An Amazing Story Proving One of Shea’s Laws

Shea’s Law #1983724 states “Every discovery of the Latest Real Jesus tells you absolutely nothing new about the historical Jesus and everything about the obsessions and gullibility of the Discoverer.”

Case in point: Karen King and the Discovery of Jesus the Married Messiah:

‘In 2012, the Harvard scholar Karen King announced what she believed to be an extraordinary discovery: a second-century papyrus fragment with a text hinting that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene. “The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife,” as it became known, tapped into a plot point from “The Da Vinci Code” that had already helped King’s academic treatise on Mary Magdalene become a best seller with a mass audience.

‘This “gospel” was worldwide news — before skeptical papyrologists and grammarians, in one case drawing on the research of an amateur Coptic obsessive working in his Macomb, Mich., basement, showed it to be a complete fake. King was mum on who the stranger from Florida was who had given her the fragment, but the writer Ariel Sabar, using sophisticated tools like Google, uncovered that it was one Walter Fritz, a former director of the Stasi Museum in East Germany with a fake Egyptology degree whose businesses included charging for online videos of his wife having sex with other men, and who, more than three weeks before King’s bombshell announcement about the papyrus, had registered the web domain

‘“Veritas,” Sabar’s exhausting, madcap, unforgettable book about this fiasco, is for enthusiasts of ancient Christianity, as well as anyone who likes watching snooty academics brought low 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.

‘The book’s flaws are those of a journalist who Goes Big. It is 34 percent too long. Sabar often overreaches, as when he dips a toe, then plunges, into the psychoanalysis of his subjects: His treatment of the erotic life of Fritz, a pathological liar who may or may not have been raped by a priest, is as suspect as the cliché that King’s “trailblazing instincts traced in part to her childhood amid the soaring mountains of southwest Montana.” There’s lot of this breathy melodrama, useful for the screenplay I hope is coming.

‘Sabar offers too much detail, but his point is that King offered suspiciously little. He digs up facts that she considered irrelevant. Her strong reputation was built working the borderland of history and literary interpretation, and in this case one line (“Jesus said to them, ‘My wife…’”), on a fragment the size of a business card, was so ripe for juicy interpretation that it shut down her historian’s instincts. Here was a major new document that, like her earlier work, undermined orthodox notions about Christian celibacy and sexuality.

‘King’s postmodern ideology, Sabar argues, primed her for corner-cutting. If, as she wrote, history “is not about truth but about power relations,” and historians should abandon “the association between truth and chronology,” what did it matter if this second-century text was shown to be written on eighth-century papyrus, with 21st-century ink? She evinced no interest in the real Fritz, the source of her humiliation: “I don’t see the point of a conversation,” King told Sabar, when he offered to tell her what he’d learned.

‘There was a lot King didn’t see. To test the papyrus, she engaged a friend who had been an usher at her first wedding, with whom she regularly spent New Year’s Eve. She was blind to the conflict of interest. Another tester, who gave the second of two favorable early reports, was the brother-in-law of King’s close academic ally, who solicited him for the job. Complicit were the editors of The Harvard Theological Review, which published these results, and Harvard’s press office, which flogged them to the world with the avidity of Hollywood publicists. King was abetted by a world of academics and higher-ed bureaucrats who forgot that, if we are wise, we should be most gratified to learn when we are wrong.’

