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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. sad

    @Beth@Amniculi
    GOD hears and see everything and when we leave this earth our earthly parents will not be their hold our hands and decide if you will go to heaven or hell. Put your faith in GOD JESUS and the HOLY SPIRIT.

    September 19, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • Robert

      Sam you have to do another shot!

      September 19, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • Horus

      The thing about making assertions is that they are often more effective when there is some tangible proof to support your claims. I'm going to go with....you have no proof of heaven or h.ell......

      September 19, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
    • Madtown

      No such place as hell, so don't worry about it.

      September 19, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • Amniculi

      If they want my faith they can ask for it themselves.

      September 19, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • sam

      There's so much in this post that deserves a resurrection of THE DRINKING GAME

      September 19, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • Amniculi

      Madtown, not true:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hell,_Michigan

      September 19, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • snowboarder

      heaven and hell are constructs of the human fear of the unknown and death. nothing more.

      September 19, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
    • Madtown

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hell,_Michigan
      -----
      LOL! I stand corrected!

      September 19, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • Denise

      Wow, sad, your god sounds like quite the vindictive, vicious ass hole. No thanks.

      September 19, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • Fallacy Spotting 101

      Post by 'sad' is a form of the flawed argument known as Pascal's Wager.

      http://www.fallacyfiles.org/glossary.html

      September 19, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • Fallacy Spotting 101

      sam, I'm in!

      September 19, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
  2. independentlyowned

    Jesus wouldn't have been taken seriously if he wasn't married. No one would have listened to him if he was just a weird, single, 30 year old man (old in those days) who couldn't find a wife. But the Catholic Church's hangup with thinking perfection = virginity is blinding them.

    September 19, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
  3. Lara

    Look at you naysayers, if you dont care why does it bother you so much to see the truth spelled out? Because in the end, we all have a hole that only the real God can fill up and if you havent found it, quicken your steps towards it because your time is running out.

    Jesus the Son of God is not only REAL HE IS THE LORD OF LORDS and he is the one and only one who was able to bring miracles, and who can still brng miracles. Jesus healed the lepers, gave sight to the blind, healed the paralized, exorcised demons from possesed men, brought back Lazarus from the dead, JESUS ROSE FROM THE DEAD AND BROUGHT BACK HUNDREDS OF OLD TESTMENT PEOPLE WHO HAD DIED WAITING FOR THE MESSIAH...YES PEOPLE CAME BACK WITH JESUS AND WALKED ALL OVER JERUSALEM....THE GRAVES OPENED UP AND PEOPLE CAME OUT OF THEM...AND THE WORLD SAW IT.

    Where in the religions today can you say that these has happened other than for false miracles? /the only way to identify the one true God is by the miracles He performs. THE PROPHECIES HE WROTE THOUSANDS OF YEARS AGO coming out detail by detail infront of our very eyes. But if you read...you would find these truths.
    SUPERNATURAL POWER FOR GOOD COMES FROM GOD WITH MIRACLES SIGNS AND WONDERS.

    You who do not believe because you have never read, understood or asked God for help, try asking Jesus for help, because I know that I have seen MANY MIRACLES that no one else, not the catholic church, not the rest of religins ever did anything that would come close to miracles.
    JESUS HEALED ME OF CYSTIC FIBROSIS WHEN I WAS 6! and today I am 50 (43 yrs over the age limit for CF) and today I have grandchidren and today I have seen even DIABETES healed ...it is all true.... even doctors have been dumbfounded at the site that even them...could not do what Jesus has done in my life.

    THE ONLY WAY TO KNOW JESUS IS GOD IS TO SEE HIS WORK...HIS SCRIPTURES...HISMIRACLES...HIS LOVE FOR US THAT HE GAVE HIS BLOOD AND BODY TO SAVE US....that is true love.

    It is by love that one can recognize a disciple of the real God.
    It is not by war.
    GOD IS NOT A GOD OF WAR BUT OF PEACE .

    On the opposite spectrum of God....lays satan....that is the one who demands crimes, lies, and murder...in the beginning he was a murderer and the father of lies.

