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Veritas: A Harvard Professor, a Con Man and the Gospel of Jesus's Wife

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From National Book Critics Circle Award-winning author Ariel Sabar, the gripping true story of a sensational religious forgery and the scandal that engulfed Harvard. In 2012, Dr. Karen King, a star professor at Harvard Divinity School, announced a blockbuster discovery at a scholarly conference just steps from the Vatican: She had found an ancient fragment of papyrus in From National Book Critics Circle Award-winning author Ariel Sabar, the gripping true story of a sensational religious forgery and the scandal that engulfed Harvard. In 2012, Dr. Karen King, a star professor at Harvard Divinity School, announced a blockbuster discovery at a scholarly conference just steps from the Vatican: She had found an ancient fragment of papyrus in which Jesus calls Mary Magdalene "my wife." The tattered manuscript made international headlines. If early Christians believed Jesus was married, it would upend the 2,000-year history of the world's predominant faith, threatening not just the celibate, all-male priesthood but sacred teachings on marriage, sex and women's leadership. Biblical scholars were in an uproar, but King had impeccable credentials as a world-renowned authority on female figures in the lost Christian texts from Egypt known as the Gnostic gospels. "The Gospel of Jesus's Wife"--as she provocatively titled her discovery--was both a crowning career achievement and powerful proof for her arguments that Christianity from its start embraced alternative, and far more inclusive, voices. As debates over the manuscript's authenticity raged, award-winning journalist Ariel Sabar set out to investigate a baffling mystery: where did this tiny scrap of papyrus come from? His search for answers is an international detective story--leading from the factory districts of Berlin to the former headquarters of the East German Stasi before winding up in rural Florida, where he discovered an internet pornographer with a prophetess wife, a fascination with the Pharaohs and a tortured relationship with the Catholic Church. VERITAS is a tale of fierce intellectual rivalries at the highest levels of academia, a piercing psychological portrait of a disillusioned college dropout whose life had reached a breaking point, and a tragedy about a brilliant scholar handed an ancient papyrus that appealed to her greatest hopes for Christianity--but forced a reckoning with fundamental questions about the nature of truth and the line between faith and reason.


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From National Book Critics Circle Award-winning author Ariel Sabar, the gripping true story of a sensational religious forgery and the scandal that engulfed Harvard. In 2012, Dr. Karen King, a star professor at Harvard Divinity School, announced a blockbuster discovery at a scholarly conference just steps from the Vatican: She had found an ancient fragment of papyrus in From National Book Critics Circle Award-winning author Ariel Sabar, the gripping true story of a sensational religious forgery and the scandal that engulfed Harvard. In 2012, Dr. Karen King, a star professor at Harvard Divinity School, announced a blockbuster discovery at a scholarly conference just steps from the Vatican: She had found an ancient fragment of papyrus in which Jesus calls Mary Magdalene "my wife." The tattered manuscript made international headlines. If early Christians believed Jesus was married, it would upend the 2,000-year history of the world's predominant faith, threatening not just the celibate, all-male priesthood but sacred teachings on marriage, sex and women's leadership. Biblical scholars were in an uproar, but King had impeccable credentials as a world-renowned authority on female figures in the lost Christian texts from Egypt known as the Gnostic gospels. "The Gospel of Jesus's Wife"--as she provocatively titled her discovery--was both a crowning career achievement and powerful proof for her arguments that Christianity from its start embraced alternative, and far more inclusive, voices. As debates over the manuscript's authenticity raged, award-winning journalist Ariel Sabar set out to investigate a baffling mystery: where did this tiny scrap of papyrus come from? His search for answers is an international detective story--leading from the factory districts of Berlin to the former headquarters of the East German Stasi before winding up in rural Florida, where he discovered an internet pornographer with a prophetess wife, a fascination with the Pharaohs and a tortured relationship with the Catholic Church. VERITAS is a tale of fierce intellectual rivalries at the highest levels of academia, a piercing psychological portrait of a disillusioned college dropout whose life had reached a breaking point, and a tragedy about a brilliant scholar handed an ancient papyrus that appealed to her greatest hopes for Christianity--but forced a reckoning with fundamental questions about the nature of truth and the line between faith and reason.

30 review for Veritas: A Harvard Professor, a Con Man and the Gospel of Jesus's Wife

  1. 4 out of 5

    Obsidian

    Please note that I read this via NetGalley. This did not affect my rating or review. Not too much to say here, this was pretty dry and not that exciting. I thought it would be a cool story about how someone lied to a well known Harvard professor about Mary Magdalene being Jesus's wife. Instead, this book jumped around a lot going into the Gospel of Mary, how the Gospel was discovered, and then back and forth into Dr. Karen King and the medical issues she was dealing with which may have caused her Please note that I read this via NetGalley. This did not affect my rating or review. Not too much to say here, this was pretty dry and not that exciting. I thought it would be a cool story about how someone lied to a well known Harvard professor about Mary Magdalene being Jesus's wife. Instead, this book jumped around a lot going into the Gospel of Mary, how the Gospel was discovered, and then back and forth into Dr. Karen King and the medical issues she was dealing with which may have caused her to not be hyper vigilant. I liked the historical interludes into this Gospel, other Gospels, and also into the some pop-cultural areas with Sabar going into Dan Brown's "The DaVinci Code." Other than that, the book was a slog after a while and it took me several days to just parse through this. "Veritas" is about Dr. Karen King, Historian of Religion, who is currently the Hollis Professor of Divinity, and what led Dr. King to declare that the random finding of a papyrus that someone claimed to be the Gospel of Jesus's wife, and how it came out that it was forged. The author, Ariel Sabor, also includes his investigation into the background on this forgery. In 2012, Dr. King announced the finding of the papyrus outside the Vatican which of course then led to a lot of discussion and potential consequences among the catholic Church to wonder what did it say about their religion if it came out that Jesus had been married. I can't say much about this cause when this all came out in 2012 I was all of 32 year's old and had started a new job. I think I recall hearing about this on the nightly news and wondering if Dan's Brown novel was really nonfiction and went about my day. I just didn't find it very believable, but what did I know. Apparently though, this was not real and "Veritas" breaks down the very things that led to this document being declared real when it was in fact a forgery. There are some things about this book I liked. One, I liked that we get into how Mary Magdalene was incorrectly called a prostitute and was forever seen that way going forward after Pope Gregory the First in 591 combined Mary with another Biblical figure and forever ruined her name. I also liked that we got more details about Mary and how she was probably a wealthy woman and how she was an apostle of Jesus too. Around the 15 percent mark though I have to say that I started to become bored, around the 50 percent mark my eyes were glazing over. I was just glad to be done with this one. The flow was not great and the book needed a tighter edit in my opinion. The ending of the book of course shows that the manuscript or whatever you want to call it was a forgery. And of course it seems to be asking why did Dr. King go along with this, what benefited her when it seems like she had to know it was a forgery. I don't know what to say, this book was weird to me in a way. I think Sabar tried to break up the story by inserting historical facts and pointing out what was fact or fiction, but the whole thing just read like a mess to me after a while.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Bill Kupersmith

