From National Book Critics Circle Award-winning author Ariel Sabar, Veritas is the gripping true story of a sensational religious forgery and the scandal that shook Harvard.
In 2012, Dr. Karen King, a star professor at Harvard Divinity School, announced a blockbuster discovery at a scholarly conference just steps from the Vatican: She had found an ancient fragment of papyrus in which Jesus calls Mary Magdalene “my wife.” The tattered manuscript made international headlines. If early Christians believed Jesus was married, it would upend the 2,000-year history of the world’s predominant faith, threatening not just the celibate, all-male priesthood but sacred teachings on marriage, sex and women’s leadership. Biblical scholars were in an uproar, but King had impeccable credentials as a world-renowned authority on female figures in the lost Christian texts from Egypt known as the Gnostic gospels. “The Gospel of Jesus’s Wife”—as she provocatively titled her discovery—was both a crowning career achievement and powerful proof for her arguments that Christianity from its start embraced alternative, and far more inclusive, voices.
As debates over the manuscript’s authenticity raged, award-winning journalist Ariel Sabar set out to investigate a baffling mystery: where did this tiny scrap of papyrus come from? His search for answers is an international detective story—leading from the factory districts of Berlin to the former headquarters of the East German Stasi before winding up in rural Florida, where he discovered an internet pornographer with a prophetess wife, a fascination with the Pharaohs and a tortured relationship with the Catholic Church.
Veritasis a tale of fierce intellectual rivalries at the highest levels of academia, a piercing psychological portrait of a disillusioned college dropout whose life had reached a breaking point, and a tragedy about a brilliant scholar handed a piece of scripture that embodied her greatest hopes for Christianity—but forced a reckoning with fundamental questions about the nature of truth and the line between reason and faith.
“This astonishing book—part detective story, part exercise in reporting conducted at its highest level—reaches hold of you by the shirt collar and doesn’t let go. Here is a gallery of types that have surrounded Christianity since its earliest beginnings: the professionally cynical, the frankly mercenary, and the profoundly faithful. It is a tale that takes us from the offices of two Harvard presidents to, perhaps inevitably, that of a Florida pornographer. Exciting on every level, it poses the deepest question of faith: does it depend on the scholarly verification of ancient fragments or on what Heaney called a journey ‘into the marvelous?’ I was bowled over by it.” —Caitlin Flanagan, author of Girl Land
“Sabar’s meticulous reporting shows how quickly the first victims of a forgery turn into con men themselves, desperately manipulating the evidence to keep plugging holes in a forger’s fragile story. A masterful portrait of desire and a gripping analysis of a scandal that reveals the blurred lines between scholarship, faith, and lies. An unprecedented contribution to the study of forgery.” —Dr. Erin Thompson, art crime professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and author of Possession: The Curious History of Private Collectors from Antiquity to the Present
“[An] intriguing religious/true-crime story involving a possible wife of Jesus. . . . [A] fascinating tale.”—Kirkus Reviews
“If turning scraps of ancient papyrus into an enthralling true-crime escapade takes a miracle, consider Ariel Sabar a miracle worker. . . . Veritas, Latin for truth and inscribed on the Harvard seal, is an extraordinary and mind-bending adventure into ancient traditions with modern consequences.”—Shelf Awareness
“Sabar has written a true story of mystery and intrigue . . . blending religious history with a tale of deception. . . . Well-researched, engrossing.” —Library Journal
“A work of exemplary narrative nonfiction . . . fitting neatly into the truth-is-stranger-than-fiction category. . . . Provocative and probing.” —Booklist, American Library Association (starred review)
“Ariel Sabar is an excellent investigative journalist explaining in detail a con that could have changed all of Christianity. Whatever the scam, the con artist and the victim both have an agenda.” —Frank Abagnale, author of Catch Me If You Can
“Veritasis a fascinating journey into theology and academia, meticulously researched, well-written, consistently engaging.” —Gregg Easterbrook, author of It’s Better Than It Looks
“In this entertaining outing, journalist Sabar (My Father’s Paradise) tells the story of a mysterious scrap of papyrus and the scholar who staked her professional reputation on it. . . . This meticulous account is packed with enough intrigue to keep readers piqued.” —Publishers Weekly