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'Jesus Wife' fragment gets more testing, delays article
A scholarly article based on the 'Jesus Wife' fragment was delayed as researchers waited on further testing.
January 3rd, 2013
02:30 PM ET

'Jesus Wife' fragment gets more testing, delays article

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Editor

(CNN) - One of the most anticipated articles in religion circles will be absent from the pages of the January edition of the Harvard Theological Review. Harvard Divinity School professor Karen King's final article on the "Jesus wife" fragment did not make the scholarly journal because further testing on the Coptic papyrus fragment has not been finished.

King announced the findings of the 1.5-by-3 inch, honey-colored fragment in September at the International Association for Coptic Studies conference in Rome. In a draft version of the article submitted for publication in the January edition, King and her co-author said the scrap had written in Coptic, a language used by Egyptian Christians, "Jesus said to them, 'My wife," but was then cut off.

King said the fragment dates to the 4th century but could be a copy of an early gospel from the 2nd century.  King and her research partners dubbed the hypothetical text "the Gospel of Jesus' Wife."

Despite King's insistence, the discovery did not prove anything definitive on the marital status of Jesus.

The announcement of the papyrus scrap exploded in the media.

"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 [Jesus] was married or not," King told reporters in a conference call from Rome in September.

5 questions and answers about Jesus' 'wife'

A dealer took the fragment to King for analysis and translation in 2011. The dealer wishes to remain anonymous, she said.

"We're moving ahead with the testing, but it is not yet complete, and so the article will await until we have the results," King said in an email to CNN.

"The owner of the fragment has been making arrangements for further testing and analysis of the fragment, including testing by independent laboratories with the resources and specific expertise necessary to produce and interpret reliable results. This testing is still underway," Kathyrn Dodgson, director of communications for the Harvard Divinity School, said in a email to CNN.

"Harvard Theological Review is planning to publish Professor King’s paper after conclusion of all the testing so that the results may be incorporated," Dodgson said. "Until testing is complete, there is nothing more to say at this point."

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In her original article King explained how a papyrus expert had dated the fragment to the right time frame and how an expert on Coptic linguistics said the grammar seemed to fit the time period, as well.  But what was untested in the early goings was the ink used on the papyrus.

Elaine Pagels, a professor from Princeton University who is an expert on gnostic writings such as this one, noted to CNN in September "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."

Faking antiquities is not uncommon, which is part of the reason so many critics questioned the authenticity of a text that potentially went against nearly every other ancient text concerning Jesus. Other scholars refused to comment on the find until the full battery of testing could be completed.

“The academic community has been badly burned,” Douglas A. Campbell, an associate professor of New Testament at Duke Divinity School said in September, noting how similar discoveries have turned out to be fakes.  The provenance of the document, "the history of where it came from and how they got it,” was a great concern to Campbell and other academics.

The Vatican newspaper weighed in on the matter in late September mincing no words and calling the fragment “a fake.”

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

On the day King announced the fragment, the Smithsonian channel announced it had been working with King for months on a documentary about the find and the authentication process.  It had been slated to air in early October but was pulled back.

Tom Hayden, general manager of the Smithsonian channel, said in a statement in October  the delay "will enable us to present a richer and more complete story. We will be announcing a new premiere date in the coming weeks."

No announcement has been made as to when the premier will happen.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Catholic Church • Christianity • Faith Now • Vatican

soundoff (1,768 Responses)
  1. Liz the First

    If Christians would pay a lot more attention to Jesus' teachings than to his death and supposed resurrection, they'd be a whole lot better people, and maybe they wouldn't be spouting crap like "It is critically important for all decent and moral peoples to recognize the self deluded atheist types as the liars and murderers they are." Jesus was a rabbi, therefore, he was married. if not, there would've been a huge stink in the bible about him being an unmarried rabbi.

    January 4, 2013 at 9:46 pm |
    • k

      If you stick just to his teachings, you reduce Jesus to an abstraction. While His teaching were good, the point of His life was to demonstrate God's (His) boundless love and compassion by willingly sacrificing His life for our benefit (the expiation of our sins). And then, in rising, He conquers death. This is, after all, the core of Christianity. Without it, you're just left with just some guru like Deepak Chopra or one of these other feel good clowns. So to suggest that we should deemphasize the cross and resurrection is to fundamentally miss the point of Christianity.

      January 4, 2013 at 9:55 pm |
    • texcal68

      Liz, it was not uncommon for Jewish prophets to not marry. Most biblical scholars don't think Jesus was married. They believe if he was married there would be some mention of his wife in the hundreds of manuscripts written during the four centuries after his death.

