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.
No mention of spouse in Scripture, and what wife would permit husband to hang out with Mary and Martha, and only mention concern for his mom while dying?
It really makes no difference, except for those wishing to chip away a Christianity.
Speaking of chips, why do so many Xtians have them on their shoulders?
except the fragment mentions that his wife is called Mary.
How do we know the wife was a she? Boy, would that change everything and all the wacky people out there!!!!!
Just kidding by the way!!!!
That's a wacky comment Bob; have you no pride?
...apparently J did... ;-)
Fact is that the Quran, now authenticated by the divine math code based on 19 discovered by Dr. Rashad Khalifa says,
[13:38] We have sent messengers before you (O Rashad), and we made them husbands with wives and children. No messenger can produce a miracle without GOD's authorization, and in accordance with a specific, predetermined time.
No Holy Books have external validation, they are accepted on faith. And Jesus Christ is not a mere messenger, but God incarnate.
Many early xtians accepted a wide variety of gospels on faith, many of which didn't make the bible. What makes you think that Nicaea got it right?
Proof of the existence of the Son of God.
Born the son of god to a mortal woman, he left behind a legacy of his impact and influence, upon the people he encountered and in the temples they dedicated to him. The historian and scholar Tacitus even writes of him.
Tacitus Germania 3: "they say that Hercules, too, once visited them; and when going into battle, they sang of him first of all heroes. They have also those songs of theirs, by the recital of this barditus as they call it, they rouse their courage, while from the note they augur the result of the approaching conflict. For, as their line shouts, they inspire or feel alarm" "whether it be that Hercules ever visited these parts, or that to his renowned name we are wont to ascribe whatever is grand and glorious everywhere. Neither did Drusus who made the attempt, want boldness to pursue it: but the roughness of the ocean withstood him, nor would suffer discoveries to be made about itself, no more than about Hercules."
But was Hercules Married? Thats what we all want to know...!!
..and, is Hercules a Steelers fan?
Clearly, CNN has its full complement of believers (Believe – or else!) atheists (Disbelieve – or else!) and trolls (I believe I can fly!) today, so I can safely move on to another forum where my disruption might be better received.
How do disbelievers have a "disbelieve or else" orientation?
Sam: I don't know. Ask them.
Sam: maybe you want clarification on the "Or Else" part? Disbelieve – or else you're ignorant, foolish, gullible, tyrannical. And sadly, more often than not, they're right.
Faith-based belief versus evidence-based 'belief' (Occam's razor...)
It's certainly an interesting fragment, but it still begs the question of whether or not Jesus even existed and if he did, how much did he actually resemble the character in the gospels?
I tend to believe the simplest answer is closest to the truth. If Jesus actually existed, he was just a man like everyone else. Maybe he was unlucky enough to get himself into an extraordinary situation that led to his demise.
And as for the truth of the religion(s) that have sprouted from him, just look at the believers on this blog for example. You can see human nature at work. A combination of wishfull thinking, gullability, and self-importance can grow a non-story into a story as easily as snapping your fingers. It happens all the time.
Yes, certainly look at the believers on this blog. But consider also the wisdom of the ancients, from Plato and Archimedes to Buddha and Lao Tzu. Contemplation of the divine wasn't just the pursuit of the ignorant and the foolish, much though that might suit you to believe.
I meant Aristotle, not Archimedes (though he, too, might have engaged in the afore-mentioned contemplation for all we know).
Contemplation of the divine is one thing. Thinking that anyone speaks for "god" is delusional
The essence of Christianity is mere humility in face of our inability to undo the karma we have created, and accepting the message of God's plan, in the Jewish tradition, of atonement by sacrifice of an innocent.
Questions about the life of Jesus Christ are a matter of curiosity, but not vital.
We are well aware of the writings of gnostics to undermine faith, but not affected by them.
"The essence of Christianity is mere humility in face of our......." [snoring, drooling on keyboard,...]
John was the disciple whom Jesus loved.