    Physically the artefact consists of a scrap of papyrus about the size of a calling card, consisting of seven lines written in Coptic, an ancient Egyptian language. 1 ] “not [to] me. My mother gave to me li[fe…” 2 ] .” The disciples said to Jesus, “. [ 3 ] deny. Mary is (not?) worthy of it [ 4 ]…” Jesus said to them, “My wife . . [ 5 ]… she is able to be my disciple . . [ 6 ] . Let wicked people swell up … [ 7] . As for me, I am with her1 in order to . [ 8 ] . an image … From this, Karen King, a Har Physically the artefact consists of a scrap of papyrus about the size of a calling card, consisting of seven lines written in Coptic, an ancient Egyptian language. 1 ] “not [to] me. My mother gave to me li[fe…” 2 ] .” The disciples said to Jesus, “. [ 3 ] deny. Mary is (not?) worthy of it [ 4 ]…” Jesus said to them, “My wife . . [ 5 ]… she is able to be my disciple . . [ 6 ] . Let wicked people swell up … [ 7] . As for me, I am with her1 in order to . [ 8 ] . an image … From this, Karen King, a Harvard Divinity School professor, hypothesized a “gospel” revealing that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene. One of the great deficiencies in the study of early Christianity is the lack of sources outside of the canonical Christian scriptures. Especially amongst feminist scholars, there is a notion that other documents were destroyed by the patriarchal “orthodox” Christian authorities as heretical, and the few that survive, documents with labels like the Gospel of Mary Magdalene and the Gospel of Judas, received considerable publicity from the popular press before fading into obscurity. For those of us who believe that the New Testament is most likely the only source we have of authentic information about Jesus of Nazareth, those gnostic writings of genuine antiquity are probably late fictional theological propaganda with no first-hand connection to the historical Jesus. A standing joke about a religious studies department in a secular university is that it is the only department where the professors are forbidden to maintain that what they teach is actually true. Ironically, in the case of Harvard Divinity School, some of the Harvard faculty, such as Steven Pinker, claim that a college training ministers has no business in a modern university, based on scientific and rational principle. (Apparently such critics have no problem with a school of government that trains politicians, a school of business that trains prospective CEOs, and a college of education for “educators”—not to mention a college of law!) Amusingly, the publicity surrounding “the gospel of Jesus wife” gave the divinity school a new lease on life. One could add that a lot more real science, including carbon 14 dating, chemical analysis of the inks, and paleographic analysis of the script, seems to have gone into the examination of that papyrus fragment than underlies the publications of Professor Pinker. I think we scholars are fascinated by forgeries because they appeal to our delight in trying to solve mystery stories as a test of our knowledge of the past. But too often we lose sight of the maxim that if it looks too good to be true, it probably is not. Like other inventors, forgers have to know their market. In such an age of faith as the Middle Ages, when relics were thought to do miracles, artefacts like the Shroud of Turin were created. Now in our age of disbelief (at least in tradition), many religious studies professors have never seen a heresy they didn’t like. Except for Roman Catholics, with their practice of clerical celibacy, there is no reason Christians should be surprised at the notion of a married Jesus—personally I’ve long wondered if he might have been a widower. As we have references to Jesus’ mother and brothers in the Scriptures, if Jesus had a wife during the period of his ministry, we might have heard of her. Ariel Sabar is a journalist not a scholar, but he spins a marvellous tale, beginning with the story of Karen King’s announcement (at the Vatican, appropriately) of the document, and then following with the investigation of the genuineness of the fragment itself, and finally tracing the actual source by way to Berlin to Florida. The author’s publishers seem to have been very generous in covering travel expenses and providing translators. It’s ironic that forgeries are much more interesting to read and write about than real biblical studies, but I remained entranced till nearly the end, when the rather squalid real identity of the creator was revealed. And once we find out how it was manufactured, it seems strange that it was not immediately taken for a prima facie fake.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Justin

    ***I was granted an ARC of this via Netgalley from the publisher.*** The search for truth is an important one. However, waht happens if our search for truth becomes clouded by our own biases and what we want to be true because 'the end justifies the means'? In the book, Vertias: A Harvard Professor, A Con Man and the Gospel of Jesus' Wife by Ariel Sabar, the author takes a look at one such situation. When a Harvard professor is approached by an anonymous individual claiming to have legitimate old ***I was granted an ARC of this via Netgalley from the publisher.*** The search for truth is an important one. However, waht happens if our search for truth becomes clouded by our own biases and what we want to be true because 'the end justifies the means'? In the book, Vertias: A Harvard Professor, A Con Man and the Gospel of Jesus' Wife by Ariel Sabar, the author takes a look at one such situation. When a Harvard professor is approached by an anonymous individual claiming to have legitimate old papyrus that he leads her to believe has proof that an old Christian text referred to Jesus having a wife, its a discovery she is eager to announce. However, under scrutiny from her peers it turns out to be an elaborate forgery. Sabar takes us down the rabbit hole of his investigation into the forgery that feels like at times a mystery novel with all the twists and turns in the story. His profile of the con man is one of the most interesting sections of the book exposing the myriad of lies the man had weaved about himself while still portraying him as a human and not a monster. And he does a good job of questioning the motives of the Harvard professor in question, the questionable things she did up to and after revealing the papyrus to the world and throughout her career. It is these penetrating questions that show us how what one may want to be true can corrupt one's search for what is actually true. This is one of the best non-fiction books that I read all year. It will grab you and have you glued to its pages as the story becomes clearer through all the twists and turns that are uncovered throughout the investigation. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who likes history, archeology, or true crime. Rating: 5/5 stars. Would highly recommend to a friend.

  4. 4 out of 5

    David

    Veritas is a deeply impressive example of dogged and insightful investigative work (by the author and several religious scholars who challenged the authenticity of two controversial papyri) and a blistering analysis of the dubious professionalism of Dr. Karen King. A fair amount of space is also dedicated to the con man. These sections are excellent at first (how the author tracks him down and repeatedly finds holes in his stories) but I was far less interested in his motivations (he's a con man Veritas is a deeply impressive example of dogged and insightful investigative work (by the author and several religious scholars who challenged the authenticity of two controversial papyri) and a blistering analysis of the dubious professionalism of Dr. Karen King. A fair amount of space is also dedicated to the con man. These sections are excellent at first (how the author tracks him down and repeatedly finds holes in his stories) but I was far less interested in his motivations (he's a con man) than I was with Dr. King's. Early sections of the book lay foundational groundwork relating to the roles of women in the early Christian church and the origins of the rules regarding clerical celibacy. The papyrus at issue was dubbed the Gospel of Jesus's Wife ("GJW") so the women/sex subjects are a central theme. The book also frequently references The Da Vinci Code as there's significant overlap with it and GJW. While the investigative portions of the book were fun, funny and often riveting the most substantial part (the last section) related to Sabar's inexorable dismantling of Dr. King. Anyone interested in reading Veritas should avoid the later highlights because they contain spoilers.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Tracy Susko

