Vatican newspaper calls fragment referring to Jesus' wife 'a fake'
The fragment is written in Coptic, a language used by some early Christians.
September 28th, 2012
02:30 PM ET

Vatican newspaper calls fragment referring to Jesus' wife 'a fake'

By Dan Gilgoff and Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editors

(CNN) - The Vatican on Friday appeared to push back on a recently publicized piece of papyrus that appears to show an early Christian referring to Jesus' wife, with its newspaper calling the fragment “a fake.”

“Substantial reasons would lead us to conclude that the papyrus is actually a clumsy counterfeit,” the Vatican’s  newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, said in a Friday editorial by the newspaper’s editor.

“In other words, in any case it is a fake,” wrote L'Osservatore Romano editor-in-chief Gian Maria Vian.

The fragment referring to Jesus wife was written in Coptic, a language used by Egyptian Christians, and says in part, "Jesus said to them, 'My wife ..."

The paper is generally thought to reflect the views of Vatican officials.

5 Questions and answers about Jesus’ “wife”

Harvard Divinity School professor Karen King announced the findings of the 1.5- by 3-inch honey-colored fragment earlier this month in Rome at the International Association for Coptic Studies.

King was 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.

"This fragment, this new piece of papyrus evidence, does not prove that (Jesus) was married, nor does it prove that he was not married,” King said in a conference call with reporters earlier in the month. “The earliest reliable historical tradition is completely silent on that.

“So we're in the same position we were before it was found,” she continued. “We don't know if he was married or not."

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.

Opinion: What fascination with Jesus’ “wife” tells us

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.

In its Friday editorial, the Vatican newspaper took aim at what it said was a media campaign to spread word of the papyrus despite questions about its authenticity.

“American media outlets had been alerted, a preventive press conference by Karen L. King held to prepare a global scoop which was immediately put into question by the experts,” the paper said.

- CNN"s Hada Messia contributed reporting from Rome

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Catholic Church • Christianity • Vatican

soundoff (2,552 Responses)
  1. Rick1948

    Must be a fake because it doesn't match one of the church's major selling points to the people who fill up the collection plates.

    September 29, 2012 at 8:33 am |
  2. Mike

    Everyone knows that Jesus was single. But he did have a girlfriend. Her name was Peggy Sue. One night on a date, he asked her to put out. She refused, saying "not until we're married". That made the Lord angry and he dumped her. The rest is history.

    September 29, 2012 at 8:33 am |
    • Buddy

      I wrote a song about her...

      September 29, 2012 at 8:42 am |
  3. Redhawk

    Elizabeth, you are right, the Bible DOES elude to the "Church" being the "Bride" of Christ. That is a look into the allegory that is widely used in the Bible for parables, short stories and such to get a point across. The Bible was never written in a way that "common" people could understand. BUT, when it was finally allowed, it was translated and unfortunately, it was trimmed, edited, revised and changed to fit the needs and desires of the "Church" to maintain power over it's congregation (peasants). Also, if you read history in depth, you will also see that the Bible was a collection of scriptures taken from numerous writings, all written by MAN. They collections we now see, were agreed upon in the council of Nicaea, not once, but several times they gathered to debate the divinity of Christ, his works, teachings and which ones should appear in the final translations.

    September 29, 2012 at 8:32 am |
  4. kflanigan

    News for the Vatican the bible is fake.

    September 29, 2012 at 8:31 am |
    • Outsider123

      Here's what I believe – Harvard and the Vatican have a lot in common. They hide behind a cloak of intellectual and moral superiority, respectively. And they are both frauds. The cloak has come down on both. Harvard is nothing more than an over-priced shool run by average people, And the Vatican, a quasi criminal organiztion, has pushed their veiw of morality on the world so a handful of stubborn old men can live in luxury.

      September 29, 2012 at 8:37 am |
    • Prof. Bull

      Harvard sold out to the Neo Cons to help them discredit science. Since then, if you're from Harvard, shut up.

      September 29, 2012 at 8:50 am |
    • mama kindless

      People were afraid of things that science couldn't yet explain back before the bible. The folklore that was born out of that fear eventually became a basis for the bible. During all this some saw an opportunity to make some quick gold and to gain easy control over part of the population. That's religion for you.

      September 29, 2012 at 8:56 am |
  5. Outsider123

    Impossible to believe that a Harvard professor would be involved in fakery. I'm sure Elizabeth Warren would agree?

    September 29, 2012 at 8:29 am |
    • kflanigan


      September 29, 2012 at 8:31 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Doing your bit for Scott Brown, Republican asswipe?

      September 29, 2012 at 8:34 am |
  6. Siara Delyn

    The Vatican's comment is utterly meaningless. They've got their dogma and they couldn't care less about historical reality. They would say it was fake if they had Jesus' marriage license and jointly filed income tax in their basement.

