CNN: New Evidence Casts Doubt on ‘Gospel of Jesus’ Wife

It seemed real; it seemed fake; it seemed real again; now we’re back to fake.

“It” is the controversial little scrap of papyrus, written in Coptic, that seems to have Jesus referring to “my wife,” in contrast to the traditional stance that affirms Jesus’ perpetual bachelorhood.

The quick backstory: In 2012, a Harvard professor, Karen King, brought this papyrus to the attention of scholars and the public.

Both the material and the script looked authentically ancient at first glance, and though the notion of Jesus having a wife was remarkable, these “lost” Christian writings, such as the Gnostic Gospels, are full of unorthodoxies.

Read the full story here.

(This article was co-authored with Joel Baden of Yale Divinity School. It summarizes the work of many distinguished scholars including Mark Goodacre from whom we received permission to use the image in the piece)

Daily Beast: Who Died and Made Him Pope?

Catholic tradition claims that the pope’s authority extends directly back to Saint Peter. But a new book argues Peter never even set foot in Rome.

Everyone loves Pope Francis. The statement is at this point so banal that it makes you want to stop reading here. Forget Time and Rolling Stone; President Obama is a Francis fan-boy. But if Francis’s popularity is rooted in his down-to-earth humility and man-of-the-people mentality, his authority is rooted in his position as occupant of the throne of St. Peter.

Read about the history here.

BBC: St. George’s Day Celebrating a Mythical Martyr?

April 23rd is St. George’s Day, a celebration of England’s patron saint. He inspired Shakespeare’s Henry V, his standard became the English flag, and the story of his battle with a dragon is, literally, iconic.

But who was St. George and how much do we actually know about him?

According to the influential medieval author Jacob de Voraigne’s The Golden Legend (1275), George was a soldier, born in Cappadocia (central Turkey) in the mid-3rd Century AD and martyred in the early 4th Century in Diospolis, Palestine.

Read the full story here.

National Geographic: Search for the Head of John the Baptist

It is potentially one of the greatest archaeological discoveries in the history of Christianity. Theologian and relic expert Candida Moss journeys to a remote island in the Black Sea to investigate the ruins of one of the oldest monasteries in Europe. Here, under the location where the altar once stood, scientists have dug up an exquisite marble box holding what they believe to be the bones of John the Baptist, the man who baptized Jesus.

Watch the full episode here.

Bible Secrets Revealed Marathon


History Channel are re-airing “Bible Secrets Revealed” this Friday, April 18,  2014 at 8am. The series advised by and starring archeologist Robert Cargill also features Reza Aslan, Bart Ehrman, Elaine Pagels, Francesca Stavrakopoulou, Mark Goodacre, Chris Keith, James Tabor, Jennifer Wright-Knust, Peter Lanfer, Dale Martin, Jodi Magness, and me.
Here are the titles and times from the schedule:

The Forbidden Scriptures – 08:00-09:00 AM ET
Lost in Translation – 09:00-10:00 AM ET
The Promised Land – 10:00-11:00 AM ET
Mysterious Prophecies – 11:00-12:00 PM ET
Sex and the Scriptures – 12:00-01:00 PM ET
The Real Jesus – 01:00-02:00 PM ET

 For more information see Bob Cargill’s site and the History Channel page.

CNN Belief Blog: Did Christians really steal Easter?

It’s that time of year again: the time when chocolate comes in pastels, cherry blossoms start to bloom and well-marketed religion exposés are released to the world.

In other words, it’s Easter. Among the rash of sensationalist stories we can expect through the season, the annual “Easter was stolen from the pagans” refrain has sprouted again just in time for Holy Week. Don’t believe the hype.

Read more here. For an excellent discussion of Ishtar see Tom Verenna’s blog here. For more on Easter-time misinformation see James McGrath’s piece here.