L’Osservatore Romano Weighs In on the Coptic Papyrus

The Huffington Post is reporting:

imageVATICAN CITY — The Vatican newspaper has added to the doubts surrounding Harvard University’s claim that a 4th century Coptic papyrus fragment showed that some early Christians believed that Jesus was married, declaring it a "fake."

The newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, published an article Thursday by leading Coptic scholar Alberto Camplani and an accompanying editorial by the newspaper’s editor, Giovanni Maria Vian, an expert in early Christianity. They both cited concerns expressed by other scholars about the fragment’s authenticity and the fact that it was purchased on the market without a known archaeological provenance.

20 thoughts on “L’Osservatore Romano Weighs In on the Coptic Papyrus”

  1. I note that Professor Camplani’s comments are rather more cautious and measured than Vian’s. Vian is paid to be editor of a Vatican newspaper known to have an agenda of promoting a conservative brand of Catholicism and therefore has an interest. In denouncing the fragment as a fake he leaves himself open to being subsequently contradicted by the facts of testing. At present he cannot possibly know whether it is a fake or not, although he is entitled to have a view on the matter, which is not worth anything more than anyone else’s just at present.

    The fact that the fragment has little in the way of provenance does not mean very much in the active black market in Coptic artefacts. Both the genuine and the fraudulent are readily available.

    Both Camplani and Vian, together with other nay-sayers may very well be proved correct in the long run. At present they cannot be so proved! But Camplani is correct in his assessment of awaiting the tests on the ink before making a commitment one way or the other!

    1. Looks like Elaine Pagels is backing Karen King.

      Excerpt from link below:

      “Some experts in the field, including Pagels, suggest the fragment contains too little to be faked, suggesting that a forger would have included much more in the document to try and raise the value.”

      http://fox6now.com/2012/09/19/some-say-ancient-scrap-of-papyrus-indicates-jesus-may-have-been-married/

      Guess we’ll have to wait for authentication.

      Although, I’m still waiting for some scientist to duplicate the experiments of Duncan MacDougal (Physician). In 1907, MacDougal weighed human bodies, in his hospital, at the moment of death, and he claimed each body had a reduction in weight by an average of 21g.

      Dr. MacDougal concluded this reduction in weight was attributed to the human soul leaving the body. Therefore, the human soul weighs about 3/4 of an ounce on average.

      He repeated the experiment with dogs, and there was no reduction in weight. His conclusion, with respect to dogs, is they did not have a soul.

  2. As commented several times previously, Karen King is certainly no neutral authority, made an extremely rash statement when telling Smithsonian about the papyrus and, whatever the final outcome, it makes no difference to Christianity. The sensationalists with their hidden agenda think it does.

  3. Some scientists are required to publish a certain amount of papers in reputable peer-reviewed journals each year.

    With that in mind, publishing may be her “hidden agenda,”

    1. “Publishing” is not an agenda that determines what the content will be that one publishes, so Angel stupidly missed Louis’s point.

  4. Even if it would be proven that this papyrus is genuine, that would not means for one second that the content of it (i.e. Jesus may have had a wife) is historical !!! As I said before, I don’t think there is much historical truth in any of the apocryphal gospels and if this one is genuine, I don’t see any reason to think otherwise…

  5. Since syncretism has always been a common trait in gnostic groups, today’s gnostics, particularly the women, imitate the ancients and choose whatever is convenient to them. They thus raise the flag of feminism, just waiting to prove that Jesus had a wife. A lot of wishful thinking is involved, the latest example being the papyrus Karen King announced before making any verification. The people at Harvard realised that, like King, they did not look before leaping to conclusions and are now more cautious. Whatever the outcome, they do not seem to realise that it will make no difference, so probably the world of make believe makes them feel nice.

    1. You touch a good point about feminism Louis but you got to agree with me that it’s been the same thing for any group of pression that ever existed throughout the history of Christianity ! Everyone always want to see the Jesus they have in their mind. I guess it’s part of human nature. What I would like to see is Christians focussing on what’s the heart of Jesus message, which is that God so love the world…

      1. error ! You should read “group of pressure” instead of “group of pression”. Sorry !

  6. Hullo Yannick, what I was trying to convey is that it is the feminist version that is mostly in focus now, the papyrus on “Jesus’ wife” being the latest example. What many scientists are saying is that the universe is indifferent, so there is no room there for the love Jesus preached. However, this is a very complex topic, involving the science-theology dialogue and issues that are extremely deep.

