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.
The writing not only don't prove the "historical" Jesus was married, they also fail to prove a "historical" Jesus existed.
While THIS writing doesn't provide proof of ANYTHING .... the Jewish/Roman historian Josephus (who is the basis for MUCH of the knowlege we have of society at that time) DOES refer to Jesus as a person who existed in his time. Virtually all modern scholars of antiquity agree that Jesus existed, and see the theories of his non-existence as effectively refuted. Scholars generally agree that Jesus was a Galilean Jew who was born BC 7–2 and died AD 30–36. Most scholars hold that Jesus lived in Galilee and Judea and that he spoke Aramaic and may have also spoken Hebrew and Greek. Although scholars differ on the reconstruction of the specific episodes of the life of Jesus, the two events whose historicity is subject to almost universal assent are that he was baptized by John the Baptist and was crucified by the order of the Roman Prefect Pontius Pilate. Beyond that there is much debate. But Jesus as a person DID exist. Hate to burst your bubble Aezel.
Actually that's not true at all Mike. I hate to burst your bubble. First off, ordained clergy of the church don't count as "scholars." Within the real academic world untainted by the pollution of religion in their brain, there exists much debate as to whether Jesus ever existed. You mention Pontius Pilat. Well that is interesting, because the Roman Empire was very good at keeping records of who they executed, and there were many religious writers in Jerusalem at the time. All of these other politicians, records, and writers in Jerusalem must certainly have something to say if Jesus was executed there. Interestingly enough, they are silent, never finding him worthy to mention as he was supposedly executed under their nose.
Jesus wife was his mission on earth. To save mankind from their sins.
Just like David Koresh and all the other megalomanics
Jesus is married the church is His Bride.
Now those goal posts weren't that hard to move.
Funny how christians will tout a book written 2000 years ago by ignorant sheep herders as the "truth" but introduce something written by the same people in the same era that doesn't fall into line and it's quickly dismissed.
Ummm...when Jesus supposedly walked the Earth there was no "church" yet. That all happened after he died...
Puh-leez,CNN- If you don't know scripture or understand scripture than you shouldn't attempt to interpret scripture with blasphemous reporting and questions. Ditto to the researcher attempting to "discover" and thus create false ideologue to the heretics and atheists in their literal and carnal interpretations. Jesus refers to the church as his bride.
@jo: which verse does jesus say " i am married to the church."
i'm curious because before priests could marry then one of the war-popes revoked that privledge.
blasphemous reporting? wow, aren't you full of yourself....
The Bible is such a gargantuan collection of ancient metaphors, allegories, and contradictions that it can be interpreted in any number of ways to support any number of positions – hence there are over 30,000 denominations of Christianity.
What makes you certain that YOUR interpretation is the correct one?
How do you know whether Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, oriental Orthodox, As.syrian, Byzantine, Lutheran, Anglican, Presbyterian, Anabaptism, Brethren, Methodist, Pietism, Apostolic, Pentocostal, Charismatic, African Initiated, United, Quakers, Couthcotti.tism, Millerism, British-Isrealism, Latter Day Saints, Mennonite, 7th day Adventism, Kelleyism, Co.oneyism, Shakers, Methernitha, Strigolniki, Yehowism, Christadelphians, Christian Science, doukhobors, Iglesia ni Cristo, Makuya, Molokans, Subbotniks, Ebionism, Martinism, Rosicrucians, Rastafarianism, Santo Daime, or Umbanda is the REAL interpretation of your God's words?
If the One True Deity, shaper of The Universe, wishes their words to be transmitted and adhered to, they should have been a bit less ambiguous. Expecting people to select The Truth out of limitless possibilities on faith alone seems a sloppy way to run things – especially if the punishment for a wrong choice is eternal torment.
Quite enough of Christianity's texts were edited by interested parties to say what they wanted them to say, and things they didn't like were edited out.
