Newly revealed Coptic fragment has Jesus making reference to 'my wife'
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
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(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.

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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.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Bible • Christianity • Jesus

soundoff (4,539 Responses)
  1. Astra Navigo

    Two words: Who cares?

    They're talking about an Imaginary Friend. Might as well be talking about Mrs. Claus....

    September 18, 2012 at 11:00 pm |
  2. !

    Few 100% true Reasons why Atheism is TERRIBLE and unhealthy for our children and living things:

    † Atheism is a religion that makes you angry, stupid, brainwashed, ignorant & blind.
    † Atheism is a disease that needs to be treated.
    † Atheism makes you post stupid things (90% of silly comments here on CNN blogs are posted by closet atheists)
    † Atheist are satanic and have gothic lifestyle.
    † Atheists are misguided and causes problem in our religious & public society.
    † Atheists are mentally ill, that's why they have no faith.
    † Atheism won't take you to kingdom of heaven and paradise.
    † Atheism making you agree with Mussolini, Stalin, Hitler (denied his faith later), Mao, Pol Pot & other terrible mass murder leaders who killed religious people because of their religious cult!
    † No traditional family lifestyle, no holidays, no culture, boring and feeling 'outsider'
    † Atheists are angry, drug additcted and committ the most crime.
    † Atheist try to convert people over internet because they feel "safer" behind closet.
    † Atheists do not really exist, they just pretend that they don't believe in God and argue with religious people.
    † Atheists have had terrible life experience, bad childhood and not being loved.
    † Most atheists are uneducated... No atheists could run for presidency.
    † Atheism brought upon the French Revolution, one of the most evil events of all of history.
    † Atheism cannot explain the origins of the universe, therefore God exists.
    † All atheists believe in evolution, which means they don't believe in morality and think we should all act like animals.
    † The Bible says atheism is wrong, and the Bible is always right (see: Genesis 1:1, Psalms 14:1, Psalms 19:1, Romans 1:19-20)
    † Countries where Atheism is prevalent has the highest Suicide rate & Communist countries = Atheism!
    **Only 2-3% of the U.S. are atheists/agnostics VS. over 90% who believe in God (80% Christians) in the U.S.**

    † † Our Prayers goes to atheists to be mentally healthy and seek their creator † †

    PS! the USA is a † nation and will always be. You know it's true and stop being ignorant and arrogant!
    (Take a look at our federal/state holidays, 99% of our presidents, blue laws in parts of the nation, name of some cities/counties/streets, the majority of people, some laws, calendar, culture, etc.)

    ¦There is only one God and it is to Him that you pray. All others pray to false gods and idols. Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, and Buddhist are all lost unless they know Jesus as their Lord & Savior.¦

    September 18, 2012 at 11:00 pm |
    • Godoflunaticscreation

      Seriously did you have your parents help you write this? Sounds like something a 4th grader would come up with.

      September 18, 2012 at 11:01 pm |
    • Astra Navigo

      "The stupid! The stupid! It burns my eyesssss!"

      September 18, 2012 at 11:02 pm |
    • Bill

      please off yourself.

      September 18, 2012 at 11:04 pm |
    • Josh Sawyer

      There is no God but God, and Mohammed is his messenger.

      September 18, 2012 at 11:07 pm |
    • A Frayed Knot

      @!'s post is a compilation, quoting actual statements made on these blogs by Christians over the past couple of years (some of them several times). Lotsa ROFLs.

      September 18, 2012 at 11:10 pm |
  3. Jack Sparrow

    Explain why we are not evolving scientists

    September 18, 2012 at 10:59 pm |
    • Godoflunaticscreation

      Speak for yourself.

      September 18, 2012 at 11:00 pm |
    • Reticuli

      We are evolving. We're getting taller, for one thing. Most other changes, though, happen quite slowly. And that also ignores the fact there are fewer selection pressures on humans now in developed countries, so in some respects we can expect less evolutionary adaptations to occur over generations than before. Evolution is not magic... you know, like Jesus. It's just trait perpetuance. Traits in systems or populations of organisms (or supersystems, gas containers, etc) that have the potential to either self-perpetuate or improve the perpetuance of the system or sub-system that trait it in will tend to be the traits you are more likely to see in the future. And from there it's just basic probability and statistics. Biological evolution works so well in part because of the characteristics of reproduction and mutation which are at work in DNA & RNA encoding & transcoding. So biological evolution, that is: life, is intrinsic to and specifically an outgrowth of this phenomenon. Makes sense. Evolution is a sort of no-duh kind of phenomenon. Obviously the most prolific system of self-replicating, self-perpetuating stuff on the planet, life!!!, would evolve. Trait perpetuance is a universal thing in all complex, non-linear systems, and life happens to be the most successful version of it for a good reason.