People are continually manufacturing Latest Real Jesuses to suit the cultural priorities of their age.  Albert Schweitzer, the great Social Gospel Protestant, went on a Quest for the Historical Jesus and discovered that Jesus was basically a Social Gospel Protestant.  Frank Barton wrote The Man Nobody Knows in the 20s, just as the stock market was soaring and Calvin Coolidge was declaring that “The business of America is business.”  Turned out Jesus was the first businessman.  In the 30s, the Nazis discovered that Jesus was actually an Aryan with no relation to the Jews, while the Commies discovered Jesus was the first Marxist.  In the 60s we got Jesus the Hippie with Godspell and in the 70s we got Jesus the Rock God in Jesus Christ Superstar.  In the 80s, Jesus reappeared as a health and wealth preacher in the age of Gordon Gekko.  In the 90s, gay playwright Terence McNally discovered Jesus was gay in Corpus Christi.  By the early Millennium, he was back to being straight and married off to Mary Magdalene by Dan Brown, who overcame a vast Vatican Conspiracy to hide all this.  Any similarities between this scenario and a sex-obsessed, X Files paranoid culture in the grip of a priest scandal is purely coincidental.

Karen King’s “discovery” was just more of the same for our age of obsession with the sex lives of the famous.

One thing we can be grateful for in this particular teapot tempest is that it inspired this magnificent moment from Jon Stewart. Note, O Butthurt Conservative Catholic perpetually complaining that “the liberals” are always eager to promote any story that contradicts the gospel, that Stewart is neither conservative nor a Christian, yet does not leap on board this story with utter credulity. He gives it exactly the skepticism it richly deserves. Also note the utter tone deafness of Qhristian pagans at FOX with whom Stewart has a field day.


37 Responses

  1. I just called the order of the nun who praised trump last night to voice my thoughts on her public support of this administration and misrepresented the meaning of the crucifixation, which damages the church. I spoke with a sister who spewed the most hate inflected diatribe as I’ve ever received. The American church has truly schismed.

      1. Would have been a half-decent speech if that bit about ”cruscied for not being PC” had been left out, and had she stopped right before the Trump eulogy part.

      2. Well, I just watched it, and that nun was awful, because what she said is a lie. Trump is not “pro-life.” He’s the very image of the corrupt plutocrat, exploiter and predator the gospels deplore.

        Not just support but validation of Trump by the Catholic Church is the reason I left never to return.

      3. Also, Jesus was crucified for not being “politically correct”? I guess that’s one way to describe sedition, the crime for which Jesus was officially condemned.

        But from a Catholic perspective, I may never have heard such a cheapening description of the Crucifixion.

      4. @ Neko

        Well, yes. I did say that *without* those two bits it would’ve been a decent speech. On the whole it was probably one of the better RNC speeches I’ve heard.

        No need to try to convince me. I have my own reasons to want Trump gone. Maybe you should give that nun a call :p

      5. Haha, no. As an apostate, among other things, I don’t have Linda’s credibility.

        I concede that that nun was more intelligent, articulate and accomplished than most of the bootlicks at the convention. All the more tragic to have been seduced by the Evil One.

      6. Replying to you comment below, Neko. I have no special credibility. Except as another member of the Body of Christ, so i always feel to reach out personally to inquire or engage. I was shocked this morning but after some thought, it seemed my call might have been one of many, as she was prepared with a diatribe and seemed to enjoy it.

        I guess the fact that religious life produces so many “little monsters” still rattles me.

      7. @ Linda

        Regarding “little monsters”. I know this is a catholic blog, but…

        Jerry Falwell Jr. Becki (with an i) Falwell. cuban pool boys. And it turns out Mrs. Robinson Ol’ Becki sexually assaulted one of her son’s friends while he was staying in their home, so the news reports say today.

        This from Most Christian Liberty U, where a student can get kicked out for hugging someone too long, and the administration, especially Falwell himself, are always busy telling everyone else how moral they are.

        God Bless you please, Dear ol’ Becki Mrs. Robinson, heaven holds a place for those who prey, hey hey hey!

      1. I asked her if she actually considered trump pro-life, given all we know about him and his administration, and she SCREAMED, “how dare you judge this good man!”

    1. You must have a strong stomach. I think I’d rather drink sour owl urine than make that phone call. Religious freaks are way more disconcerting than regular freaks.

      Yesterday my mother asked my son to help her open a video my sister sent her. He reported back to us that it featured a priest giving a talk on how Trump is saving the American Catholic Church.