Oh, wow! New evidence contrary to what my Christian Overlords want me to believe! Shut up, CNN. You know nothing about what my masters tell me, so therefore you have no right to report on new findings that they weren't quick enough to burn.
Why don't you try interpreting your next electric bill instead of taking it literally and tell me how that works out for you.
I don't know about this being blasphemous reporting Joanne. CNN is simply reporting on information that has been released by a Harvard theologic professor. I doubt highly that a professor at the School of Divinity at Harvard University has any interest in blaspheming ... or in tearing down Christianity as you imply.
So what is wrong with even if he had married. Why people are so afraid of marriage of Jesus? It is not a crime or reason to be shame. Do not afraid people. Respect men.
Understand that this is part of the end time deception that is coming. The goal is to plant the thought that Jesus was married to create the possibility that he had children, and that his blood line still exists today (Just like Davinci Code, which was written to plant the seed of the same idea). I assure you that this is bogus, but is part of the plot so that when the end time final anti-Christ is revealed, he will be be passed off as a living descendant of Jesus. People who don't understand scripture will be deceived.
This interpretation from the Youngman Research Council located in the Catskill Mountains: "The first line literally translates as 'Take my wife...'. The last word while seemingly added as an afterthought or addendum seems to be a term of beseechment."
Well done Sir.
Literal translation is dangerous. If we took the Bible literally we would all be walking around without arms and blind (If you don't know what I am talking about, read the Bible sometime). The Bible is filled with symbolism and metaphors so our simple human minds can grasp just a little of what God is trying to tell us.
". The Bible is filled with symbolism and metaphors so our simple human minds can grasp just a little of what God is trying to tell us."
And that symbolism was written by a bunch of men over many years then edited by more men, not written by god.
Yeah, I'm pretty sure that was a joke...Take my wife, please. You have to be old enough to know the phrase.
@avg: simple human minds? really. humans have made astounding accomplishments in science, music, theater, medicine, art and all of those things came from human minds.
i would say the only simple minds are the humans that still buy into the deadbeat father in the sky, instead of facing the world as it is.
"...our simple human minds can grasp just a little of what God is trying to tell us."
It was much more simple human minds who purported to tell us what "god was trying to tell us" in the first place
They should have ended the thread at your comment. You win.
Lighten up, for certainly God is a comedian, too.
Just another piece of evidence that it's all fairy tell's and panda glitter to fool the simplist minds!!! Religions are the biggest lie's ever constructed by human being's. No human has ever been visted by a god or was a god on earth. There is a creator but the creator has set everything in motion and does not intervene in human history.
"There is a creator but the creator has set everything in motion and does not intervene in human history."
Please provide verifiable evidence supporting your claim.
And your theory is just another religion. Based on faith without evidence.
OK your creator…does he have a name? What are you biasing your hypnoses on? What scientific evidence or exam are you using to base your claim that a creator exist?
The creator is named YHWH. The Hebrew text left out the vowels. There is no absolute oral tradition which let's us know how it's properly pronounced. Most monotheists simply added their own vowels. Hence YeHoWaH (Jehova) or YAHWEH.
and that....dear critic, is the textbook answer for:" Does your creator have a name?"
All your supplying is religious fundamentalist rhetoric, you lead more like the fallacy known as “special pleading”.
@Marc…Please enlighten us on which GOD is better ZEUS, YAHWEH, RA or AN?
Stephen F Roberts: “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”
Thank you for your enlightenment SR. I am sure you sit in a position to condem anyone who believes in religion, as you must have studied all of them and after review set yourself on high for all knowing of mankind. We are so blessed by your words of wisdom. Please share more, as I can hardly wait for the next post of all knowledge.
The CHURCH is the bride of Christ. Nothing new here.
I've done some freaky things, but I've never f.ucked a church. Some cathedrals are beautiful, maybe I'll start there.
The thinking people of the world feel endless pity for you. Hopefully sometime in your life you find the strength of mind to shed your needless brainwashing.
