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. mikes

    So, "it's fake," but nothing to indicate why they think it's fake. I guess, as always, the Roman church simply expects the unthinking masses to take their word of faith.

    September 29, 2012 at 10:54 am |
    • JasonR

      Try reading the original article (or have someone translate it for you) and don't rely on CNN's account. CNN, of course, being one of those American media outlets that jumped on the bandwagon.

      September 29, 2012 at 11:03 am |
    • thisgus

      Even if it is real it might say, "Jesus said to them, My wife is the work I do for the Father..." Jesus said to them, "My wife is the love I have for my fellow man" Jesus said to them, "My wife will I find in the afterlife" Jesus said to them, "My wife is only in my dreams." Jesus said to them, "My wife is a 1.5 x 3 index card with an incomplete sentence on it that proves nothing." My wife is a moron who thinks that just because the Vatican says something is fake it must be real"

      September 29, 2012 at 11:03 am |
  2. Steve in St. Louis

    No one knows the authors of the four gospels included in the Bible. There are numerous inconsistencies among them.
    The Catholic church, Roman church actually, selected the canon, under the direction of the Roman emperors, Constantine initially and Constantine directed the council of Nicea in a self interested manner. Jesus was not included in contemporary historical accounts at his time, which seems strange considering the influence his name has had over the centuries.
    The catholic church, made every effort to destroy (book burning) any alternate accounts to their own about Jesus and the early church. This may be a fragment of a book which they were not able to find or burn 1600 years ago.

    September 29, 2012 at 10:52 am |
    • thisgus

      It might also say that Jesus's wife was really an Alien named Zephratapus from the planet poopapotatoe!

      September 29, 2012 at 11:14 am |
  3. Geeeez

    The Vatican is a fake

    September 29, 2012 at 10:50 am |
    • Pagan72

      Unlike their choirboys, who are not, correct? But if the choirboys aren't, and their abuse claims are not? What is real?

      September 29, 2012 at 10:59 am |
  4. Frances French

    OMG! Don't even try to mess with " The Boy's Club " of T he Vatican. Don't you know women are evil and cause men to sin? But, funny how we are all made in God's image and didn't He create Eve as a companion to Adam. These guys at The Vatican with pointy jewel encrusted golden hats, pushing their cloak and dagger agenda need to relax. They have skewed all of Christ's teachings. Beside that The Pope is a Nazi.

    September 29, 2012 at 10:47 am |
    • kevin gee


      September 29, 2012 at 10:51 am |
    • Patrick

      Much to your disappointment, the Catholic Church has nothing to fear in this matter. Imagery of Christ wedding the Church is mentioned numerous times in the scriptures. If this text were to be authentic, for all we know, the very next words could have been "the Church".

      What really gets me is that the majority of false gospels at the time of this text's supposed age were of Gnostic origin. The Gnostics loathed marriage, as well as any other covenant or contract, as it meant that such a person was "tied down" to earthly matters.

      September 29, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • Frances French

      Thanks Kevin Gee, love Ween ...perfect song. Hahahahahahhahar!!!!!

      September 29, 2012 at 11:07 am |
  5. Franklin

    It is amazing to me that so many so-called educated people who know virtually nothing about Christianity bash it based on anecdotal understandings of Christian doctrine. The best way to challenge the authenticity of any belief claim is to systematically study it and weigh the evidence against its critics. The level of immaturity stated in these comments is staggering and frightening. What if your hateful claims about Christianity are wrong? Do you think God will accept your apology after you're dead? The answer is an unequivocal "no".

    September 29, 2012 at 10:47 am |
    • Frances French

      Franklin...God is the creator of all people. Not just The Catholic church. Thinking in such a narrow way is what causes wars. God is God of ALL creation! Funny how Christians even fight among themselves such as Protestants vs Catholics and all the other Christian factions involved. Just live your life as well as you can and mind your own business. I thing God understands.

      September 29, 2012 at 10:58 am |
    • mandarax

      It is amazing to me that so many people assume that anyone who doesn't buy into their religious claims must simply not understand Christianity. It is understood, it just appears silly to many of us. Case in point, the papyrus has been systematically inspected by a cadre of skeptical professionals, and the tentative consensus is that it is real. Then the Vatican without even looking at it announces it a fake, but won't give reasons why. That is what appears silly, regardless of doctrine.

      PS – why do so many people arguing against rationality use the adjective "so-called" in their arguments? I see it a lot – "so-called scientists," "so-called educated people," etc. Does it imply that they have different definitions of science and education than the rest of us?

