland (see below), but thought it only logical to look into the matter in the course of my work. With the one exception, at first glance all of these numbers look quite possible to me, but in light of the additional evidence for forgery to be mentioned below, maybe more could be made of this when someone has a closer look.
I do not pretend my text to be a proper edition of the fragment, nor claim that it is perfect, but within the time and circumstances available to me I hope to have given a faithful rendering of both the text visible on the photos and of the edited text of the Qau Codex, both as presented in the online sources mentioned above. The problems I have with the text are indicated in red, and these parts are then quoted and commented upon in the next paragraph.
In several instances in the areas of the lacunae and of otherwise damaged text, the manuscript fragment of the Lycopolitan Gospel of John, which in its better preserved parts seems to follow the Qau Codex to the letter (except for ebol for abal), seems to deviate from its ‚Vorlage‘.
In several instances, traces of letters do not seem to have the right shape; in four cases (Recto, l. 2, 4 and 5 and Verso, l. 4), there does not seem to be enough space for the number of letters expected; in two cases (Recto, l. 4 and Verso, l. 5) a letter seems to have been accidentally omitted; in one case (Recto, l. 8) several letters of one word seem to have been omitted; in one case (Verso, l. 9) a lacuna is much too long for the text it can be supposed to have contained; finally, in two cases (Recto, l. 5 and Verso, l. 4) it seems apparent that the text was actually written around an already existing gap in the papyrus, rather than the papyrus having been damaged sometime after having been written upon.
Whether all these things are due to the clumsiness of a forger (who apparently could not estimate how many letters fit into a lacuna, and did not pay close enough attention to each and every letter of the ‚Vorlage‘) or were at least partly done on purpose, in order to provide some variation from the text of the Qau Codex, something clearly is wrong with this Gospel of John fragment.
I have nothing to add to the discussion about the related Gospel of Jesus’ Wife, except for the fact that in l. 3 of that text, the way in which the final M of Mariam and the M of mpsha are too close together, reminds me of the things that made me suspicious about the Gospel of John piece in the first place.
Whether or not all of the above remarks can survive further scrutiny by others, things seem to add up to (even more) evidence of forgery…
JOOST L. HAGEN (born 1978 in Apeldoorn, the Netherlands) studied Egyptology at the University of Leiden from 1996 to 2003 and was in Münster for the Wintersemester 2004/2005. As from autumn 2005 he is writing his doctoral dissertation about the Coptic texts from Qasr Ibrim in Egyptian Nubia: “Multilingualism and cultural change in medieval Nubia”. During the first phases of this research, conducted between 2005 and 2009 at the Leiden Institute CNWS/LIAS, he regularly worked in the Egypt Exploration Society excavation archive in Cambridge and London and in the Coptic and Egyptian Museums in Cairo. SOURCE