But now, a new study published this week in the Harvard Theological Review suggests the Coptic scroll is legitimate. A team of engineers, biologists and chemists from Columbia University, Harvard and MIT put the fragment through a gauntlet of scientific tests, including carbon dating to find that it is written on papyrus from the ancient era.
The passage -- dubbed the "Gospel of Jesus' Wife" -- in question, written in the language of the Copts, reads: "Jesus said to them, 'My wife…'" and “she will be able to be my disciple."
Harvard professor Karen L. King says she hopes the new science will change the conversation: from questions about authenticity to discussion of the fragment's historical accuracy and larger meaning.
"I’m basically hoping that we can move past the issue of forgery to questions about the significance of this fragment for the history of Christianity," King told The Boston Globe.
The new study at least momentarily silences skeptics within the Catholic Church and the academics lent credence to their denial -- like Professor Francis Watson, of Durham University, who told The Guardian in 2012: "It is more or less indisputable that I have shown how the thing was composed, I would be very surprised if it were not a modern forgery."