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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. Joey

    Oookay.... should we, Christians, torch the arab embassies and kill innocent people now?

    September 20, 2012 at 3:47 am |
    • sam stone

      Clever post. For a 3rd grader.

      September 20, 2012 at 6:19 am |
  2. Frank

    Man, am I happy about the fact, that I am not among those totally hyped out so-called believers in one way or another.
    Let Christians and Muslims and all others be what they like. Don't try to change their way of thinking. It's their right. As long as nobody gets harmed, it's ok. The pain and suffering usually starts when they get into discussions. It most certainly ends up in both parties try to convince the other of the "right way". When your that far out, you have lost all sense of here and now.
    And please stop interpreting old scrolls that turn up someplace. You can't even tell who wrote them. Could have been a great "believer" too.
    Enjoy your live, help each other, respect one another.

    September 20, 2012 at 1:57 am |
  3. Reality

    – ONLY FOR THE NEW MEMBERS OF THIS BLOG:

    Married? So what? 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 20, 2012 at 12:08 am |
    • ....

      BULL SH IT ALERT

      September 20, 2012 at 5:31 am |
  4. Mohamed Ramadan

    Then in their wake, We followed them up with (others of) Our messengers: We sent after them Jesus the son of Mary, and bestowed on him the Gospel; and We ordained in the hearts of those who followed him Compassion and Mercy. But the Monasticism which they invented for themselves, We did not prescribe for them: (We commanded) only the seeking for the Good pleasure of Allah; but that they did not foster as they should have done. Yet We bestowed, on those among them who believed, their (due) reward, but many of them are rebellious transgressors.

    September 19, 2012 at 11:12 pm |
    • Reality

      AND NOW THE FACTS:

      Mohammed was an illiterate, womanizing, lust and greed-driven, warmongering, hallucinating Arab, who also had embellishing/hallucinating/plagiarizing scribal biographers who not only added "angels" and flying chariots to the koran but also a militaristic agenda to support the plundering and looting of the lands of non-believers.

      This agenda continues as shown by the ma-ssacre in Mumbai, the as-sas-sinations of Bhutto and Theo Van Gogh, the conduct of the seven Muslim doctors in the UK, the 9/11 terrorists, the 24/7 Sunni suicide/roadside/market/mosque bombers, the 24/7 Shiite suicide/roadside/market/mosque bombers, the Islamic bombers of the trains in the UK and Spain, the Bali crazies, the Kenya crazies, the Pakistani “koranics”, the Palestine suicide bombers/rocketeers, the Lebanese nutcases, the Taliban nut jobs, the Ft. Hood follower of the koran, and the Filipino “koranics”.

      And who funds this muck and stench of terror? The warmongering, Islamic, Shiite terror and torture theocracy of Iran aka the Third Axis of Evil and also the Sunni "Wannabees" of Saudi Arabia.

      Current crises:

      The Sunni-Shiite blood feud and the warmongering, womanizing (11 wives), hallucinating founder.

      September 20, 2012 at 12:11 am |
    • HAVE MUD WILL TRAVEL

      If the USA promotes a Muslim astronaut for a mars trip, does he-she get a waiver from allaha or the Big O? Waiver, you know, the ol' face East thing.

      September 20, 2012 at 4:05 am |
  5. The Deist

    Pick the threads of revealed religion away and see what you have left. You all know you don't need the superfluous garbage, right?

    September 19, 2012 at 11:02 pm |
  6. mac101

    I have never understood the fuss about Jesus having a wife. If he was truly divine, having a wife doesn't change that – he isn't less holy just because he had intercourse, no matter what our puritanical church leaders think. And if he wasn't divine, just another mortal, why shouldn't he have a wife?

    September 19, 2012 at 10:26 pm |
    • 2357

      Karen King is a washed up prof who's gambling with her career with this piece of trash. The cost is grievously dear, as she will discover.

      September 19, 2012 at 11:17 pm |
    • James

      A lot of those ancient gods like to have dalliances with human women. Zeus was a real player! Why would Jesus be any different?

      September 20, 2012 at 12:18 am |
    • I wonder

      2357,

      Is this your "prophecy"? I do not think that your "Holy Spirit" is working.

      (hint: look up King's opinion of this "find").

      September 20, 2012 at 1:34 am |
    • sam stone

      "The cost is grievously dear, as she will discover."

      Blah, blah, blah......