      September 29, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • Hunter Henry

      Franklin – I agree. God will send you to hell. Yes, you. He won't forgive you for judging people. And I don't want to see your prejudice, judgmental face at the Pearly Gate asking God for forgiveness after you die either. Also, forget going to church on Sunday asking for forgiveness, you judgmental agent of Satan.

      September 29, 2012 at 11:08 am |
    • happyprimate

      Truly, what is amazing is so-called Christians who bash those who have actually studied and researched the evidence of the Christian religion and found it total mythological nonsense. So-called Christians just don't get the fact that those of us who don't buy the ideology and dogma propounded by the "church" have actually take quite a bit of time (years in most cases) to investigate and "understand" where all that BS came from. It is the nonbelievers who actually care about the truth. It is not that we are clueless, it is that we've actually educated ourselves and clued ourselves into the con job that you continue to buy into "on faith".

      September 29, 2012 at 11:14 am |
  6. kevin gee

    I bet Jesus was slaying all the grovelling wenches and harlots back then, he had no time to be married. Homie was a rockstar on the road preaching like a mu'er'fu'er

    September 29, 2012 at 10:46 am |
  7. Vickey

    I am sure it is as fake as Obamas "original" birth certificate.
    Sheriff Joe proved it to have been made up on a computer using layers... total fake.
    As I am sure this will prove to be.

    God Bless us all.

    September 29, 2012 at 10:45 am |
  8. GetSmart

    Jesus does have a bride, it's called the church.

    September 29, 2012 at 10:43 am |
  9. Greg

    Fake or not, if it is real we don't know what it actually says or mentions, the Bible has verses where it explains the bride of Christ being the Church, so if it is true would that hold up in translation?

    September 29, 2012 at 10:43 am |
  10. Sid Fein

    I actually agree with the Catholic church on this one. It is indeed a fake, much like their god. Or any god for that matter. When is the human race going to finally stop being children and grow up? If we could do away with religion maybe we'd have no more excuses as to why we do the terrible things we do. We'd have to start taking responsibility for ourselves. Wouldn't that be a sight?

    September 29, 2012 at 10:41 am |
    • Chris

      It must be very lonely for atheists being such a tiny fraction of society's population yet screaming from their rooftops that they are smarter than the rest of the world.

      September 29, 2012 at 10:44 am |
    • Arthurrrr

      you got that right CHRIS-unbelievers will be shocked to see God after death and discover their whole life fighting against Him was wasted!!!!

      September 29, 2012 at 10:53 am |

      Sid, baby. If there is no god, as you firmly "believe" (having no proof, either) then how are we expected to conduct ourselves – as mere really smart animals? The problem with your "dogma" of godlessness" is that it leads to an inevitable outcome. The strongest will control the weaker and all things are permitted. You may ramble about ethics or cultural "values" or humanism but that is just a load of made up rules, just like Monopoly, and there is no one to enforce them anyway, short of people with more force than you have . Kind of a brutal, souless landscape, is it not?
      Anyway, enjoy your self-imposed arrogant status at the top of the heap. The dung heap.
      ANd while you are there, you might ask yourself, "Why does it bother me so darn much that there is a god."

      September 29, 2012 at 10:54 am |
    • SteveM

      Actually Chris, it is not lonely. There are more of us than you think, and we are getting organized. Be afraid!

      September 29, 2012 at 11:05 am |
    • happyprimate

      @ Chris LOL You'd be unpleasantly surprised to find that there are far more of us nonbelievers than you can possibly imagine and our numbers are growing at astronomical speed. People are actually looking for and obtaining the facts and evidence that religion is pure mythology. We unbelievers are far from lonely and miserable. We are enthusiastic about our one life we have and are working to make the world a far better place where human beings can thrive w/out the shackles of religious dogma and silly ideology of an invisible, magic sky daddy who loves you but will burn you forever for not believing he exists. If you look at the lack of evidence for such it is ridiculous to believe such nonsense. Throughout history, people have made up thousands of spirit gods to account for mysteries they couldn't otherwise explain. Today we have natural explanations for those mysteries and, if you actually keep up with what is being discovered with evidence and proof, we are explaining more and more old mysteries that do not need a supernatural cause. In fact, there is no evidence whatsoever that any supernatural anything has ever existed or ever needed to exist. For the same reasons you reject all the other gods humans have invented, I reject the one you still cling to.

