By Eric Marrapodi, Co-Editor CNN's Belief Blog
(CNN) - Since the news broke Tuesday about a scrap of papyrus containing the line in Coptic, "Jesus said, 'My wife..' " questions have rocketed across the world about what this means.
We put many of the big questions to leading scholars, pastors and people in the pews to find the answers.
1. Why is this just surfacing now?
The papyrus fragment is thought by Harvard Divinity School Professor Karen King to be from the 4th century but could be a copy of an early gospel from the 2nd century. King said a dealer, who wishes to remain anonymous, brought the fragment to her to be translated and analyzed in 2011. The New York Times reported the dealer hopes to give the fragment to Harvard if they buy a large portion of his collection.
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On Tuesday, King presented her findings on the fragment to a conference on Coptic texts held in Rome once every four years.
In some ways, texts like this are not uncommon.
Elaine Pagels, a professor from Princeton University who is an expert on gnostic writings such as this one, noted to CNN, "You can find boxes filled with Coptic fragments." But what makes this one significant is for the first time, it explicitly has Jesus referring to "my wife."
King posits it may have come from a complete gospel she and her research partners have dubbed "the Gospel of Jesus' Wife." If that were true, Pagels said "that could make the fragment much more valuable if it were part of a gospel, but we don’t know that.”
2. How do they know this isn't a fake?
Authenticating documents is equal parts art and science. What researchers are trying to rule out is if this is a modern forgery. To do that, they look at a variety of aspects, including the age of the paper, the chemical composition of the ink and text itself. The authentication won't confirm whether the text is true but only whether the physical item is true to the time frame researchers think it is.
The document was examined by the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at New York University. Roger Bagnall, the institute's director and an expert on papyrus, examined it and determined it to be authentic, he confirmed to CNN. Ariel Shisha-Halevy, professor of linguistics at Hebrew University, Jerusalem, was asked to examine the authenticity, according to King. Shisha-Halevy said that based on the language and grammar, it was authentic.
Chemical tests on the ink are pending, King noted in a draft of her work set to be published in January in a peer reviewed journal.
Some experts in the field, including Pagels, suggest the fragment contains too little to be faked, suggesting that a forger would have included much more in the document to try and raise the value.
“We have to have more information about the fragment," said Douglas A. Campbell, an associate professor of New Testament at Duke Divinity School. He points to recent history when discoveries turned out to be fakes. “The academic community has been badly burned,” he said, adding that there is still much to be learned about the provenance of the document, "the history of where it came from and how they got it.”
“The anonymous donor thing is very problematic,” he said.
3. Does this prove Jesus was really married?
Short answer: No.
King herself was quick to point out in interviews that this piece of papyrus does not prove that Jesus was married. "This fragment, this new piece of papyrus evidence, does not prove that (Jesus) was married, nor does it prove that he was not married. The earliest reliable historical tradition is completely silent on that. So we're in the same position we were before it was found. We don't know if he was married or not," King said in a conference call with reporters.
The early consensus of other scholars we spoke to about this agree this document does not prove Jesus was married.
"Let's not neglect the fact this was written 300 years after Jesus' death," Hellen Mardaga, an assistant professor of New Testament at The Catholic University of America, told CNN. Mardaga says "the text may be real and not a forgery, but that doesn’t mean it belongs in with the Gospels.”
There is nothing in the Gospel accounts in the Bible and the earliest Christian tradition that speaks to Jesus being married.
"This is an aberration; this is something totally outside of any biblical tradition," said Jerry Pattengale, the executive director of the Green Scholars Initiative, which helps oversee one of the largest private collections of biblical antiquities.
"We know that tradition, or anything passed down, has a huge story to tell and there is a lot that can be learned from tradition that is linked to history. There is just no solid tradition for Jesus being married, so this is certainly an aberration and an important find," he said.
4. Would Jesus being married change Christianity?
Yes. Probably. But we'll never know for sure (see above).
Without getting too into the weeds theologically, it raises lots of interesting questions about how Jesus lived on Earth and what is not known about his life. For married couples, it also adds a healthy doses of mirth to the idea of being married to someone fully human and fully God, as the Christian creeds say Jesus was.