    In 2012, Dr. Karen King, holder of the prestigious title Hollis Professor of Divinity at Harvard's Divinity School, announced at a conference held just outside the Vatican, that she had discovered an ancient piece of papyrus calling Mary Magdalene Jesus' wife. If true, this could change everything. A discovery of this magnitude could have far-reaching consequences for the modern church. Celibacy for the priesthood and nuns could be challenged. The place of women in the church could be changed in In 2012, Dr. Karen King, holder of the prestigious title Hollis Professor of Divinity at Harvard's Divinity School, announced at a conference held just outside the Vatican, that she had discovered an ancient piece of papyrus calling Mary Magdalene Jesus' wife. If true, this could change everything. A discovery of this magnitude could have far-reaching consequences for the modern church. Celibacy for the priesthood and nuns could be challenged. The place of women in the church could be changed in some sects where women are still forbidden to teach. A discovery like this would change the narrative of theological thought and history. There is just one problem. Dr. King's discovery is met with criticism and doubt. Many scholars disagree and believe her scrap of papyrus is a forgery. After working hard all her life to be heard, has Dr. Karen King thrown away her reputation on a forgery? This book would shock those who believe the Bible is the unerring word of God. But for those of us who have often wondered what the texts truly said, or how many texts there actually may be, this is the kind of book that gets your mind working. Discussion of the Gnostic Gospels, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and others are fascinating. Also, the timing of the writing of the books that are in the modern Bible is telling. It should make one open to the fact that there may be more texts, contradictory texts, alternate ideas and events. While teaching at Occidental College, King taught students the difference between doctrine and historical fact. She considered herself an historian. "A favorite exercise involved asking them (students) to find the words "apple" or "sin" in the Genesis story of Adam and Eve; neither is there. The surprise the students felt was proof, King suggested, of how successful ancient theologians had been at passing off doctrine as fact." This quote gives a good insight into King, if you add the fact that she is working with a bit of feminist theory also. She wants to find that women were, indeed, valuable and useful in Biblical times, that there is no sound religious reason for leaving women out as teachers, prophets, leaders. She wanted to be able to tell the story differently than it has been told. King also liked to throw fact in the face of many theologians and point out that the gospels never called Mary Magdalene a prostitute. She points out that the book of Mark in the modern Bible has 12 final verses that are missing from the earliest copies of the book. Scholars believe these final verses were added by scribes later in order to align the book with developments in theology. So, if the Bible as we know it has been changed, altered over time to fit theology, then why can't there be proof that Mary Magdalene was more than just a woman? Veritas follows the progression of the "discovery" of the Gospel of Jesus' Wife, as Dr. King called the papyrus the scrap was from. She defends her claims, digs her heels in and stands firm that the fragment is legitimate, and not a forgery. Other scholars and experts weigh in with doubts. As this is all taking place, journalist Ariel Sabar decides to follow the clues, research the papyrus, find its origins, and bring forth the truth, one way or the other, for once and for all. Sabar uncovers the "provenance" of the piece is questionable. He finds holes in every story the owner of the scrap gives. Though King initially tried to keep the owner's name a secret, it was discovered the owner did not ask for anonymity. There are many things that point to the fact that King knew there were problems with the authenticity. Information she withheld, facts she kept hidden. She claimed she didn't know the provenance of the piece could be researched, though her entire career prior to that was based on finding historical facts. How a person who considers themselves a historian does not know provenance can be researched is unbelievable. There is the fact that she hid personal relationships between herself and certain "experts" who verified her information or between other "experts" is suspect. It seemed the more evidence came forward to make the forgery of the piece obvious, the more King doubled down and insisted it was authentic. In the end, the fragment is proven to be a forgery. There can be no doubt. But how could a woman so brilliant and accomplished be so easily fooled? I am not sure she was. It appears, as you follow the story, that King had all this information at her fingertips. However, she ignored it. She knew what she wanted the fragment to be, and there was no way she was giving that up. Additionally, there were internal issues at Harvard at the time. There was a possibility that the School of Divinity would be closed and a Department of Religion take its place on the regular campus. Was Karen King willing to lie to show "proof" of her own beliefs and save the School of Divinity by providing it with big news, a great discovery to prove its value? It is hard to say what goes on in another's mind, but if you read Veritas, you will get the distinct idea that there was definitely something self serving in King's behavior. In addition to her behavior is the fascinating story of Walter Fritz, the owner and likely forger of the scrap of papyrus. He is quite a charlatan, and has managed to live a fairly successful life through entirely fraudulent claims and means. It is very interesting to see how this man has reinvented himself several times. Well researched and interesting, Veritas is bound to hold the interest of anyone interested in theology, women in theology, or fraudulent copies of ancient texts and art.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Kristen Beverly

    I am kind of really obsessed with bizarre true stories, so when I read the subtitle of this book, I knew I had to read it. I won't pretend to know what's right and wrong about the history within this book, but the way that Sabar tells the story is absolutely fascinating. I loved reading about the tangled history of religion throughout the years and how things have been misconstrued. I loved reading about Dr. Karen King and what led her to declare the finding the papyrus of the Gospel of Jesus' W I am kind of really obsessed with bizarre true stories, so when I read the subtitle of this book, I knew I had to read it. I won't pretend to know what's right and wrong about the history within this book, but the way that Sabar tells the story is absolutely fascinating. I loved reading about the tangled history of religion throughout the years and how things have been misconstrued. I loved reading about Dr. Karen King and what led her to declare the finding the papyrus of the Gospel of Jesus' Wife that ended up being forged. And I loved the way that Sabar wove the story of his investigation throughout. It is enchanting, intoxicating and I couldn't put it down! So the real question now is - did King know what she was doing all along or did she just only see what she wanted to see? Read and judge for yourself.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Patricia Romero

    Dr. Karen King, a well-respected professor at Harvard Divinity, announced to the attendees of a scholars conference, steps from the Vatican. Someone had given her a scrap of an ancient papyrus where Jesus calls Mary Magdalene his wife.  As you can imagine, this was huge. I know I followed this in the news because I had an interest in the Gnostic Gospels and what was and wasn't true. I never saw Mary of Magdala as a prostitute and I never found any corroboration of that. Imagine if all these years Dr. Karen King, a well-respected professor at Harvard Divinity, announced to the attendees of a scholars conference, steps from the Vatican. Someone had given her a scrap of an ancient papyrus where Jesus calls Mary Magdalene his wife.  As you can imagine, this was huge. I know I followed this in the news because I had an interest in the Gnostic Gospels and what was and wasn't true. I never saw Mary of Magdala as a prostitute and I never found any corroboration of that. Imagine if all these years later we find out Jesus had a wife. What? What a shakeup that would be for the Catholic Church especially. If he was married, why celibacy in the priesthood? Why no women in positions of power? There was a powerful uproar and King's reputation suffered. Was this piece a forgery and if so was King in on it? Amid all of these questions, journalist Ariel Sabar started digging into the story. Where did the fragment come from? With impeccable research and detective skills, he brings us the story of King and the man who may or may not be a forger. This was a brilliant look at the rivalries in academia. The hopes of King that there was an alternative to the bible out there that was more inclusive to women. I'll leave you to enjoy the mystery. I am still mulling over questions this book brought up. And I'm sure I will be for a long time. Well Done! NetGalley/ August 11th, 2020 by Doubleday Books

  8. 4 out of 5

    June

    This is my favorite read of 2020 so far. The author has masterfully woven several well-researched pieces of investigative journalism together to create a complex exploration of human nature and perceptions and manipulations of truth. The people who figure in the creation, publication, and unmasking of the forged Gospel of Jesus' Wife are all presented even-handedly and in depth. Mr. Sabar seems interested in people above all else, and I enjoyed learning about the various personalities connected This is my favorite read of 2020 so far. The author has masterfully woven several well-researched pieces of investigative journalism together to create a complex exploration of human nature and perceptions and manipulations of truth. The people who figure in the creation, publication, and unmasking of the forged Gospel of Jesus' Wife are all presented even-handedly and in depth. Mr. Sabar seems interested in people above all else, and I enjoyed learning about the various personalities connected by interest in papyrology, early Christianity, Gnosticism, and Coptic writings. The book takes several unexpected twists and turns. The discussion of the sub-genre of pornography practiced by one person in the story may be objectionable to some readers, and the frank description of an alleged sexual assault by a pedophile priest was quite upsetting to read. But these incidents do have a bearing on the character and possible motivations of one of the main subjects of the story. A really excellent work of journalism and storytelling. I look forward to reading more from this author. Thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for a digital ARC.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Liam Guilar

    Fascinating, and well-written. Sabar's patient unmasking of the identity of the forger reads better than some fictional detective stories. Who would have thought papyrus scholarship could be so riveting? Having narrated the main events, the book works along two lines. One is an investigation of the characters involved, the other, related, is an attempt to understand motive. While he doesn't labour the point, his investigations uncover strange biographical similarities between forger and victim. T Fascinating, and well-written. Sabar's patient unmasking of the identity of the forger reads better than some fictional detective stories. Who would have thought papyrus scholarship could be so riveting? Having narrated the main events, the book works along two lines. One is an investigation of the characters involved, the other, related, is an attempt to understand motive. While he doesn't labour the point, his investigations uncover strange biographical similarities between forger and victim. The biographies are suggestive without being conclusive. But what is most interesting is the amount of evidence Sabar collects to suggest the forger didn't dupe an unwilling victim. After all, academia has had its share of career breaking forgeries, and there are ways of authenticating ancient documents and people with the expertise to do it. Why a distinguished scholar would be willing to announce to the world the discovery of such a radical artefact without thoroughly checking its authenticity is at the heart of the book. The simple answer is that King wanted to believe. Sabar has two other answers. The first lies in Harvard's internal politics. The second in the way the case illuminates a theoretical approach to history which sees facts as 'tyrannical'. The truth's irrelevant if the story's good; good if it fulfils the needs of the people using it. It's a disturbing idea that Sabar punctures: A text is open to a variety of interpretations: a document is either authentic or not. By the end of the book a porn site running con-man turned forger, who obviously has trouble telling the truth, appears more favourably than a Harvard Professor who doesn't seem to care about 'truth' if it gets in the way of her favourite theories.

