More on the Carbon Dating of the GJW, ‘Gospel of Jesus’ Wife’ Fragment

Christian Askeland has posted a very good analysis, Jesus’s Wife Resurrected from Dead, in the blog Evangelical Textual Criticism.

Radiocarbon Dating:

Using two labs, the GJW fragment and a Sahidic John fragment associated with the same papyri lot were carbon dated. The rounded 2-sigma ranges for the manuscripts are as follows:





640–800 CE

650–870 CE


680–880 CE

410–200 BCE




Only the Harvard report indicates the date of the test (14 March 2014); one might surmise that the second test was ordered after the extremely early date arrived from Arizona. Whatever the case, if one of the two GJW 14C dates were to be accurate, it would probably be the Harvard range (650–870 CE), which is corroborated by the related GJohn manuscript (chart above). Having said this, the result remains somewhat inconclusive. (δ13C levels were also higher than expected, suggesting contamination in all samples.)

So does this confirm the authenticity of the GJW? Such a late dating bulldozes King’s first appraisal of the manuscript as a fourth century witness. The GJW fragment under question is broken on all sides except the top, where apparently the modern forger cut the empty section off of a larger fragment which was in fact ancient. Carbon dating has no value for authenticating such a manuscript, although if the Ptolemaic date (410–200 BCE) offered by the Arizona AMS lab were accurate (of which I am not convinced), fraud would be certain.


If a husband were to genetically test his children to determine whether his wife had been faithful, and the tests returned indicating that that the children could not conclusively be proven to not be his, would this assure him of his wife’s fidelity? Could he then, based upon these tests, be confident that he had indeed fathered the children? Karen King has produced no new evidence to authenticate this fragment.  On the contrary, her prior contentions that the GJW fragment was (1) part of a literary codex and (2) was fourth century are now indefensible.  Her method of argumentation was not self-critical or objective, but will doubtlessly be sufficient for those who already want to believe.

Useful links:

3 thoughts on “More on the Carbon Dating of the GJW, ‘Gospel of Jesus’ Wife’ Fragment”

  1. I have followed this matter reasonably closely since the alleged discovery was first announced by Karen King. There are clearly agendas at work, not only from Dr King’s religio-feminism, but also from those with an opposing religious viewpoint, particularly from those with an evangelical bent. So far I have seen little that either proves or disproves authenticity. The papyrus C-14 date range 650-870CE may show that it is not an original 4th century text or not, depending on how much confidence one is prepared to assign to these particular tests. That another laboratory can come up with a Ptolemaic date for the same artifact must raise questions on the method. We have seen enough debate on this site for the 1988 dating of the TS, to know that not all are prepared to accept the method as infallible and that issues can arise.

    The use of papyrus as a writing medium was replaced in the West by parchment and vellum around the 3rd century. However it continued to be cultivated and used by the Arabs of Egypt down to the 9th century when the making of paper from other plant fibres rendered papyrus unnecessary. However the use of papyrus for books and documents continued sporadically down to the 12th century.

    If there is any substance to the 650-870 dating, then it may be that the fragment is part of a later copy of an earlier gnostic text, or not. It is equally conceivable that notwithstanding the dating results, that it is indeed a 4th century original. And of course it may just as equally be the work of a master forger. We have been here before!

    One aspect that begs further discussion is the Rahman spectroscopy tests on the ink, which would seem to place the fragment in ancient times. That needs further resolution.

    Perhaps this fragment will remain like the much debated Vinland Map uncertain, and just as indeterminately conjectural, and even as controversial.

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