    I see that you have published a paper on the bloodstains on the Shroud and this will be ready carefully.

    1. Thanks for taking time to read my paper !!! I did it for being read by anyone’s interested in the topic in order to open some eyes about the reality of the Shroud and nothing else !

  7. Sorry to get back on this subject again but I can’t help myself here… I should say that if someone agree with me on the fact that it’s highly probable that all these apocryphal gospels of the second century A.D. onwards did not contain any real and credible historical information whatsoever, he should also agree that the same interpretation must be applied to the Abgar legend !!! In fact, the original Abgar legend never contain the story of a miraculous imprint of Jesus face (or any other image of his face) and only contain the story of an exchange of letters between him and Abgar. During the 4th century, we know for sure that these letters were kept in Edessa as authentic relics. But during the 5th century, the Vatican declared these letters to be apocryphal and non historic. And any credible historian knows that Christianity never came to Edessa before the second century A.D. So, I think we can forget the idea that one of Jesus disciple could have convert king Abgar V right after the Ascension of Jesus in the Heaven !!! Nevertheless, in his last public presentation of his hypothesis in Valencia, Wilson still seems to take that legendary tale as an historical fact for his weak hypothesis while it has been obviously written much later by the new Christian Church of Edessa in an effort to show that their particular Church had very Orthodox roots that were going back directly to the time of Christ himself !!! Here’s what we can find in page 2 of Wilson’s presentation in Valencia (link for this paper: http://www.shroud.com/pdfs/wilsonvtxt.pdf) : “To express the theory in its simplest form, the Image of Edessa cloth is broadly
    traceable from as early as AD.30, albeit that this phase of its history has to be
    gleaned from later sources. From the Jerusalem of Jesus’ time it was taken to
    Edessa (today Şanliurfa in eastern Turkey ) to help convert Edessa’s
    king Abgar V2 to Christianity. It seems to have been almost
    immediately to be hidden away, apparently due to persecution when one of
    Abgar’s successors reverted to paganism.” The fact that Wilson blindly buys this legendary stuff is completely ridiculous… Be sure that you would NEVER see a credible historian do this. I think that speak loud about his biased vision concerning this subject and maybe also about an important (almost pathetic) lack of rigor in his research.

  8. Hullo Yannick. There is a big difference between the gnostic gospels and the Abgar story. In a nutshell, the composition of the former had a lot to do with ideology and the authors were obviously inspired by Greek myths and philosophy and therefore unable to accept the Jesus portrayed in “our” gospels, much less the God of the OT. There were variations, of course, depending on how much of orthodox Christianity was absorbed.

    The story of Abgar refers to a document and image. If you do not trust what has been written about this in Shroud history I suggest you get in touch with a (preferably Arab) priest of the Syrian Orthodox Church in your area and he will explain to you why Abgar is part of their liturgy. If that is not possible contact other Syrian Orthodox churches, but not in Syria because the community members are suffering a lot there right now. Perhaps you could try India, where the big community — in communion with the Patriarch in Damascus — is thriving and has a number of highly qualified scholars, some of whom have written books containing a lot of information.

  9. Yannick Clement’s pathological dislike of Ian Wilson and all his works blinds him to what Wilson is actually saying, and YC is only too willing to read Wilson out of context.
    The paper Wilson presented at Valencia begins with a correct reprise of a paper he first presented in 1973 to the British Catholic Herald, and followed up in his 1978 book “The Shroud of Turin” In the second paragraph of the present 2012 paper, he then gives a succinct correct summary of what that theory was (para as quoted by YC). From this en passant comment, it is unreasonable of YC to say that Wilson is still taking the legend as historical fact, if in fact that was ever Wilson’s view..

    But that is not the main topic of the 2012 paper which now readdresses the missing years between 1204 and 1350, for which he is clearly having some new ideas, dismisses the Templar claims put forward by Barbara Frale, and also presents some new material to support his case that the Shroud and Image of Edessa were very likely the same object. But Wilson is not being close-minded or dogmatic about this hypothesis, acknowledges that there are Byzantine scholars who disagree with this theory, and uses conditional expressions such as “…if the Image of Edessa really was our Turin Shroud…etc”. He points out his reasons how objections to the theory might be overcome. All of this he is entitled to do, and at least he has made the effort to consider others’ views, and without rancour!

