Ancient text refers to 'wife' of Jesus

Experts caution, however, if it's proof Christ was married

AP Photo/Harvard University, Karen L. King
is Sept. 5, 2012 photo released by Harvard University shows a fourth century fragment of papyrus that divinity professor Karen L. King says is the only existing ancient text that quotes Jesus explicitly referring to having a wife. King, an expert in the history of Christianity, says the text contains a dialogue in which Jesus refers to "my wife," whom he identified as Mary. King says the fragment of Coptic script is a copy of a gospel, probably written in Greek in the second century
Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2012 7:05 AM
Last updated 7:57 AM
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BOSTON — A Harvard University professor on Tuesday unveiled a fourth-century fragment of papyrus she said is the only existing ancient text quoting Jesus explicitly referring to having a wife.

In this Sept. 5, 2012 photo released by Harvard University, divinity professor Karen L. King holds a fourth century fragment of papyrus that she says is the only existing ancient text that quotes Jesus explicitly referring to having a wife. King, an expert in the history of Christianity, says the text contains a dialogue in which Jesus refers to "my wife," whom he identified as Mary. King says the fragment of Coptic script is a copy of a gospel, probably written in Greek in the second century. 
  AP Photo/Harvard University, Rose Lincoln
AP Photo/Harvard University, Rose Lincoln
In this Sept. 5, 2012 photo released by Harvard University, divinity professor Karen L. King holds a fourth century fragment of papyrus that she says is the only existing ancient text that quotes Jesus explicitly referring to having a wife. King, an expert in the history of Christianity, says the text contains a dialogue in which Jesus refers to "my wife," whom he identified as Mary. King says the fragment of Coptic script is a copy of a gospel, probably written in Greek in the second century.

Karen King, an expert in the history of Christianity, said the text contains a dialogue in which Jesus refers to “my wife,” whom he identifies as Mary. King says the fragment of Coptic script is a copy of a gospel, probably written in Greek in the second century.

King helped translate and unveiled the tiny fragment at a conference of Coptic experts in Rome. She said it doesn’t prove Jesus was married but speaks to issues of family and marriage that faced Christians.

Four words in the 1.5-by-3-inch fragment provide the first evidence that some early Christians believed Jesus had been married, King said. Those words, written in a language of ancient Egyptian Christians, translate to “Jesus said to them, my wife,” King said in a statement.

King said that in the dialogue the disciples discuss whether Mary is worthy and Jesus says “she can be my disciple.”

Christian tradition has long held that Jesus was unmarried even though there was no reliable historical evidence to support that, King said. The new gospel, she said, “tells us that the whole question only came up as part of vociferous debates about sexuality and marriage.”

“From the very beginning, Christians disagreed about whether it was better not to marry,” she said, “but it was over a century after Jesus’s death before they began appealing to Jesus’s marital status to support their positions.”

King presented the document at a six-day conference being held at Rome’s La Sapienza University and at the Augustinianum institute of the Pontifical Lateran University. While the Vatican newspaper and Vatican Radio frequently cover such academic conferences, there was no mention of King’s discovery in any Vatican media on Tuesday. That said, her paper was one of nearly 60 delivered Tuesday at the vast conference, which drew 300 academics from around the globe.

The fragment belongs to an anonymous private collector who contacted King to help translate and analyze it. Nothing is known about the circumstances of its discovery, but it had to have come from Egypt, where the dry climate allows ancient writings to survive and because it was written in a script used in ancient times there, King said.

The unclear origins of the document should encourage people to be cautious, said Bible scholar Ben Witherington III, a professor and author who teaches at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Ky. He said the document follows the pattern of Gnostic texts of the second, third and fourth centuries, using “the language of intimacy to talk about spiritual relationships.”

“What we hear from the Gnostic is this practice called the sister-wife texts, where they carried around a female believer with them who cooks for them and cleans for them and does the usual domestic chores, but they have no sexual relationship whatsoever” during the strong monastic periods of the third and fourth centuries, Witherington said. “In other words, this is no confirmation of the Da Vinci Code or even of the idea that the Gnostics thought Jesus was married in the normal sense of the word.”

