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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

(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.

Read this story in Arabic

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. heathensguide

    The Pharisees (legalistic Jews) referred to Jesus as 'rabbi'. Legally, in order to be a rabbi at the time, one had to be male and married. No big surprise that he met the Pharisaic standard of the day. They would never have recognized him as a teacher otherwise.

    September 18, 2012 at 11:37 pm |
    • Ken

      Most of the apostles were also married, and they left their wives and families to follow Jesus. Not exactly the "family values" sort of guy many Christians like to say he was, eh?

      September 19, 2012 at 10:14 am |
  2. Evangelical

    36 pages filled with nonsense, bigotry and hatred.

    I can't wait for second coming of Christ' to destroy all evil satanic people!!

    September 18, 2012 at 11:37 pm |
    • diddy done it

      Coming on your lower back

      September 18, 2012 at 11:38 pm |
    • Cotton Mather

      Evangelical,

      Do you float in water?

      September 18, 2012 at 11:39 pm |
    • Anon

      Oh how I wish it was even real then we non-believers can finally see some progress.

      September 18, 2012 at 11:39 pm |
    • Ben

      That's not very loving of you Evangelical. If the Bible is true, I think you'll burn with the rest of us.

      September 18, 2012 at 11:41 pm |
    • QBest

      Evangelical, you and your lot of fanatical religious lunatics are the scourge of human kind that still keep the world in the dark ages. If all depended on you, millions of innocent people would die for grotesque concepts of delusional minds that have plagued civilization for thousands of years. The world will only be a better place when the last religious fanatic vanishes from the face of the earth.

      September 18, 2012 at 11:54 pm |
    • FactoidLover

      If you truly believe in Jesus, then you should be working towards converting all evil satanic people rather than waiting for a ringside seat to see them burn. You shame yourself and the deity you claim to worship.

      September 19, 2012 at 12:03 am |
  3. Jenn

    This isn't new at all. I thought we all knew by now Jesus was married.

    September 18, 2012 at 11:35 pm |
    • z

      Jesus, or in Hebrew Joshua, was a popular name at that time. Does the article say Joshua the Nazarene?

      September 18, 2012 at 11:39 pm |
    • Jenn

      Hell if I know I did'nt read the article it's just been speculated for some time that he was indeed married. I believe he was. So what? it does'nt change anything.

      September 18, 2012 at 11:43 pm |
  4. Hesus

    This is NOT about Jesus, son of God. This is about other Jesus, perhaps maybe Mexican.

    September 18, 2012 at 11:35 pm |
    • cole

      apparently someone cant handle the truth xD

      September 18, 2012 at 11:40 pm |
    • Joel-B

      An Idiot is born every minute, and apparently it was Hesus' turn when he was born !!! And for mocking Jesus, Hesus, the IDIOT, will spend eternity in hell !!!! It makes me wonder about people today and just how they can literally throw their whole life away by mocking the one, Jesus, who suffered so much, for their sins ???

      September 18, 2012 at 11:48 pm |
  5. Lecrae

    Jesus came to the Earth with one goal, one purpose, to free us from our sins, to die on the cross, be buried and rise again, so that anyone who believes in Him, repents, and makes Him Lord of their life, will receive eternal life.. He didn't come to get married....that would have been highly irresponsible, to have a wife and then just leave her at age 33..

    September 18, 2012 at 11:34 pm |
    • Eric chavez

      You are so brainwashed.

      September 18, 2012 at 11:39 pm |
    • DC1973

      Really? You think falling in love would have somehow made Him less of what He was?

      Or do you just really, really hate the fact that He might have considered a woman worthy of His love?

      September 18, 2012 at 11:41 pm |
    • Athy

      Maybe it's time to grow up, Lecrae.

      September 18, 2012 at 11:47 pm |
    • joeymom

      How about gaining understanding of the human experience? That seems a vital part of the incarnation.

      September 18, 2012 at 11:53 pm |
    • Lecrae

      Jesus didnt come to gain human experience man, Hes G-D He doesnt need to "experience" anything, HE knows it all, and its not that no one was 'worthy' of His love, we for sure were not 'worthy' of it, but even while He was dying on the Cross He said "Father forgive them.." He loved humanity so much He died for it, the Church is His bride, those who put their lives in Him are His wife, (spiritually speaking of course), i know aint all of yall gonna accept this, and many of you haters are gonna turn up the heat.. but do what you want, if i can just ask you to do one thing, is read the Bible, read the Gospels for yourselves, and then come to your own conclusions.. Whether your for it or against it, i respect your decision, its the reason God gave us freedom of choice....

      September 19, 2012 at 12:13 am |
    • Ken

      If his purpose was to die then he committed suicide, right?

      September 19, 2012 at 10:17 am |
  6. Christians = Tolerant

    If this article was about Muhammed – Muslims would have bombed CNN and US embassy

    September 18, 2012 at 11:34 pm |
    • Godoflunaticscreation

      Is that a threat?

