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. G. Zeus Kreiszchte

    The "Religious Authority" says god exists.
    They also say that the god that they claim exists says that they have the authority to tell you what is right and wrong, real or fake, what to believe.
    There is no corroboration of any such claims from any independent, unbiased sources.
    And yet billions of idiots continue to fall for this scam worldwide.
    Mankind is doomed if it cannot learn and grow, throw off the shackles of ancient, obsolete paradigms of knowledge-gap-filling bogeymen, fairies, etc.
    Yeah sure, if you think about it, it does kind of make sense that the universe is still only made up of 4 elements: earth, air, fire, and water. No need to abandon ancient thinking just because new things are discovered that easily discredit and replace the old ways.

    September 29, 2012 at 8:59 am |
    • LS

      Some people seem to need religion so much that they are willing to put aside common sense and intellect. It is so un-nerving to think that we will die. That our loved ones will die and we will never ever be together again. Also, when you are brought up with religion, everyone you know and trust is in on it. It must be true! Often, if you question it, you are severely looked down upon. In some countries, if you question it, you're stoned to death. I hope the radical Christians here don't plan on taking us back to those days. With what's been happening here lately, though, I wonder. Religious extremists are a scary bunch, regardless of which story they're pushing.

      September 29, 2012 at 9:11 am |
  2. Old Man facing zero

    I still remember in Catholic school in the 1950's in NYC when the
    "Dead Sea Scrolls" were discovered how quickly our RC Priest said they were fake.
    All religions only want you to feel what they dictate ,what they don't tell you is that one
    can lead a happy peaceful and giving life ,without them

    September 29, 2012 at 8:56 am |
    • maxmaxwell

      well I just hope you are eating fish on fridays, I don't want to see you burn in hades for not eating fish

      September 29, 2012 at 9:07 am |
  3. Colin

    A quick five question test to help understand Catholicism.

    Q.1 The statement “I believe in God because the Bible tells me to and the reason I follow the Bible is because it is the word of God” is:

    a. Circular reasoning at its most obvious;

    b. The reason 99% of Catholics believe what they do;

    c. Specific to the Judeo-Christian parts of the World and totally rejected by all other parts of the World; or

    d. All of the above.

    Q.2 The best theory we currently have is that Universe was created about 13.7 billion years ago in what is (somewhat misleadingly) called the Big Bang. To understand this we should:

    a. Simply declare that, because we don’t know what caused the Big Bang, the Hindu god Brahma must have created the Universe.

    b. Simply declare that, because we don’t know what caused the Big Bang, God must have created the Universe.

    c. Adopt the Australian Aboriginal belief that the Universe was created by a great snake in the Dreamtime; or

    d. Accept the limits on our current knowledge and just stop there, without invoking a magic act by any god to fill the current gap in our knowledge.

    Q.3 Likewise, we know that life on Earth evolved over the last approximately 3.5 billion years and likely began in a planet wide “organic soup” of complex organic chemicals in the primordial oceans, in an increasingly well understood process. As such, we should:

    a. Look for any limitation in our knowledge and, when we find one, jump up and say “aha, scientists cannot yet fully explain (for example) how DNA synthesis first occurred, therefore the Judeo-Christian god did it.”

    b. Look for any limitation in our knowledge and, when we find one, jump up and say “aha, scientists cannot yet fully explain (for example) how DNA synthesis first occurred, therefore the Hindu god Brahma did it.”

    c. Simply read our Bibles and find the answers there; or

    d. Continue our scientific research and experimentation and not make the bald faced assertion that any god, ghost or goblin must have conjured up life through some inexplicable act of magic.

    Q.4 Probably the most fundamental tenet of Catholic faith is that God sent his son Jesus to Earth to die and save us from the original sin of Adam and Eve. We now know that Adam and Eve was a myth. As such, any thinking Catholic should:

    a. Honestly and courageously question this and any other aspects of their faith that don’t make sense.

    b. Make up some euphemistic nonsense like “well, we didn’t mean that literally” after having done exactly that for the last 1900 years until science comprehensively disproved it.

    c. Just ignore the blatant contradiction and sweep it under the mat; or

    d. Hold on to the myth because it makes them feel good.

    Q.5 Please choose your favorite Catholic superst.ition from those below. For the one you choose, please say why it is any more ridiculous than the rest of the garbage Catholics swallow and give an example of a non-Catholic belief which is just as stupid.

    a. Grocery store bread and wine becomes the flesh and blood of a dead Jew from 2,000 years ago because a priest does some hocus pocus over it in church of a Sunday morning.

    b. When I pray for something like “please god help me pass my exam tomorrow,” an invisible being reads my mind and intervenes to alter what would otherwise be the course of history in small ways to meet my request.

    c. You can pray to a dead person for something. This dead person will then ask God to fulfill your wish. If this happens twice, this dead person becomes a saint.

    d. A god impregnated a virgin with himself, so he could give birth to himself and then sacrifice himself to himself to negate an “original sin” of a couple we now know never existed.

