September 18th, 2012
03:28 PM ET
Newly revealed Coptic fragment has Jesus making reference to 'my wife'
By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
(CNN) - A newly revealed, centuries-old papyrus fragment suggests that some early Christians might have believed Jesus was married. The fragment, written in Coptic, a language used by Egyptian Christians, says in part, "Jesus said to them, 'My wife ..."
Harvard Divinity School Professor Karen King announced the findings of the 1 1/2- by 3-inch honey-colored fragment on Tuesday in Rome at the International Association for Coptic Studies.
King has been quick to add this discovered text "does not, however, provide evidence that the historical Jesus was married," she wrote in a draft of her analysis of the fragment set to appear in the January edition of Harvard Theological Review. The divinity school has posted a draft of King's article to which AnneMarie Luijendijk, an associate professor of religion at Princeton University, contributed.
"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.
"What I'm really quick to say is to cut off people who would say this is proof that Jesus was married because historically speaking, it's much too late to constitute historical evidence," she continued. "I'm not saying he was, I'm not saying he wasn't. I'm saying this doesn't help us with that question," she continued.
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In the accounts of Jesus' life in the Bible, there is no mention of his marital status, while the accounts do mention Jesus' mother, father and siblings. The four Gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John - tell the story of Jesus' birth and early childhood then skip to his short, three-year ministry before detailing his death and resurrection.
The idea that Jesus was married is not a new one.
In other writings about the life of Jesus from antiquity suggest Jesus may have been married to Mary Magdalene, a disciple who was close to Jesus. Author Dan Brown also used the idea of Jesus being married as a jumping off point for the fictional novel "The Da Vinci Code." King dismissed that notion in her call with reporters.
“There’s no indication we have that Jesus was married,” said Darrell Bock, a senior research professor of New Testament studies at Dallas Theological Seminary. “One could say the text is silent on Jesus’ marital status is because there was nothing to say.”
Initial dating for the honey-colored fragment by the team of scholars puts the papyrus piece coming out of the middle of the second century.
King is referring to the fragment as the "The Gospel of Jesus' Wife" or "GosJesWife" as a short hand for reference, and noting that the abbreviation does not mean this scrap has the same historical weight as the canonical Gospels.
Biblical scholars often use the term gospel to refer to a genre of ancient writings featuring dialogue between Jesus and his disciples, King notes in her paper. The Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Mary and the Gospel of Judas are just a few of the ancient accounts about the life of Jesus that Christians do not consider canonical.
At the conference, King said another professor suggested the fragment could have come from the text of a homily, or sermon, where the writer was using this phrase as a literary device. She told reporters that while she will consider that as a possibility, the fragment is “probably a gospel. Probably from the second century and most close to the Gospels of Mary, Thomas and Philip.”
Bock agreed with the notion that the text fragment shared similarities with those gospels, called the Gnostic Gospels, which were the writings of an early outlier sect of Christians. He said the text could be referring to a "gnostic rite of marriage that is a picture of the church and Jesus, not a real wife."
But he added, "it’s a small text with very little context. We don’t know what’s wrapped around it to know what it’s saying.”
Bock said it’s likely to be a gnostic text if it proves to be authentic. “The whole text needs vetting. She’s doing the right thing to release it and let scholars take a look at,” he said, adding “it’s a little bit like trying to analyze the game in the first quarter.”
“It’s a historical curiosity but doesn’t really tell us who Jesus was,” Bock said. “It’s one small speck of a text in a mountain of texts of about Jesus.”
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The owner of the fragment has been identified by King as a private collector who has asked to stay anonymous. The owner brought the fragment to Harvard have King examine it in December 2011.
King then brought it to 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, Bangall confirmed to CNN.
Ariel Shisha-Halevy, professor of linguistics at Hebrew University, Jerusalem, who was asked to examine the authenticity, according to the draft of the article, told King via e-mail, “I believe - on the basis of language and grammar - the text is authentic. That is to say, all its grammatical ‘noteworthy’ features, separately or conjointly, do not warrant condemning it as forgery.”
Little is known about the origin of the text. Because both sides of the fragment have writing on them, King said it could have come out of a book rather than a scroll.
"Just like most of the earliest papyri of the New Testament and other literary and documentary papyri, a fragment this damaged could have come from an ancient garbage heap," the King says building on prior research by Luijendijk.
King writes "the importance of the 'Gospel of Jesus’ Wife' lies in supplying a new voice within the diverse chorus of early Christian traditions about Jesus that documents that some Christians depicted Jesus as married."
The Smithsonian Channel also announced Monday that it will air a special on King's findings on September 30.
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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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.