      September 18, 2012 at 11:35 pm |
    • Godoflunaticscreation

      Any abortion doctors on your hit list?

      September 18, 2012 at 11:36 pm |
    • Ken

      Muhammed was married. He definitely liked the ladies. Can't say that there is evidence that Jesus did though. You conservatives really ought to embrace this. It doesn't say "My husband" after all.

      September 19, 2012 at 10:20 am |
  7. You are nuts

    For one thing, please display at link to any other 1,700 year old sample of perfect "finger paint" writing. Also, in Mexico alone, there are 4.9 million people named Jesus. This only proves this author was un-seasoned or searching for controversy when deciding to write this ridiculous article.

    September 18, 2012 at 11:34 pm |
    • joeymom

      I se you are not a scholar of early Christian manuscripts.

      September 18, 2012 at 11:54 pm |
  8. Alex D.

    "It’s one small speck of a text in a mountain of texts of about Jesus.”- To me, it sounds like whole lot about NOTHING!

    September 18, 2012 at 11:33 pm |
    • joeymom

      You are correct, and that is what Dr. King was trying to say. It is an interesting scrap, but in the end, it is just a scrap- nothing to get all worked up about.

      September 18, 2012 at 11:55 pm |
  9. Abdullah

    Jesus (PBUH) was a great prophet. Islam requires everyone to believe in all prophets of Allah otherwise they will burn in hell fire.

    September 18, 2012 at 11:33 pm |
    • Godoflunaticscreation

      Yeah we know. The christians already made it loud and clear. We're gonna burn blah blah blah.

      September 18, 2012 at 11:34 pm |
    • Abdullah

      You must believe in Allah, the creator in order to go to paradise.

      September 18, 2012 at 11:36 pm |
    • Eric chavez

      I didn't know that. Thanks for letting us know that. You learn something new everyday.

      September 18, 2012 at 11:41 pm |
  10. z

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aqbFxZ-3XA4&w=640&h=360]

    September 18, 2012 at 11:32 pm |
    • NoTheism

      i stopped at 37 seconds, when i heard a shifting of the burden of proof...
      i was afraid of what i would hear in the rest of his 'speech'

      September 18, 2012 at 11:35 pm |
    • Ken

      Yeah, he mentions "which god" which actually implies that there are many, many false, or purely mythical gods. The burden then if for the to prove that their god is real.

      September 19, 2012 at 10:25 am |
  11. joe

    i find this amusing at best...all i really read was...we dont know...but this is journalism for cnn...smh..is there not more important stuff going on?.

    September 18, 2012 at 11:31 pm |
    • joeymom

      Sure there is. But this is a blog for news related to religion and religious studies, and in that field, this is pretty big stuff- a new scrap of text to consider and study.

      September 18, 2012 at 11:57 pm |
    • James

      Fox is covering this too, so you can stop all the CNN anti-religion BS.

      http://www.foxnews.com/science/2012/09/18/harvard-scholar-discovery-suggests-jesus-had-wife/

      September 19, 2012 at 10:29 am |
  12. !

    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.)
    http://rightremedy.org/tracts/7

    ¦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 11:31 pm |
    • Godoflunaticscreation

      Do you do Bar Mitzvahs?

      September 18, 2012 at 11:33 pm |
    • NoTheism

      none of those things are true, actually...
      let me just confront the first point: atheism is a religion etc...
      atheism is not a religion, atheism is a non-belief... how does that translate to 'religion', exactly?

      September 18, 2012 at 11:37 pm |
    • 808dude

      Wow. According to your twelfth reason you have no opponents at all to be angry about.

      September 18, 2012 at 11:41 pm |
    • vince

      wow "!" you have no proof at all. religions killed millions of people... from hitler to killing women because witchcraft... to jews and muslims fighting... comon... are you freaking kidding me?

      September 18, 2012 at 11:43 pm |
    • 808dude

      that is possibly the most incoherently ineffective post i have read in a long time. you are doing your position no favors in the discussion.

      September 18, 2012 at 11:43 pm |
    • FactoidLover

      With such laser focus zeal, you must surely understand why your fundamentalist Islamic opposite says the same things about Christians.

      September 18, 2012 at 11:45 pm |
    • Muslim

      Say, "He is Allah , [who is] One * Allah , the Eternal Refuge * He neither begets nor is born, * Nor is there to Him any equivalent.".

      September 18, 2012 at 11:49 pm |
  13. Discordia Nocturnum

    Christians are evil they finger babies butts.

    September 18, 2012 at 11:28 pm |
    • Godoflunaticscreation

      God works in mysterious ways.

      September 18, 2012 at 11:29 pm |
    • dc

      You have some real serious issues, lefty!

      September 18, 2012 at 11:32 pm |
    • vince

      what if God is gay? he called his husband "wife"??? umm.. seriously... what if...