It is the Beloved Disciple who, while reclining beside Jesus at the Last Supper, asks Jesus, after being requested by Peter to do so, who it is that will betray him.[Jn 13:23-25]
Later at the crucifixion, Jesus tells his mother, "Woman, here is your son", and to the Beloved Disciple he says, "Here is your mother."[Jn 19:26-27]
When Mary Magdalene discovers the empty tomb, she runs to tell the Beloved Disciple and Peter. The two men rush to the empty tomb and the Beloved Disciple is the first to reach the empty tomb. However, Peter is the first to enter.[Jn 20:1-10]
In John 21, the last chapter of the Gospel of John, the Beloved Disciple is one of seven fishermen involved in the miraculous catch of 153 fish.[Jn 21:1-25] 
Also in the book's final chapter, the Beloved Disciple is the subject of the reprimand given to Simon Peter by Jesus when Simon Peter dares to question the Beloved Disciple's continued presence. (John 21:20-23)
Finally, again in the gospel's last chapter, it states that the very book itself is based on the written testimony of the disciple whom Jesus loved. (John 21:24).
Mary Magdalene had to be the first to enter the tomb. But, woman don't count I guess.
And it was Mary Magdalene, and only Mary Magdalene, to which resurrected Jesus appeared.
Jesus said to John, "Here is your mother." and John then took her into his home.
He was a man like every other man. Why is it so surprising the guy was married. He needed someone to help him out with his magic tricks.
I agree. Jesus was a nice man, but that deity stuff got out of control, thanks to Paul.
That "delity stuff" is the essence of Christianity, requiring a perfect sacrifice for the salvation of mankind. It is rejected by Muslims, Jews, Mormons, and Jehovah's Witnesses, yet defines trinitarian Christianity, like it or not.
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While the implications would really shake thngs up in the Roman Catholic Church, it would make Catholicism more human and in tune with reality.
The effect on celibacy and its outing as an outright hipocrisy would go a long way to ending the neverending string of pedophile scandals. After all it is a false construct imposed by the Pope in the Middle Ages to preserve his power base and prevent archbishops and the like from spawning powerful families threatening Rome. Nowhere in the Bible does it say "thou shall not behave like normal human beings".
But I'm sure it will get swept under the rug to prevent disturbing the status quo.
Well stated. I have a sixth question: Who cares about any of this nonsense?
Only thirty seconds of research will show that that there is no correlation between celibacy and pedophilia.
Not only might those Archbishops have spawned powerful families that threatened the Pope, even worse, those families would have inherited, and consequently diluted, the wealth. Money was a powerful incentive to keep those fortunes close to the Church hierarchy.
JPX: Well, you for one cared enough to ask.
Do you even know why they embrace celibacy? It should give you a clue as to why it failed.
Strike my last post.
The speculation will be dismissed by Christians as irrelevant and unsubstantiated by canonical Scripture. Note that Christ hung out with Mary and Martha, not likely if married; and he shows concern only for mom as he was dying.
Jesus would never have addressed his mother as 'woman' – he was addressing his wife, the other Mary, Magdalene.
"Let's not neglect the fact this was written 300 years after Jesus' death,".
Funny! The bible, who most agree was written at least decades after Jesus' death, copied and altered countless times through the ages, and who's author(s) are unknown, serves as absolute fact. However, this piece of paper is 300 years old, written by an unknown source, yet provides no proof of anything. Seems she is using an argument usually reserved for atheists to dismiss what may complicated the story.
I agree with you about the New Testament. All the books date to long after the deaths of those credited with writing the book.
But think about the Old Testament too. Was Genesis actually written by Adam or Eve themselves? In English, no less?
Sorry 1712 years old
It's almost unbelievable – almost impossible – that a man of the age of the historical Jesus, in that place and time, would not be married. 99.99% of Jewish men in their 30s would be married or widowed.
Are you a .01%er?
The 0.001% would either be enuchs guarding Pharaoh's concubinate, or gays being pursued by Roman soldiers so Caesar could have a go at them....
87% of statistics quoting pre-millenial sociology are 42% inaccurate
So are you, like, a deacon, all religiously authoritative and stuff...?
Just a sinner, saved by grace
just a dinner, served with grease
Now that was clever!
The question of "should a man marry" and "better to marry than burn [with passion] would be meaningless if marriage were not an option. Many people sought to discredit Christian claims and undermine Christ's authority throughout history; and the "wife" idea does not fit in with Scripture, when you examine his activities and statements.
Baseball is ninety percent mental. The other half is physical.