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"Had Jesus had a wife, I have no doubt he would would have treated her with the same dignity, respect and affection with which he treated his female disciples like Mary Magdalene, Mary of Bethany and Martha," Christian author Rachel Held Evans said when we asked her about this.
"Though I confess I think it would be a little unfair for a woman to be married to God incarnate. Kinda makes it tough to win an argument," she joked. "On the plus side, he turns water into wine ... which would be nice!"
5. So can Catholic priests get married now ?
This discovery brought the issue of Catholic clergy and celibacy to the forefront and got a lot of people wondering whether this would prompt the church to shift on this issue.
“At the time this (fragment) was written, we had a married clergy," pointed out Rev. Tom Reese, a senior fellow at Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University.
Reese said this discovery won't change Catholic teaching on the marital status of Catholic clergy.
"It has nothing to do with whether we have a married clergy or not. For the first thousand years, we had a married clergy. For the last thousand years, we’ve had a celibate clergy."
The celibacy requirement is based on church law, not doctrine, which is the core, unchanging beliefs of the faith. "The church can change this rule whenever it decides to change the law," he said.
For Reese, the Coptic papyrus fragment does not hold great weight for the future of the Catholic clergy.
"This is a nice academic footnote, but beyond that, it is not going to be all that important," he said.
Why is everybody so worked up about Mr. J.'s marriage? Does not everybody know that the whole business of carnal love being sinful is a later addition to Christianity? This was added in the early middle ages, when the church fathers realized that physical love is one of the last bastions of individual freedom that stands in the way of the complete domination of your soul and mind by the church? In the times of Jesus, this nonsense would not occur to anybody, including Mr. J. himself.
It's nothing to do with the love making, but the results of the love making. If Jesus had children, it would seriously put his divinity into question for even the most ardent Christophile.
"If Jesus had children, it would seriously put his divinity into question for even the most ardent Christophile."
So are you saying because Jesus was God he didn't have functional balls? Was his sack as empty as Christians messages?
Nah, I do think it's about visual images in those abstinence-exhausted brains. Cm'on you can be a great man and enjoy doing the nature's bidding.
Thanks CCN for your censorship....wow really
there is zero "censorship" here. There is an automatic naughty word filter.
Naughty words like "cons t i t ution" and "Cur c u m stance"...
The most common naughty word fragments you might miss are t-it (inst'tute, Const'tution etc) and cu-m (docvment). If you are really struggling, we can post a list.
ChuckB-read John13v23 for one description of the last supper.-also John 19v25-28. remember all of the male disciples of Jesus went into hiding while Jesus was being crucified because they were afraid.
If it is not written in my bible then there is no way it is true. Of coure I only follow the parts of the bible that I like. For example, my brother died without a kid so it is ok for me to knock up his wife. My kids back talked me so it is ok to kill them. I saw my neighbor eating steak and drink milk so i asked the village to stone him.
Very wise of you, for if it's in the bible it must be good...
Whats good for the Gefilte must be good for the Gentile...
UUUMmmmm dude, the usurpers in the government have taken over everything, unless of course, you refuse to see the evidence. Way more than a scrap!
The default position for man is a god ruling over him.
I find it kinda funny for the educratists showing all the gods man dreams up and then declaring, 'We are not like that now!' The power they have seized is not mentioned.
I seize no power, unless you want to call it seizing power to take responsibility for your actions instead of blaming invisible goblins you call angels or demons.
I know your default position is face down in your pillow with your ass in the air so you don't have to see who it is that's taking advantage of you, but trust me, it's not God back there, just some dirty old priest laughing all the way to the bank with the collection plate. More than $2,000,000,000 (thats $2 billion) has been paid in settlements to the victims of abuse by the Catholic Church alone since they started trying to cover them up in the 1950's. I'm sure you are proud of your membership.
The Truth, you have quite the vain imagination. I already have a High PRIEST. i don't need a government one, catholic or an uncle(sugar).
'Hbr 2:17 Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto [his] brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things [pertaining] to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.'