    TST THE SPIRITS ON YR RELIGION...AND YOUR BELIEVES....DO YOU KNOW CHRIST THE SON OF GOD? IF YOU DONT, IT WOULD BEHOOVE YOU TO MEET HIM BEFORE HE IS BACK HERE FOR THE SECOND TIME.

    May God open the eyes and ears of the deaf anddumb spirit which abounds in many on here.

    September 19, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • Madtown

      ONLY WAY TO KNOW JESUS IS GOD IS TO SEE HIS WORK...HIS SCRIPTURES...
      ------–
      What if I was born into a portion of the world where christianity doesn't exist and isn't practiced? I'd never hear of Jesus or read the bible. Am I banished for all eternity? I've never even heard of Jesus!!

      September 19, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • realbuckyball

      You could have saved yourself a lot of time. All that is the same as :

      The moon is made of green cheese.

      September 19, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • Papasan

      Wow! They took your brain completely out of you head when the brain washed you. I feel so sorry for people like you.

      September 19, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • snowboarder

      the religious always try to codify their silly beliefs into law for the masses. against that we must be ever vigilant.

      September 19, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • Jen

      If you really had that 'hole' filled, you wouldnt feel the need to come here and gleefully tell people they are going to h-ll.

      Plenty of people have lived longer than expected with CF (depends on the severity) and some people have had diabetes reversed from changing their lifestyles. Can you cite a SINGLE case where an amputee has grown a limb back? Certainly if God exists and grants miracles he would have healed at least one amputee correct? He would have that power wouldn't he?

      September 19, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
  4. Dale

    The question begs to be asked , how many kids did Jesus have? And where are his descendents because they are badly needed now.

    September 19, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • Amniculi

      Nope. Don't think they are.

      September 19, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
    • ME II

      More importantly, if His wife was Jewish would Christ's children be Jewish too?

      September 19, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
    • Horus

      If Jesus were a father he would be considered a deadbeat father by today's standards. Just look at his life story....oh wait we only have his birth then about a 33 year gap, then a few years of wandering around jobless pandering John the Baptist's version of monotheism, and not helping raise his young'ns. What a guy....

      September 19, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
  5. Jesus

    Anybody selling a Ford Pinto?

    They truly are chariots of the Gods!

    September 19, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • Yeshua

      Ident.ity theft! I, the true Son of God, would not be caught dead (or resurrected) driving a Pinto! AMC Pacers are the only true conveyances for the Messiah.

      September 19, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • Papasan

      Me likes the Chevy Luv pickup truck

      September 19, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
  6. CORRECTION

    @Eric Marrapodi,
    Correction!

    "Published here for the first time is a fragment of a fourth-century CE codex in
    Coptic containing a dialogue between Jesus and his disciples in which Jesus speaks of
    “my wife.”"
    (http://news.hds.harvard.edu/files/King_JesusSaidToThem_draft_0917.pdf)

    September 19, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
  7. Timothy

    Francisco Decastro When you are saved you are son and daughter of GOD .

    September 19, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • Beth

      No thanks. I like my own parents better than the nasty god Christians talk about.

      September 19, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • Amniculi

      Indeed, Beth. Indeed.

      September 19, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
    • Zafiro

      Beth Jesus loves you and he will forgive your sins. One day you will understand... =)
      say that about mohamed and you would sure be introuble... But since Jesus and God of Christianity teaches us to be tolerant and forgive our agressors, your lucky.... =)

      have a bless day sister!

      September 19, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • The Truth

      My parents were pretty strict but still never said "Do your homework and don't talk back to me or I will bend you over my knee and sp.ank you... for eternity...

      September 19, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
    • Amniculi

      Zafiro, I'm calling Poe's Law. Close, but not good enough.

      September 19, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
    • The Truth

      @Zafiro – You are mentally disabled, please seek professional help.

      September 19, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
    • Zafiro

      Amniculo! ops sorry i meant Amniculi... blah blah blah about Poe's Law,, its hypocrisy!!!!!! talk trash about Christianity should be able to do the same about Islam, not encourging it just saying dont be scare!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! do it will its not a felony yet, cause soon you wont be able too... Let me be clear, I meant express your opinions, comments about any religion as you do about Christianity, plus Im not religious, i just believe in jesus christ son of god and the word of the bible which is difference religion is made by people...