90% of Yogi Berra quotes are 50% nonsensical
Did anyone stop and think this fragment might refer to a different person named Jesus? It wasn't an uncommon name then, just as it is not an uncommon name now in certain cultures.
did the scholars look for the ~ over the "e"?
The people inc'd Harvard;the people can dis-inc Harvard. To inc or dis-inc, that is the question. The libs should be all for it. It would solve the Big O's little problem with transcripts on a fragment.
how did politics come into this, muddy?
sam, everything is politics and religion. That's why we can't talk about those 2 things.
I'd tap that
I find it really entertaining how the possibility Jesus was married apparently irks Christians almost as much as the blasted cartoons irk the Muslims. Lighten up people! Who cares anyway?
I know! Those christian riots are really over the top about this wife thing. I'm just worried they might actually kill someone – its really at the tipping point now.
p.s. You're an idiot.
Sy, you amuse yourself with a senseless comparison. We Christians have Mary made out of dung and Jesus accused of all sorts of this, and we may protest use of public funds to display in a museum.
The only issue with Jesus being married, no one is hot about it, just not amused by the presumption of veracity, is that it is inconsistent with canonical Scripture, Jesus hanging out with Mary and Martha, and showing concern only for mom while on cross.
No problem with marriage; just doesn't fit in.
Like Dr. Rashad Khalifa, discoverer of the Quran's 19 based superhuman math code, said in the foreward of Quran, hadith and Islam 'telling the muslims that hadith and sunna (attributed to Muhammad) are satanic innovations is like telling the Christians that Jesus is not the son of God.
At the time that Jesus lived the were no Christians or Christian Church- everyone in his life was Jewish-including him, his mother and father,all his relatives and all the discilpes. He was a Jewish reformer and he believed himself to be the Messiah for the Jewish people. All the first Christians were Jewish. and weren`t called Christians until later when the gentile pagans go tinvolved. There wasn`t a new testament untill much later and the references to the Bride of Christ did not exist in Jesus lifetime.
It's not actually known whether Jesus believed or ever even claimed to be the Jewish messiah.
Rat Lib, correct, His question was and is "Who do you say I am?"
Well, I say he was a charlatan or, at best, a rabble rouser trying to challenge Jewish Orthodoxy. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and say the second one.
Yeah ratlib, what could one expect? He already HAD to divorce them on adultery grounds.
I say He is the Christ.
"I say He is the Christ."
and you should know, you've followed a few
(too close to the life of brian line to resist)
Funny show. I'm sure Jesus would be amused at the many distortions we've placed on Him. Many times he was frustrated with the Apostles who were right there Him and didn't get it though, so I suppose we should allow ourselves some slack for being blind and deaf.
One would think that the creator of the cosmo would be a more effective communicator
Can't really get much clearer than John 11:26
Yup, Bill, because all xtians agree on what it actually takes to get to heaven.
This is all a lie to hurt the foundation of Christianity. Jesus was never married. PERIOD. No discussion about it. Now a piece of paper written by some drunk 16 centuries ago who we do not even know if s/he was a Christian or someone that hated Christians surfaces and everything becomes questionable!! So, I am going to write whatever comes to my mind, let it sit there for 500 years and then question everything that people will learn in the next 500 years. This is beyond stupid. Just media propaganda.
Why would this hurt the 'foundation' of Christianity?
It would imply that he also had children, which would pretty much destroy his divinity myth.
wow, this fragment really scares you doesnt it?
try putting your fingers in your ears, closing your eyes and going la la la and maybe you can make it go away
PERIOD and "stupid" does it for me.
So 16 centuries later, Dave, you are in a better position to say without a shadow of a doubt that Jesus wasn't married? The "drunk" you refer too was 16 centuries closer to Jesus life than you are. Are you so positive that you know everything about Jesus life? Then tell us, why did he not marry?
If Jesus wasn't married, then Joesph and Mary failed miserably as Jewish parents. Probably several enough to warrant being put to death. Did they not even care to teach Jesus to practice even the most basic Jewish traditions and laws?
Dave, dont let it bother you. The pharisees will never stop trying to persecute our Lord. Even the stupid ones.
"Dave, dont let it bother you. The pharisees will never stop trying to persecute our Lord. Even the stupid ones."
oh and you, like dave, are filled with hate and judgement. They are big no-nos and will end up with you going somewhere very warm if you dont change your ways.
