Gesine Robinson was kind enough to provide detailed comments regarding her thoughts on why this fragment is likely a modern forgery. Her comments appear under this post but I have also reposted them here in order to provide more convenient access to them:
Rebuttal of the presentation of a Gospel of Jesus’ wife
My objections to the claim of an ancient manuscript fragment and my reasons for regarding it a modern forgery are manifold:
1. Claiming to possess an ancient fragment without knowing its provenance is unfortunate enough, but without giving the current owner is highly suspicious.
2. Even the square format of the papyrus piece with its neat edges suggests that this, at best, is scrap-material, not a preserved manuscript fragment.
3. The papyrus itself may actually be ancient (though this cannot be determined by simply “carefully examining” it, as was maintained), since at least the vertical side gives a rather genuine impression, but the handwriting on the horizontal side is very different, especially with regard to the space between letters and between the lines.
4. On paleographical grounds, the handwriting cannot come from the 4th century; especially judging from the way the T is written, for instance; there is no resemblance to the other known 4th century texts.
5. Miraculously, there are always full phrases preserved, something that hardly happens on a small single fragment.
6. And amazingly, on this small piece there are, according to the editors, allusions not only to one but even to two of the more well-known non-biblical gospels, the Gospel of Mary and the Gospel of Thomas.
7. In terms of the language, only the simplest vocabulary is used and only simple constructions are employed, as if the writer were afraid to make a grammatical mistake.
8. Therefore, the rather rare phrase peje i±±±s+ (though frequently used in the Gospel of Thomas since we have to do there with a collection of Jesus’ sayings) is used even in both instances of speaking, instead of the form pejaF (+ pronominal/nominal object) + NCi + subject that is more common in dialogues or other literary texts. Here in the first instance one would expect something like pejau NIs+ NCi Nmaqhths, and in the second instance pejaF nau NCi i±±s+, or since Jesus answers the disciples, even aFouwvb= NCi Is+ pejaF nau je. It seems a cautious and perhaps unsure modern Coptologist was at work here.
9. In addition, even though in Coptic dictionaries sHime is used for “woman” and Hime for “wife,” Hime is almost never used in comparable literary texts, not for the wife of Adam, Jacob, or any other male figures.
10. In the 2nd century, a time for which the Greek original is presupposed, an author would never have let Jesus simply say, “my wife,” existent or not. Women were relegated to the household as soon as Christian communities ventured out into the public sphere. In case of a disciple married to Jesus, the author would perhaps have explained in a dependent sentence the married status, like “Mary Magdalene, my wife, . . .”. The plain phrase “my wife” betrays modern thinking.
Finally let me express how deeply saddened and troubled I am by the latest trend in manuscript research. There seems to be a new integrity problem, starting with Marv Meyer’s “no comment” (regarding the Gospel of Judas) to Jim Robinson who had worked tirelessly for openness in textual research, up to the newest and most blatant example in Rome. Again secrecy was used as a means to maximize the sensational effect. For this reason, everything was intentionally orchestrated in a way that assured this outcome. It appears that the opening up of the Harvard website and the arrival of the press at the same moment the introduction in Rome was given were coordinated to that end. I am concerned that henceforth new manuscript discoveries will be widely assessed by experts in the field as something that individual scholars can exploit for their own profit.
Scholarship always benefitted from letting colleagues know about current works, from having open discussions of individual research projects at conventions, or from peer reviews prior to publications – something that would have been very beneficial especially in this current instance. Instead it was chosen to hide information from peers and introduce something with so much fanfare and speculation that it surely has to be backtracked one day, just like the evaluation of the Gospel of Judas had to be reversed by the first editors.