      What is known is that not a single eyewitness wrote any of the 27 books in the New Testament. Moreover, we know that Jesus was a apocalyptic Jewish prophet that thought god's world would roll out on the surface of the earth during the lifetime of many those he taught. As we know today, he was wrong.

      Like all humankind's religions, Christianity is based on mythological stories.

      January 4, 2013 at 10:18 pm |
  2. Deez

    Hmm, relying on science are we?

    January 4, 2013 at 9:44 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      As opposed to faith? Why not?

      January 4, 2013 at 9:45 pm |
  3. Michael Walsh

    according to the gospel of the holy twelve, jesus was engaged to a woman for seven years but this person died, or was taken up by god so that jesus could continue teaching his gospel. it also mentions that jesus said that he and mary magdelene are one. this gospel was hidden from the jews and pharisees by the essenes and placed in a tibet monastery where it was dicovered in the 18th century and is now in the vatican archives. it is very important that all christians read this gospel because it clearly shows how the four canocial gospels in the bible are corrupted. it shows when jesus came down from the mountain after being glorified he gave his diciples his twelve commandments. (if you love me keep my commandments) the ten commandments in the bible are the laws of moses. the essene gospel of peace, book one, also has some of the material that is in the Gospel of the holy twelve so you know that it is genuine. both of these books are on line.

    January 4, 2013 at 9:38 pm |
  4. msadr

    Oh for Heavens sake! What difference does it make if He was married? I never heard of a Rabbi who wasn't married! And the texts we already know of do refer to Jesus bride – his followers. I am Jesus wife, as are all christians all over the world, symbolically, at least. The whole discussion is pointless. The catholics are upset because the idea of Jesus having S E X freaks them out. Whatever. It doesn't freak me out. I'm PROTESTANT!

    January 4, 2013 at 9:26 pm |
    • Al

      People are freaking because it could be a same se x marraige.

      January 4, 2013 at 9:32 pm |
    • Saraswati

      I think it would make a difference to Catholics if he were married, and to a number of groups if he were gay. We would be unlikely to find evidence of the latter, however, even if true.

      January 4, 2013 at 9:42 pm |
    • Se-x with christ

      So if the church is christ's bride
      And the church is made up of its members
      And you are a member of the church
      Does that mean christ is going to have se-x with you after you die

      January 5, 2013 at 10:36 pm |
  5. Susan

    Jesus is the son of God, have faith in him and you will live and be fulfilled. Rid you heart and mind of sin and evil acts and thoughts, peace to you.

    January 4, 2013 at 9:08 pm |
    • Steve K

      Or so you believe. Not everyone does. Your claim has as much validity as any other religious belief or fairy tale.

      January 4, 2013 at 9:27 pm |
    • Steve K

      Or so you believe. Not everyone does.

      January 4, 2013 at 9:27 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      My heart is just fine–and it holds no thoughts, evil or otherwise. My mind serves me well without a belief in the god you esteem. I don't have sinful or evil ideas. I'm busy living the best life I can and doing my utmost to contribute to society and my community. If you have a problem understanding that, I suggest you think a little harder.

      January 4, 2013 at 9:33 pm |
    • Salvatore

      And Steve, your argument
      doesn't get you anything.

      January 4, 2013 at 9:39 pm |
    • Salvatore

      I'll take my chances and rely on Jesus. Good luck with your choice there stevo

      January 4, 2013 at 9:40 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      How do you know that, Sal? Been to the other side, have you, and come back to tell us all about it?

      January 4, 2013 at 9:42 pm |
    • therealpeace2all

      @Salvatore

      " I'll take my chances and rely on Jesus. Good luck with your choice there stevo "

      Seems like there has been more 'Pascal's Wager' as sertions lately... what's up with that ?

      Peace...

      January 4, 2013 at 9:44 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Right about now, Sal is scratching his head and muttering, "What the fvck is Pascal's Wager?"

      January 4, 2013 at 9:45 pm |
    • texcal68

      Susan, after studying all of humankind's religions for over 15 years, I have concluded that all religions are based on mythology. For example, the New Testament doesn't contain a single eyewitness account of what Jesus said or did.

      Furthermore, only 2 of 27 books mention the birth narrative (Matthew and Luke) and these two writings provide conflicting stories.

      The first gospel written was Mark. Written 35 to 40 years after Jesus death doesn't mention the virgin birth or the after death sightings.

      My point is; the Christianity you believe is pure mythology.