"This is all a lie to hurt the foundation of Christianity. "
Christianity was founded on lies. Oh, I'm sorry – not lies but "scholarly interpretation" & re-writing, editing, conveniently leaving things out...
The fact that you're willing to aspire to believe in a book that's been rewritten more times than "I will not throw things in class" on a chalkboard is idiocy at its best.
Look for divinity and spirituality around you in the world, not in a book.
cedar rapids, you are misinformed. The least in the body of Christ do the judging because it's so elementary. I practice here because I'm not so welcome in the inc'd Churches these days.
@Cedar rapids, you're one of the stupid ones that likes to throw the word hate around. I disagree with Mormanisn, but I dont hate them. BTW, as a Christian, I dont believe in a place thats warme if you dont change your ways.
1Cr 6:4 If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church.'......Exactly opposite from the SCOTUS point of view. However, those supremos are into child killin'.
"you're one of the stupid ones that likes to throw the word hate around"
ah but you called me stupid, and that is a hateful thing to do.
Are you really unable to see that? are you so blind in your hate?
repent while your can.
300 years after he was dead nobody gave a crap if he was married or not. This celibacy garbage didnt become part of the myth until the Church cooked it all up centuries later
A little paranoid, Dave?
As opposed to the folks 19 centuries ago, Davy?
SoM: I see you have bought into Dave's persection complex. Don't worry, you are being persecuted for Jeebus. He will pat you on the back when you get there. What is taking you so long?
@Cedar rapids, stupid, foolish, same thing, and as for repenting, you do know what you are talking about little pharisee.
"SoM – @Cedar rapids, stupid, foolish, same thing, and as for repenting, you do know what you are talking about little pharisee."
ah you continue the hate with the name calling. sigh, maybe you are a lost cause and your fate is already sealed.
I guess i was wrong after all. You dont know what you are talking about. BTW, Christ called pharisees vipers and liars.
"BTW, Christ called pharisees vipers and liars."
so much for turning the other cheek etc.
oh the hypocrisy.
You refuse to believe he was married because then he would be human and like you, someone that could not be idolized against his wishes. "I am ascending to my God and your God" .. what is so difficult to understand?
I believe the Roman Catholics of that time hid gospels they did not deem fit for us to know and now modern Roman Catholics continue to do the same. (Before you get your panties in a bunch, I am Catholic who happens to feel my own religion has many contridications). They should not be playing God and decide what we should and should not see. A time will come when it will all be revealed to all. I don't know why they fear us knowing he was possibly married. We believe God is the trinity and came down in human form through the son and took part in our lives as a human and in doing that it revealed to him how difficult it is to stay the course to earn the kindgom of heaven, I believe this is why as the second testament proves to me that God is more humble, patient and forgiving of our defects.
They did exactly that at the Council of Nicea (Nicaea, possibly).
what "Roman Catholic church of that time" are you talking about? The distinction you make by referring to the "Roman Catholic" church before the time of Constantine is meaningless.
Well it's commonly believed that Paul started the Roman Catholic church, and Constantine established it. Correct me if I'm wrong though because my brain is only semi-functioning today after only four hours sleep.
the term "Roman Catholic" church can only meaningfully be used after the east/west schism which begins to occur in 1054.
Even though Constantine convened the Council of Nicaea (325) and declared Christianity to the the official religion of the (Roman) Empire (now headquartered in Constantinople), there was a hierarchical pentarchy of patriarchs that existed by around the 5th century:
1. Rome (Sts. Peter and Paul), i.e. the Pope
2. Constantinople (St. Andrew)
3. Alexandria (St. Mark)
4. Antioch (St. Peter)
5. Jerusalem (St. James)
The traditions under each of these patriarchs varied. The term usually applied to the Roman tradition before the east/west schism is the "Latin church".
I think true Christians very where need to drop what their doing and riot and kill innocent, uninvolved people. This is an insult to Jesus and I am deeply, deeply offended.
RIGHT ON-an eye for an eye. Time once again for the Crusades and clean the world of un holy people.
Should we riot in front of the Iranian embassy, and kill their ambassador, over this?
Nah, maybe we can sack a few Muslim embassies and burn their flags and some Korans
So what's wrong with Jesus being married? His son'sname is Jude.
The Jesus I know has a son named Ricardo.
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.