      My sister isn’t stupid, but she’s very, very brainwashed. Like all Trump devotees she thinks white people are superior. She and her husband don’t even try to hide it. They love to quote facts and figures like “Mike Miller” and then play innocent. They are mean people. Being mean is like breathing. But the WORST part about it is my sister’s ability to coat that meanness with a Pollyanna-the-catholic persona. Last week she asked me to do a nine-day novena with her to St. Monica. My stomach clenched. I couldn’t even answer the email. She actually thinks it’s my family that has lost all touch, and has defected to the “godless”. The worst part about the religion-flavored hate is that it colors what is good and noble with a stench of perversion that turns off everybody and colors everything it touches. It’s like an act of theft. I will never, ever leave because of that taint, but now what used to feel like a safe harbor can never be a safe harbor again.

      It’s pretty amazing that we got Pope Francis when we needed him critically–so much so that a Pope needed to step down to make way for him.

      1. This response was beyond anything I would have imagined. And yes, thank God for Pope Francis.

      2. The more mean-spirited part of myself would have enjoyed making that phonecall, but then again, it would have led to nothing. What Linda describes is exactly what I’d expect from a nun who found the love of her life in Donald Trump.

        Your somewhat odd family members would puzzle me. Why would they want to engage in any kind of communal prayer with someone they despise and seem unwilling to reconcile with?

        As for Pope Francis: I’m neither particularly enamored nor particularly put off. In general, I have always preferred the younger versions of JPII, Benedict and Francis himself.

        More broadly, I find the whole right vs. left approach to Church matters not very enlightening. I don’t see any reason, for instance, to lump Robert Sarah, Joseph zen and Raymond Burke together is this cosmic fight between the Jedi and the Empire. Sarah has his reasons for what he says, and so does Zen. Zen in particular has good reasons to be suspicious of the Chinese government. Both would say what they do if there were no trump or Lifesite News.

        I was quite amused though when Burke’s hostile takeover of Malta was thwarted :p

      3. @ taco

        I hate to read these stories about your family. I’m not telling you not to write them, and I will read them, but I always get left feeling dirty afterwards. I need them because I feel we have a lot in common, except that I dumped my family with the toxicity got to be too much.

    1. I’ve read that before but it was just as hilarious this time as the last time I read it. Thank you for pointing me with your hyperlink back to that glorious post regarding the renowned author Dan Brown.

  2. Mark wrote:

    Albert Schweitzer, the great Social Gospel Protestant, went on a Quest for the Historical Jesus and discovered that Jesus was basically a Social Gospel Protestant.

    No. Schweitzer is best know for making Mark’s point (more or less).

    Each successive epoch of theology found its own thoughts in Jesus; that was, indeed, the only way in which it could make Him live. But it was not only each epoch that found its reflection in Jesus; each individual created Him in accordance with his own character.

  3. Mark says:

    “Calvin Coolidge was declaring that “The business of America is business.””


    “First, he didn’t actually say that “the business of America is business.” Rather, he said that the “chief business of the American people is business.” One can see a narrower meaning in his actual words, suggesting our work is the work of business. In other words, Coolidge was likely not suggesting the broader view that the interests of business should take precedence over the interests of other sectors of our society, including support for things like high quality public education and affordable access to advanced education and health care, regardless of one’s economic circumstances. ”

    Here is Coolidge in the same speech: “Of course, the accumulation of wealth cannot be justified as the chief end of existence. But we are compelled to recognize it as a means to well-nigh every desirable achievement. So long as wealth is made the means and not the end, we need not greatly fear it…But it calls for additional effort to avoid even the appearance of the evil of selfishness.”

  4. Mark, I’ve noticed that since your turn to left wing politics you’ve lost any interest in factual accuracy and charitable discussion.

