An ancient Greek papyrus.

An ancient Greek papyrus. courtesy Shutterstock

If you’ve been waiting for an archaeological bombshell, this one may be it:

Very likely ancient

A faded fragment of papyrus known as the “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife,” which caused an uproar when unveiled by a Harvard Divinity School historian in 2012, has been tested by scientists who conclude in a journal published on Thursday that the ink and papyrus are very likely ancient, and not a modern forgery. So writes ace religion reporter Laurie Goodstein.

Hold on. “The test results do not prove that Jesus had a wife or disciples who were women, only that the fragment is more likely a snippet from an ancient manuscript than a fake, the scholars agree,” Goodstein writes.

But wait. There’s more: Israeli media write about a 3,300-year-old Egyptian coffin from the time of the pharaohs has been discovered in the Jezreel Valley in northern Israel. Just in time for Passover, which starts Monday (April 14).

Meanwhile, in case you missed it, the Manischewitz Co., whose matzo and gefilte fish are a staple of seder tables around the world, was sold to Sankaty Advisors, an arm of the private equity giant Bain Capital. (If you’re wondering where you heard of Bain Capital, remember Mitt Romney’s former employer?)

Courting evangelicals

Speaking of presidential politics, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is reaching out to evangelical leaders as he considers a 2016 presidential run, and in early May, he will meet privately with Russell Moore, the Southern Baptist Convention’s ethics czar.

Former Gov. Mike Huckabee, a Southern Baptist pastor, is also considering a White House run, and he had a lot to say to say at a speech in Waukee, Iowa. The zinger was when he said men like to go hunt/fish with other men. “Women like to go to the restroom with other women.” But he also said this:

Muslim bashing or free expression?

Brandeis University reneged on the honorary degree it was going to bestow on Muslim basher Ayaan Hirsi Ali during commencement exercises. Last night she hit back:

“The slur on my reputation is not the worst aspect of this episode. More deplorable is that an institution set up on the basis of religious freedom should today so deeply betray its own founding principles. The ‘spirit of free expression’ referred to in the Brandeis statement has been stifled here, as my critics have achieved their objective of preventing me from addressing the graduating Class of 2014.”

What people say about religion

The percentage of people saying religion is very important in their lives is highest in … Senegal. Who knew? (It’s lowest in the Czech Republic.)

Social scientists have learned people exaggerate religious behavior. Or so says NPR. An analysis of 3 places in the Muslim world examines whether people’s reports of religious behavior match what they do.

From the RNS stable:

Sarah Pulliam Bailey examines one pressing question to emerge from the World Vision flip-flop: Can you be an evangelical and support same-sex marriage?

Cathy Lynn Grossman tells us the most “engaged” Bible readers — those who view it as sacred — are now matched by “skeptics” who say it’s just a book of stories and advice. Both groups measured 19 percent.

Jana Riess, a self-confessed genealogy junkie, writes that members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will now have complimentary access to, and

“Now my church, which has always strongly counseled against addiction in all forms, IS PROMISING TO PROVIDE MY DRUG OF CHOICE FOR FREE. I don’t even have to leave my house.”

On religious persecution

Are Christians the most persecuted group of people as Boston Globe correspondent John Allen contends in his new book? David Frankfurter, a professor at Boston University, demurs. “Allen’s own perspective is myopic and paranoid.”

Ross Douthat argues we’ve put too much faith in brain scans in a quest to understand the mystery of life. Our era’s scientism can only be countered by a renewed interest in comparative religion, psychology and anthropology, quaint as that may sound.

From the department of weird religion

Speaking of the paranormal, residents of a New Jersey hotel claim a ghost has been tickling their feet at night. They called the East Brunswick-based Paranormal Diagnostics Group to investigate.

PETA has given up on its plans to turn serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer’s childhood home into a vegan restaurant.

The animal rights organization had proposed that the notorious murderer and cannibal’s home in Bath Township, Ohio, could become a restaurant called Eat for Life: Home Cooking. But local authorities nixed the idea, PETA said in a statement.

How about pasta? A church that worships an invisible flying spaghetti monster can now apply to be registered as an official religion in Poland, after a 2013 court ruling was overturned this week. A group of Pastafarians who gathered outside the court shouted “pasta” during the hearing on Tuesday welcoming the ruling.

Stick with us. Where else would you read about our wild and woolly world?


  1. David Lloyd-Jones

    I strongly object to your “Brandeis University reneged on the honorary degree it was going to bestow on Muslim basher Ayaan Hirsi Ali.” Ms Ali is a Facebook or Twitter “friend” of mine, and I have chatted enjoyably with her about her excellent gutsy books. I can say confidently that she considers herself a Moslem in good standing — though obviously a flamboyantly 21st century one.

    She doesn’t bash “Moslems.” She bashes a wide variety of reactionary to medieval male “leaders” of various Moslem, Arab, and Middle Eastern power structures — and I think most readers of Religion News would agree the suckers have it coming to them.


    • Hirsi Ali has said that she is a Muslim, and that she is not a Muslim. Her mistake is to generalize her awful experiences at the hands of people whose interpretations of Islam denigrates women, into claims that the Islamic religion, as a rule, promotes treatment such as she suffered.

  2. If I had to do it all over again I’d go to Divinity Schoool and start a religion called Shoutarianism. People love making noise and commenting in capital letters. I envy those Pastafarians, they’re on to something.

  3. Antiquity is generally agreed to have ended in 476 CE with the downfall of the Western Roman Empire. So to call a gospel that was written sometime between 300 and 799 CE “ancient” is pretty misleading. You’d think an “ace religion reporter” would know something like that. Of course, one might argue that the NY Times was champing at the bit to declare the Gospel of Jesus’s Wife “real” because it would contradict orthodoxy, but that couldn’t be..

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