    Their goal is to suppress any historical knowledge of Jesus the human being, because it might affect their power.

    September 29, 2012 at 8:21 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      Could you point us to the historical data that you think exists for jesus' existence without the use of the bible or the cannan?

      September 29, 2012 at 8:30 am |
    • Hof

      Yeah. See, I have this papyrus that says you and Jerry Sandusky have been swapping spit and other bodily fluids in preparation for a new TV pilot called "Pervin' With the Stars." If you deny it, it;s because you have your dogma and you couldn't care less about historical reality. You would say it was fake if they had photos of you in lip lock with Sandusky and jointly filed income tax in your basement.

      Your goal is to suppress any historical knowledge of you the miscreant, because it might affect your power.

      September 29, 2012 at 8:36 am |
    • Siara Delyn

      I'm hazy on the details but someone referred to the Jesus cult before but right around the time Mt. Vesuvius erupted. That's 79 AD– 42 years after the Biblical events. That's historically close. I think there's a kernel of historical reality there.

      Also, in 30 AD there were lots of holy men walking around claiming to be in contact with the Deity. It was popular at the time. I don't think the Biblical history has much to do with what really happened, but I think something happened. Eventually archeologists will learn the truth. The two cultures involved– Roman and Judaic– were extremely literate for their day and I'm sure the evidence is there.

      September 29, 2012 at 8:40 am |
  7. Doc Magnus

    Real faith means the ability to believe. Real spirituality means using faith to help you through the bad and being grateful for the good. Real humanity means accepting the peaceful beliefs of others. Real work gets you what you need. Real maturity is understanding the vast gulf between "need" and "want."

    September 29, 2012 at 8:20 am |
    • Siara Delyn

      I've lost my respect for "ability to believe" with no interest in data. It's nothing to brag about.

      September 29, 2012 at 8:22 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      Faith is belief without evidence. To have faith means that you don't care that what you believe is true and that really is a pathetic way to live.

      September 29, 2012 at 8:28 am |
    • Siara Delyn

      What I should have said was "I've lost my respect for Belief" that isn't tied to a love of physical reality, justice and historical truth".

      September 29, 2012 at 8:29 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      Siara: I was not referring to you but instead to what Doc said.

      September 29, 2012 at 8:32 am |
    • Dionysus

      Faith is the ability to believe in something without proof. It worked for our gang, check out the Theogany for my family tree, for a while. The belivers created temples and brought us offerings and such, great while it lasted; you can still visit some of our old digs in Greece. Now WE are just myths, but sooner or later, allah, vishnu, tao, tipitaka, jesus, flying spaghetti monster, etc. are all going to join us as just silly myths.

      September 29, 2012 at 8:50 am |
  8. Bootyfunk

    jesus is no different than hercules – a mythological figure. hilarious to think of people debating whether a myth figure was married... lol.

    September 29, 2012 at 8:19 am |
  9. Reality

    The RCC is basically fake so what else is new. – only for the new members of this blog:

    To wit:

    Jesus was an illiterate Jewish peasant/carpenter/simple preacher man who suffered from hallucinations (or “mythicizing” from P, M, M, L and J) and who has been characterized anywhere from the Messiah from Nazareth to a mythical character from mythical Nazareth to a ma-mzer from Nazareth (Professor Bruce Chilton, in his book Rabbi Jesus). An-alyses of Jesus’ life by many contemporary NT scholars (e.g. Professors Ludemann, Crossan, Borg and Fredriksen, ) via the NT and related doc-uments have concluded that only about 30% of Jesus' sayings and ways noted in the NT were authentic. The rest being embellishments (e.g. miracles)/hallucinations made/had by the NT authors to impress various Christian, Jewish and Pagan sects.

    The 30% of the NT that is "authentic Jesus" like everything in life was borrowed/plagiarized and/or improved from those who came before. In Jesus' case, it was the ways and sayings of the Babylonians, Greeks, Persians, Egyptians, Hitt-ites, Canaanites, OT, John the Baptizer and possibly the ways and sayings of traveling Greek Cynics.


    For added "pizzazz", Catholic theologians divided god the singularity into three persons and invented atonement as an added guilt trip for the "pew people" to go along with this trinity of overseers. By doing so, they made god the padre into god the "filicider".

    Current RCC problems:

    Pedophiliac priests, an all-male, mostly white hierarchy, atonement theology and original sin!!!!

    September 29, 2012 at 8:11 am |
    • Agapatos

      And who's hallucinating here? ;-<
      If Jesus was illiterate, how was he able to speak Hebrew (as a child in the temple), Aramaic and Greek (to Pontius Pilate)?