      September 19, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • Zafiro

      The Truth... yes thats what they say... can you help me sister or brother... still love you though...

      September 19, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
  8. Confused

    "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."

    I'm no bible expert but I didn't think the bible referenced siblings of Jesus, am I wrong? Did CNN mean siblings of Mary and Joesph?

    If so where are these references?

    September 19, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • Smith39

      the bible speaks of his brothers in matt 12:46; Luke 8:19, Mark 3:31. In Matt 13:55 we are told his brothers names.

      September 19, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • Confused

      thank you! I'll have to check it out

      September 19, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
  9. sunnylovetts

    Wow CNN new low, Jesus talks about the "Bride" a lot in the Bible its called THE HOLY GHOST! Use your brain. Satanic media is satanic.

    September 19, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • Smith39

      It does speak of the bride but the bride is the Church not the Holy Spirit. Eph 5:22-33

      September 19, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
    • sam

      Wait, what?? Now he's doing it with ghosts?? That's just freaky.

      September 19, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
  10. Sivick

    I think he probably got married. Too bad the romans didn't do a next of kin file after they killed him.

    September 19, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
  11. Norm

    He could have been married to another man....it doesn't say.

    September 19, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
  12. Mohamed Ramadan

    Jesus in Quran
    http://www.egyptsouvenir.com/islam/jesus.htm

    September 19, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
    • Zafiro

      Mohamed so bother why dont you give me some insight and suggestions as to how to dela with all this people cursing Jesus/God talking bad, And blasphemies about Christianity? any since Jesus is in the Quran doesnt this not affect you???

      Talk to my bro....

      September 19, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
    • Mark

      Interesting to read. I would like to know why one portion says there is "one God" while in 2.253 and 2.87 use the terms "We" and "Our." You approach is good in that instead of cursing people, you are willing to try to show people what it is that you believe. This is constructive.

      September 19, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • Lara

      sabes qye> sacarajate de aqui. nohaynecesidad deti

      September 19, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
    • Mark

      Lara,don't assume anything. A persons interest for new information does not indicate what consitutes their belief system.

      September 19, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
    • Mark

      "Since all truth comes from God, and since theology is the study of God, all other legitimate sciences should derive their pursuit of truth, both in method and content, from theology." Dr. Elmer Towns

      "Systematic Theology is the collecting, scientifically arranging, comparing, exhibiting and defending of all facts from any and every source concerning God and His works." Lewis S. Chafer

      September 19, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
  13. gesdf

    he probably said "my wife is the sea" thats why it let him walk all over it

    September 19, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • Rim Shot...

      I have it on good authority he said "My wife... is such a comedian, always cracking up the apostles with her naughty jokes... Like did you hear the one she told about the Priest the Rabbi and the Pastor who were discussing how they apporting their collections and the Priest says "We go into the parking lot and draw a circle on the ground and throw all the money up and any that lands in the circle we give to God" and the Pastor says "Yeah, we do almost the same thing but give God anything that falls outside the circle" and the Rabbi looks at them both and says "We do almost the same thing to, draw a circle and throw up the money high into the air and God keeps what God wants..."

      September 19, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
  14. barbara

    If he was married, it's doesn't take away from his greatest at all.

    September 19, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • Amniculi

      Greatest what? Hits? Was Jesus in the Top 40?

      September 19, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
  15. joe12234

    This whole thing is absolute nonsense and a non-starter.

    I could write "I am the king of England" on a piece of paper and hide it away and if they find it in 2000 years, it still does not make it true.

    Jesus Christ was not married. That is a Gnostic heresy.

    September 19, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • sam

      Oooooh, heresy.

      September 19, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
    • Horus

      The same argument could be made about the entire bible – being that it's an assembly of writings from unverifiable authors....just say'n.

      September 19, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • Sivick

      lol @ heresy. who says that anymore?

      September 19, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • Madtown

      Jesus Christ was not married. That is a Gnostic heresy.
      ---–
      We don't know for sure.

      September 19, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • donna

      My you do contradict yourself. So a written story isn't evidence of his marriage, but a written story IS evidence of his existence?

      September 19, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
    • 0G-No gods, ghosts, goblins or ghouls

      joe, if you apply your "logic" to The Babble, there is no reason to believe it is true, especially given that there is no independent evidence for any god.

