Ernest did not respond to specific questions about how he and Laukamp came to know each other, but it is clear from documents naming Ernest as estate representative that Laukamp placed a great deal of trust in him; one dealing with Ernest and the estate dates to when Laukamp was still alive and has his signature.
Another acquaintance of Laukamp — Axel Herzsprung, who was also a co-owner of ACMB-American Corporation for Milling and Boreworks — told Live Science (in German in an email) that while Laukamp collected souvenirs on trips, he never heard of him having a papyrus. To his knowledge, Laukamp did not collect antiquities, Herzsprung said.
Live Science searched for other living relatives, checking for records in Sarasota County, and contacted a Laukamp family living in Florida, but they are unrelated. As far as we could tell, Ernest is correct, and Laukamp has no living relatives.
In the Harvard Theological Review article, King noted that she also received, from the current anonymous owner, a copy of a "typed and signed letter addressed to H. U. Laukamp" that dates to July 15, 1982, from Peter Munro, a now-deceased professor at the Freie University Berlin.
King wrote that the letter said that "a colleague, Professor Fecht, has identified one of Mr. Laukamp's papyri as having nine lines of writing, measuring approximately 110 by 80 mm, and containing text from the Gospel of John ..."
King noted that this document doesn't mention the Gospel of Jesus's wife explicitly. However, if Ernest and Herzsprung are correct, and Laukamp never collected antiquities, the question becomes: Why and how does this document exist? Munro died in 2009, and the "Professor Fecht" may be Gerhard Fecht, an Egyptology professor at the Freie University Berlin who passed away in 2006, King wrote in her article.
The arguments against the papyrus's authenticity by Depuydtand 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.
Live Science contacted King several times by phone and email beginning Wednesday, April 16, and received no response. A Harvard University representative has confirmed that King received our requests for comment.
Jonathan Beasley, the assistant director of communications at Harvard Divinity School, told Live Science that King is not available for an interview. However, Live Science did send her detailed information on our search into Laukamp's background.
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