I'd agree with that. The church was like my last bride. Couldn't make up her mind and never shuts up.
You've got conflicting accounts regarding the life of Jesus. Some accounts are considered sacred by many people today and some are not. "The historical Jesus," really?
Some were passed on in trusted circles while others were made up out of whole cloth. I'll take the ones that came down to us through trusted circles, thank ya very much.
I understand why this article is under the Faith Blog after reading it. It deals very little in historical fact.
Another fragment. In the Middle East, there has been a long history of taking historic writings and cutting them up and selling them to make a living. How many other fragments are out there? Literally thousands. What are we missing from these fragments? Think of all that we could learn!!!! Please, anyone with a fragment, please come out and let people see it (even a photo of it), so we can gain more knowledge.
I will not get into the argument of whether Jesus was married or not, there is a tremendous level of proof that he was, but that is for another day...
Christ calls the Church his bride like 20,000 times in the scripture. Now, if the payrus said:" My husband."....then we would have a contraversy.
This is silly and every serious scholar is rolling their eyes right now.
That was the first thing that came to my mind when I saw the headline. WE are the bride of Christ.
Faith fails in details. Christian God is all knowing, all loving, all forgiving, all merciful. He know everything thought you have every second of every day. Yet, if you are born in a Muslim state, raised by loving parents who teach you GOOD morals in a Muslim religion...Christian God sends you to hell. On the other side, Charles Manson can accept Jesus on his deathbed and make it to heaven.
Oh, is that how salvation works? All this time my Bible had me believing in justification by faith...not morals. Mhm....Do you have any MP3 lectures I can download? You seem like the field expert we all need to hear from. (Sike)
But not if you accept the free gift of God, the ultimate sacrifice for our sins, Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Grace upon Grace!
Jerry, see any unicorns this morning…or maybe Elvis on your refrigerator?
Yes, sadly that is how Christian salvation works. They make all the rules.
Of course, if Jesus can make Tebow a quarterback, then miracles really can happen
Corvinus, You need to stop perpetuating your ideas about Christianity. I could accept critical objection if you argued in the context of scripture but you're just tossing around opinions and assumptions, cleverly disguised as "expert knowledge".
Tebow plays in the NFL on Sundays. If you watch TV you will have all the proof you need. On my other topic, everything I mention is true. Tell me what is not true.
That's so true–condemmed to hell or saved on deathbed, according to most Christians. Doesn't make sense.
That's why we Mormons believe in some component of works (think service, baptism, going to church, etc.) and have a provision for baptism by proxy for those that have passed and did not have the chance during this life. Those will get the opportunity to accept Christ and his gospel in the afterlife. Agree or disagree on that doctrine, at least it answers the questions you pose.
Written 400 years after the death of Christ, given by an anonymous donor. Right, I will stick with the Bible. The Harvard professor has received her 15 minutes of fame.
Oh, she's been in the news before... Her Harvard curriculum vitae mentions Her media expertise and a contact for inquiries.
And of course, the Bible was written down before and during Jesus' time so it must be true...
You kinda missed the point there Katie. The Gnostic texts are late compared to canonical texts.
Yeah, you are aware that the Bible wasn't compiled until centuries after Jesus' time, right? These people probably knew better than anyone here what happened.
The entire bible was written close to 400 years after christ – then re-interpreteted into English hundreds of years after that. The Council of Nicea picked and chose only the writings that supported the narrative they chose. There are many earlier writings by people who would have met Jesus that completely contradict the bible.
Alex, sorry, try decades after Jesus, not centuries. There are manuscripts that are copies of originals that are within decades.
You've sticking with the Bible... So, the collection of books compiled by a group of people who excluded some books because they didn't fit the intended narrative? That Bible?
Irish, you have no idea what you're talking about. There are manuscripts that date well before 400. Do some research.
