'Gospel of Jesus' Wife' Gets Even More Cryptic
Previous owner would've risked all to get it from East Germany
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 6, 2015 9:45 AM CDT
This Sept. 5, 2012, photo shows the so-called Gospel of Jesus' Wife.   (AP Photo/Harvard University, Karen L. King)

(Newser) – There are two camps when it comes to the so-called Gospel of Jesus' Wife: one that believes the Coptic fragment is the real deal, and one that's convinced it's a fake. There's evidence to back up either side: Radiocarbon dating indicates the papyrus dates to AD800, and tests on the ink suggest it's the same type used at that time. If the ink is authentic, it's "conceivable" that someone might have scraped ancient ink from another ancient document, mixed it with water, and created the piece, but "no one has ever actually shown that this has ever been done," reports the Atlantic. On the other hand, the document's words and phrases—even a grammatical error—appear to have been copied directly from another ancient document, the Gospel of Thomas, leading to doubts. Now new evidence suggests that if the story of the Gospel's travels is true, a man who once owned the papyrus may have risked all to get it.

The current owner remains anonymous, but documents show he or she bought the papyrus in 1999 from Hans-Ulrich Laukamp, who died in 2002; Laukamp apparently got it from East Germany in 1963, but those who knew him say he was living on the opposite side of the Berlin Wall at the time and didn't collect antiquities. West Berliners could visit East Berlin but only to see relatives at Christmas, and carrying a papyrus—which would've looked like a coded message—would have been risky, reports Live Science. Is it possible Laukamp created a forgery? Maybe. Through his manufacturing company, Laukamp worked with scientists, engineers, and tradespeople who might've had the skills to pull off such a ruse. He'd also just built a new factory and a new house and opened a branch office in 1999. Creating a forgery would've given him extra cash, but so would selling off the real thing. (Scientists recently found the oldest known Gospel.)