@Mud – I have read your bible cover to cover several times and can quote it just like you. Only difference is that I have read it with a critical eye, not one wanting, no needing to believe every word was truth in order to feel special about myself. Needing to find something other than yourself to blame when you make bad choices, looking for the invisible gremlins to credit for the randomness in life because you are just not grown up enough to face the truth, that you and only you are responsible for your actions. There is no devil or angel on our shoulders guiding or protecting us. There is no mystical magic man watching over us and listening to our prayers. You are deluded and bordering on insane and need to see a mental health professional along with the other 6 billion of you who keep this destructive Deity co-dependency thriving.
The Truth, okay, then you remember this for sure:.....'1Cr 2:14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know [them], because they are spiritually discerned.'
You could try a scientific experiment by setting your natural man aside and listening. I doubt it would work. It's probably a thing so simple as you not being His sheep. So, you could lighten up on the antagonism a little?
So the bible claims that people who don't believe in the bible are fools, and that somehow makes everything in the bible true?
That's exactly it Timmy. I ask him to read it with a critical eye to dertimine it's veracity and he say's "Well, right here in the book it says reading it with a critical eye is foolishness and will never verify it's contents so i'd rather go at it from the perspective that it's all true, nothing but the word of God, so help me, er.. God. Even when it seem's to contradict itself like it's description of the God of the Hebrews being a jealous God and violently punishing his people all the time to the "turn the other cheek" teaching of Jesus, it's all must be true, because my parents said so and their parents before them, and their parents before them... "
A quite old and sometimes effective tactic – declaring that those who do not believe your story are 'fools'. Nobody wants to be considered 'dumb' for not seeing the Emperor's new clothes, or a 'bas.tard' for not seeing the Sultan's new turban, or a 'cuckold' for not being able to see the Miller's gold thumb.
Even Joseph Smith used it when he gathered his 'witnesses' to his golden plates. He told them that only those with 'true faith' would be able to 'see' them.
The ancient, primitive Hebrews (including Paul of Tarsus) who originated those Bible stories were quite adept at manipulative mind-games.
Good posts. I remember you from a year or so ago here, and I was always impressed with your thoughts and facts.
Timmy and TT, maybe you just have a phobia of some sort? That's all the rage these days. Course, if you look up Freud you'll see his house was built on a sandbar because he had a wet nurse. So phobias are on the way out.
A Frayed Knot, mind games? I never looked at it that way before or ever. Guess I lost my guile. Yeah, I bet Paul was sorry he got chosen, playing all those mind games must be tiring. Then HE finally got the payback by losing his mind altogether when he got his head chopped off. Poor guy.
It would be great to learn that Jesus' wife was a man and that he was gay. I would love to shove that down the throats of the anti-gay marriage folks. HAHA!
I'm sick of hearing about jesus as if he is not human like the rest of us, he is a prophet and nothing more, he spread the word of christianity. The thing I found to be most hilarious is the fact that you christians think you can committ sin and think jesus will save you take away your sins. hahaha. you guys have more than one bible and have no idea what to believe is true. keep re-writing it to suit your needs as each generation changes.
That's just it isn't it. For the crucifixtion to have any meaning (in the 'he died for our sins' way) Jesus has to be more than human. The more human people make Jesus out to be (married, gay lover of John, whatever) the whole foundation of the belief crumbles.
The whole construct of Christianity is a theological house of cards.
Frankly the Flying Spaghetti Monster is a more robust philosophy.
He was boiled for our sins, may you be touched by his noodly appendage, R'amen.
Yes, there are several versions of the Bible, but it is not because we are confused. Each version was written for a pourpose. The New King James removes the thees and thous, making it closer to modern language, though the message is still the same. The New International version continues to translate into more modern language, again the message is still the same. These are but a few version and in each the message is still the same. However, there are some that have not been derived from the original Hebrew text and may in fact change the message. These are not legitamate Bibles. Learn a little before you comment on things you know nothing about.
@GOPer "That's just it isn't it. For the crucifixtion to have any meaning (in the 'he died for our sins' way) Jesus has to be more than human. The more human people make Jesus out to be (married, gay lover of John, whatever) the whole foundation of the belief crumbles."
@Chad (the real chad btw)
Jesus led a perfect life, and in doing so satisfied the requirements of the Law.