  10. 4 out of 5

    George

    Really engrossing (for the most part) story about how a Harvard Divinity School professor ended up announcing to the world that she had come into possession of an ancient papyrus scrap indicating that some early Christians believed that Jesus was married—a scrap that was quickly exposed as a probable modern-day forgery. The book takes a deep dive into the background and possible motives of both the professor and the forger who duped her, turning the true story into a tale that, most of the way t Really engrossing (for the most part) story about how a Harvard Divinity School professor ended up announcing to the world that she had come into possession of an ancient papyrus scrap indicating that some early Christians believed that Jesus was married—a scrap that was quickly exposed as a probable modern-day forgery. The book takes a deep dive into the background and possible motives of both the professor and the forger who duped her, turning the true story into a tale that, most of the way through, isn’t bogged down by all the research that obviously went into the book and all the details the author includes. It’s an engaging story with a lot of surprises along the way, and also a lesson for scholars and everyone else: Your ability to determine whether something is true is not well served by your desire to determine that it’s true. The book’s only shortcomings, which materialize in its latter pages, are the dead horses the author keeps beating. Long after you’re convinced the document is a fake and you know whodunit, the author keeps piling on the evidence for both. And long after you’re convinced that the professor cut corners in her scholarship, the author can’t stop tallying additional corners. By the book’s end, I thought, “Enough already. Leave the poor, humiliated lady alone.”

  11. 4 out of 5

    Bebe (Sarah) Brechner

    This is an amazingly thorough investigation into the debunked "Jesus's Wife" papyrus, primarily focusing on the Harvard Divinity School professor who insisted, publicly and explosively, this was the real thing until, finally, science proved it to be a forgery. At first, I was a bit uncomfortable by the author's exacting emphasis on Karen King's personal life, but the author ultimately uses her life, personality, and academic ambition to make a very strong case for King's deliberate deception in This is an amazingly thorough investigation into the debunked "Jesus's Wife" papyrus, primarily focusing on the Harvard Divinity School professor who insisted, publicly and explosively, this was the real thing until, finally, science proved it to be a forgery. At first, I was a bit uncomfortable by the author's exacting emphasis on Karen King's personal life, but the author ultimately uses her life, personality, and academic ambition to make a very strong case for King's deliberate deception in order to advance her agenda of overturning the patriarchy of Christianity's roots. The breadth of academic dishonesty - and the culpability of many others of high rank - is just shocking. The whole thing stinks. I'm very interested in the field, but had no idea just how inept, how sloppy, how deceptive this was, nor was I aware of all of its enablers, which includes the former president of Harvard University, the Harvard Theological Review, one of the top journals in the world, and many others prominent in academia. This is well worth reading for those interested in the subject area. It is definitely one of the most documented, referenced, and thorough accounts of investigative journalism.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jason

    Look, I know we've all concluded that we're experts on the media: the many problems with coverage, the vague, ill-defined way bias skews what's reported, the left-right dichotomy that allows us to accept or dismiss the validity of sources without engaging with them objectively. Nevertheless, there's a lot of value in books like these that show what really good investigative journalism looks like. In this case, it takes skillful and persistent reporting to shine the light on a con artist forger o Look, I know we've all concluded that we're experts on the media: the many problems with coverage, the vague, ill-defined way bias skews what's reported, the left-right dichotomy that allows us to accept or dismiss the validity of sources without engaging with them objectively. Nevertheless, there's a lot of value in books like these that show what really good investigative journalism looks like. In this case, it takes skillful and persistent reporting to shine the light on a con artist forger of ancient Coptic papyrus and a prominent activist-scholar less concerned with historical accuracy than with furthering the narrative of female Christian leadership, and there's a lot of pleasure in following along as journalist Ariel Sabar puts the pieces of this mystery together and provides just enough context to understand everything. So, while a lot of people I went to high school with still assure me that the media is all corrupt and full of liars, I'm still going to seek out books like these that demonstrate the opposite.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Julie Gray

    I'm fascinated by biblical archeology. In fact, I live in Israel, so it's especially interesting to me to see the number of digs and the layer upon layer of ancient history that reveals itself slowly, adding to our understanding of just how, when and by whom the bible was written. Dan Brown is not the world's most literary writer but I tore through the Da Vinci code; I loved the tantalizing mystery of it. I'm also interested in the ways that early Christianity codified this new religion, picking I'm fascinated by biblical archeology. In fact, I live in Israel, so it's especially interesting to me to see the number of digs and the layer upon layer of ancient history that reveals itself slowly, adding to our understanding of just how, when and by whom the bible was written. Dan Brown is not the world's most literary writer but I tore through the Da Vinci code; I loved the tantalizing mystery of it. I'm also interested in the ways that early Christianity codified this new religion, picking and choosing among various texts. Veritas will make a great documentary film - for sure. But the book itself focuses on academic infighting, politics and the obsessions that lie within that sphere. Sabar is a good and thorough writer and researcher, have no doubt about that. He spent years on this book. I could write a one sentence spoiler that would boil it all down all too quickly though. Hint: the book title. I'm not complaining, this is a book that some will really love because it's SO thorough. I just found it too granular and dry, and after the midpoint, I just couldn't stay awake.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Shirley Freeman

    Veritas, or Truth, is definitely stranger than fiction in this meticulously researched story of the veracity, or not, of the "Gospel of Jesus' Wife" manuscript announced by renowned Harvard Divinity School professor Karen King in 2012. I found myself shaking my head at the bizarre trail author Ariel Sabar followed to try and understand the history of the papyrus fragment purporting to mention Jesus' wife. From experts in Egyptology and early papyrus dating, to experts in pornographic web sites, Veritas, or Truth, is definitely stranger than fiction in this meticulously researched story of the veracity, or not, of the "Gospel of Jesus' Wife" manuscript announced by renowned Harvard Divinity School professor Karen King in 2012. I found myself shaking my head at the bizarre trail author Ariel Sabar followed to try and understand the history of the papyrus fragment purporting to mention Jesus' wife. From experts in Egyptology and early papyrus dating, to experts in pornographic web sites, to experts in the history of Harvard Divinity School, Sabar uncovered the motivations leading to the announcement. Unfortunately, manipulation of opinion, money, revenge, relationships and salvaging of career and school seemed to be far more important than truth in the motivations of several key players. A fascinating trip down a long rabbit hole.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Laura Koerber

