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.
CNN Has been trying to prove Jesus had a wife for a long time. They run to books that were considered heresy. The interesting thing is CNN has no problem with thumbing their noses at Christians but they would never dare to run a story questioning a historically held belief of muslims. Would you CNN? No, they might be offended and we wouldn't want that. CNN-news organization of Cowards!!
only when I wear tight pants.
only when I wear tight pants
being the son of God, he did not have a wife which would have caused him to sin
*cough*Jewish*cough. Those descended from the tribe of David are called the children of God. The sons and daughters of God. Which happen to be Jewish.
All the Jewish Religion is – is the first darn book! The Christian religion is the 2nd book and Muslims are the 3rd book.
And THAT is what all the fighting is about. We cannot unite the world if we rare unable or refuse to unite under one god.
And having a wife is a SIN? "Go forth and multiply" I'd bet $20 you quote other parts of the Old Testament – when it suits you.
having a wife is sinful? wow..... and I wonder why Christians are rediculed. I believe in God and Jesus but I no longer call myself a christian because of this kind of lunacy
More people in the world use social media. Is this really a story?
Please classify Religion as entertainment and tax he heck out of it. Yes, I do hold with republican values. However it more a ideal thing than religion and money. There are candidates out there that are worth voting for to make real change. Start local.
Rommey/Obama? Thats it? Thats our countries best? Seriously?
And all of you are buying it?
Solution: Big rock from space.
The world needs to reboot.
tax it and allow prayer in school and official state religion, should solve the deficit troubles right?
I am very pro Christianity and very pro taxing non-profits. Too many non-profits are full of millionaires.
Jesus with a wife. Oh no, does that mean he could have been – you know – HUMAN.
I know this guy who I think is in the closet but is having a hard time coming out. Tell me what you think. He has severe daddy issues, hangs out with twelve guys every day, I took him to a brothel and he acted like "eeeew coodies", he's got long flowing hair and wears a robe, he keeps telling me to love my fellow man and when someone whips me I should turn the other cheek (Definitely some S&M issues).... seriously I want to help him come to terms with his s3xuality. Any opinions? He wants me to nail him to a cross while he sticks a gerbil up his...well you get the idea. I told him to go ask one of his disciples.
Is he a Capricorn?
You know him too?
old news is old.
Ha ha ha ha, another joke.
Two of the Gospels, Mark and John, do not in fact relate any information about Jesus' birth. Only Matthew and Luke provide an infancy narrative in their Gospels.
We Muslims love Jesus...its the "Christians" and Jews that are disrespectful to him........ok...Muslims can be jerks too....i admit
People are people, YerDaddy. It's ok. Religion is suppose to be the crutch you lean on when times are tough and you need that extra help for on high. But some people like to beat people with their crutches. Just like old people and canes.
Interesting thought... Uh... so Jesus may have been "married"... but in a way which would NOT be TRADITIONAL?
Bible scholar Ben Witherington III, a professor and author who teaches at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky says, "...this is no confirmation...of the idea that the Gnostics thought Jesus was married in the NORMAL SENSE of the word."
1: Jesus was Jewish. 2: He was a rabbi. 3: in order to be a rabbi – you have to be married and Jewish.
He also wasn't white. I mean, look – he was born on the continent of AFRICA. Whites didn't start invading until the Crusades. The Romans were darker skinned than Anglo-Saxons.
There's this book you might want to read called The Bible and I'm sure you can find a map.
Israel is considered part of Asia, tho it's really close to both Europe and Africa.
True Richard – but I don't think that will make Mud feel any better.
Why can't christians accept jesus was a playboy? and had child w/ Magdalena?
Are you going to accept 1+1= 5? Go on if anything you want to say can be the truth.
they can .. the idea that Magdalena was banging jesus on a daily basis isn't a big deal for Christians, it is a big deal for the Church, ... u know a male kind of power system
Bottom line is this. Faith and belief must come from within each person to determine whether they will believe this or not.
The translation is not complete. It is properly translated as "Jesus said to them 'Take my wife, please.'"
and hang her? I don't want to be remembered as David Koresh?
"And Lo he went into Canaan where they did not laugh and enjoy his show – in fact they absolutely crucified him." – Rowan Atkinson!
Take my wife please..
It was next to impossible that Jesus was NOT married.
You learned a trade and you were married off not long after puberty. It all had to do with longevity which wasn't very old back in those days. I think 45 or 50 was considered elderly.
It's theorized that Mary Magdalene was his wife; theorized also that she was his chief apostile.
This is all Constantine's fault.
and to add to Scripture, one has to theorize. We don't do that with God's truth. Christ's Bride is His Church. Why is CNN evening posting this story? that's right, to attempt to draw us away from the truth.
was human but not ordinary, for Christs sake he changed history and time
The Holy brother be keepin' His pimp hand strong.
He was human after all
duh! right on!
Godoflunaticscreation Im trying to figure out why you are even posting here. If I really didn't believe in Jesus, i wouldn't have even paid any attention to this article, and I sure wouldn't be sitting around posting comments here. So what gives? Let me guess you just came out of the closet and you hate all christians now-Nailed it didn't I
Whats with you closeted tim tebow fans? I mean you worship a guy who had twelve dudes giving it to him every day and then you point your brown finger at others.
It's really not difficult to understand why someone who likes Jesus would hate Christians. You people worship the device of his torture and execution. It's like worshipping waterboarding.