      September 29, 2012 at 8:20 am |
    • Cunning Linguist

      Want to learn another language, come to our Rosetta Stone website, we offer a money back guarantee. Spanish, Greek, Hebrew, your choice. We have testimonials from the tower of babble, jesus christ, and many interpreters from the UN.

      September 29, 2012 at 8:30 am |
    • Reality

      Luke 2: 41-52, the twelve year old Jesus in the temple- As per Professor Gerd Ludemann in his book, Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 275, " the episode is unhistorical" (again, a single attestaion). See also http://wiki.faithfutures.org/index.php?ti-tle=433_Jesus_at_Twelve

      Pilate's questions, Jesus answers, Mk. 15.2-5 · Lk. 23.3-5 · Joh. 18.33-38 As per Professor JD Crossan in his book, The Historical Jesus, an invention of Mark later compied by Luke and also John. http://www.faithfutures.org/JDB/jdb180.html. See also Professor Gerd Ludemann's analogous conclusions in his book, Jesus After 2000 Years, pp. 104-106 and pp. 400-401.

      From Professor Bruce Chilton in his book, Rabbi Jesus,

      "Conventionally, scholarship has accorded priority to the first three gospels in historical work on Jesus, putting progressively less credence in works of late date. John's Gospel for example is routinely dismissed as a source......

      From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gospel_of_John#Authorship

      "Since "the higher criticism" of the 19th century, some historians have largely rejected the gospel of John as a reliable source of information about the historical Jesus.[3][4] "[M]ost commentators regard the work as anonymous,"[5] and date it to 90-100."

      "The authorship has been disputed since at least the second century, with mainstream Christianity believing that the author is John the Apostle, son of Zebedee. Modern experts usually consider the author to be an unknown non-eyewitness, though many apologetic Christian scholars still hold to the conservative Johannine view that ascribes authorship to John the Apostle."

      And from Professor Gerd Ludemann, in his book, Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 416,

      "Anyone looking for the historical Jesus will not find him in the Gospel of John. "

      The illiteracy of the simple preacher man aka Jesus, as per some contemporary experts:

      From Professor Bruce Chilton's commentary in his book, Rabbi Jesus, An Intimate Biography, p. 99,

      "What Luke misses is that Jesus stood in the synagogue as an illiterate m–amzer (pp. 98-102) in his claim to be the Lord's anointed".

      Note: Luke 4: 16 is a single attestation. No where else in the NT does it say Jesus could read thereby making said passage historically unreliable. (Luke 4:16-24) has been compared to a number of other passage and found to be equivalent with the exception of Luke 4: 16 which is the only passage in the list of equivalents that mentions reading:

      http://wiki.faithfutures.org/index.php?t-itle=022_Prophets_Own_Country (leave out the hyphen in "t-itle" if you access the reference)

      GThom. 31 & P. Oxy. 1.31
      (2) Mark 6:1-6a = Matt 13:53-58
      (3) Luke 4:16-24
      (4) John 4:44

      Professor JD Crossan notes that Jesus was illiterate coming from a landless peasant background, initially a follower of John the Baptist. e.g. The Excavation of Jesus (with Professor Reed), pp 30-31..

      The question of Jesus's literacy has also been much discussed by the Jesus Seminar and others and they note that references in the Gospels to Jesus reading and writing may well be fictions.

      The only Gospel reference to Jesus writing is John 8:6 in the Pericope Adulterae, widely considered a later addition, where it is not even clear he is forming letters in the dust, and the Greek "εγραφεν" could equally mean he was drawing.

      September 29, 2012 at 11:55 am |
  10. youidiots

    Anything pertaining to Jesus that is not in the bible already, should not be taken seriously...especially stupid stuff like him having a wife...what a stupid fake. Whoever made this story up should come to my house...I've got something for you.

    September 29, 2012 at 8:05 am |
    • Bobby

      Anything written 2000 years ago, should not be taken seriously.

      September 29, 2012 at 8:14 am |
    • Rawalipundit

      Stop calling that trailer that you rent a "house".

      September 29, 2012 at 8:16 am |
    • Dionysus

      Anything pertaining to jesus that IS in the bible already is total BS and plagiarized from earlier god myths. I know the myth and even if his dad had existed and created that lame failure, jesus, he would be really pis*sed. The guy was supposed come down and improve mankind, how well has that worked out? Just another 2000 years of war and hatred, but if you kiss his azs, he will save you after you die!! and yet the sheep keep funding this nonsense.

      September 29, 2012 at 8:20 am |
    • Jon

      Do you mean the guys who made up the bible or the guy who made up this piece of paper about a guy in the bible?

      September 29, 2012 at 8:25 am |
  11. I deny the Holy Spirit

    For once I agree with the Vatican, it is a fake, the church is a fake, religion is a lie.
    The greatest lie ever sold, the money making myth.