BH, a group of people who knew people who knew Jesus and the disciples excluded erroneous and false texts. Yes.
LOL, I didn't say there weren't manuscripts before 400 years after christ – I said the bible was compiled at the Council of Nicea almost 400 years after. Try reading.
"Written 400 years after the death of Christ, given by an anonymous donor. Right, I will stick with the Bible"
LOLOLOLOLOLOL you do realize that the passages about jesus were never written by people that actually knew him right? they only wrote about him 50-100 years after he died. And yes, PEOPLE wrote the book, not god.
" a group of people who knew people who knew Jesus and the disciples excluded erroneous and false texts"
LOL talk about a giant game of telephone.
Irish, and I say you have no clue what you talking about. The Nicean Council was in the early fourth century, not 400. And, they merely approved the already commonly accepted Bible so that erroneous texts could not be clamed to be legitimate.
His wife was/is the church.
Word up Steve!!!!
Which church? Remember, Jesus was a Jew and made no references to starting his own religion. Catholicism didn't start until long after he was dead, and only because Peter and Paul were so good at spreading the word and changing Jesus from a prophet to a demi-God.
Sorry Katie you're wrong. Jesus DOES refer to his church. In Matthew 16 Jesus says to Peter – "Peter, you are the rock upon which I will build my church." So it is NOT a stretch to say that Jesus COULD have been referring to the chruch as his wife.
Well, watch out for the angry protests and embassy attacks... oh, wait, wrong religion....
Really? "At least we are better than Islamic extremists"?
Way to set a high standard there Bubba.
that's right – Christians just burn Korans, burn crosses on people's front yards and bomb abortion clinics and daycare centres in Oklahoma City. No embassies though – you have to have limits right?
Is that what Chistians do? I better get busy because I haven't done any of those things. Thanks for letting me know.
4th century.... oh, yeah, I'm sure that's authentic and NOTHING to do with Gnostic heretics..
Thanks, CNN, for filling up the daily news with nonsense....
Can't draw any conclusions without the rest of the sentence. Text without context is meaningless.
I don't believe he was married when the Gsopels mention of all his family (father, mother, siblings)...oh, but they forgot to mention his wife? Really? Wouldn't his wife have been at the cross? His mother was.
Sigh. A link to a draft with the full text is in the article you supposedly read.
I found no such link. Maybe you should post it so I can be enlightened like you,
Well the argument is, by those who believe Jesus was married, is that Magdalene was his wife ... and she WAS at the cross.
That said – without context (as the Harvard professor points out) the text is essentially meaningless. He could very easily said something like ..... "My wife, the church, should be embraced by you as it was by me" OR he could have said "My wife, Mary, is a royal pain in the @$$" OR since the writing is from 150 yrs after he died Jesus might not have said anything of the sort and the writer was attributing words to him.
I saw no link to the text either LOL. Care to provide it?
Third paragraph. The word "draft" is a link. Consider yourself enlightened.
Sorry ... "draft" isn't a link on mine. Where does yours link too?
Hmm. Sorry for my snarkiness, then. What passes for research in these comments is pretty sad.
LOL – okay I found the link. That is your context? It's just a list of phrases and NONE of them have ANY context whatsoever. Make sure to verify your facts before insulting others. It just makes you look silly.
If there was context, there would be no debate.
I am silly, but that's beside the point. You wanted context. You didn't say you were expecting a complete manuscript text. Good grief. What were you expecting? King also provides her take on context. I may be silly, but you're not too...
"Jesus said to them, 'My wife..." My wife what? Did he say "My wife is that good looking chick over there?" Or did he say that "my Father is God, my Mother is the Earth, my wife is all the living beings," etc. A little context here would be nice before everyone jumps to conclusions that Jesus was married because someone recounted that he said "My wife..." Are these people really historians, or folks with some kind of agenda?
Is this a Da Vinci Code remake?
don;t give Dan Brown any ideas....
What a twist!