Having led that perfect life, he could be a perfect sacrifice (not deserving any of it, a "lamb without blemish")
so, Jesus WAS human, He cant be made "more human" than he already is.
Jesus is also the only begotten Son of the Father, as such, it is God, through the person of Jesus, that is making atonement.
(the real chad btw)
to be clear, the Christian belief hangs on the sinless life of Jesus and the resurrection .
This is only one God and Joseph Smith is his name-o.
Everyone voting for Mitt Romney believes it.
If you think about it in common sense terms, it seems like Jesus must have been married. He began preaching when he was around 30, right? So what did he do in his 20's? They probably didn't have a lot of bachelors back then. The population was really low, life expectancy was short, and there was an intense pressure to reproduce to maintain the culture and the community. Jesus spent a long time living as a normal adult (he probably would have been considered an adult at around 15.
I never understand why religious people aren't more curious about who Jesus was as a person.
They should have turned it over.
and stop lolly gagging with those no good money changers
STOP believing in fairy tales. Live in the real world and have a good life. Then the human race can move on to the Age of Reason and advance as a society.
Let people believe in fairy tales if they like, just keep it out of schools and government.
You are absolutely correct. Whether one is religious and believes all the stuff in the bible, or not, this piece of information has absolutely no relevance whatsoever to today's world.
Of course it's relavent. If this was proven to be true, it would have massive ramifications for the religion that claims more than 2 billion followers.
I think certain segments of the human race need an alpha male and Jesus serves that purpose.
Interesting that those of you who hate Christianity are also thumbing your noses at professors with Ph.D.s who have no trouble believing in an historical Jesus. Not saying they are believers in his divinity, but they acknowledge him. What makes all you folks smarter than them?
I'm with you on this one, RL.
Jesus does have a wife and it is the Church, which is also Body of Christ, which are the believers. There is nothing new about this. He said that more than once in the Bible!
What a relief! As long as it says so in the bible...then we know it's definitely true.
There's a very clear distinction – Jesus' "bride" is the Church. The word is used exclusively in place of "wife" in all of the sources. I don't think the fragment is very important, though, since there were Gnostic groups in Egypt c. 400 AD who claimed he was married.
Christian idiots will explain away anything and everything that seems to cast doubt on their firmly held beliefs. If the text in question had read "Jesus said "My gay relationship with John..." they would re-redefine the word gay back to mean happy. If it read "Jesus said "My wife, who is a female human, that I married and had s.ex with..." they would claim he was speaking in metaphor about the foundings of the Church and his "seed" bringing forth Christianity.
What does this mean for the rest of humanity that has yet to give in to the insanity? Absolutely nothing, for none of this hogwash matters in the least and their faith is as rotten and putrid as a decaying corpse in a plastic bag on CSI...
And to make things even worse, no, he actually NEVER said anything of that sort in the Bible.
finally, someone with a brain. all these non believers or jokers are the very first people, that as soon as a crisis
strikes they call out to GOD.
To make the claim "he actually NEVER said anything of that sort in the Bible." would mean you know exactly what Jesus did say, otherwise you can not make that claim
You can not call a line crooked unless you know what a straight line looks like.
So please tell, what is your source that has you come to the conclusion and what does it say Jesus really said?
"So please tell, what is your source that has you come to the conclusion and what does it say Jesus really said?"
Considering none of the gospels was even written for decades after Christs supposed death, with absolutely zero contemporary writing about or by one of the supposed greatest teachers of all time, I would say putting your money on none of it being valid or at best allegorical is a pretty safe bet.
and according to this fragment he also had a wife called mary that he said was able to be his disciple, now theres a turn up for the books.
6. Why do we still talk to invisible people?
So because you don't see something you have decided it doesn't exist. How very 16th century.
Apparently Lin thinks we just havn't invented a powerful enough microscope to see God yet because it's not that he's invisible, he's just really really small...
Good question.....who cares about this inconsequential topic anyway? Whether it's true or not it's a complete waste of time talking about something that means nothing to today's world in the first place.
Lin – People should assume something doesn't exist if there has been no physical evidence of it visually or otherwise. I haven't seen invisible pink unicorns, so I guess by your logic I must conceit that they could be real.