    In 1999, Jack Markwardt in his paper “Antioch and the Shroud” was able to write, pp1-2:
    “Segal concluded that Christianity did not arrive in Edessa until late in the second century and Wilson himself has recently acknowledged that the factual underpinnings of the Abgar legend may well be attributable to that latter era” (and cites: See Wilson, The Blood and the Shroud, pp. 161-175)

    Markwardt in his subsequent 2008 paper ANCIENT EDESSA AND THE SHROUD: HISTORY CONCEALED BY THE DISCIPLINE OF THE SECRET, gives a most credible explanation for the origin of the legend in the time of King Abgar the Great around 200 AD, see pp 26-28. It includes the following passage:
    “It is doubtful that, even under the tolerant Commodus, the details of Edessa’s conversion would have been accurately recorded for fear of unforeseeable imperial consequences. Nevertheless, and despite what might have been originally reported, the archives were assuredly modified after Septimius Severus assumed power in 193, and perhaps again, in about 201, when he issued an imperial edict banning conversions to Christianity. The recently-baptized Edessan king, as well as the city’s new Bishop, confronted a serious dilemma: How could the most historically-significant event in Church history be recorded without incurring the resultant fatal consequences? The author suggests that by 200, and with orthodox Christianity now firmly established in Edessa, the quandary was overcome when the royal scribe, at the direction of Abgar and under the supervision of Bishop Palut, applied the precepts of the Discipline of the Secret and inserted, into the official archives, an allegorical narrative designed to protect Abgar and those who had participated in his baptism,and that it is this allegory which was subsequently transposed into the ancient Syriac and Greek Abgar Legends.”

    Markwardt continues giving an explanation of how the allegory might be read, identifyng the various 200AD historical personages in terms of the Abgar legendary characters.

    I see this as an excellent example of how allegorical legends are to be read and interpreted correctly, penetrating a mystery, instead of dismissing them as mere fairy tale concoctions. They more than often have a valid historical basis, which a literalistic turn of mind is doggedly determined to remain blind to, and will forever be unable to comprehend.

    I should think that even this relatively detailed note of mine will if it is read at all be wilfully misinterpreted by those who cannot see beyond the limits of their own preconceptions.

    1. Wilson buy the idea that the Shroud was brought to Edessa by a disciple right after the Ascension of Christ to heaven. You will never make me believe otherwise. It is too clear from his writings. The quote I gave clearly indicates “To EXPRESS THE THEORY in its simplest form”. There’s no need here to extrapolate ! Wilson clearly indicates that he believe this legendary account. It’s evident that it’s because of Wilson that many people in the Shroud world has adopted his view about that and still think this legend has some true historical basis, which is not the case at all.

      If I’m wrong Dave, then give me a quote from Wilson where he clearly indicates that he don’t take the story of the coming of the Image in Edessa that we found in most Abgar legend accounts as a true historical fact. I wait for you !

  10. Just to add some weight to my previous comment to Dave, I want to point out that one of the most important aspect of Wilson’s hypothesis is clearly resting on legendary stuff that was taken from the Abgar legend (i.e. that the Image was hidden in a wall of the city during the first century A.D. and that it was discovered only during the 6th century). This is clearly legendary stuff without any credible historical base and nevertheless, Wilson take that for granted and make it one of the most important pillar of the foundation of his hypothesis ! As I said yesterday : “Be sure that you would NEVER see a credible historian do this. I think that speak loud about his biased vision concerning this subject and maybe also about an important (almost pathetic) lack of rigor in his research.”

    Be sure that I will not change a word about what I said cause it’s the truth.

    And here’s another example of Wilson’s total lack of rigor : In the same paper he presented in Valencia, he indicates that many ancient version of the Abgar legend used the term “sindon” to describe the miraculous cloth and he indicates that this same term was used in the Gospels to describe Jesus burial cloth in the empty tomb !!! WHAT A BIASED POINT OF VIEW AND A TOTALLY PARTIAL TRUTH !!!!! INCREDIBLE !!!! Wilson should know that this term “sindon” in ancient Greek could mean a lot of thing from a burial shroud to a simple cloth (which could be small). It doesn’t always apply to a burial Shroud and it doesn’t always apply to a long cloth. To know the correct interpretation, YOU MUST CHECK OUT THE TEXTUAL CONTEXT ! Clearly, this is something Wilson has completely neglected or something that he choose to let aside, because when you read these ancient texts, you ALWAYS found the term “sindon” in a context that has NOTHING to do with a burial cloth !!! Again, by making this kind of weak link in his paper, Wilson prove his total lack of rigor in his research and it’s easy to see a big bias right there…