      Empty proxy threats from inbred fvcks who purport to speak for god.

      Go home, boy, and get your shinebox

      September 20, 2012 at 6:22 am |
    • 2357

      Sam Stoner,
      if anyone comes to you preaching a gospel contrary to the gospel we preached, let him be accursed – Apostle Paul.
      The curse he refers to, is on a different plane of magnitude than your piddly little spittle.

      September 20, 2012 at 11:23 am |
  7. Mohamed Ramadan

    قال الله تعالى:

    (مّا الْمَسِيحُ ابْنُ مَرْيَمَ إِلاّ رَسُولٌ قَدْ خَلَتْ مِن قَبْلِهِ الرّسُلُ وَأُمّهُ صِدّيقَة
    ٌ كَانَا يَأْكُلاَنِ الطّعَامَ انْظُرْ كَيْفَ نُبَيّنُ لَهُمُ الاَيَاتِ ثُمّ انْظُرْ أَنّىَ يُؤْفَكُونَ)

    [سورة: المائدة – الأية: 75]

    [5.75] The Messiah, the son of Mary, was not
    except a Messenger, other Messengers had
    gone before him. His mother was in the state
    of sincerity, they both ate food. See how We
    make plain to them Our signs. Then, see how
    perverted they are.

    September 19, 2012 at 10:00 pm |
    • igoryok

      But what does the Koran say about Jeus having a wife. Don't you think it's unfair for Mohammed to have so many but for Jesus to have none?

      September 19, 2012 at 10:13 pm |
    • Reality

      And now moving to the 21st century:

      From the studies of Armstrong, Rushdie, Hirsi Ali, Richardson and Bayhaqi----–

      The Five Steps To Deprogram 1400 Years of Islamic Myths:

      ( –The Steps take less than two minutes to finish- simply amazing, two minutes to bring peace and rationality to over one billion lost souls- Priceless!!!)

      Are you ready?

      Using "The 77 Branches of Islamic "faith" a collection compiled by Imam Bayhaqi as a starting point. In it, he explains the essential virtues that reflect true "faith" (iman) through related Qur’anic verses and Prophetic sayings." i.e. a nice summary of the Koran and Islamic beliefs.

      The First Five of the 77 Branches:

      "1. Belief in Allah"

      aka as God, Yahweh, Zeus, Jehovah, Mother Nature, etc. should be added to your self-cleansing neurons.

      "2. To believe that everything other than Allah was non-existent. Thereafter, Allah Most High created these things and subsequently they came into existence."

      Evolution and the Big Bang or the "Gi-b G-nab" (when the universe starts to recycle) are more plausible and the "akas" for Allah should be included if you continue to be a "crea-tionist".

      "3. To believe in the existence of angels."

      A major item for neuron cleansing. Angels/de-vils are the mythical creations of ancient civilizations, e.g. Hitt-ites, to explain/define natural events, contacts with their gods, big birds, sudden winds, protectors during the dark nights, etc. No "pretty/ug-ly wingy thingies" ever visited or talked to Mohammed, Jesus, Mary or Joseph or Joe Smith. Today we would classify angels as f–airies and "tin–ker be-lls". Modern de-vils are classified as the de-mons of the de-mented.

      "4. To believe that all the heavenly books that were sent to the different prophets are true. However, apart from the Quran, all other books are not valid anymore."

      Another major item to delete. There are no books written in the spirit state of Heaven (if there is one) just as there are no angels to write/publish/distribute them. The Koran, OT, NT etc. are simply books written by humans for humans.

      Prophets were invented by ancient scribes typically to keep the un-educated masses in line. Today we call them for-tune tellers.

      Prophecies are also invali-dated by the natural/God/Allah gifts of Free Will and Future.

      "5. To believe that all the prophets are true. However, we are commanded to follow the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings
      be upon him) alone."

      Mohammed spent thirty days "fasting" (the Ramadan legend) in a hot cave before his first contact with Allah aka God etc. via a "pretty wingy thingy". Common sense demands a neuron deletion of #5. #5 is also the major source of Islamic vi-olence i.e. turning Mohammed's "fast, hunger-driven" hallu-cinations into horrible reality for unbelievers.

      Walk these Five Steps and we guarantee a complete recovery from your Islamic ways!!!!

      Unfortunately, there are not many Muslim commentators/readers on this blog so the "two-minute" cure is not getting to those who need it. If you have a Muslim friend, send him a copy and help save the world.