I'm waiting to hear from the Pope and his people on this one. "Jesus had some."
It was just the tip, tho.
Can we finally take "Jesus" off this godly pedestal. Can we stop thinking the whole world is only 6,000 years old, There is no magic man in the sky.
Guess what, when we die.....we die. Sorry but that's it. The Christian "religion" is no better than the archaic stupid muslim "religion"
It's all a joke and such a waste of time. How many lives and years of productivity have been lost because of wars or actions over friggen religion.
Can we get onto things that actually matter now???
Why do you waste any of your precious time worry about what Christians, Muslims, etc believe...Maybe you protest too much?
Anyway...find the missing link and get on with it already @sswipe!
This still doesn't mean Jesus wasn't perfect. Marriage is not a sin at all. Actually, centuries ago, a woman was courted and married before there were any "relation", so in no way does this even translate to sin
I swear god, I was thinking about you the whole time!
Bulldog, but was jesus perfect? It says in the bible that he does not know the time of the end, only the father does. Hence he does not know anything. It also says "he was growing in wisdom", this implies he at one point did not know everything either but was learning. Also not perfect. Finally, Jesus was wrong in stating "that some of you standing here will not taste death" before he returns. Clearly that never occured and was a false prophecy (this and countless other failures over the last 2,000 years). I think it is time humanity moves on from this sillyness of a perfect man living 2,000 years ago who has come to save humanity.
Steve, actually Matt 16:28 which you are referring to does not mean his second coming but the establishment of his kingdom which was the church. He is referencing the ultimate fulfillment of the prophecy from Daniel chapter 2 (the dream of Nebuchadnezzar) which takes place in Acts chapter 2 on the day of pentecost after his ascension. Also because there are roles in the God head and the father alone knows the day of judgement how does that declare that Jesus is not perfect? As far as the wisdom part he still lived as a man so his growth and development would have become more and more prevalent to those around him but it is clear that he possessed overwhelming knowledge through accounts such as him amazing the teachers in Luke 2:39-52.
Let's not forget that the "Bride of Christ', is common New Testament terminology for the church. Without knowing much more about the context of the fragment, "wife" here could be such a reference.
Well thanks for clearing that up – I always thought the Bride of Christ referred to Carrie's mama.
I don't know...that's pretty convenient.
Seriously? That's a bit of a reach don't you think.
It's like playing a game with a 2 year old. The rules and procedures keep changing.
Atleast come up with something a little better than that. New Testament = um, we need to fix things because people have become smarter and able to think for themselves.
Interesting thought, sir. I wouldn't have made that connection. I hope they have more fragments to compare to, I'd love to see a more cogent line of writing. It's kind of infuriating that this is all they have to say on the matter.
Bride of Christ....really...that's what you think it means....READ the bible instead of being told what's in it.
roger didn't come up with this idea, it was mentioned at approximately paragraph 14 in the article.
Historians (real ones not vatican ones) have know Jesus was married for a long time. He wouldn't have been allowed in the temple if he wasn't married. Well known Jewish custom at the time.
Well...when you good people float on up there, just ask him. I guess this craziness will never end.
James.. why don't you come "float up" with us... we could use more.
Use what... more cult followers. Sad 🙁
Old news... There is actually quite a bit of evidence to support that he WAS INDEED MARRIED. The Catholic Church of course has gone to great lengths to supress this, but it exists nevertheless. Not to mention Jewsish tradition and culture of the time expected it's Rabis to be married. There are stories and verses in the bible that would lend to this as well...There is also a village in France the celebrates the birthday of Jesus' daughter Sarah, every year. Get with the program... This is VERY old news.
Got some good evidence from the 1st century AD to back up your statement?
You win the grand prize for not interpreting the article coherently.
There are 3 ways to interpret the scroll.... I won't go back over that again.
Enjoy your prize.
All major media outlets are controlled by FALSE JEWS and we send our TAX MONEY to Israel, what a JOKE.
oh nooooooo, watch out, it's false jooooooooooz........
Well ... technically there's no evidence he even existed. Hearsay from 200 years after the fact in a relgious text - the only references to him that are even close to contemperous - does not count as evidence. Conversely, there is evidence because of MULTIPLE texts that Pontius Pilot and Herod were real people.
Wife or no wife, if the guy even existed at all he certainly wasn't god/the son of god.
... and I say he is the Son of God, only False Jews don't beleive that
Hey Spike WHA? I think you sprained my brain...wouldn't a False jew be a christian?
Spike's taking up some free computer time in the library while his meds are being mixed in the pharmacy next door.
it has always astounded me that the first writings of Jesus occurred about 60 years after his death. earlier references were made in the form of spoken language through hymns.