To assume something might exist, there has to be some type of verifiable evidence to even suggest the possiblity. Otherwise, we can just say that every imaginary thing might exist just because we have no proof to the contrary.
Doug, your schizophrenia needs to be diagnosed elsewhere than this forum.
6. Why do we still talk to invisible people? For the same reason you breathe oxygen.... because it exists and is useful for living.
6. Why do we still talk to invisible Unicorns? For the same reason you breathe oxygen.... because they exists and are useful for getting around, i mean how else are we supposed to get to Rainbow Land? duh...
Oh wait, air is visible, just not to the naked eye, but the hydrogen and oxygen molecules are verifiable, so my early argument about it being the same as God can be thrown away. Thanks.
Who sayz the gang bangers would not find work if drugs were legalized?
I dunno what this has to do with anything, but yes they'd still find some criminality to engage in, yet it would be severely minimized, and it would create a massive economic boom through job creation and taxation.
Ratlib, last I heard antiquities dealin' is a shadowy profitable busineees. A little bubble makin' couldn't hurt. They could even branch out into the art world like the article plugs.
the new testament has a lot of verses where Jesus refers to himself as the groom and his church as the bride, which should be presented to him spotless. Maybe wife is thier name for bride, maybe not, but those words alone in the parchment do not say he was married. He was not. I believe it was John's head in the painting laying on Jesus.
"Wife" and "bride" are distinct. The Coptic for "wife" (or "woman", the two were the same in Coptic) is "hime" or "shime" (pronounce the s and h separately) and "bride" is "sheleet" (sh pronounced together).
Thank you Tom.... It's about time people realize there is history out there they know nothing about. Lots of evidence points to it if you're will to pull your head out of the sand, and not be fearful of the truth.
"Maybe wife is thier name for bride, maybe not," "He was not."
I love how he goes from admitting he has no idea if the words in question do or do not confirm anything, right into "He was not." married. Just like every other c o cksure christard out there who makes a claim about their faith being based on biblical texts and that the bible gives their lives so much meaning but when confronted with contradictory evidence they act as if "stuff written down way back then could mean just about anything so you can't take it as fact just because someone wrote something down way back then..."
Who cares? The 'Good News' is we are all forgiven.
Forgiven for what?
If we are all forgiven, why do people still worry about going to hell?
Hell is a state of mind.
And JESUS said, "My bride......" He did, and does have a wife. The first comment was kind of like papyrus...Put it together and you get the entire meaning. Be Blessed!............
And JESUS said, "My bride......" He did, and does have a wife. It is called the Body of CHRIST. Also known as Christian believers. No mystery, same as it ever was. Be Blessed!............ The first one was kind of like papyrus..
It is called the Body of CHRIST. Also known as Christian believers. No mystery, same as it ever was. Be Blessed!
Oh my god man. Jesus spoke of the congregation as his wife. This is all a bunch of stupid crap anyway. What the hell difference would it make if he was married?
it doesn't make the least bit of difference to me if Jesus was married or was gay.
The people it matters to are historical Christian philosophers who argue over the divinity of Jesus and everyone who adheres to the outcome of their arguments. No single topic in the history of Christianity has caused more issues than specifiying the exact nature of God. Whether God exhibits monophysite or dyophysite or triune attributes has caused schism after schism. The "wife of God" has huge theological rammifications.
The nature of the divinity of God is the single biggest issue fundamentalist Christians have with Mormons calling themselves "Christian".
What he said.
Dear RL – I'm very well versed with humanism, indeed. Almost as well as you are with religion.
Well, you imply that humanism is the worship of humans. You just name random humans and organizations as some ort of chastizement of humanism as a philosophy.
Sort. That's about my fifth typo already today.
Chastisement. There's a sixth.
As for my habits – be assured that I'm not at all being deliberately presumptuous (nor engaging in gross generalizations) about humanism as a philosophy, merely to bait those humanists that happily indulge in the same in the manner with which they regard the religious. No, whatever my motive might be, sarcasm isn't it.
Well, I've Americanized my spelling since I moved here, so sometimes I over compensate and add unnecessary Zs.
Bait away also. I'm not a particularly big humanist fan myself.
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.