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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.

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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. Bob

    If you look into your bathroom mirror with the lights off and say Mary Magdalene three times....Jesus shows up and steals your soul......Muhahahaha!

    Seriously people. Grow up. You are too old to believe in imaginary friends and fairy tales.

    September 18, 2012 at 11:59 pm |
  2. John

    So I read the article and still don't know what the fragment actually says, did they translate it or not?

    September 18, 2012 at 11:59 pm |
  3. ScottCA

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VCo6BVPGDh0&w=640&h=360]

    September 18, 2012 at 11:59 pm |
  4. Sangeeth

    Thank God he did not find the picture of Mohammed.

    September 18, 2012 at 11:58 pm |
  5. ms

    I'm Christian and I don't care if Jesus was married or not :/

    September 18, 2012 at 11:58 pm |
    • San...

      if you are a Christian, you would never accept that Jesus was married. Rest upto you and your faith.

      September 19, 2012 at 12:05 am |
    • really?

      San...
      Back in the day, you were considered a pariah or unmanly if you weren't married so I believe that Jesus was married, and I am a Christian. I'm not sure who he was married to but I'm positive he was married.Also, I'm willing to bet that you also picture Jesus as a white man with brown hair and a brown beard.... Jesus was black. I'm sorry if this offends you but research it (and look in the bible as it tells us of Jesus' ancesters (who were all black-skinned)).

      September 19, 2012 at 12:32 am |
  6. Addis

    This is not new. He was married to the Church.. Here is what saint Paul said. "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;" Ephesians 5:25... He was married to the church.....

    September 18, 2012 at 11:58 pm |
  7. mohamad

    Prophet Jesus will return, till then keep seeking the truth folks.

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

      In about 4-5 biliion more years when the sun finally destroys the earth that is.

      September 19, 2012 at 12:00 am |
    • San...

      Prophet!!! No Sir. Jesus is God himself.

      Romans 10:9
      9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

      September 19, 2012 at 12:03 am |
  8. steama

    These people are NUTS. Wasn't Jesus a common name like John is today? These Christian apologist will swallow anything.

    September 18, 2012 at 11:55 pm |
    • gerrfty

      hot sticky man milk?

      September 18, 2012 at 11:57 pm |
  9. belikejesus

    Jesus, a man a prophet. Not God, Not the Son of God. No divinity. A Prophet. Ate & slept. Could have been married.

    September 18, 2012 at 11:55 pm |
  10. ScottCA

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xaX-e5jb9uM&w=640&h=360]

    September 18, 2012 at 11:55 pm |
  11. loren

    who ever said that JESUS is married,they are anti-christ period.

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

      and that's your opinion, one not worth considering. Thanks for the valueless input.

      September 18, 2012 at 11:56 pm |
    • loren is an idiot

      Someone doesnt agree with me??? They MUST be the antichrist, period.

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

      Wow, Loren. That was an amazingly profound comment...for an eight-year old.

      September 18, 2012 at 11:58 pm |
    • Anon

      It's ironic that Christians want imaginary Jesus to be a gay forever alone.

      September 18, 2012 at 11:59 pm |
  12. Dante

    http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ephesians+5%3A25-26&version=NIV

    Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing[a] her by the washing with water through the word (Ephesians 5:25-26)

    September 18, 2012 at 11:51 pm |
    • OOO

      Why does anyone have to be murdered to make anything else better?

      Please Xtians, a reasonable answer...

      September 18, 2012 at 11:54 pm |
    • DC1973

      Now there's a, "Men, control your women!" line if ever I've heard one.

      September 18, 2012 at 11:56 pm |
    • chuck wagon

      I have a good idea why God said this.

      A woman is more than likely going to do something to fustrate her husband and the husband should continue to love her. Christ shows love and patience with us while teaching, correcting, and forgiving. A wife should help her husband become a better man. Each has a responsibility and role in the marriage. (dont walk in ignorance). There is much we can learn about the beauty and possibilities in life of God's ways when one is willing to understand His truthes and live for Him. God doesnt like a proud hearted person – very difficult to teach when they won't listen and do.

      There is so much more that can be said than in one comment.

      Lord may these words lead many too desire and seek the true God and life giver. May Your Word fall on good ground and grow. May it shame and subdue the enemy of your throne. As it is in heaven let it be on earth in the name of Jesus.

      September 19, 2012 at 12:40 am |
  13. >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    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 11:50 pm |
    • gerrfty

      Molested kids before, huh?

      September 18, 2012 at 11:52 pm |
    • JSS

      Biblical proof that PMS exists: "....And Mary rode Joseph's a$$ all the way to Bethlehem....."

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

      Look, guy, you should understand that by merely claiming something, that something does not become true.
      You should try a more scholarly approach, if you wish to convince anyone of your nonsense.