    Fascinating. WAY better than the Da VInci Whatever. Well to me way better but I am interested not only in history but also in how historians "do history". Cut to its bones, this is the story of how a Harvard professor got snookered by a forgery. And how the Hobby Lobby dingbats got snookered. Its also the story of how two very different people let their need to believe overcome their judgement. ANd along the way the reader learns a lot about Gnostic Christianity, the history of Christian religio Fascinating. WAY better than the Da VInci Whatever. Well to me way better but I am interested not only in history but also in how historians "do history". Cut to its bones, this is the story of how a Harvard professor got snookered by a forgery. And how the Hobby Lobby dingbats got snookered. Its also the story of how two very different people let their need to believe overcome their judgement. ANd along the way the reader learns a lot about Gnostic Christianity, the history of Christian religious writing, the history of non-textual Christian mythology such as Eve and the apple and the history of writing and paper. HOneslty, for those interested in the development of religious thought, its a page-turner. And on top of all that I started caring about the Harvard profession and I really grieved for her. Not so much the Hobby Lobby dingbats. They got what they deserved.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Cia Mcalarney

    Wow, what a journey! Through the complexity of understanding gender roles in the early church, the textual and critical analysis of non-canonical Christian texts, linguistics/translation of Coptic text, to the life and times of a German con man turned Florida pornographer. Oh did I mention university politics at Harvard? Yet the whole thing read like a thriller. My only complaint is that at times Sabars criticism of Karen King is so harsh and dismissive that it smacks of the kind of silencing sh Wow, what a journey! Through the complexity of understanding gender roles in the early church, the textual and critical analysis of non-canonical Christian texts, linguistics/translation of Coptic text, to the life and times of a German con man turned Florida pornographer. Oh did I mention university politics at Harvard? Yet the whole thing read like a thriller. My only complaint is that at times Sabars criticism of Karen King is so harsh and dismissive that it smacks of the kind of silencing she accuses early church theologians of...

  17. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    This was enthralling. I had my Kindle open trying to read this while doing the mat parts of Barre Pilates. It incredibly deftly lies down three concentric layers of reportage, so that you follow Sabar along as he does his initial story and then delves deeper and deeper. I am always envious of people for whom very niche academic interests can become their whole career, which probably explains why I found Gnostic scholars so compelling. Sabar himself has a very light footprint in the book. It's no This was enthralling. I had my Kindle open trying to read this while doing the mat parts of Barre Pilates. It incredibly deftly lies down three concentric layers of reportage, so that you follow Sabar along as he does his initial story and then delves deeper and deeper. I am always envious of people for whom very niche academic interests can become their whole career, which probably explains why I found Gnostic scholars so compelling. Sabar himself has a very light footprint in the book. It's not his story, and he's not remotely interesting for himself, and he is a good enough journalist to know it and disappear instead.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Rachelle

    Not to be missed. Excellent detective work on a real life mystery. Sabar writes well, making nonfiction read better than any fiction could.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Erika Nerdypants

    Could Jesus have been married to Mary of Magdala? There are those who desperately want the idea to be true, and those who will do anything to suppress it. You will meet the cast of characters in this extremely well researched book about a piece of papyrus, that seems to support the idea of Jesus' marriage. But is it authentic or a clever forgery? Even if you're not into reading about religion, you might want to give this a go. Because for a somewhat dry, stuffy subject, this was quite the ride. Fr Could Jesus have been married to Mary of Magdala? There are those who desperately want the idea to be true, and those who will do anything to suppress it. You will meet the cast of characters in this extremely well researched book about a piece of papyrus, that seems to support the idea of Jesus' marriage. But is it authentic or a clever forgery? Even if you're not into reading about religion, you might want to give this a go. Because for a somewhat dry, stuffy subject, this was quite the ride. From Harvard to Potsdam, East Germany, Ariel Sabar doggedly follows the trail of truth. But what is truth and how far are we willing to bend it? Is truth, like beauty in the eye of the beholder? Those are good questions in an era of alternative facts. In many ways this is also a story of privilege. Who has it and who doesn't, and how it affects our access to and interpretation of truth. I love it when a book opens me up to questions that I didn't even know I had, and Veritas certainly did that.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Scribe Publications

    Intriguing religious/true-crime story involving a possible wife of Jesus … A lengthy yet fascinating tale of how one scholar was duped, both by a con man and by herself. Kirkus Reviews If turning scraps of ancient papyrus into an enthralling true-crime escapade takes a miracle, consider Ariel Sabar a miracle worker … Veritas, Latin for truth and inscribed on the Harvard seal, is an extraordinary and mind-bending adventure into ancient traditions with modern consequences. Shelf Awareness Sabar has wr Intriguing religious/true-crime story involving a possible wife of Jesus … A lengthy yet fascinating tale of how one scholar was duped, both by a con man and by herself. Kirkus Reviews If turning scraps of ancient papyrus into an enthralling true-crime escapade takes a miracle, consider Ariel Sabar a miracle worker … Veritas, Latin for truth and inscribed on the Harvard seal, is an extraordinary and mind-bending adventure into ancient traditions with modern consequences. Shelf Awareness Sabar has written a true story of mystery and intrigue … [B]lending religious history with a tale of deception … [A] well-researched, engrossing backstory of failed discovery from a noted scholar. Jacqueline Parascandola, Library Journal A work of exemplary narrative nonfiction … [F]itting neatly into the truth-is-stranger-than-fiction category … Provocative and probing. STARRED REVIEW Booklist/American Library Association Mesmerising … [Sabar] has our attention, and slowly, remorselessly, he pays out the rest of his devilish yarn … Savour the denouement — and don't leave at intermission. Alex Beam, Wall Street Journal [A] madcap, unforgettable book … [F]or enthusiasts of ancient Christianity … and readers of idea-driven capers, whether by Daniel Silva or Janet Malcolm. It’s a barely believable tale, crazier than a tweed-sniffer in the faculty lounge. Mark Oppenheimer, New York Times Book Review Fascinating … Ariel Sabar digs out every detail in his engrossing book … The interaction of these two characters, one with a deep need to deceive and the other with a desperate need to believe, presents a wholly human story of frailty and weakness. Tom Gjelten, NPR [A]n exhaustive examination of the whole affair in a work of exemplary narrative nonfiction … Provocative and probing, this will entice readers interested in the history of early Christianity. Ilene Cooper, Booklist Extraordinary … [A]stonishing … The book is as good as a detective novel, possessing plot, subplots, hidden motives, bees in eccentric bonnets and startling revelations. Katherine A. Powers, Minneapolis Star Tribune A tour de force of investigative journalism … Mr. Sabar’s book is a model on how to investigate any new ‘discoveries’ from ancient texts. It is also a cautionary tale about the acceptance of experts and expertise at face value. Rebecca I. Denova, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Sabar offers plenty of fascinating arcana about scientific and historical methods for testing and analysing such an object, and he also brings to life many of the people involved … Veritas is packed with details and tells a complex story, but Sabar’s prose is clear and inviting, and the book is structured with a well-tuned sense of suspense. It’s a wonderfully absorbing example of truth being stranger than fiction. Colette Bancroft, Tampa Bay Times It’s a story about journalism done right, about Sabar’s own capable, dogged sleuthing to get to the bottom of those famous headlines … Veritas offers a vital lesson less about Christianity than about what happens when a scholar decides that the story is more important than the truth. Lucas Wittmann, Time A thriller for eggheads. Boston Globe A testament to the value of investigative journalism … [F]ull of shocking and revelatory moments. Daily Beast Scintillating … Sabar is a master storyteller. Tablet

  21. 4 out of 5

    Kerry

    Utterly fascinating! This book reads like a mystery novel, but is a thoroughly researched and sometimes unbelievable true story. It's not so much a "whodunnit" as it is a question of the motives of every single person involved in this forgery.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Josiah