      January 4, 2013 at 10:00 pm |
    • Augustus

      Susan What you said right. faith on Jesus. Not to look upon the other people Jesus said seek you will find. When you have free time carefully read the 1 John letter Chapter 5 vs. 19,20,21 you will understand the full truth. Jesus said happy are the women never give a suck or never bore a child. Person saying words above human Can have a wife????? Don't devil fool you and take your soul to hell.

      January 4, 2013 at 10:03 pm |
    • Susan

      Tom Tom,
      You said your mind holds no evil or bad thoughts then why are you so angry at me for believing in Jesus? Why are so many offended in a believer in the son of God? Jesus is for peace. Peace for you.

      January 4, 2013 at 10:40 pm |
  6. Chris

    Jesus was married. My (great x 20) uncle went to his wedding. He mentions in his dairy, "The weird thing about the wedding was, Jesus never hired a caterer, yet the food and wine never ran out."

    January 4, 2013 at 9:08 pm |
  7. Semper Cogitatus

    No matter how well it is authenticated, nothing written two to four hundred years after a man lived can be considered to prove anything about that man. Neither this, nor any other writing.

    January 4, 2013 at 9:03 pm |
    • Clint

      What you meant to say was:

      "if it might prove anything is not true about christianity, neither I nor any other christian will ever accept it as true."

      January 4, 2013 at 9:24 pm |
    • msadr

      LOL, then there goes most everything we know about Alexander the Great!

      January 4, 2013 at 9:27 pm |
    • pat

      True. Similarly, we probably don't know as much about Alexander the Great as we think we do.

      January 5, 2013 at 1:37 am |
  8. Dan

    F CNN and all of you brain-washed people.

    January 4, 2013 at 9:03 pm |
    • heliocracy

      Okay, thanks.

      January 4, 2013 at 9:56 pm |
    • DaTruth

      Yikes, Dan. A little buttt hurt?

      January 5, 2013 at 8:42 am |
  9. Bethenny

    777 comments. A good sign.

    January 4, 2013 at 8:59 pm |
  10. Jesus is son of God

    God bless

    January 4, 2013 at 8:35 pm |
    • copanut

      Gesundheit.

      January 4, 2013 at 8:43 pm |
    • Bethenny

      What is good about the gospel of Jesus Christ?

      If it is good news for some, does that mean it is bad news for others?

      January 4, 2013 at 8:44 pm |
    • richunix

      who said he was?

      January 4, 2013 at 8:46 pm |
    • copanut

      "Jesus is son of God". But, but, but... Jesus IS God. So, Jesus is his own father?

      Jesus impregnated his own married mother (incest and adultery) so that she would give birth to himself. He then grew up and spent some time raises corpses from the dead, walking on water, and magically multiplying fish and bread. He transformed other bread into his own muscle and wine into his own blood, and ordered his disciples to cannibalize him. He then intentionally allowed himself to be captured by the authorities, tortured, and murdered so that he could sacrifice himself to himself. Then as he was expiring, he asked himself why he had forsaken himself. After dying and rotting in his tomb for some days, he reanimated his own corpse, walked around for awhile, and then floated up through the clouds and into outer space so he could sit next to himself up above the planet. This, he did in order to forgive his creations for acting exactly the way he created them to act (being all powerful) and doing exactly what he knew they would do (being all knowing).

      All very clear.

      January 4, 2013 at 8:54 pm |
  11. Hawk in wind

    Below is from the Book of Mathew 19
    10 His disciples said to him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry.
    11 But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given.
    12 For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.
    Also:
    29 And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.

    I personally would like to add, for anyone who wants to teach, they need to practice what they preach; as good a Divine / human person as Jesus was / is, I truely believe he did practice what he preached, and therefore was not married.

    January 4, 2013 at 8:34 pm |
    • msadr

      But, Hawk, nowhere in that text does he say that a "teacher" must be unmarried. In fact, that would be a direct contradiction of the Judaic understanding, which was that a teacher MUST be married.

      January 4, 2013 at 8:50 pm |
    • Dan

      It always amuses me when people quote fiction.

      January 4, 2013 at 9:01 pm |
    • Hawk in wind

      This is a reply for Dan....I feel for you; God doesn't hide from everyone Dan. Jesus truely is the Son of God the Father; I have known more than 1 very spiritual person who He has spoken with. Here's some advice "seek and you will find"; don't seek, give it less of an effort than you would for other things and you probably will reap accordingly. If you go to college for say 4 years, you hopefully get a job for your efforts. I'm amazed how people give less of an effort for searching for God than they do for a career and then say "where is He; and or a dozen other statements against him".

      January 4, 2013 at 9:34 pm |
    • Saraswati

      @Hawk, if a god wanted to be known, why would he or she make it so difficult to be found?