    1. To complete my previous, let me ask you one single question : Once you understand that Wilson’s point of view versus the Mandylion and the Shroud is evidently biased, once you understand that he doesn’t follow properly the correct scientific method by NOT taking into account ALL the facts concerning his subject of research and once you understand that he is guilty of a great lack of rigor in his historical research on the subject (note: I think I have bring on enough pieces of evidences to support these claims), then why would you still want to trust someone like that ??? I REALLY DON’T UNDERSTAND why there are still so many people in the Pro-Shroud world these days who still put their faith in what this guy can say on the subject… Be sure that in any other scientific circle, he and his credibility would have been shut down in flames since a very long time by his peers and nobody (from the public and from his peers) would listen to him anymore. I guess this particular “mystery” that I just can’t explain is another one to add on the pile of “mysteries” that surround the Shroud !!! I dream of the day when sindonology will be purged from all these biased researchers.

    2. Last thing I forgot to say that is really important : Be sure that the purging I mentioned above will ONLY happened IF the credible, unbiased and true scientists in the Shroud World would stand up and publicly say what I am almost alone to say (i.e, the truth) !!! And be sure that Wilson is not the only one biased researchers who should get out of the Shroud world…

  11. One last thing (sorry) : Maybe a first good step would be to stop inviting these biased researchers to the next Shroud conferences and symposiums ??? I think that would be a very good first step in the right direction…

  12. YC: “… give me a quote from Wilson where he clearly indicates that he don’t take the story of the coming of the Image in Edessa that we found in most Abgar legend accounts as a true historical fact.”

    I quoted second hand from Markwardt’s paper “Antioch and the Shroud”pp 1-2:
    “… Yet, that very Abgar legend has been called “one of the most successful pious frauds of antiquity” by J. B. Segal, whom Wilson rightly regards the best modern authority on
    Edessa, and its earliest Syrian versions do not relate the existence of any miraculous image of Jesus. Segal concluded that Christianity did not arrive in Edessa until late in the second centuryand Wilson himself has recently acknowledged that the factual underpinnings of the Abgar legend may well be.attributable to that latter era.”
    Markwardt cites ‘See Wilson, The Blood and the Shroud, pp. 161-175’. I don’t have a copy of that particular text, but I expect to be able to follow it up.

    In his 2010 book “The Shroud”, Wilson, Bantam Press, he discusses the issue comprehensively on pp 116 – 123. He recounts Eusebius story of Abgar V and the alleged correspondence with Jesus on p.116. He writes: “So what about that hornet’s nest of controversy? Immediately needing to be made clear is that, even without its tenth-century Image of Edessa component, the Abgar story is one that historians have long viewed with the greatest scepticism. Pope Gelasius (pope 492-496) … (letters declared apocryphal) … modern day scholars … fully justified. (allusion to John 20:29 … written afterwards) ” Continues. “Abgar V was part of a dynasty of rulers bearing the same name, and one successor slightly more favoured by historians as the Abgar whom Addai converted (AND WHO THEREFORE MAY HAVE BEEN THE TRUE RECIPIENT OF THE IMAGE OF EDESSA / SHROUD) IS ABGAR VIII, WHO REIGNED 179 TO 212 [Daveb emphasis]”.
    Wilson continues this discussion. He is evidently not entirely pursuaded that the recipient is not Abgar V, as he finds it difficult to accept that Edessa was ignored by 1st C Christian missionaries because of its proximity to Antioch and Palestine, compared to other further cities that were in fact evangelised. He also provides support that Addai was in fact a 1st C missionary. Nevertheless, it is apparent that he is not as dogmatic in this position as YC has alleged, and is prepared to consider other explanations.

    I am more pursuaded by the Markwardt 2008 hypothesis: “… when the royal scribe, at the direction of Abgar (VIII) and under the supervision of Bishop Palut, applied the precepts of the Discipline of the Secret and inserted, into the official archives, an allegorical narrative designed to protect Abgar (VIII) and those who had participated in his baptism,and that it is this allegory which was subsequently transposed into the ancient Syriac and Greek Abgar (V) Legends” ANCIENT EDESSA AND THE SHROUD: HISTORY CONCEALED BY THE DISCIPLINE OF THE SECRET, pp 26-28;

    Click to access p02.pdf

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