      Analogous steps are available at your request for deprogramming the myths of Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Paganism..

      September 20, 2012 at 12:13 am |
  8. fitnessandapologetics

    For the New Testament there are circa 24,000 manuscripts (about 7,000 in Greek and the rest in other languages). For the “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” there is ONE. But do not concern yourself with that as that ONE is thought to successfully discredit the 24,000.

    Also, why is it that for New Testaments the demand is that we must have the earliest possible ones. However, for anything that appears to contradict it (“Gospel of Judas,” etc.) one, two, three, four centuries from Jesus’ time is perfectly acceptable, the later the better.

    We are dealing with a substandard double standard.

    September 19, 2012 at 9:58 pm |
    • Veritas

      The gospel of Judas is approximately contemporaneous with the others. It was dropped at the Council of Nicea along with other then-current gospels.

      September 20, 2012 at 2:09 am |
  9. burybrutal

    If you want an informed Christian response to this, a friend of mine responded to this hype here: http://www.walkingchristian.com/2012/09/18/jesus-wife/.

    September 19, 2012 at 9:18 pm |
    • The Deist

      There is no such thing as an "informed" Christian response.

      September 19, 2012 at 10:57 pm |
    • billdeacons

      Now they not only disbelieve in God, they doubt the educational credentials of all Christendom. Laughable really. Have you ever even spoken with a Jesuit?

      September 20, 2012 at 1:23 am |
    • itsallaloadofbollocks

      @bill. It is hard to credit the claims of people who put all their faith in an imaginary friend. If Jesus existed the stories are exaggerated to enhance the status of the organization(s) that benefits most from those stories. Historically the church was very politically powerful and remains quite influential today and the church is one of the wealthiest inst-itutions in the world. It pays handsomely to have a good story, there's a sucker born every minute.

      September 20, 2012 at 2:19 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      So in other words "No, I've never spoken with anyone as highly educated as a Jesuit." Thank you for your reply

      September 20, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
    • Maria Von Ludwig's Decendant

      Bill Deacon,
      "Have you ever even spoken with a Jesuit"

      My 9th great grandmother and her family did - right before they were executed by them in 1629 in Germany.

      September 20, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
  10. Chad

    I think it's clear that God has the potential for both male and female genitalia and se x ual characteristics:

    1) We were made in God's image, both male and female
    2) Basic medical fact: if the development of male se x ual characteristics is prevented the default body type is female
    3) Why do males have ni pples? Wouldn't that mean God has them too?

    September 19, 2012 at 9:13 pm |
    • igoryok

      So god is a hermaphrodite?

      September 19, 2012 at 9:22 pm |
    • Chad

      God is the Father and also at least female.

      September 19, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
    • Chad

      Anyone who knows the Psalms knows it.

      As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master,
      as the eyes of a female slave look to the hand of her mistress,
      so our eyes look to the Lord our God,
      till he shows us his mercy.

      Psalm 123:2-3

      September 19, 2012 at 9:49 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      @Chad, i.e., god's children = slaves. Glad the bible said it and not me.

      September 19, 2012 at 11:38 pm |
    • Chad

      TomTomTheOtherOne,, impersonating me again?

      bad boy 😉

      September 19, 2012 at 11:39 pm |
    • Chad

      There's Chad. No worries Chad, you couldn't be mistaken for anyone else nor would I impersonate you. I don't know if the question should be directed to the latter Chad, but why does God have a gender when it is the one and only God? If it is the only one of its kind it is also the only gender of its kind. Why would that be male?

      September 20, 2012 at 2:43 am |
  11. truth be trolled

    Well we knew this would happen eventually. Sometime earlier today, just after 2pm on this article it seems, Chad had a conversation with another Chad. Need I say more? 🙂 I didn't read it all, but as soon as I saw the second one chime in, I knew it would end up in confusion by everyone. 🙂 I hope Doc V made it out alive – I saw him in there somewhere. I don't even try to communicate with someone who uses an "@" for both themselves and the person they are replying to. Lunacy.

    September 19, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Oooh, do tell! Where did this all transpire? Inquiring minds want to know!

      September 19, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
    • truth be trolled

      It's the longest post I think on page 63. I only saw it because someone had recently posted near there.