      September 19, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
  16. Mark

    Looks like it was written with a Sharpie pen.

    September 19, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
    • Amniculi

      An all-powerful god could have a sharpie if he so wished. I fail to see your point.

      September 19, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • Mark

      Amnuculi, I agree with you:-) I was just commenting about what the writing looked like. I wonder if they did testing to verify the age. A lot of fake relics turn up now and then.

      September 19, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
  17. Context

    Siblings? Jesus had siblings? This is much more interesting issue than whether he was married. His eternal virginity is not a theological supposition like Mary's is. If he had siblings she is not an eternal virgin, or Joseph had other wives.

    September 19, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • realbuckyball

      Of course he did. James at least. The gospels say that, as well Acts, and Josephus.

      September 19, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • Gene

      There's nothing in the Bible anywhere that says Mary remained a virgin all her life; it only says she was one when Jesus was conceived and born. Assuming she remained a virgin after that is just that – assumption. And it's a false assumption. The Bible identifies Jesus' siblings in a couple of places; it clearly states James was Jesus' sibling, for example.

      September 19, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • realbuckyball

      Actually it doesn't even say she was a virgin. The word is a mistranslation from the Greek "parthenos", which was a translation of the Hebrew word which meant "woman of marriageable age".
      http://www.thethinkingatheist.com/forum/Thread-Virgin-birth?highlight=virgin+birth

      September 19, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      People misunderstand the immaculate conception as well. It relates to Mary's birth as immaculate, making her free from original sin and thus sanctified to be the mother of Jesus.

      September 19, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • Lara

      Mark 3:31 (ESV)

      31 And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him.

      Matthew 13:55 (ESV)
      55 Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas

      Matthew 13:56 (ESV)
      56 And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?”

      John 7:1–10 (ESV)

      7 After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He would not go about in Judea, because the Jews were seeking to kill him. 2 Now the Jews’ Feast of Booths was at hand. 3 So his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples ...

      The story of Mary's perpetuated virginity came in to open a false religion which was practiced for thousands of years before Christ came to this world. That is the story of Catholcism. Emperor Nero started the pagan Roman reliigion and attached a few truths of Christ, transferring the cult of the ' deity' (godess). Nothing to do with the real Christ's doctrine.
      The lie is so that people believe that another than Christ can be our intermediary between humanity and God the Father, but the only intermediary is Christ, and all who pray to the Virgin Mary are doing so to demons. It is demons who respond when one does not pray to Christ and the Father.

      September 19, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      "Mary gave birth to CHRIST without having known a man's touch, that's true. But she did have a husband. And do you really think he'd have stayed married to her all those years if he wasn't getting laid? The nature of God and the Vir.gin birth, those are leaps of faith. But to believe a married couple never got down? Well, that's just plain gullibility."
      – Rufus (from Kevin Smith's 'Dogma')

      September 19, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
  18. WorldBelow

    Lara, jesus didn't die for me, or for you.

    He just died. Crowned and hung between 2 other thieves and liars.

    September 19, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
  19. Lara

    WHOEVER DENIES THAT JESUS IS THE SON OF GOD IS OF THE ANTICHRIST SPIRIT. Why? look up the msgs left on here already where God speaks, warns us, never to follow anyone unless we test the spirits.

    September 19, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
    • sam

      Get your meds refilled, please. For the sake of anyone who has to deal with you.

      September 19, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
    • Honey Badger Dont Care

      Not only do I deny that Jesus is the son of your god, I don't believe that anyone like that ever existed. Or your god for that matter so shut your pie hole.

      September 19, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
    • Norm

      Well then lets crack open a bottle and test those spirits.
      Maybe if religions didn't speak in extinct languages, more people might be interested.

      September 19, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • Sivick

      CAPSLOCK MAKES WHAT I SAY IMPORTANT!

      September 19, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • realbuckyball

      Shut up.

      September 19, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • sam stone

      Lara: Your god is an impotent little pr1ck.

      September 19, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
  20. Probably

    Regardless of whether it was a Messianic or Historical Jesus, it's likely he would have been married.

    September 19, 2012 at 2:40 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.