      September 18, 2012 at 11:14 pm |
    • Reticuli

      that trait it in

      should have said

      that trait is in

      September 18, 2012 at 11:15 pm |
    • Eats Shoots and Leaves

      Jack Sparrow
      "Explain why we are not evolving scientists"

      We *are* evolving scientists. It is a painstaking process which involves many years of education and study.

      September 18, 2012 at 11:17 pm |
    • Erik in MN

      Because it happens over thousands/millions of years...not over night and in front of the mirror.

      September 18, 2012 at 11:21 pm |

      Reticuli, does myth making pay THAT well or is it just for sport, err fun?

      September 18, 2012 at 11:21 pm |
  4. ScottCA


    September 18, 2012 at 10:58 pm |

      What's with the veil on his face?

      September 18, 2012 at 11:03 pm |

      And the blown over pyramid?

      September 18, 2012 at 11:05 pm |

    The real hate revealed! Blabber on.

    September 18, 2012 at 10:57 pm |
  6. GayAtheist

    This is the first "take my wife" joke.
    It's a page from Henny Youngman's diary.

    September 18, 2012 at 10:57 pm |
  7. Colin

    A few questions should help shed light on the relationship between religion and rational thought.

    The completely absurd theory that all 7,000,000,000 human beings are simultaneously being supervised 24 hours a day, every day of their lives by an immortal, invisible being for the purposes of reward or punishment in the “afterlife” comes from the field of:

    (a) Children’s fairytales;

    (b) Medieval mythology;

    (c) New age pseudo science; or

    (d) Christianity

    I honestly believe that, when I think silent thoughts like, “please god, help me pass my exam tomorrow,” some invisible being is reading my mind and will intervene and alter what would otherwise be the course of history in small ways to help me. I am

    (a) a delusional schizophrenic;

    (b) a naïve child, too young to know that that is silly

    (c) an ignorant farmer from Sudan who never had the benefit of even a fifth grade education; or

    (d) your average Christian

    Millions and millions of Catholics believe that bread and wine turns into the actual flesh and blood of a dead Jew from 2,000 years ago because:

    (a) there are obvious visible changes in the condiments after the Catholic priest does his hocus pocus;

    (b) tests have confirmed a divine presence in the bread and wine;

    (c) now and then their god shows up and confirms this story; or

    (d) their religious convictions tell them to blindly accept this completely fvcking absurd nonsense.

    I believe that an all powerful being, capable of creating the entire cosmos watches me have $ex to make sure I don't do anything "naughty". I am

    (a) A victim of child molestation

    (b) A r.ape victim trying to recover

    (c) A mental patient with paranoid delusions

    (d) A Christian

    You are about 70% likely to believe the entire Universe began less than 10,000 years ago with only one man, one woman and a talking snake if you are a:

    (a) historian;

    (b) geologist;

    (c) NASA astronomer; or

    (d) Christian

    I have convinced myself that gay $ex is a choice and not genetic, but then have no explanation as to why only gay people have ho.mo$exual urges. I am

    (a) A failed psychologist

    (b) A fraudulent geneticist

    (c) A sociologist who never went to college; or

    (d) A Christian with the remarkable ability to ignore inconvenient facts.

    The only discipline known to often cause people to kill others they have never met and/or to commit suicide in its furtherance is:

    (a) Architecture;

    (b) Philosophy;

    (c) Archeology; or

    (d) Religion

    What is it that most differentiates science and all other intellectual disciplines from religion:

    (a) Religion tells people not only what they should believe, but what they must believe under threat of divine retribution, whereas science, economics, medicine etc. has no “sacred cows” in terms of doctrine and go where the evidence leads them;

    (b) Religion can make a statement, such as “there is one god comprised of God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit”, and be totally immune from experimentation and challenge, whereas science can only make factual assertions when supported by considerable evidence;

    (c) Science and the scientific method is universal and consistent all over the World whereas religion is regional and a person’s religious conviction, no matter how deeply held, is clearly nothing more than an accident of birth; or

    (d) All of the above.