    Why five stars? For two reasons; one rather obvious, the other less so. The obvious reason is that it is a gripping read. A fascinating read. The twists and turns in the story are so dramatic at points that I had to stop and look up the story behind the book to make sure that I hadn't accidentally purchased a work of fiction. There is also a wealth of insights about the rigor (or lack thereof) of certain scholarly disciplines. But there is also another reason. As I was reading the book, I kept g Why five stars? For two reasons; one rather obvious, the other less so. The obvious reason is that it is a gripping read. A fascinating read. The twists and turns in the story are so dramatic at points that I had to stop and look up the story behind the book to make sure that I hadn't accidentally purchased a work of fiction. There is also a wealth of insights about the rigor (or lack thereof) of certain scholarly disciplines. But there is also another reason. As I was reading the book, I kept getting a strange feeling. There was something peculiar about it that I couldn't quite put my finger on. Then it hit me: the author was actually doing journalism. Not the thin imitation of journalism that goes by the name these days and that consists of googling or calling up sources for quotes to fit into the blanks of a pre-written story. But actual fact hunting. When a source tells Mr. Sahar something in the book, he does not simply write down what they've said, or even write it down and give his comment on it. Instead he does things like take a trip to Florida to comb through property tax records to see if he can confirm or disconfirm it. And when he finds a piece of evidence that supports or opposes what someone has told him, he doesn't stop, but continues to look for other evidence. He interviews other sources to see what they know. And after doing all this, he returns to the source and asks them about it, beginning the process all over again. The extent of the research involved is so extensive that at one point the author apparently reviewed homemade porn tapes to see what was on the desk tops and bookshelves in the background (I told you it was a gripping read). The contrast between the depth of research that went into this work and what typically passes for reporting today is so stark that it raises some very important questions about the nature of modern publishing (its own form of veritas). And for that I give five stars.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Greg

    I received an advance copy of this book for free from the publisher in return for an unbiased review. As many people interested in religion and scholarship did, I followed the release of the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife fragment with rapt attention. The trumpeting of a re-writing of Jesus’ supposed celibacy, followed so quickly by the doubts of nearly every scholar who looked at it, created a intellectual and ideological drama that brought up so many questions about the intersection of faith and schola I received an advance copy of this book for free from the publisher in return for an unbiased review. As many people interested in religion and scholarship did, I followed the release of the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife fragment with rapt attention. The trumpeting of a re-writing of Jesus’ supposed celibacy, followed so quickly by the doubts of nearly every scholar who looked at it, created a intellectual and ideological drama that brought up so many questions about the intersection of faith and scholarship. Ariel Sabar, the reporter who covered so much of the drama as it was happening, has written a fantastic book on the subject. Veritas unfolds like an academic thriller, thoroughly researched, with excellent explanations for the more esoteric aspects and vivid characters whose motivations keep you guessing until the last page. At first look, it’s the story of a scholar whose ideology blinded her to obvious signs of forgery in pursuit of her own agenda and a con man looking to make a buck off a hot subject in historical Christianity. In Sabar’s telling, though, it becomes so much more than that. I’m not going to say any more than this: read it! Excellent characters, beautifully laid out, amazingly paced, perfectly gripping, highly highly recommended!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Donna

    An incredibly well researched book. Like many others, I followed Dr. King's amazing 'discovery' with fascination.. I was enthralled by the discovery of the fragments.. I remember watching every show on television that highlighted Dr. King and her narrations of the pieces. I watched and read everything I could find related to the subject. Now, I feel like a fool. I can only imagine how Dr. King feels. Ariel Sabar gives us a well researched novel about the validity/authenticity of these pieces. I An incredibly well researched book. Like many others, I followed Dr. King's amazing 'discovery' with fascination.. I was enthralled by the discovery of the fragments.. I remember watching every show on television that highlighted Dr. King and her narrations of the pieces. I watched and read everything I could find related to the subject. Now, I feel like a fool. I can only imagine how Dr. King feels. Ariel Sabar gives us a well researched novel about the validity/authenticity of these pieces. I found myself echoing the questions; "How could she allow herself to be fooled?", "Was she really fooled? Didn't she have an inkling that the fragments could be forgeries?" This book is a must read if you enjoy biblical writings, if you've followed the story of the fragments, or just if you are interested in the subject. The characters are engaging, the book flows like a mystery novel. Well worth reading.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ann

    This book was fascinating ! An incredible story of apparently conflicting interests that somehow converged into a sensational announcement that there might be historical evidence for Jesus' marriage to Mary Magdalene, a theory that hitherto had mainly existed in the pages of The Da Vinci Code. It starts with an unsolicited email from a papyrus collector to a professor of religious history at Harvard Divinity School, with the request for help with a translation of the Coptic script on a tiny fragm This book was fascinating ! An incredible story of apparently conflicting interests that somehow converged into a sensational announcement that there might be historical evidence for Jesus' marriage to Mary Magdalene, a theory that hitherto had mainly existed in the pages of The Da Vinci Code. It starts with an unsolicited email from a papyrus collector to a professor of religious history at Harvard Divinity School, with the request for help with a translation of the Coptic script on a tiny fragment (the size of a business card). Professor King lets a number of months pass before she starts to take any real interest in the fragment, and this primarily because the rough translation offered by the collector seems to indicate that the text contains the phrase : "Jesus said : my wife.." . This, of course, could mean many different things, especially since the fragment was cut off right there. It could have been "My wife is the Church", for instance, a well-known trope of early Christian literature. But Professor King, who had made a career out of arguing that, contrary to current belief, the early Catholic Church was actually quite inclusive of women, and not at all insistent on celibacy of the clergy, is hooked. In 2012, she announces what she calls "The Gospel of Jesus' Wife" at a scholarly conference. But that' s not all : the announcement (which takes place practically on the Vatican's doorstep) is accompanied by media interviews, a Smithsonian documentary, and a Smithsonian article, which is where the author becomes involved. As expected, there is a rush of interest in the announcement. From the religious angle, the discovery that Jesus was married might trigger a rethinking of the Catholic Church's position on marriage, celibacy, sex, and the role of women in general. From a historical and linguistic point of view, the fragment almost immediately raises numerous questions. The Coptic handwriting is bizarre. The language contains a grotesque grammatical error. The papyrus itself has not been dated with modern scientific methods. And who is the mysterious collector anyway, and what evidence is there for the fragment's provenance? This is where the book starts to read like a paleographic All the President's Men. Based on some of the documents provided by the collector, the author traces back a story of German immigrants and Egyptology professors at the Free University of Berlin that ultimately leads to a single person in Florida. At the same time, the author starts to reveal that the original authentication of the fragment was done in a less-than-rigorous scientific manner by the extended group of personal and professional acquaintances of Professor King's. Finally, the timing of the renewed interest in the fragment is curiously aligned with an arcane academic battle over the future of the Harvard Divinity School. I had followed the controversy from a far distance, because I'm not at all interested in biblical archaeology and the question of whether Jesus was married or not, and to whom, leaves me cold. But I am interested in papyri, in forgeries and the detection thereof, in the difficulties of proving provenance, and it was this part of the book that interested me originally. The intricacies of the Coptic translation, and the sources it was inspired by, the analysis of papyrus and ink, all of that was fascinating to me. And as I continued to read, I became more and more confused about what Professor King's approach to her profession as a historian really was. Even allowing for the fashion for postmodern thought in the 1980s ("There is no truth, only a narrative."), it seems that every form of wild speculation seemed acceptable. If a text says X, it may be because X is true. But it may also be that a text saying X is an attempt to disprove another text saying Y, in which case Y is true". So, when all you have is text X, how do you know whether it's true? And if it's a general principle that the closer the text is written to Jesus' lifespan, the more likely it is to be close to historical truth, how then can it be argued that an incomplete fragment, written on 8th century AD papyrus, which is the only time that a wife for Jesus is ever mentioned in the historical record, should be taken at face value? I have to say, I feel a little sorry for Professor King, who I think was well-intentioned. I think that keeping information within a small circle of former mentors and students, where everyone owes favors, past and future, to each other, is unfortunately a prevalent academic practice. But I think that arranging press conferences and what-have-you before the data is fully verified, is sloppy, and the timing vs. the threatened curtailing of the Divinity School's role in the Harvard system, is provocative at least. A final thought is : I thought it was incredibly difficult and prestigious to get an appointment at Harvard - but Professor King's publication record was rather meager and most of it came from an academic press she was a co-leader and investor in. This is not at all what I would have expected to see, and I don't think it would work this way for, say, a professor of molecular biology or metallurgy. Even acknowledging the specific limitations of work on Gnostic Gospels, or early Christian text, or whatever the field is precisely called, I could not escape a sense of confusion about "what did Professor King actually DO in her career?".

