(CNN)In 2012 Karen King, a prestigious scholar at Harvard Divinity School, announced the academic discovery of a lifetime: a scrap of papyrus, purportedly from the early days of Christianity, in which Jesus refers to a woman as "my wife."
How a mysterious man fooled a Harvard scholar into believing the 'Gospel of Jesus' Wife' was real
The text also includes the words "Mary" and "she is able to be my disciple."
It seemed, at first, like a blockbuster finding for feminist scholars and an existential threat to the Catholic Church's all-male priesthood.
King, who unveiled her find just steps from the Vatican, thought the fragment could validate her life's work: claiming a place for women in the early days of Christianity.
But instead of overturning years of religious scholarship, King's "discovery" capsized her career.
The "Gospel of Jesus' Wife," as King called it, was exposed by scholars as fake, and the prestigious professor's name has become a watchword for academics hoodwinked by con men.
In 2016, after journalist Ariel Sabar published an article in The Atlantic uncovering the ownership history of the "Jesus' Wife" fragment, King herself publicly acknowledged the papyrus is likely a forgery.
Four years later Sabar is back with the fascinating full story in his new book, "Veritas: A Harvard Professor, a Con Man and the Gospel of Jesus' Wife."
Sabar painstakingly unspools the threads that lead to King's demise, seeking to explain why she would stake her reputation on promises from a mysterious Florida man.
You can see evidence of the fragment's fakeness on Sabar's website.
CNN recently spoke to Sabar about the Gospel of Jesus' Wife, whether anyone still believes it's real and what might have motivated the forger. This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
What's the thinking now on the Gospel of Jesus' Wife? Are we 95% sure it's fake? Higher than that?
It's safe to say that there is no scholar that I know of anywhere who is defending the Gospel of Jesus' Wife as authentic, not even Karen King. She was the last holdout, and after my piece in The Atlantic about its provenance (history of ownership), King said it "tips the balance towards forgery."
You did a lot of biographical research on King. What was her background in religion?
She grew up in a small town, Sheridan, Montana. She always felt like an outsider, as a star student in high school and as a person of faith. She had gone to a Methodist church with her family but decided it was not earnest or serious enough so she walked across the street to the Episcopal Church, where she was the only youth in the Bible study.
Later, she had an evangelical conversion at a summer camp, where she felt transported and empowered by Jesus. But when she came back to Sheridan, the Sunday school teacher belittled her for it, saying "that's not really how we do Christianity."
It was a really hard thing for her to hear, especially at that age, that she was "doing Christianity wrong." And you can find that through line in her career. She shines a very bright light on the line between heresy and orthodoxy.
And King is a scholar of Mary Magdalene, right?
King is interested in recovering the original Mary Magdalene and making her stand for early Christian w