    If I am found wandering the streets flagellating myself, wading into a filth river, mutilating my child’s genitals or kneeling down in a church believing that a being is somehow reading my inner thoughts and prayers, I am likely driven by:

    (a) a deep psychiatric issue;

    (b) an irrational fear or phobia;

    (c) a severe mental degeneration caused by years of drug abuse; or

    (d) my religious belief.

    September 18, 2012 at 10:57 pm |
    • JohnnyYuma61

      At least you're open minded

      September 18, 2012 at 11:02 pm |
  8. Jack Sparrow

    This guy in this video is lieing so bad dude if your going to try and refute God you better have something truth ful to back it up. I hope you pay for every account of the blood guilt you will cause for every single person that believes your lies.

    September 18, 2012 at 10:57 pm |
    • Godoflunaticscreation

      I agree. The bible is a lie.

      September 18, 2012 at 10:59 pm |
  9. David

    I have no problem with Jesus making this statement. Christ makes many references to his church as his bride. So why not Wife? The church after all is the bride of Christ, to the Glory of God the Father.

    September 18, 2012 at 10:57 pm |
  10. Kuta

    Jesus got laid!!

    September 18, 2012 at 10:57 pm |
  11. lordpet

    How many rabbis are not married?

    September 18, 2012 at 10:56 pm |
  12. ScottCA


    September 18, 2012 at 10:56 pm |
  13. ScottCA


    September 18, 2012 at 10:55 pm |
  14. areukiddnme

    I can put many contradictions together easily on this

    For example, Jesus says not to leave your wife and also to be a good Father to your children. So how is allowing guards to crucify fulfilling these commands? They are contradictory.

    If Jesus was a "man" of the earth with man-like ways.. how then was He married to a wife and surely He must have Fathered children, then.. how does a Father who has a wife and family go about on His own through the lands preaching? Would not all people turn from Him just for that alone? Leaving His family alone? And then He would have these Powers to cure the blind, lame deaf mute, possessed, and even bring the dead back to life (Lazarus). And this same man had a wife back at the house and children waiting for Him to come home?

    If you look at this and just think in the simplest 'real life' terms of being a man.. you know this doesn't make one iota of sense... and in fact it only truly bolsters and reminds of us this very amazing God-Trait of being a man and not having the desire for a woman. Nor any relationship with a woman. This is a must for all 'social Human Beings" which highlights that Jesus was God, not a man.

    All things said and done in lie, are reveal-able when a Light is shined upon them. Then you can see the lies hiding because they are ashamed because a lie when exposed does not make sense.. and this brings forth the lies shame.

    September 18, 2012 at 10:54 pm |
    • Jack Sparrow

      You honestly believe that? where does it say in the bible Jesus is married?

      September 18, 2012 at 11:00 pm |
  15. Rose

    ROFL Slow news day? If a fragment of a grocery list is found years and years from now, whatever will it mean? Pffftttt!

    September 18, 2012 at 10:53 pm |
    • Rose

      ...and there you have it with who maybe might have could have wrote something that might be part of something that someone in Egypt, possibly, maybe wrote, but it must be true.

      September 18, 2012 at 10:55 pm |
  16. Jack Sparrow

    That video is so full of lies God was always one they try and use the false teachings of doctrines to support their claims go ahead but the bible is exact in the new world translations.

    September 18, 2012 at 10:53 pm |
  17. mzh

    how it will help human to be guided... ?

    September 18, 2012 at 10:53 pm |
  18. YERDADDY99

    when will you monkeys realize that we Muslims revere Jesus PBUH....its the Jews and Atheists that enjoy the mockery of our faiths

    September 18, 2012 at 10:53 pm |
  19. whatevr

    No, worries, I got the whole quote right here...

    "Jesus said to them, 'My wife ...take her unto yourselves- please!'"

    September 18, 2012 at 10:53 pm |
  20. ihatelibs

    muhummed cartons coming out tomorrow. Lets see what cnn communist news network says about that

    September 18, 2012 at 10:53 pm |
    • Godoflunaticscreation

      Really? On the back of a carton? Is he lost?

      September 18, 2012 at 10:56 pm |
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About this blog

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.