At the same time, however, it was announced that the papyrus had been acquired by a private individual who—as is almost always the case—wished to remain anonymous. In other words, this papyrus was circulating on the black market.
Compounding the problem is the fact that more than one scholar has claimed to have been offered a chance to look at this very papyrus a few years ago. Rather than simply sitting in a private collection, it seems as if whoever owned the text was actively looking for someone to give it publicity. One of these scholars, the world-renowned epigrapher Christopher Rollston, says that the text was shown to him back in 2013. Rollston is currently writing a book about antiquities forgeries, and has said that this papyrus will be included in his volume….
It is also hard not to see why the Israeli authorities would want to claim that this document is authentic: after all, they are the very ones who have turned this relatively unimportant papyrus into a tool for political gain.
All too many recent forgeries—including the “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife”—have been a little too on the nose: they speak with suspicious directness to the political or ideological issues of the present. It is for these reasons that at this point, unprovenanced texts—whether or not they turn out to be forgeries—must be treated with great caution, lest we build our understanding of past realities on present-day desires.