Actually I think the gospels were written around 60 A.D. Which would be about 30 years after Jesus' death.
The earliest parts of the New Testament are actually the Pauline Letters, 40-60CE, then Gospel of Mark, probably around 70CE. Everything else is significantly later, through the 3rd century CE.
Oral histories are generally acceptable forms of transferring information from one generation to another in societies where writing is less common.
The earliest copy of 1 gospel is dated to about 70CE at the conservative spectrum, and between 90-110 by others. The earliest we have of the rest is betweeen 80CE+.
It may be acceptable in that culture, but it takes the reliability of information down significantly.
let the denials begin.. "Oh, no true believer would..", "These heathens will burn in hell for..".. "The bible is quite clear that.." and so on and so on..
and then the funny persecution complex people can come on board.. "Why do people still..", "How can they say such thing, haven't we been punished enough.." and blah and blah..
bottom line.. does him being married or not have any bearing on his teachings?
... Yeah it does matter, because in the False Jew mind they are trying to down him let they always do in their movies and the American Citizens support Israel with their HARD EARNED TAXES
No, it doesn't mean anything for his teachings. However, no christian wants to think their savior was a dirty birdie and got it on with anyone. Incest is ok but Jesus = no sex.
Snow, I don't think it matters in regard to His message. And personally, I'm kind of rooting for Him to have been married to Mary Magdalene!
Sam, you're such a dork! "Dirty birdie..." That's funny. And honestly, I don't think I'd mind one bit if my Savior got a little for what He went through!
Spike...Dude, your logic chip has burned out; get an upgrade.
No, I do not think it would really change anything. Also His blood line would have to be saved just like anyone else.
He could have been taking figuratively for all we know, like "my wife is my followers for I am married and devoted to the people". Why would I jump to assume he had a wife based on an incomplete sentence?
I'm sure when people mention their wife to me that they are speaking allegorically.
But in Coptic texts, it was very common for Jesus to speak metaphorically.
Have ever heard anyone say "My pets are my kids" or "I'm married to my job" I know I have heard people say "I.....was... talking to....... Jesus....about my wife....... He said........ three times....
At lease is was not Jesus Partner
Well said, sir.
It's not written in the bible, which is HIS word. This is blasphemous jewish cult paraphernalia and should be ignored by true believers who do not want to spend eternity in hell.
We need to turn this blog into a drinking game. This is 'threat of hell #1' Everybody grab a shot.
mark...the bible was put together by many authors over a long period of time...so...uh...it also got retranslated and stuff...but I'm sure you know that already. It's man's word.
Yeah, except the only problem is that He didn't "write" the bible. It was compiled by the church fathers at the council of nicea
If I have to take a shot every time I am threatened with hell I'll be three sheets to the wind in under a half hour. You take a shot, I'm getting more beer.
The Bible most Americans know was written on the orders of an English King (James) at a time when few common people could even read...his (not His) word...
You're right sam.. Oh crap – I lost three tokens from a shot to the groin from the capital H word.
What is HIS word exactly? That bible book written by man? And you call it "real?" Adam & Eve = Fairy Tale. Snakes don't talk and trees are not magic and women aren't made from ribs.
How do you explain the existence of the dinosaur we call "crocodile?" Oh wait...you don't.
Well there are many references to the 'Bride' of Christ which is the church.
Lots of people were named Jesus, remember that box full of bones they claimed to be the bones of Jesus and it was not true? You are right, the false Jews put out this junk and always make sure to use Jesus name in vain in their movies. We should boycott any movies that use Jesus name in vain and there should be a rating for this
Sam, drunkards aren't allowed in heaven so we'll all be going to hell. Going to get my shot glass and whiskey. *Hick-up*
I cant tell if your trolling or just plain crazy.
ummm, Jesus was a practicing Jew, and Coptic is Christian, so get over your very unlike Jesus ignorance and anti-semitism.
Ok, with the nonstop imminent threat of hell, we'll have to downgrade that one to 'sip'. 'Blasphemy,' though, always means a shot.
The bible is so said to be go's word but who put it together? oh yea thats right men put it together, and they have changed many things in the past within the bible to please the ignorant followers that only believe in on what the preist says. Jesus had many more disciples but only a few got put in in the bible? why would that be? maybe interest in controling humanity i cant say for sure but men controlled what was put in the bible. oh yea and Jesus was born Jewish and he died Jewish so yea it waas probably Jews that wrote this but does it really matter? you either believe it or not the point is Jesus as much of God's son he was human with human emotions and capabilities so why is it so bad that he had a wife? grow up
Did you notice I Said "FALSE JEWS". The Jews in Israel are not the Original Jews. Do some research on it
We need to know how to tell a real one from a false one...is there a litmus test, or...?