  26. 4 out of 5

    Bibliothekerin

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This book is amazing, a true story so complex not many people would have had the dedication to keep digging for the truth. The amazing thing to me is that such an esteemed academic as Karen King could have gotten herself embroiled in such a sham—and convinced so many of her colleagues. I had read books she wrote (she has written quite a few), and had such respect for her. How could such a brilliant mind have been so duped? It’s far worse if she knew the truth (“veritas”) about the papyrus scrap This book is amazing, a true story so complex not many people would have had the dedication to keep digging for the truth. The amazing thing to me is that such an esteemed academic as Karen King could have gotten herself embroiled in such a sham—and convinced so many of her colleagues. I had read books she wrote (she has written quite a few), and had such respect for her. How could such a brilliant mind have been so duped? It’s far worse if she knew the truth (“veritas”) about the papyrus scrap and touted it as authentic anyway, because she wanted so badly for it to be authentic. How a respected historian could risk her reputation is mind-boggling. She should have known better, known that hubris always leads to downfall. The sad thing is that King not only destroyed her own reputation but brought others’ into question as well, and made it that much tougher for anyone in future to prove a gospel text is by a woman. I can understand her wanting to believe that Mary Magdalene played a bigger role in Jesus’s life than was heretofore accepted. The RCC is notorious for its misogyny—Peter himself, the “Rock” on which the Church was founded, was a misogynist. It is widely known that the Church fathers—the Vatican— deleted parts of the Biblical canon it did not like (ie., by women) or deliberately mistranslated passages. We take on faith that the Bible is the complete “Word of God” when in fact it’s could be missing letters by other early believers, or there are mistranslations, some possibly deliberately. (Why do I say this? Because scholars in the last century did find errors when they read the original Aramaic, Greek and/or Hebrew, and some errors completely changed the meaning.) The problem is that the farther along in time we get from the time of Christ, the harder it is to find other authentic texts buried in the sand, because looters found many before archaeologists and separated them to sell piecemeal—or even used the papyri as waste paper. (Horrifying, but true.) Experts trained in those languages hardly grow on trees, ancient language study not being a burgeoning career field. There is also the matter of access to original texts, which is tough in itself, because the Vatican owns most and routinely turn down requests for access. And even if one is granted access, a scholar might not be granted sufficient time to study the text, as was the case with King’s expert in Coptic. Or they might need scientific equipment to date the age of the material written upon. There are many potential obstacles to verifying authenticity. The thing that is so mind-boggling is that King had spent decades building her reputation, only to throw it away on a single—but epic—fake. I’d love to know what the fallout was at Harvard itself, at the Divinity School and at the University. I can certainly understand why the university would want to distance itself from the Divinity School after that fiasco. What is King doing now? I have to wonder. I can’t imagine that too many of King’s colleagues will ever want to work with her again, given her coverup. She could hardly blame the forger alone, because she did not disclose personal ties to two of her so-called experts, and Sabar discovered that she “self-plagiarized”—incorporated part of an earlier article she wrote, published in a rival academic journal, in a later article. Some might say it’s hardly the same as plagiarizing someone else, but the fact is, she had to have known that the journal specifically forbade it, so why did she do it? How could she think she would not be found out? How is it that the journal editors did not notice? Probably because publishers are up against deadlines all the time, and sometimes just have to let questions go unanswered in order to make deadline. And besides, who would question the word of the Harvard Divinity Hollis chair? How could Sabar have guessed that King would have done this? He must have an amazing ability to connect specific dots in an ocean of dots, and have the persistence to dig deeper than anyone else. Who else would have gone to the trouble of comparing two of her articles side by side? Author and investigative reporter Ariel Sabar did an absolutely brilliant job doggedly pursuing the truth. How much time did he invest in total? God only knows. Some reviewers have said that the book jumped all over the place, but I appreciate the depth to which he went in trying to determine not only the facts but the motivation of the forger and of King herself. She wanted so desperately to prove a greater role for Mary Magdalene that she went too far, stating that Mary was not only an apostle of Jesus (which is stated in other Gnostic gospels), but his wife as well. She could have just gone with the safer translation of “companion” rather than “spouse”, but she wanted a bombshell that would shake the foundations of the RCC. What if more New Testament-era papyri are discovered that imply MM was the spouse? Or simply go into more detail regarding her role as lead apostle? After the King fiasco, experts may shy away from confirming authenticity even if it is justifiable—and that is just too depressing.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Devon

    After seeing many posts on social media about this book, I decided to give it a go and read it over the weekend—a decision I don't regret. "Veritas" is a page-turner in every sense of the phrase, and I couldn't put down. Creative non-fiction and investigative journalism are two of my favorite genres, and Ariel Sabar has excelled at both, weaving together a factual story that is part "All the President's Men" and Umberto Eco's "Serendipity" with a splash of metaphysical speculation on the nature After seeing many posts on social media about this book, I decided to give it a go and read it over the weekend—a decision I don't regret. "Veritas" is a page-turner in every sense of the phrase, and I couldn't put down. Creative non-fiction and investigative journalism are two of my favorite genres, and Ariel Sabar has excelled at both, weaving together a factual story that is part "All the President's Men" and Umberto Eco's "Serendipity" with a splash of metaphysical speculation on the nature of truth. "Veritas" begins with Harvard professor Dr. Karen King and her shocking announcement of a newly uncovered gnostic gospel papyrus fragment that seems to record Jesus speaking about his wife. We are dropped into the facining world of biblical scholarship, with its papyrologists, historians, and wars between matters of faith and facts. As sensational as the announcement of the "gospel of Jesus' wife" was, there were many questions that lingered as to its provenance, its content, and ultimately its authenticity. As many prominent scholars deemed the fragment truly "ancient," others had persuasive arguments to it being a forgery. This is the mystery that Sabar unravels throughout the course of the book. Ariel Sabar impressively plies his trade as a journalist—doggedly verifying the smallest details from stories with unreliable narrators. He draws the readers attention to the poetic and narrative aspects of the story as it unfolds in reflective passages that are brilliant. As much as I would be inclined to give the book five stars, I do have to admit there was a small point of annoyance for me that prevents me from doing so. Though the shadowy figure of the suspected forger remains the main "villian" or foil of the plot, it seems Evangelical Christians form a secondary generic cultural villian. (Perhaps as an Evangelical I was overly sensitive to it.) However, Evangelicals are not a monolithic or even credal category of believers, and there were several times in the book where their belief or biblical interpretation was presented so simplistically or one-sidedly as to be inaccurate. Certainly, I could not expect Mr. Sabar to go fully down this particular rabbit hole of conservative Evangelical Bible scholarship, but I felt like the words of Paul particularly misrepresented and taken out of context. One of the main arguments about why the Jesus' wife fragment shook Christianity to its core was the concept that you could be both, "sexual and holy." Perhaps it would have some bearing on the celibate priesthood in Roman Catholocism, but the New Testament has several passages devoted to godly marriage. Surely this is not quite the monumental or revolutionary thought the press covering the story thought it was. In any case, as a non-canonical fragment, it could have little bearing on the churches concept either of Jesus or marriage. "Veritas" is a thriller for our day, all the more compelling because it is real. I highly recommend it as an enjoyable and thought-provoking read.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Lori L (She Treads Softly)