      January 4, 2013 at 9:39 pm |
    • Hawk in wind

      This reply is for Saraswati...

      I can't speak for Him; but yes He does make it a difficult climb for most. Here's my thinking on it:
      1st, though Jesus had / has a human body; His Divine essence is neither male or female specifically, though He can shape shift.. 2nd; realize how intelligent He is, compared to us. He knows us.....He knows we are selfish users.....He wants to sort thru the users from those who want to do better. If He was easy to find for everyone; How many people do you think would follow Him just because of His high celebrity status? I think alot of people. He wants to be loved for His own sake.
      A woman who I knew, who he talked to during Mass, said Jesus asked her one day, why do you love me? I recall her telling me, she started stating to Him all the good things He did for her."He said to her you are to love God for His own sake". This was instead of loving Him for what we get from Him. Again, God knows we are users....... :(

      Additionally, its important to follow His rules in the search for Him; showing Him and our selves that we wish not to rebel.
      So, He sorting thru those who want to learn His ways and those who don't and thus want to rebel. Why should the rebellious get to see Him or hear someone one who is far greater than themselves?

      January 4, 2013 at 10:15 pm |
    • Hawk in wind

      This is a reply for Msadr...

      1st of all...Jesus (being God) is the teacher, and can choose His own rules, and thus didn't have to be married to a woman.

      Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. [Revelation 19:7]

      And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. ... And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will show thee the bride, the Lamb's wife. And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, [Revelation 21:2,9-10]

      Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.
      [Ephesians 5:25]

      January 4, 2013 at 11:28 pm |
    • Saraswati

      @Hawk, Thank you for you reply. I think your last answer, the sorting idea, makes the most sense, but only if God had limited resources, which isn't usually a component of Christianity. This would work well, perhaps, in a system that included reincarnation and growth...

      January 5, 2013 at 8:37 am |
  12. Tom

    How many men from centuries BC to present were and are named Jesus, which by the way could be interpreted Joshua as well. There are countless hispanics with the name Jesus. My take is this is just an incidental reference to someone who happend to be named Jesus. It could even be a papyrus version of Tweet or Facebook where someone disceminated unfounded and unverifiable rumor. I think I'll stay with Jesus as a bachelor.

    January 4, 2013 at 8:32 pm |
    • copanut

      You can find a dozen of them hanging outside our Home Depot every morning. Nobody spreads manure better than Jesus!

      January 4, 2013 at 8:44 pm |
    • Julie

      Jesus and his cousin Jose

      January 4, 2013 at 9:05 pm |
    • heliocracy

      Comedy gold.

      January 4, 2013 at 9:59 pm |
  13. copanut

    "Faking antiquities is not uncommon, which is part of the reason so many critics questioned the authenticity of a text that potentially went against nearly every other ancient text concerning Jesus."

    Now that's funny. The article makes it sound like there is an avalanche of consistent sources, but that it completely false. There are zero (ZERO) texts contemporary to Jesus and none from eye witnesses. There are perhaps three dozen "gospels" that exist in various forms that were written from 30 to 300 years after the fact, and none of them are in agreement on much of anything, including the four "canonical" gospels. With such a small data set, any new information is significant.

    Too bad god couldn't be a bit less ambiguous about his biography.

    January 4, 2013 at 8:30 pm |
  14. lewtwo

    Would have been even more interesting if the quote was "Jesus said to them,'My mistress ...".

    January 4, 2013 at 8:22 pm |
    • heliocracy

      How about "Jesus said to them, 'My b1tch..."

      January 4, 2013 at 8:43 pm |
  15. rc

    The best they can hope to prove is that the fragment is from the 4th century (although I believe it's a fake). That doesn't mean it's an authentic copy of text dating to the first century. Also to consider is that ancient writers did not have punctuation. One person saying "my wife" does not mean he was talking about his wife. He could be quoting someone else who said "my wife". He could be telling a parable (and Jesus told a lot of parables) and quoting a character in the parable saying "my wife". This fragment can never conclusively prove that Jesus was ever married. In fact, the overwhelming thousands of fragments of texts support the authenticity of the biblical text as we have it today. Such an extreme exception as this fragment must be treated with the highest degree of doubt unless and until more corroborating evidence is (if ever) found.

    January 4, 2013 at 8:18 pm |
  16. Sharron Needles

    Gay marriage was legal back then?