    For example, I made the perfectly reasonable point that given that Floyd had a lethal dose of Fentanyl in him it will be hard for the state to prevail on a murder or manslaughter charge. (And given his agitated state and his heart problems that makes it even more difficult.) Every prosecutor and defense attorney I know agrees with me. Even the LA Times more or less agrees ( )

    Instead of conceding that people more knowledgeable than you about criminal law might have a point, you accuse me of being a Trump Cultists (which I’m not) and an apologist for murder.

    Is this charitable?

    1. The fact that cops can get away with using deadly force against people who are already restrained and presenting no threat is already well-documented. Maybe if you were saying something more interesting you would get a more interesting response.

      1. The force used against Floyd was excessive; however in normal circumstances it wouldn’t be deadly. So the issue here is causation. The state will have will a hard time proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the force caused his death given, among other things, that Floyd had a lethal dose of fentanyl in him. Now I think it’s more likely than not that Floyd would be alive today if the hadn’t been pinned, but that’s the standard in a civil case, not a criminal one.

      2. @ Mike, you have claimed to have been a prosecutor, so imagine this scene in your court:

        A black male civilian charged with murder argues that, “Yes, I strangled him until he stopped breathing, more than eight minutes, but it turns out he had heroin in his system, therefore these charges should be dropped.”

        Do you drop the charges?

    2. Apparently, the “lethal dose” argument is not proven, but you have repeated it endlessly as if it was a fact.

      It means the world to you that he had it coming to him.

      Why don’t you act more like Jesus, and research outcomes for African Americans that have trees planted in their neighborhoods, or who were given the opportunity to be raised in middle class suburbs from the time they were infants? Instead you hop up and down and crow upon the body of a diseased, dead man. Any old white supremacist can do that. Break *your* cycle of violence toward the poor by becoming an advocate for science, and research for improving the outcomes of those that are treated like human garbage, and have been treated this way for generations.

      It’s not rocket science. Your lack of charity sticks out like a sore thumb.

    3. @ mike miller

      Here’s the difference for you, in a nutshell. Jacob Blake was shot seven times in the back by a police officer. Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old with a loaded assault rifle, murdered two BLM protesters who were “upset” about the attempted murder of blake and then, carrying his assault rifle with his finger on the trigger, walked towards A battery of police officers, who pretty much ignored him.

      I’m not black. I’m not a leftist, whatever the hell that might mean. But I can tell the difference between darkness and light.

    4. Your monomaniac obsession with murdering George Floyd over and over is getting tedious. Dragging it into every combox is a good way to get your ass dragged off my blog.

    5. You do realize that your argument can be used to support euthanasia, too?
      “He was terminally ill and it was that illness that killed him. The medicines I injected would be harmless to a healthy person.”
      This is literally the same argument. Sure, you could argue that those medicines were unnecessary or wrong, but it’s a technicality. After all, if he was healthy, he would have lived through it.

    6. Mike, I’ve got three points for you here: 1. Tolerance, 2. Central nervous system depression, and 3. NARCAN.

      First, a “lethal dose” of fentanyl varies pretty widely. You and law-enforcement cannot just say “he had a lethal dose” like it’s some generic thing divorced of his health history and context. There are size and sex differences, and individual variations. The dose it would take to kill a non-user is going to be much lower than the dose it would take to kill a heavy user – this is why so many die upon relapse, may they rest in peace, because they use the same dose it *used* to take for them to get high and it kills them. And for some people, you can give them many many times the “lethal dose” and it will have no impact at all! Some people genetically don’t create the enzyme that breaks opioids into morphine, and you can pump ’em full of literally as much fentanyl as you’ve got and they’ll just pee it out. Step aside, icicle murder! “Inject one of those people full of fentanyl and then strangle them, and you can claim it was the fentanyl all along!” is the new perfect crime according to this thought-stopping illogic.