    Veritas: A Harvard Professor, a Con Man and the Gospel of Jesus's Wife by Ariel Sabar is a very highly recommended true story of a religious forgery and a scandal. The story starts in 2012 when Dr. Karen King, a Harvard Divinity School professor, announced at a conference the discovery of an ancient fragment of papyrus on which Jesus calls Mary Magdalene "my wife." If true, a married Jesus would change the 2,000 year history of Christianity. King titled her discovery "The Gospel of Jesus's Wife," Veritas: A Harvard Professor, a Con Man and the Gospel of Jesus's Wife by Ariel Sabar is a very highly recommended true story of a religious forgery and a scandal. The story starts in 2012 when Dr. Karen King, a Harvard Divinity School professor, announced at a conference the discovery of an ancient fragment of papyrus on which Jesus calls Mary Magdalene "my wife." If true, a married Jesus would change the 2,000 year history of Christianity. King titled her discovery "The Gospel of Jesus's Wife," which served to provoke Biblical scholars and threaten traditions. Debates over the small scrap of papyrus raged as its authenticity was brought into question. Author and journalist Ariel Sabar set out to investigate the mystery of where the manuscript originated. His search is a detective story in its own rights as he traced it back to rural Florida and an internet pornographer. This is the story of what happens when a scholar decides that the story she wants to believe is more important than the actual truth. The account is in two parts. The first details how King came to learn about the manuscript, her background, and the events from her shocking announcement to her fall and retraction after carbon dating and an article by Sabar. The second half has the author becoming part of the narrative as he finds the owner of the forgery, Walter Fritz. He searches for and follows the provenance of the manuscript, uncovering the questionable authenticity as well as other irregularities in the experts King used. He also finds information that may point to at least part of the motivation behind King's original decision to look at the small scrap of papyrus. This is a well-researched and documented true life detective story about a forgery that fooled a scholar, but it also examines the motivations of all the people involved. One central fact which emerged is that King allowed the social impact of what she wanted to believe was real blur her search for truth and authenticity. Even things she should have questioned or reserved judgement about were overlooked for the story she wanted to be true. "Her ideological commitments were choreographing her practice of history. The story came first; the dates managed after. The narrative before the evidence; the news conference before the scientific analysis; the interpretation before the authentication. Her rich sense of what Christianity might be - if only people had the right information - too often preceded the facts." This is a fascinating account of a forgery and scandal. It is lengthy and can be a slow read at times simply due to the amount of research, facts, and information Sabar has included in the account. Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Knopf Doubleday. http://www.shetreadssoftly.com/2020/0...

  29. 4 out of 5

    Tim Murphy

    Deep into his story, the author of Veritas relates this encounter with an early editor: "'People don't curl up at night with a great set of facts' I quoted the editor as telling me. The editor's point wasn't to invent facts or renounce research, both of which are firing offenses in journalism. It was to use novelistic technique--plot, character, scene--to tell deeply researched true stories." Current readers owe a significant debt to Ariel Sabar's unnamed early editor. What they might expect to b Deep into his story, the author of Veritas relates this encounter with an early editor: "'People don't curl up at night with a great set of facts' I quoted the editor as telling me. The editor's point wasn't to invent facts or renounce research, both of which are firing offenses in journalism. It was to use novelistic technique--plot, character, scene--to tell deeply researched true stories." Current readers owe a significant debt to Ariel Sabar's unnamed early editor. What they might expect to be a dry book about a decade-old academic controversy instead is a compelling story. Part detective story, part mystery, part tragedy, all story, Sabar keeps readers engrossed in a compelling tale very difficult to lay aside, even for a few moments. At the center of the story is its tragic protagonist, Dr. Karen King, a renowned religious studies scholar who occupied an ancient divinity chair at Harvard and, with great public fanfare, introduced the world to a papyrus fragment in 2012 that she called, "The Gospel of Jesus' Wife." Sabar tells the story of how that discovery came under fire from the scrutiny of other scholars and how, over several years, the truth about the fragment slowly came to the fore: it was an excellent forgery. On the way, Sabar describes colorful, interesting characters--all real, though they read like characters in a novel--including two scholars working from their own basements who were crucial to uncovering the hoax but whom few would believe because--you know--they didn't have a PhD so what could they add to the discussion? He likewise captures the difficult and ego-driven culture of academics at Harvard he believes contributed to the fiasco. Finally, and in my view most importantly, he describes how Dr. King's post-modern view of history underpinned this massive and public failure. Like a good storyteller, Sabar keeps the antagonist present but in the background while the early story unfolds, only unwrapping him later in the story with a very deep investigation into his background, history and motivations that surprise (and dismay) the reader at nearly every page turn. In the end, though, this is the tragic story of a world-class academic who should have known better and failed because the papyrus was just too good a story to check out. Sabar concludes: "Her ideological commitments were choreographing her practice of history. The story came first; the dates managed after. The narrative before the evidence; the news conference before the scientific analysis; the interpretation before the authentication. Her rich sense of what Christianity might be--if people only had the right information--too often preceded the facts." Highly recommended for for understanding the fraudulent "Gospel of Jesus' Wife", for understanding modern academics, and for enjoying excellent narrative non-fiction.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Brett T

    Each year the approach of Easter seems to bring a new find of scholarship that will "rock the church to its core" or otherwise call into question some of the foundational beliefs of Christianity. Those are often interpretations laid onto the discovery or announcement by media coverage, rather than by the academic person at the center of the story. But in 2012, a papyrus fragment that implied Jesus was married was given the name "The Gospel of Jesus' Wife" not by reporters but by the professor an Each year the approach of Easter seems to bring a new find of scholarship that will "rock the church to its core" or otherwise call into question some of the foundational beliefs of Christianity. Those are often interpretations laid onto the discovery or announcement by media coverage, rather than by the academic person at the center of the story. But in 2012, a papyrus fragment that implied Jesus was married was given the name "The Gospel of Jesus' Wife" not by reporters but by the professor announcing its discovery. It quickly became the center of a controversy, but not about the supposed theological hand grenade it tossed into Christian teaching. Ariel Sabar, then a journalist working for the Smithsonian magazine, outlined how many questions historians, Coptic language experts, papyrologists and so forth had about the fragment and its "provenance," or history of its discovery and delivery to Karen King, the Harvard professor who announced it to the world. In 2016, Sabar's investigation into that provenance reavealed who the anonymous donor was in an article in The Atlantic. He expanded both articles, as well as described how he found out what he found out, in the 2020 book Veritas: A Harvard Professor, a Con Man and the Gospel of Jesus' Wife. Obviously a big chunk of Veritas comes from the earlier articles, but Sabar has tried to add enough new material to justify book publication. Much of the additional material is biographical detail on King and some of the other players in the matter. Sabar also speculates about King's motives for choosing the sensational name "Gospel of Jesus' Wife" for a piece of papyrus as big as a business card and for her subsequent semi-admission that it's probably not an authentic document from the early history of Christianity. King hangs back, Sabar suggests, because the idea of a married Jesus opens up a new history of the possible ways women participated in the early church until patriarchal forces took over. Veritas never really overcomes the way that the bulk of its most crucial information has already been in print -- in some cases, twice -- from the same author. The exploration of the way that King's own postmodern ideas saw the papyrus' forged status as less important than its value in constructing new narratives about women and Christianity would probably be better as a part of a new article or book, and the biographical sections feel more like padding than essential information. Original available here.

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