      September 19, 2012 at 9:08 pm |
    • Chad

      Impersonation is ugly, no doubt

      All you have to do is look at the content of the posts.. Me (Chad) is an evangelical Christian, the "other Chad" (TomTomTheOtherOne having some fun..) is most certainly not...

      September 19, 2012 at 11:44 pm |
    • OneTruth

      "Me is an evangelical Christian". Chad were you homeschooled?

      September 20, 2012 at 2:22 am |
  12. HAVE MUD WILL TRAVEL

    The Bible haters are giving the impression that because they weren't there as it was being recorded, they have an excuse. It's a wee bit more involved than that. Think WICKEDNESS and DECEPTION. BBWWWAAAAHAHAHHHAHAHAHAHA A clue for you:......'Jer 17:9 The heart [is] deceitful above all [things], and desperately wicked: who can know it?'

    September 19, 2012 at 8:25 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      "Who can know it?" Certainly you're not a likely candidate. You barely know how to tie your shoes.

      September 19, 2012 at 8:28 pm |
    • igoryok

      "The Bible haters are giving the impression that because they weren't there as it was being recorded, they have an excuse. It's a wee bit more involved than that."

      It is. I think you are getting a wrong impression. I think bible haters are claiming that no excuse is necessary because bible is mostly fiction, rather than some sort of recording. If it's a recording then it's a pretty ppoor one since it can't even get the value of Pi right, or how many legs spiders have. THere's no reason to hate the bible though. I agree. I mean, I don't hate Greek mythology. I love reading about the twelve trials of Hercules.

      September 19, 2012 at 8:31 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      My heart pumps blood through my body. How is that deceptive?

      September 19, 2012 at 8:36 pm |
    • igoryok

      "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" – too bad that lies have more to do with the brain. After all, people accused of having no heart aren't considered more trustworthy.

      September 19, 2012 at 8:37 pm |
    • sam stone

      A clue for you...your book only applies to those who accept it's dubious authority

      September 20, 2012 at 6:31 am |
    • HAVE MUD WILL TRAVEL

      sam stone, but you are still on the payroll.........'Rom 6:23 For the wages of sin [is] death; but the gift of God [is] eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.'

      September 20, 2012 at 10:57 am |
    • HAVE MUD WILL TRAVEL

      igoryok, said,'... – too bad that lies have more to do with the brain....' Ye olde mind-brain limits debate, eh?

      September 20, 2012 at 11:15 am |
    • HAVE MUD WILL TRAVEL

      Pre-flood thought patterns are rising.....'Gen 6:5 And GOD saw that the wickedness of man [was] great in the earth, and [that] every imagination of the thoughts of his heart [was] only evil continually......' Jesus called it a sign.

      September 20, 2012 at 11:24 am |
  13. Brenda Winchester

    The Bride of Christ is the church composed of all born again believers of the Church. She, the Church, will be His bride for one day during the 1,000 Kingdom reign here on earth. ( The Bible tells us, " that a day is as a thousand years with the Lord",) A bride is a bride for one day, after that she becomes the WIFE in the New Heaven and earth in eternity.

    JESUS HAS A WIFE----THE CHURCH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Wife problem SOLVED. PASS THIS TRUTH TO THE MEDIA.

    September 19, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
    • The Deist

      They have a drug for your problem

      September 19, 2012 at 11:01 pm |
    • sam stone

      Wow, Brenda....I hope you are happy in your delusion.

      September 20, 2012 at 6:38 am |
  14. Dasher

    This Jesus guy sounds almost as popular as Justin Bieber.

    September 19, 2012 at 8:16 pm |
  15. dark matter

    that is wrong religious virus

    September 19, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
  16. dark matter

    religious virus,,, wrong just only follow to the words of jesus hebrew not jesus roman catholics or jesus mohammed and your will found the way of the door of kingdom this is sure 100%

    September 19, 2012 at 7:55 pm |
  17. Breaking News

    Just in.

    Scholars have discovered that Jesus and his disciples were more than just friends. Story at 11:00

    September 19, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
  18. PAUL

    Well You Know What They Say About Coptic Christians.

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

    September 19, 2012 at 7:43 pm |
  19. PAUL

    The only wife I know Jesus to have was Mary Magdalene.

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

    September 19, 2012 at 7:41 pm |
  20. I Am The Beast Sssotlohiefmjn

    Well I bet the makers of SOUTH PARK are already at work on the new skit and Liberal Catholic's are making whooping sounds.

    September 19, 2012 at 7:38 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.