      Second, this argument is so #%&$(*%* dumb and ignorant because someone in the midst of a fentanyl overdose cannot be a public safety threat because fentanyl overdose makes you pass out, that’s how it kills you, you pass out so much your breathing stops. It’s not meth! Someone overdosing on fentanyl goes limp, passes out, often turns blue (in fair-skinned people, the fingertips go blue; darker-skinned people’s inner mouths do), and finally stops breathing. It belies the whole possible argument because IF Floyd was overdosing on fentanyl it was even MORE EGREGIOUS that he was restrained and choked because it would have been clearly and obviously impossible for him to pose a threat, and…

      Third, NARCAN! Have you and everyone making this damnable argument forgotten that Narcan exists? Were you a prosecutor long before the opioid epidemic, to not think of this?


      For God’s sake, ****IF**** (if!!!!) George Floyd was overdosing on fentanyl, WHY is it that the people on the scene were trained to attack and choke him until he died instead of give him a drug that can REVERSE OVERDOSES? When people talk about police abolition, they are talking about a world where when somebody MAYBE passes a bad check, it’s not paramilitary troopers who show up whose best tools are guns, chains, and lethal restraints. ~Imagine a world~ where the person who showed up was not an armed antagonist but someone trained to recognize a possible opioid overdose who administered narcan and saved George Floyd’s life.

      I don’t imagine any of this will stop you from making this totally bad-faith, evil argument in the future, but I hope the truth of it burns in the back of your mind. Floyd’s death was cold-blooded murder, through both action and negligence on the part of all cops present, no matter what was in his system.

  5. @Artevelde, the older I get, the more I understand that pretty much everybody has a “somewhat odd family”. I couldn’t have dreamed up how odd my husband’s family is too. One of them works for the Trump administration. (She and her Latin husband used to be liberals and now they are Libertarians.). Her Mom grew up dirt-poor in the Ozarks, or something like that, so it’s easy to see why she thinks that anybody can be self-made, earning a high six-figure income if they put in the work and behave like good Americans.

    My middle sister tried to reconcile with me because my mother instructed her to, but she also has a genuine fear of God and punishment. She’s not disgusted with what she did, she’s afraid of having a sin on her soul. Her response was “I’m sorry that I hurt your feelings, and will you please move out of your place so I can vacation there, and socially distance with Mom?” It went from “you’re trying to kill her by being there!” to “can you please clear out so I can stay there now because I need a beach vacation.” –Makes the head swim.

    Pope Francis is very Latin and I like that. Latins sweat the big stuff. They are lovers by nature. I like lovers better than nit pickers. I’ll take warm blood over blue blood every day of the week. I love Pope JPII and like Benedict very much. Now, in light of the approach of Francis I think Benedict said some somewhat regrettable things, but his support of Francis demonstrates the humility that he isn’t omniscient, made some mistakes, and shouldn’t act like a back seat driver. I used to like Cdnl. Sarah more, and at one point had hoped he would be Pope, but now can see he would have been a reactionary, and that’s not good when you are steering the biggest boat in the world. I don’t know about Zen. (Great name!)I can’t say I blame him. Francis must be playing a long game, with kid gloves for good reason. China is worrisome. A lot of people say the Pope was in collusion with Hitler too, but it’s a lie. I don’t envy the job of being diplomatic with the undiplomatic.

    Burke? Burke deserves to be in a hall of fame somewhere. He reminds me of Bannon in a lace nightie.

    1. Great point about what people said about Ven. Pope Pius XII! I would be very unsurprised if in fifty years we learned that Pope Francis, like Ven. Pius, had networks of Jesuit spies coordinating under the CCP’s nose. Considering what the Chinese government does with religious minorities they perceive as having outside loyalties who aren’t sufficiently compliant – people can google “Falun Gong organ harvesting” if they have the stomach for it, and of course they’re committing genocide against the Uyghurs right now as the world watches – it seems likely that there’s a lot going on behind the scenes re: the Vatican and China that it isn’t safe for the world to know about just yet.

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