New information uncovered raises doubts about the origins of the scrap of papyrus revealed in 2012, which is claimed to be the "Gospel of Jesus's Wife".
The gospel, written in the ancient Egyptian language Coptic, has made headlines ever since Harvard University professor Karen King announced its discovery.
The business-card-size fragment contains the translated line "Jesus said to them, 'My wife …'" and also refers to a "Mary," possibly Mary Magdalene. If authentic, the papyrus suggests that some people believed in ancient times that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married.
Recently, several scientific tests published in the journal Harvard Theological Review have suggested the papyrus is authentic, but a number of scholars, including Brown University professor Leo Depuydt, dispute the papyrus's authenticity, Discovery News reported.
The document's current owner has insisted on remaining anonymous, and King has not disclosed the person's identity.
However, in a recent Harvard Theological Review article, King published a contract provided by the current anonymous owner that King said indicates it was purchased, along with five other Coptic papyrus fragments, from a man named Hans-Ulrich Laukamp in November 1999 and that Laukamp had obtained it in 1963 from Potsdam in then-East Germany.
In an effort to confirm the origins of the papyrus and discover its history, Live Science went searching for more information about Laukamp and his descendents, business partners or friends.
The arguments against the papyrus's authenticity by Depuydt and others are complex, but a key problem they cite is that the Coptic text is full of errors, to the extent that it is hard to believe that an ancient Coptic writer could have composed it.
It's not known whether scholars will ever be certain that the text is authentic. More information on its provenance may be found in the future.