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

      You are aware, that per the United States Government, 1% of jails are atheist, but 93% of the National Science Foundation are Atheist? 99% of people in Jail are religious.

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

      There is no such thing as god.

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

      Nobody has ever killed anybody in the name of atheism.

      September 19, 2012 at 12:01 am |
    • Andy

      You MUST be from the Westboro Baptist Church...
      Quick question... Do crazy people actually know they're crazy?

      September 19, 2012 at 12:02 am |
    • ThinkAtheist

      It's funny that after reading this blog, that none of them applies to me. I guess some Christians are afraid of going outside their comfort zone that they think Atheism is a bad thing.

      September 19, 2012 at 12:06 am |
    • And No Religion Too

      What a totally ignorant pile of crap. You actually sat down and came up with a list of nonsense that long to prove what an ass you are? You do not make one logical point in your entire tirade, other than how smothered you are in your myths.

      September 19, 2012 at 12:06 am |
    • really?

      while i am a christian i don't believe anything you are saying right now. it seems as if you're trolling. that being said, i have friends that are atheists and they are not gothic and have never commited any crimes. the fact that you're lumping all atheists into one group proves that YOU are the angry, stupid, blind and ignorant one. some of the most notorious criminals were christians and some of the most violent wars of all time were started by christians (the crusades and the Roman conquest of Europe). also, I believe the Bible says to "Love thy neighbor as thyself" which means you're pretty angry at or scared of yourself. Also, what about the Good Samaritan? and God's love for the Gentiles? I try to live by God's commands but I have to call you a hypocrite. *May the peace of the Lord be always with you*

      September 19, 2012 at 12:08 am |
    • C'mon

      Obvious troll/poe is obvious.

      September 19, 2012 at 12:11 am |
    • Angelfire

      I'm Christian and I think this is garbage.

      September 19, 2012 at 12:14 am |
  14. San...

    Classic - 1 1/2- by 3-inch honey-colored fragment nonsense about some SUS, may be from Mexico.

    John 6:38, "For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me."
    Romans 8:3,4, "For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit."

    September 18, 2012 at 11:49 pm |
  15. Jeremiah Diehl

    Jesus couldn't have been married because that would make him an adulterer. The church is the Bride of Christ and He made a covenant with us. The church is engaged to marry Him and He will return one day soon to take us to His fathers house where we will have the marriage ceremony. But according to Jewish law, the engagement period was just as enforceable as marriage itself – so if he were to marry a woman on earth it would be adultery.

    September 18, 2012 at 11:48 pm |
    • Anon

      Seriously what's with this obsession of making Jesus a gay forever alone?

      September 18, 2012 at 11:53 pm |
    • DC1973

      You're Catholic, too.

      And no, it's not adultery. Because you can neither marry nor cheat on a building.

      September 18, 2012 at 11:54 pm |
      • Jeremiah Diehl

        I'm not catholic and you're just showing your ignorance. The church is not a building. The church is the group of people who have chosen to follow Jesus Christ. The church is the bride of Christ.

        September 18, 2012 at 11:57 pm |
  16. Brent Slensker

    This proves??...That they wrote a LOT of BS after the "fact" 400 YEARS after....

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

      I googled your name, your a male escort.

      September 18, 2012 at 11:50 pm |
    • Carl

      Fragment dated to the 2nd century is NOT 400 years after... more like 70 to 170 years. Still a long time, but not 400 years.

      September 18, 2012 at 11:55 pm |
  17. wj

    Jesus isn't married yet. He is going to throw a huge feast in heaven when He does get married called the marriage supper of the Lamb. His Bride is the Church–every born-again believer. I consider Him my husband already, and He's the best!

    September 18, 2012 at 11:47 pm |
    • DC1973

      You're Catholic, aren't you?

      September 18, 2012 at 11:48 pm |
    • gerrfty

      Psycho much?

      September 18, 2012 at 11:48 pm |
    • Eric chavez

      So he is married to a man?

      September 18, 2012 at 11:52 pm |
    • gbcroc

      Amen!

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

      Did he tell you you look fat in those jeans?

      September 18, 2012 at 11:55 pm |
  18. Breaking News

    This just in.

    It turns out that Jesus was actually crucified for all of his constant fighting with his same se x partner. More to follow.

    September 18, 2012 at 11:47 pm |
    • Eric chavez

      LOL

      September 18, 2012 at 11:51 pm |
  19. Eric chavez

    Jesus was just a man. That is it. People wrote the bible not GOD. So is there a chance that the people who wrote it changed it up a little bit or a lot? I believe in science. A person makes his own path in life. It isn't already written for him.

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

      And that path leads to the grave.... what then ?

      September 18, 2012 at 11:54 pm |
  20. CSX

    Forgery. If they can distort the Bible, this is too.

    September 18, 2012 at 11:46 pm |
    • gerrfty

      poop in your pants then sit in it harrrrd.

      September 18, 2012 at 11:48 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.