Scholar: Ancient Text Mentions Jesus’ Wife

An 4th century papyrus fragment could call centuries of celibacy into question.

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Karen L. King

On Tuesday, Harvard historian Karen L. King presented to the world a small papyrus fragment, which she calls The Gospel of Jesus’s Wife. It could suggest Jesus was indeed married: “Jesus said to them, my wife … she will be able to be my disciple” reads a part of the fragment of a Coptic codex dating back to the fourth century A.D. ” This is the only extant ancient text which explicitly portrays Jesus as referring to a wife,” King, who is the Hollis Professor of Divinity at Harvard’s Divinity School, wrote in a draft paper presented at a conference in Rome.

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“It’s not evidence for us historically that Jesus had a wife,” King stresses in a video posted on  YouTube. “It’s clear evidence that some Christians, probably in the second half of the second century, thought that Jesus had a wife.” The text is written in a dialect of the Coptic language, which today survives only in the liturgy of the Egyptian Coptic Christian church. The text should be considered part of the “vociferous debates about sexuality and marriage” among early Christians, as King was quoted as saying in a Harvard press release — debates that still persist nearly two millennia later. “Christian tradition preserved only those voices that claimed Jesus never married,” she said. “The Gospel of Jesus’s Wife now shows that some Christians thought otherwise.”

The paper was presented at a scientific congress hosted in the Vatican’s Institutum Patristicum Augustinianum, an institution dedicated to the study of the founding fathers of the Catholic Church. The Holy See has not yet commented on the discovery, the Washington Post reported.  The issue is an important one to the Church: for at least a millennium, Catholic and Orthodox priests have taken vows of celibacy to conform with Jesus’ example of bachelorhood.

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King obtained the fragment from an anonymous collector, along with a note, written in the 1980s by a German professor of Egyptology, which suggested that the fragment contained a reference to Jesus’ wife. King said she was first hesitant in believing in its authenticity. But according to the school a papyrologist, a Princeton theologian and a Coptic language expert examined the fragment’s material, handwriting and syntax and could not find evidence of forgery.

An article on the fragment will be published in the Harvard Theological Review in January.

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5 comments
John Forsthoffer
John Forsthoffer

There are going to be some very angry men and woman. Lol

Yeshuratnam
Yeshuratnam

Christianity first appeared in Egypt in 42 AD in the Egyptian city of Alexandria, a city founded by Alexander. Jesus’ disciple Mark preached in Alexandria and many became Christians. If Jesus had a wife, Mark, a contemporary and disciple of Jesus, would have told the new converts, the Coptic Christians. Alexandria was a well developed, cultured city with a huge library. Rome was ruled at that time by Claudius, with a strong Christian population in Rome. There was also a theological school in Alexandria, the Catechetical School, the oldest school in the

world. Founded around 190 AD by the scholar Pantanaus the school of Alexandria

became an important institution of religious learning, where students were

taught by scholars such as Athenagoras, Clement, Didymus, and Origen, the father of theology and who was also active in the field of commentary and comparative Biblical studies. The theological institutions of Egypt and the great Christian scholars who lived in Egypt long before this fake papyrus fragment was found, do not say anywhere that Jesus had a wife. Karen claims that this papyrus was written 400 years after the resurrection of Jesus. Who owned it all these 1612 years? Why

the Coptic Church in Cairo was not aware of it? How could Karen fix the age of

the papyrus to 400 years without subjecting it to carbon dating? Probably it

would have been produced quite recently by using a crumpled papyrus. So there

is something fishy, something shady and something malefic in the entire episode. It is evident from all accounts that the faded papyrus fragment is fabricated, manipulated and concocted with a sinister motive. If such a fake papyrus about Mohammed had been  exhibited, the fate of the Dutch film maker Theo Van Gogh would have happened to the sponsor.

Dan Brown also scandalized Jesus in his book, The Da vinci Code. Dan Brown told a lie that there was a secret code in da Vinci’s painting, The Last Supper. But the fact of the matter is  da Vinci was an Italian and he lived in the 15 th century. Jesus was a Palestinian and he lived in the Ist century. Da vinci was not a contemporary of Jesus, then how could he know the secret life of Jesus? Moreover, da Vinci was a pious Christian and he would not begin his painting without praying before the statue of Jesus in the church of Milan.

Don Shetterly
Don Shetterly

It makes perfect sense.  It would be very odd for a single man his age to roam around with other men and no wife.  

joesmith127
joesmith127

What Would Jesus Do? The fragment of papyrus indicates that He would marry a woman, not another man.

Dan Bruce
Dan Bruce

There is no Scriptural evidence that Jesus was married. Since the most trustworthy documents, such as the Gospels and the earliest church writings, are silent about a wife, that is credible evidence that Jesus did not have a wife and thus there was nothing to mention in that regard. Since the Bible refers to the church as the bride of Christ, it could be that the term "wife" is a reference to the church (some early Gnostic documents reflect that thought), or it could be that the 4th-century Christians were simply in error. The papyrus fragment discussed in this article is an interesting historical artifact, but it has nothing of substance to say about the life of Jesus.