A mesmerizing five-act real-life melodrama…By the end of the book, one feels sorry for Ms. King, not so much because a con man gulled her but because, from the universe of journalists who might have covered this story, she drew Mr. Sabar. Pursuing the King-Fritz drama, he left no stone unturned… There are dozens more surprises in his five-act play than in this brief appreciation. Savor the denouement—and don’t leave at intermission.”
— Alex Beam, The Wall Street Journal
"It’s a story about journalism done right, about Sabar’s own capable, dogged sleuthing to get to the bottom of those famous headlines…Veritas offers a vital lesson less about Christianity than about what happens when a scholar decides that the story is more important than the truth.” —Lucas Wittman, TIME
"A thriller for eggheads… Beneath the surface of this meticulously reported book lies the slow burn, recognizable to any journalist, of a scorned professional Beneath the surface of this meticulously reported book lies the slow burn, recognizable to any journalist, of a scorned professional”
—M.J. Andersen, The Boston Globe
"Fascinating...engrossing...The interaction of [the con man and the Harvard professor], one with a deep need to deceive and the other with a desperate need to believe, presents a wholly human story of frailty and weakness."
"An eminent Harvard scholar. A fragment of ancient papyrus that could upend Christianity. The artifact’s mysterious owner. A web of secrets and intrigue. Those details might remind you of Dan Brown’s monster 2003 bestseller The Da Vinci Code. But Ariel Sabar’s new book, while just as wild and propulsive a tale, is nonfiction. And, of course, it has a Florida connection.….Veritas is packed with details and tells a complex story, but Sabar’s prose is clear and inviting, and the book is structured with a well-tuned sense of suspense. It’s a wonderfully absorbing example of truth being stranger than fiction."
—Tampa Bay Times
“Ariel Sabar’s extraordinary account of the imbroglio surrounding the scrap of papyrus known as the “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife”… is as good as a detective novel, possessing plot, subplots, hidden motives, bees in eccentric bonnets and startling revelations.”
—Katherine A. Powers, Minneapolis Star Tribune
"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.”
“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.”
“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
"VERITAS is 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”
— Publisher’s Weekly
Journalist Sabar (My Father's Paradise) has written a true story of mystery and intrigue. In 2012, Karen King, professor at Harvard Divinity School, announced that she learned of an ancient papyrus fragment in which Jesus referred to Mary Magdalene as his wife; this discovery challenged conventional wisdom about not only the life of Jesus but also biblical teachings in general. Sabar wrote an article on the announcement yet felt there was more to the story. His research led him around the world before he discovered the true nature of this fabricated document. Blending religious history with a tale of deception, this account also describes the work and research of King and explores how she, despite impressive credentials as a biblical scholar, believed a contrived manuscript was a historical document. Sabar continues by examining the motives of all involved, and detailing his ongoing search for the truth. VERDICT This is a well-researched, engrossing backstory of failed discovery from a noted scholar. Best suited for readers interested in biblical studies and papyrology.—Jacqueline Parascandola, Univ. of Pennsylvania
Intriguing religious/true-crime story involving a possible wife of Jesus.
News outlets came alive in 2012 when Harvard Divinity School professor Karen King announced the discovery of a papyrus fragment suggesting that Jesus may have had a wife. The fragment, soon dubbed “The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife,” stirred interest as well as controversy, as scholars across the world warned it may be a fraud. King, who had obtained the fragment from a mysterious and anonymous collector, doggedly defended the ancient piece of papyrus even as the evidence of its authenticity grew weaker. Journalist Sabar—whose book My Father’s Paradise(2009) won the National Book Critics Circle Award for autobiography—happened to be following the story from the beginning, and he shares a sometimes-riveting, occasionally odd tale of academia gone awry. Though the author goes to great pains to portray King in a positive, compassionate light, a central reality emerges: The professor’s excitement over the social impact of the fragment blurred her sense of what was historically accurate. After introducing King biographically as a brilliant and respected scholar, “a dazzling interpreter of condemned scripture,” Sabar moves on to the story of how King came across the fragment and decided it was most likely legitimate. Her debut of the fragment at a conference in Rome led to a storm of media attention. Over time, however, other scholars began to see signs of forgery in the way the document had been created, and the media tide turned against King. The sordid source of the fragment—a former student of ancient languages–turned-pornographer—overshadowed King’s hopes that what it represented for women in the church was worth believing in, above the papyrus’ actual authenticity. “Her ideological commitments,” Sabar concludes, “were choreographing her practice of history. The story came first; the dates managed after.”
A lengthy yet fascinating tale of how one scholar was duped, both by a con man and by herself.