    January 4, 2013 at 8:07 pm |
  17. Grahame Rhodes

    Jesus was Jewish. He had a Jewish mother and father. They came from a Jewish community.
    I can just hear Jesus mother.
    "When you gonna find a nice girl and settle down? I've been talking to the matchmaker she's bringing some nice girls over tomorrow night.
    I can just hear Jesus father.."When you gonna get married and give me grandchildren?"
    Of course Jesus was married. Silly to think otherwise and so what? just because he's Jesus doesn't mean he was any less married or single... The real problem the church has is children from such a union.

    January 4, 2013 at 8:06 pm |
    • msadr

      Sounds about right. Plus, there was the ancient idea that any Rabbi must be married. The idea of blood descendants does complicate things for"The Church" but not for protestants. In any case, I very much doubt that he had any kids. A child of the king would have been much revered. There are records of several other relatives, but not kids.

      January 4, 2013 at 8:56 pm |
  18. Gerry from Bayonne

    No matter how much you THINK you are right – it doesn't mean that you are.

    January 4, 2013 at 7:46 pm |
  19. truth be told

    It is critically important for all decent and moral peoples to recognize the self deluded atheist types as the liars and murderers they are.

    January 4, 2013 at 7:43 pm |
    • Gerry from Bayonne

      How do you know you're the one who's not deluded?

      January 4, 2013 at 7:45 pm |
    • Godless

      It is equally important for all decent and moral atheists to recognize the self deluded religious nuts. Their ignorant sense of righteousness is used to justify prejudice, the denial of basic human rights, torture, automatic weapon ownership, hatred and murders the world over – all in the name of an imaginary man who lives in the sky.

      January 4, 2013 at 7:52 pm |
    • Maryanne

      Well, if you think that, then you should start with the man in the mirror.

      January 4, 2013 at 7:57 pm |
    • JanetMermaid

      I am quoting Godless because his/her post is so perfect and I completely agree. I could not have said it better myself: "It is equally important for all decent and moral atheists to recognize the self deluded religious nuts. Their ignorant sense of righteousness is used to justify prejudice, the denial of basic human rights, torture, automatic weapon ownership, hatred and murders the world over – all in the name of an imaginary man who lives in the sky."

      January 4, 2013 at 8:17 pm |
    • msadr

      Well, I can agree with the "deluded" part. But murderers? That's pushing it. I have friends who are atheists. While I feel sorry for them, I don't think I could accuse them of murder!

      January 4, 2013 at 8:58 pm |
    • Zach

      Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot. That's what happens when you remove God from society and man does exactly what he wants to do and doesn't follow the basic rules of God. I've heard atheists claim that the Nazis were Christians, it would be laughable if you exclude the millions of people they murdered. Hitler didn't want religion and there wasn't one loyal Nazi who was a true Christian, you can't serve two masters. Communism, look at countries like China, Russia and North Korea, the worst things that have ever happened on this planet are a direct result of Godless societies. That's not to say there haven't been some horrible things done on this planet in the name of Christianity, but when you look at those events closely, it's easy to ascertain that those responsble were not Christians. Are all atheists evil? Absolutely not, where there is life there is hope. I've never met an atheist in a foxhole and I've been in quite a few.

      January 4, 2013 at 9:01 pm |
    • Salvatore

      Godless. You are in for a very big surprise. But by then, it will be to late. Good luck to you sir

      January 4, 2013 at 9:47 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      It's "TOO" late, you moron.

      January 4, 2013 at 9:47 pm |
    • Saraswati

      Compulsive lying is associated with higher than average levels of white matter in the frontal lobes. Something more common in literary creative types who spin a good story and are also more likely to be religious. I'm sure other things may correlate with atheism, but lying is unlikly to be one of them.

      January 4, 2013 at 9:49 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Hey, Turd: why, exactly, is it "critically important"? What do you think you or anyone else is going to do about atheists?

      You are a funny one.

      January 4, 2013 at 9:49 pm |
    • therealpeace2all

      @Salvatore

      " Godless. You are in for a very big surprise. But by then, it will be to late. Good luck to you sir "

      LOL... "Good Luck" !!! While @Godless is 'burning in hell' is that what you mean, -Salvatore ?? 8O

      Good fvcking grief !

      Peace...

      January 4, 2013 at 9:50 pm |
    • heliocracy

      Yeah, no one has ever been murdered by religious types.

      January 4, 2013 at 10:00 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Salvatore is an exemplar of the type that envisions himself sitting next to god on some fluffy cloud, watching all the people he hates suffering in "hell."

      January 4, 2013 at 10:03 pm |
  20. Jeff

    He was married! ... that changes everything ... he was used to getting crucified.

    January 4, 2013 at 7:41 pm |
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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 and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.