Worth a smile…


Archaeologists say that they may have found fragments of the bones of Mona Lisa. Or something like that…if Lisa Gherardini (wife of Francesco del Giocondo) was Leonardo’s model, and if the bones in the Sant’Orsola convent are hers, then art historian Silvano Vicenti has his hands on some fragments of Mona Lisa.

As today’s blasé teenager would say: So?

‘I am convinced it is her’, says Silvano. But he would say that, wouldn’t he? And he is safe in his confidence – safe, at least, that he can be doubted but not contradicted. The remains of La Gioconda’s children, buried in the Santissima Annunziata, have been ravaged by frequent flooding and DNA tests would in consequence be unreliable.

Ignatius was reminded of another startling case of confident identification. If Paul wrote the sixteenth chapter of Romans (which many authorities have doubted), and if the ‘ιουνίαν’ herein mentioned was in reality a Junia (as John Chrysostom certainly thought), and if ‘επίσημοι εν τοις αποστόλοις ’ in this context means ‘outstanding among’, rather than ’esteemed by’, then we have a female apostle commended by Paul.

As today’s blasé teenager would say: So?

On the strength of these hypotheticals, however, Richard Bauckham gave ‘Junia’ a biography the size of a Victorian three-volume novel.

Dan Brown has a lot to answer for.

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