These kinds of doubts, King said, should not stop scholars from continuing to examine the document.

Those who conducted initial examination of the fragment include Roger Bagnall, a papyrologist who’s the director of the New York-based Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, and AnneMarie Luijendijk, a scholar of the New Testament and early Christianity from Princeton University. They said their study of the papyrus, the handwriting and how the ink was chemically absorbed shows it is highly probable it’s an ancient text, King said.

Another scholar, Ariel Shisha-Halevy, professor of linguistics at Hebrew University and a leading expert on Coptic language, reviewed the text’s language and concluded it offered no evidence of forgery.

King and Luijendijk said they believe the fragment is part of a newly discovered gospel they named “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife” for reference purposes. King said she dated the time it was written to the second half of the second century because it shows close connections to other newly discovered gospels written at that time, especially the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Mary and the Gospel of Philip.

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Jane18
12332
Points
Jane18 09/19/12 - 08:17 am
6
1
JESUS

Oh no, here we go again! If only people(even these "scholars)would read and understand correctly. We all (who are true Christians)are espoused to JESUS CHRIST! Haven't you read of the "bride of CHRIST"? Once again we have people talking about something they do Not fully understand.....................If JESUS had an earthly(flesh)wife, don't you believe we would have been informed of something that important? Even Paul told us that it was better not to marry if one is going to be "on the road" most of the time.

BamaMan
2356
Points
BamaMan 09/19/12 - 08:56 am
2
0
church

I believe the "bride of Christ" is His church.

Fiat_Lux
15429
Points
Fiat_Lux 09/19/12 - 08:56 am
7
2
It's a ridiculous idea

especially given the fact that nobody has the slightest idea where this piece of papyrus came from nor who wrote on it.

It is amusing that academics and, especially, non-Christians are so credulous and even predisposed to assume, almost automatically, that the unbroken line of succession and the uninterrupted presence of the Church from the Resurrection up to the present somehow didn't include rigorous and scholarly scrutiny of all documents and historical reporting regarding Jesus' earthly life.

The founders of our faith didn't just misplace essential facts about his life leading up to his crucifixion, or collectively forget he was one-half of the most basic of human relationships.

As with virtually all attempts to discredit Christianity and the author and founder of our faith, this speculation only serves to reveal another facet of the cynicism and hostility of the world toward the Love of God.

Retired Army
17512
Points
Retired Army 09/19/12 - 10:15 am
7
5
The only common thread a

The only common thread a reasonable person can see in any Religion is that the passionate believers are sure that theirs is the "One True Religion". No room for debate.

I like the principles espoused in most religions with which I am familiar, think that JC(and others) and I could have been on speaking if not friendly terms solely for the hypocrisy He recognized and pointed out.

The blind intolerance or worse yet condescending attitudes of some, if not many, adherents to organized religion even in the face of solid science and historical or empirical facts is what hurts their standing in this thinking persons eyes.

A kind and Loving God gave us all the ability to think and reason for ourselves. To insist that yours is the only path to whatever form of salvation/afterlife there may or may not be is an abuse of that gift and an insult to the Giver.

Riverman1
84110
Points
Riverman1 09/19/12 - 10:45 am
5
6
Well, Mary Magdelene was

Well, Mary Magdelene was THERE. It's pretty sure they were TOGETHER and I assume this is the Mary being referred to. I'd rather view them as being married. I do wonder if there were children? THAT would be monumental.

InChristLove
22473
Points
InChristLove 09/19/12 - 11:10 am
4
2
Well Retired Army, since the

Well Retired Army, since the Giver stated "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no one comes to the Father except through me" I fail to see what the issue is. It is not our insistance there is but one pathway to salvation, but He who is the pathway, that made the proclamation. You don't agree or like it, you don't have to take the journey. There are many wonderful principles in most religions but salvation isn't achieved by good works. It's a free gift and the giver makes the rules.

InChristLove
22473
Points
InChristLove 09/19/12 - 11:32 am
3
2
Riverman, so was Joanna and

Riverman, so was Joanna and Susanna, and many other women.

