Recent developments in the story of the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife have led to a flurry of commentary online about the text, in particular about the issue of provenance. Caroline Schroeder has contributed to that discussion. Schroeder was an integral part of the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife panel at the 2015 York University Christian Apocrypha Symposium. Since her paper has been mentioned in the recent discussion, we asked the publisher of the forthcoming volume of proceedings from the Symposium for permission to post a preview of the article. The volume will be published in Fall 2016 and features also two additional papers from the panel by Mark Goodacre and James McGrath, along with a response by Janet Spittler.
Pre-publication draft to appear in Tony Burke, ed., Fakes, Forgeries, and Fictions: Writing Ancient and Modern Christian Apocrypha. Proceedings from the 2015 York University Christian Apocrypha Symposium (Eugene, OR: Cascade, 2016).
Gender and the Academy Online:
The Authentic Revelations of the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife
Caroline T. Schroeder
Usually I write about dead people. Dead people cannot ostracize you, dead people cannot eviscerate you in another publication, dead people can be safer objects of inquiry than the living. This paper, however, analyzes the living—the way we as a field responded to the appearance of the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife fragment (GJW), and what that says about Biblical Studies. In particular, I wish to look at issues of authenticity. The authenticity of the fragment itself lay at the center of the maelstrom. I seek to untangle more nebulous markers of authenticity as well. I argue that the debate about the authenticity of the document hinged in no small part on these other markers of authenticity (in addition to the traditional means of documenting an ancient text). First, GJW simultaneously exposed our society’s privileging of “hard” scientific modes of inquiry to determine authenticity over traditional humanistic ones and the inadequacy of those scientific methods to provide the certainty we crave. Second, even our traditional humanist research methods proved unsatisfying in the absence of very particular political and ethical commitments—namely, transparency about provenance. Third, the debate demonstrated that deeply entrenched social markers of authenticity of individuals—status, gender, identity—affect the academic production of knowledge. Finally, the authentic revelations of this text include the deep conservatism of our field, which includes a distrust of digital scholarship and digital publishing (including the openness it enables).
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