CBS, ABC Tout Document Claiming Jesus Had a 'Wife' But Ignore the Skeptics

On Thursday evening, both ABC and CBS relayed news that a manuscript claiming Jesus had a wife was found to be an "ancient" document and "not a modern forgery." They ignored skeptics of the document, however.

"We have the results of scientific testing on a controversial scrap of papyrus that some call the 'gospel of Jesus' wife'," touted CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley. He added that "scholars say that doesn't prove that Jesus had a wife but that early Christians debated whether he did."

ABC's Diane Sawyer called the find "intriguing" and "provocative" and said that experts "caution it doesn't prove Jesus had a wife. But for now, it's an intriguing clue."

The document has its detractors, though. As the Boston Globe reported, "many" of the "academic peers" of Harvard professor Karen L. King, who claimed the manuscript was authentic, "dismissed it as a fake" when she presented her case a year and a half ago.

And the Globe quoted Egyptologist Leo Depuydt who called the writing a "forgery":

"'Nothing is going to change my mind,' he said in an interview this week. 'As a forgery, it is bad to the point of being farcical or fobbish. . . . I don't buy the argument that this is sophisticated. I think it could be done in an afternoon by an undergraduate student'."

Yet Depuydt's challenge was nowhere to be found on CBS or ABC. Back in 2012 when King's claim was first made in public, the media lapped it up.

Below are transcripts of the segments:

ABC
WORLD NEWS
4/10/14
[6:48 p.m. EST]

DIANE SAWYER: Our "Instant Index" tonight begins with a provocative question and some intriguing new evidence. The question, was Jesus married? Scholars from Harvard, Columbia and MIT have been studying this tiny scrap of ancient text, Egyptian papyrus, with the words "And Jesus said to them, my wife." It was once thought to be a fake. But tonight, they say carbon testing proves it is an ancient document. They caution it doesn't prove Jesus had a wife. But for now, it's an intriguing clue.

CBS
EVENING NEWS
4/10/14
[6:52 p.m. EST]

SCOTT PELLEY: We have the results of scientific testing on a controversial scrap of papyrus that some call the "gospel of Jesus' wife." Chemical tests and carbon dating suggest it is most likely ancient, not a modern forgery. The text is in the Coptic language. One line that's just a fragment of a sentence says quote, "Jesus said to them 'my wife'." Scholars say that doesn't prove that Jesus had a wife but that early Christians debated whether he did.
 

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014