It was customary in those days to identify a woman by the name of her husband, in the case of Luke 8:2 "After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Cuza, the manager of Herod's household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means."

Luke identifies Mary her by her hometown, which was a customary way of identifying a single woman. Although Suzanna is not identified by her hometown she was probably also single since she is not identified with a husband either. The important point is that if Jesus and Mary were married at this time then Luke would have called her "Mary the wife of Jesus."

Mary Magdalene is mentioned in Mark 15:40 at the crucifixion. "Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. In Galilee these women had follwed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there". If Mary Magdalene was his wife, would she not have been noted as in scripture, especially at Jesus' death. He made arrangements for the care of His mother upon His death. No mention of Jesus arranging for the care of His wife???

I do not believe Mary Magdalene was Jesus' wife but to each his own.

FLgirl
24
Points
FLgirl 09/19/12 - 04:03 pm
1
1
@Fiat_Lux

"the unbroken line of succession and the uninterrupted presence of the Church from the Resurrection up to the present somehow didn't include rigorous and scholarly scrutiny of all documents and historical reporting regarding Jesus' earthly life."

If by "rigorous and scholarly" you mean the King James version, I scoff...
And the idea that these Apostles had women traveling with them is a new one to me, but good grief, that just tells me that they were unmarried couples...so maybe Jesus wasn't married, but it wouldn't surprise me any to learn he had a "wife", as in traveling companion...and did the original language have a direct traslation for "wife"? Too many variables here to state unequivocally one way or the other...and why do we really care? Just cause that's the way we want it?

Willow Bailey
20580
Points
Willow Bailey 09/19/12 - 07:05 pm
5
1
RA, A follower of Jesus

RA, a follower of Jesus Christ cares only about how she/he is viewed by God, not man. As to the way of salvation, God, himself, spoke it. The only question is, do we believe him?

Retired Army
17512
Points
Retired Army 09/19/12 - 09:02 pm
2
4
Re: InChristLove09/19/12 - 11:10 am

Since you are relying on a man written and full of contradictory or scientifically proven falsehoods to assert your idea of truth and condescendingly so, (at least to my way of seeing it) I must in good conscience reject your arguement.

I personally think that God finds it awful arrogant of fallible men to assert that they alone have the one true path.

Jake
32570
Points
Jake 09/19/12 - 09:42 pm
2
2
I hope he was married

"Dang, Jesus, pick up your sandals. When was the last time you took out the trash? My mother is coming over to stay for a few weeks and don't give me that look! Water into wine is fine but how about cleaning the bathroom? When we make love do you mind if I finish first? Yada, Yada, Yada, Blah, Blah, Blah!" Reminds me of the old Jewish joke, "Why do Jewish husbands die before their wives? Because they want to."

allhans
23670
Points
allhans 09/19/12 - 11:30 pm
0
1
Why are we legitimizing such

Why are we legitimizing such a document by discussing it, anyhow?

rebellious
20780
Points
rebellious 09/19/12 - 11:57 pm
2
1
Hold On

While I go find a sharp stick to poke in my eye. Cause that eases the pain of these type of discussions.

Let me give you my thoughts...Anyone smart enough to be posting on this site, is smart enough to have arrived on his/her conclusion of the critical life questions. You know...Whats is the meaning of life...Who is God and why should i be mindful of Him...etc....

Do any of you realistically think that through one post, you will change a mind of someone so motivated as to sit in front of a computer and post up day in and day out.

Come on.....save the keystrokes for something where you can actually make a difference.

Give Me A Break, willya?

Willow Bailey
20580
Points
Willow Bailey 09/20/12 - 12:00 am
2
0
In response RA , then that

In response RA , then that places your faith in self.. How is that less arrogant?

InChristLove
22473
Points
InChristLove 09/20/12 - 08:56 am
1
0
RA, I fail to see where I was

RA, I fail to see where I was condescending in either of my two post but if you saw it that way, I apologize. As for " full of contradictory or scientifically proven falsehoods" I disagree with your opinion concerning those and do believe most of these have been explained time and again, but you have the right to believe them just the same.

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