Mark, which one of the several thousand translations of the bible is actually really for sure his word?
You do know it was edited in the 4th century, right? And then redone in the 9th century? Right? And then translated into English with a variety of English-based interpretations, right? RIGHT?
Clearly his papyrus was hacked by someone that he should have unfriended earlier.
lol. I don't think anyone really knows how old Rupert Murdoch really is.
...brains at work...omg I lost it when I read your post, perfect, gotta get me another beer and catch up to Sam....
Oh get the popcorn. This gonna be good.
Sam...*chomp chomp* mo' buttah please! ;-D
Here, I also have this cheesy powder crap...and here's some vodka as well.
Munch munch. 🙂
Best line yet. Well played!
I'M AFRAID I WOULD FIND ANYTHING FROM THE EGYPTIAN/CHRISTIAN COPTIC GROUP, HARD TO BELIEVE, AFTER ONE OF THEIR FOLLOWERS MADE THAT TERRIBLE FLIM.
I KNOW, RIGHT? BECAUSE IF ONE OF THEM DID SOMETHING LIKE THAT, THEY MUST ALL BE...oh for Christ's sake stop with the capslock.
Jesus hates people like Evelyn who type in all caps. He came to me just now and told me to tweet it. But I don't have a Twitter account, so I loaded it up to the CNN Comments section. Guess I'm going to hell since I didn't tweet this.
I just need to edit your sentence a bit and then I completely agree. Here's by version – I just took out some words:
I'M AFRAID I WOULD FIND ANYTHING HARD TO BELIEVE.
"my version", not "by version"
I GOTTA STOP BY THE WALMART, GET ANOTHER CASE
Burned out logic chip. Time to upgrade to Mac.
Not sure why you would think a modern film-maker would have that much to do with a writer from the 1st-3rd century CE... almost 2000 years apart. Think they ever met?
Jesus was buried alongside his wife, Miriamne mara, in Talpiot along with his Mother, his brothers Yose, and James and his adolescent son Judah. At this point one needs to be completely blind and deaf not to realize that truth will find it's way. In the era that Jesus the Nazorean lived, he would have been married at 13, gay or straight. THAT was the law. Hiding his family, the Catholics realized, would prevent anyone from following the surviving bloodline.
You are full of it. You are either a False Jew or Gay Atheist
Are those the only choices? You sound kind of bent on it being one or the other.
Neither. I am a historian. My field is Biblical history and archaeology. If you were to get an education you'd know that history trumps myth any day of the week. You seem to be hung up on whether the Earth is flat or not.
Spike what the heck is a false jew, or a real one for that matter?
The ossuary you are referencing is likely a forgery.
I read somewhere that he could have married Mary Magdalene.
re comment: read somewhere that he could have married Mary Magdalene.
I once brought that up after reading Holy Blood/Holy Grail, as was told: "Jesus was never married and was never with a woman, He was a perfect man!!" I thought that was an odd point of view....
they had an open marriage.
If you read the article, it actually discusses the theory.
I hope you know that St Peter is going to have a print-out of all of your CNN and Youtube comments when you go to the Pearly Gates.
now casper – I know you look like a ghost, but you are not being a very friendly – you should get out more.
In that case I feel really bad for the guy
Then St Peter will be laughing his butt off when I arrive.
true enough casper ,every word will be used to be held for accountability.
Jesus said.."My wife...Take my wife...please!"
He was "married" to a goat, just like the rest of them.
jimmy, they didn't marry goats, the saying in those days was, "a woman for a wife, a boy for love and a goat for pleasure."
boo efffing hoo beliebers.... yeah!!!
Chad, how do you distinguish between those gorspels you believe and those you do not? Do you accept the sayings or infancy gospel of thoas as literally true, the Gosple of Peter? If not, hw do you decide which are historically accurate and which are not? Is it mere inclusion i nthe bible? If so, who decided what went i nand what didn't and on what basis.
If you are going to cite to gospels as literally true (as you always do for, e.g., the empty tomb) you cannot ignore these challanges.
I completly agree with you. You either take it in all or none at all.
Does the creature that is sometimes referred to as the "Chard" know to just answer a question posed under a new topic? I would consider conversing with this Chad if he didn't make it look like he was talking to himself. His posting etiquette is very odd if I remember.
the editing of the Bible- and the reasons for inclusion and exclusion of gospels- was a fascinating process, you should study it.
Wow. Well back then, would a man just say "the wife".
correction: . . . wouldn't a man just say "the wife"?