    September 29, 2012 at 8:56 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Question one and its answer basically trumps all the rest. Believers have taken a wager: the safest way to escape hell is to believe in something entirely that promises salvation and ignore all contrary evidence. If there is no hell they are only fools. If there is, then perhaps they will escape hell.

      September 29, 2012 at 9:41 am |
  4. vslowe

    Of course church leaders say it is a fake! No one can dare to challenge the male controlled vatican leaders. They have kept christian women submissive for almost two thousand years and be damned if they will give up that power in spite of what Jesus said. He said what we say he said. And that's that.

    September 29, 2012 at 8:55 am |
  5. rockysfan

    Of course you would call it a fake; it would bring down the church if it were true now wouldn't it? Oh, if only! Personally, I think that would be the best thing for Christianity!

    September 29, 2012 at 8:54 am |
    • saggyroy

      Blasphemer ! Off with your head !

      September 29, 2012 at 8:56 am |
    • An Inquisitor

      Even back in the day we were never into beheading, now-a-days you have a choice-
      1. Turned into cat food from the old "fed to the lions tradition"
      2. Burned at the stake. Big crowd pleaser in dark ages Spain.
      3. The crucifision, enough said.
      4. Self flagelation to the point of death, not for fun but on orders.
      5. As a Vatican se*x toy for life, gender does not matter.

      September 29, 2012 at 9:10 am |
    • saggyroy

      @Inquisitor okay I will take the burning at the stake. It is better than a cold chop. (Curly Howard).

      September 29, 2012 at 9:21 am |
  6. William

    Its kind of hard to know whats really the thruth, since all the stories about Jesus were written by people other than jesus. Isnt it strange he never wrote anything himself???? or it could be it just hasnt been found yet.

    September 29, 2012 at 8:53 am |
  7. GiveItUp

    If Jesus himself appeared and stated that he was married, the Vatican would denounce him as a fraud. Mustn't say or do anything that conflicts with the story they've been capitalizing on for thousands of years.

    September 29, 2012 at 8:52 am |
  8. saggyroy

    I'll wait for the Dan Brown novel to come out and see how this all ends....

    September 29, 2012 at 8:52 am |
  9. John

    The priests can raape all the children they want but don't mess with the church's doctrine. Jesus is their golden boy who they have used to their benefit for 2000 years at enslaving the gullible masses.

    September 29, 2012 at 8:51 am |
  10. arceon

    Why listen to Vatican's BS? It's just an ancient cult trying to be relevant again.

    September 29, 2012 at 8:50 am |
  11. Um...no

    Interesting. I was talking with the Papyrus and it said the Catholic Church was a fake.

    September 29, 2012 at 8:49 am |
  12. saggyroy

    From the New York Times 9/18/2012: "When, where or how the fragment was discovered is unknown. The collector acquired it in a batch of papyri in 1997 from the previous owner, a German. It came with a handwritten note in German that names a professor of Egyptology in Berlin, now deceased..." Oooooh the guy is dead. The pope obviously whacked this guy.

    September 29, 2012 at 8:46 am |
    • saggyroy

      One phone call to "take care of a little problem" fuggedabouddit.

      September 29, 2012 at 8:49 am |
  13. Roy

    This article provides us with nothing but rhetoric from the Vatican, where's the evidence it is a fake?

    September 29, 2012 at 8:45 am |
  14. Johnney

    Who cares. You religious fanatics are so stupid. Why don’t you go shoot or blow somebody up so you can get some attention you so desperately need.

    September 29, 2012 at 8:44 am |
  15. Rick McDaniel

    That's exactly what they WOULD say!

    They have no intention of explaining away that Jesus was NOT what they claim him to be.

    September 29, 2012 at 8:43 am |
  16. caeser

    The Church seems to be more upset over this little piece of paper(and the potential truth it holds)than they are over the pedophiles in their own midst.

    September 29, 2012 at 8:42 am |
  17. Common Sense

    Jesus was obviously either gay or a eunoch according to the Vatican.How dare he have the normal feelings and urges of a mortal man

    September 29, 2012 at 8:40 am |
  18. saggyroy

    How long did it take the Vatican before they let someone carbon date the Shroud of Turin? And they can just off the cuff say this is fake?

    September 29, 2012 at 8:38 am |
  19. JBHedgehog


    September 29, 2012 at 8:38 am |
  20. Acegirlshusband

    So, tell us why the Vatican believes the fragment to be fake...

    "Because we don't agree with it – and we say so. Don't mess with the Vatican."

    September 29, 2012 at 8:37 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.