    September 29, 2012 at 7:54 am |
    • Agapatos

      IIf the church is a fake, then aren't our lives fake, also?
      (Personally, I can't think of anything more *REAL* than the church.)

      September 29, 2012 at 8:11 am |
    • Damocles


      So your family, friends, co-workers are fake and the church is real? How sad.

      September 29, 2012 at 8:29 am |
  12. 2357

    Demon possessed were some of the first people to recognize Jesus as son of God. If you are spiritual at all, you would recognize him as a supreme sovereign. If you feel a knee-jerk reaction to foam and spit blasphemy at his name, consider it a form of recognition from the demons you've invited into your soul.

    September 29, 2012 at 7:17 am |
    • Fearless Freep

      The brown acid is bad.
      We warned you.

      September 29, 2012 at 8:07 am |
  13. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    September 29, 2012 at 6:39 am |
    • Yup

      Prayer erodes your ability to rationally interpret your surroundings. So, yes, it changes things.

      September 29, 2012 at 8:04 am |
    • Southerner

      oh...ya....Thats what the child molesting bishop tells all of us

      September 29, 2012 at 8:05 am |
    • Agapatos


      September 29, 2012 at 8:12 am |
    • hal 9001

      I'm sorry, "Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things", but your assertions regarding atheism and prayer are unfounded. The degree to which your assertions may represent truths is 0.0. To help you understand the degree to which your assertions may represent truths, I will access my Idiomatic Expression Equivalency module (IEE). Using my IEE module, the expression that best matches the degree to which your assertions may represent truths is: "TOTAL FAIL".

      I see that you repeat these unfounded statements with high frequency. Perhaps the following book might help you overcome this problem:

      I'm Told I Have Dementia: What You Can Do... Who You Can Turn to...
      by the Alzheimer's Disease Society

      September 29, 2012 at 8:38 am |
  14. Marcus

    Christian jesus is all fake and christianity is cult and bible is false and full of deception.

    Sincerly, Marcus.

    September 29, 2012 at 6:14 am |
    • nope


      September 29, 2012 at 6:38 am |
  15. skeptic56

    Um, duh, the whole religious thing is a fake, all of it. Not newsworthy. Go figure the church (which one was that again?) has to make a 'statement' saying the claim is false. Welcome to the 1st century.

    September 29, 2012 at 5:39 am |
  16. maxlamenace1972

    Chruch ealder says about inconvenient appyrus that it is a fake but don't give any of those reason. Well Yeah. Color me surprised. Herck did they even examine it ? Until they give those reason I will ignore their banter. I am not saying that the papryus is 100% valid, i am jsut saying that I willt ake the research of a scholar over the banter of the church. Now if another scholar study the papyrus and give valid reason why it is a fake, that is different.

    September 29, 2012 at 5:22 am |
  17. Dick46

    Where's Jesus's birth certificate?

    September 29, 2012 at 4:45 am |
  18. Nooru

    The awkward moment when Muslims say he never married yet the Christian can't decide on it for 2000 years. He belong to Islam more than to Christianity.

    September 29, 2012 at 4:01 am |
    • Mech

      Actually, if the man existed then he was a human being and didn't and doesn't "belong" to anyone.

      September 29, 2012 at 5:19 am |
  19. Elizabeth

    Jesus spoke in parables and used symbolism. For 2000 years, the Eastern Orthodox Church (the oldest Christian religion) has taught that the bride of Christ is the Church.

    September 29, 2012 at 3:49 am |
  20. Elizabeth

    The bride of Jesus is the Church. The Bible compares the relationship of Jesus and His church to that of a bride and groom. We, the church of Jesus Christ are the bride, and Jesus is the Bridegroom. John the Baptist in explaining that he was not the Christ said in John 3:29, “He who has the Bride is the Bridegroom.”

    September 29, 2012 at 3:44 am |
    • dawg

      So what did he do for the missing 3 decades? Just hang out on a coach and play XBox?

      It would have been extremely unusual for a young Jewish man at that time to not have found a wife, particularly one as well off as Jesus.

      September 29, 2012 at 4:11 am |
    • Badda Bing

      The bride of Jesus is the church that would not exist in his lifetime. Right.

      That's what they call "revisionism" and it's not exactly a complimentary attribute.

      September 29, 2012 at 4:36 am |
    • Fearless Freep

      There was "NO" church when Jesus walked the earth.
      Your so called church was created after his death.
      Keep trying.

      September 29, 2012 at 8:13 am |
    • SixDegrees

      Jesus never said such a thing.

      September 29, 2012 at 8:23 am |
    • Redhawk

      Reply to jim111506...you got an entirely WRONG quote from a verse that doesn't exist sir...That verse you posted reference to is really...John 3:31-"He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: he that cometh from heaven is above all". Might wish to clarify or at least look up a scripture before you post errant information.

      September 29, 2012 at 8:27 am |
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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.