      September 18, 2012 at 11:36 pm |
  14. Thugvon

    This is fake because jesus was gay and had a gay entourage.

    September 18, 2012 at 11:26 pm |
    • Godoflunaticscreation

      He would always turn the other cheek at the S&M clubs.

      September 18, 2012 at 11:28 pm |
    • vince

      i think he called his husband "wife"... what if he's really gay... seriously... betcha in 10 years from now.. cnn will release the news...

      September 18, 2012 at 11:37 pm |
  15. ChrisM106

    Is this where Christians go on a rampage and burn someone's embassy?

    September 18, 2012 at 11:26 pm |
    • larryb

      over the past 2000 years they have burnt half the world down

      September 18, 2012 at 11:31 pm |
    • diddy done it

      The your dads clap has burned many boys.

      September 18, 2012 at 11:32 pm |
  16. pn

    Holy Smokes...... Cryptograpy.... It's got numbers...

    MARY.... MARY....

    September 18, 2012 at 11:26 pm |
  17. Captain Jimmy

    You want to know who the bride is, read the Bible

    (Revelation 21:1-4) 21 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea is no more. 2 I saw also the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God and prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 With that I heard a loud voice from the throne say: “Look! The tent of God is with mankind, and he will reside with them, and they will be his peoples. And God himself will be with them. 4 And he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away. . .
    (Revelation 21:9) 9 And there came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls which were full of the seven last plagues, and he spoke with me and said: “Come here, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.” 10 So he carried me away in [the power of the] spirit to a great and lofty mountain, and he showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God 11 and having the glory of God.
    (Revelation 22:17) 17 And the spirit and the bride keep on saying: “Come!” And let anyone hearing say: “Come!” And let anyone thirsting come; let anyone that wishes take life’s water free.

    September 18, 2012 at 11:25 pm |
    • Hot Dogs

      Your mom was a teen bride.

      September 18, 2012 at 11:30 pm |
    • Hot Dogs

      Come! Come! On Captain jims tongue

      September 18, 2012 at 11:31 pm |
  18. Reality

    Married? It does not change the following:

    The Apostles' Creed 2012 (updated by yours truly based on the studies of NT historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

    Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
    and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
    human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven?????

    I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
    preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
    named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
    girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

    Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
    the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

    He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
    a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of
    Jerusalem.

    Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
    many semi-fiction writers. A bodily resurrection and
    ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
    Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
    grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
    and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
    called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

    Amen
    (References used are available upon request.)

    September 18, 2012 at 11:25 pm |
  19. AmericanLiberal

    OMG – lets get a protest going on
    Kill some diplomats – burn some cars – torch some flags
    According to the muslim way – this extreme blasphemy and sacreligious
    How dare they... where's my AK, get my gernades Ethyl

    and the timing on it all, hmmm

    Isn't bagging on Christians getting old CNN

    September 18, 2012 at 11:25 pm |
    • soul68

      Only someone with a mental disorder would read this article and think CNN was "bagging" on Christians.

      September 18, 2012 at 11:28 pm |
    • Godoflunaticscreation

      I wasn't aware that muslims were rioting over this papyrus.

      September 18, 2012 at 11:31 pm |
  20. Edith

    Jesus, being a devote Jew would have fulfilled the commandment to be fruitful and multiply. Therefore being 30 years old, a devoute Jew he would have been married and possible had children.

    September 18, 2012 at 11:24 pm |
    • Discordia Nocturnum

      Except Jesus never existed.

      September 18, 2012 at 11:26 pm |
    • AmericanLiberal

      uh, which commandment is that Ethyl....
      #4 , #7, #10
      "be friutful and multiply" ????
      Do you even realise how retarded you sound to educated people

      September 18, 2012 at 11:30 pm |
    • SolomonSez

      Jesus was a devout Jew, but He is God – He fulfilled the Jewish Laws to perfection thus an unblemished lamb sacrificed for our sin to all He calls to faith. On what basis do you so assuredly believe that Jesus married? Quit making stuff up! Read the Word of God given us – God's revelation of Himself in Christ! He has given us His Word and His promise. Do not accept man's testimony – it is a darkness that kills eternally – accept bthe light of Christ who came into the world and testified to the truth. Repent and believe the Good News of forgiveness and freedom from sin and salvery to sin that is found ONLY in Jesus Christ! Read John 1:1-14 – Jesus is God made known to us in the flesh and nothing in Scripture testifies or witnesses to Jesus being married. The world wants you to believe this so they can come uo with the hereticakl claim that Jesus joined Himself with sinful flesh and "became one" with a woman – thus undermining the Truth of Christ's Lordship. This is Satan talking – the father of lies speaking his native language. Believe the Truth which is Christ.

      September 18, 2012 at 11:41 pm |
    • Eric chavez

      Very true.

      September 18, 2012 at 11:43 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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.