      September 29, 2012 at 11:31 am |
  11. The MaD HaCkER

    A lie can travel around the world before the truth gets out of bed. 😉

    September 29, 2012 at 10:40 am |
    • Hunter Henry

      VirginAir is coming out with a new jet engine powered by bad news and half truth. That will enable us to go around the world in 30 minutes or less (less, if you're the Vatican)

      September 29, 2012 at 10:53 am |
  12. Hunter Henry

    I knew it. The Vatican possesses a time machine, so they went back and knew for sure Jesus was never married. Also, they found the guy who was faking the fragment, and tortured him to death for heresy. Then they cut it out and burned it, but the Vatican agent messed up and left a piece. Or, it could be that he really WAS married (but hey, if priests are not allowed to be married, then no one else should be. Except for Pope Borjia, and a bunch of other Popes, of course).

    September 29, 2012 at 10:40 am |
    • Chris

      The must be double agents who act as scientists who went back in time and proved matter created itself in a bang from nowhere. Then rocks turned into animals. Also while they were back in time 50gazillion years ago they did a carbon test to make sure the earth was getting the same amount of carbon today so that when they say they carbon test things they don't seem like idiots.

      September 29, 2012 at 10:47 am |

      Henry, get a grip. You seem to think the world is a graphic nobvel written by Dan Brown. It is not. Go re-read the article,. The Vatican did not say one way or the other whether Jesus was married. They said the fragment was a fake. That, if you are able to understand simple concepts, is an enormous difference.
      You might also want to go check the background of the purported presenter, King. Once you do you will see exactly what is going one. Can you spell "a g e n d a"?

      September 29, 2012 at 11:01 am |
    • Hunter Henry

      Motorola – Get a firmer grip. The Vatican said "it's a fake", because it counters the Vatican doctrine that "Jesus was never married", or did you conveniently forget that fact? So, now that we settled that, who has an agenda? You, the local church, or the Vatican, or all three of you?

      September 29, 2012 at 11:19 am |
  13. Wootings

    ...well, it's a start. Now if they could just admit that everything else about religion is fake too, we could all step out of the darkness and into the light.

    September 29, 2012 at 10:40 am |
  14. Pizzaman

    Yeah, sure. The boss brought his wife along with 12 of buddies because that's always worked out so well. uh huh, sure.

    September 29, 2012 at 10:39 am |
  15. Jmall

    Error: The Bible does not say Jesus had siblings, as stated in this article. That idea comes from inaccurate translations with an anti-Catholic agenda.

    September 29, 2012 at 10:39 am |
    • Hunter Henry

      The Bible also says "thou shalt not judge" (in old English and all), and since you are judging us, you are condemned to hell. Have fun, you hypocrite ( and don't blame me for your situation, blame the Bible, which you seem to read so well, yet conveniently forget things where it suits you).

      September 29, 2012 at 10:42 am |
    • porchhound

      The problem with the New Testament is that the books were written by people who were relying on oral history passed down from a myriad of people before it got to them.. Mathew, Mark, and Luke conspired in their attempts to capture the actual events of Christ's life. Their writings are almost identical in detail. John writes from a different perspective but still in retrospect. These are stories about stories about stories.....the TRUTH is written "unabridged" in your heart. To rely on a book with two thousand year old events and nothing current except the historic atrocities of the church is a mistake. Every day is a miracle if you look outside the human environment and realize that we are no more created in the image of God than the creatures of the forest....if we were would we be destroying the Creation bestowed on all creatures?

      September 29, 2012 at 11:01 am |
    • rich

      Haha! I've read the gospels in Greek, and they very clearly say that Jesus had brothers, and a mother and *gasp* father. Declaring everything that contradicts your beliefs inaccurate and "anti-catholic" doesn't make it untrue.

      September 29, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
  16. SixDegrees

    "Substantial reasons would lead us to conclude that the papyrus is actually a clumsy counterfeit"

    Okay. Would you care to share a few of those substantial reasons with the rest of us, or should we just take your word they exist?

    September 29, 2012 at 10:38 am |
  17. jerry d

    When researching for the real Jesus, go with the testimony of the eyewitnesses- found in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Liars don't make themselves into martyrs– the disciples were willing to die for their testimony.

    For all you Catholic bashers– there are other Christian churches besides the one governed by the pope– don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.

    September 29, 2012 at 10:38 am |
    • SixDegrees

      "the disciples were willing to die for their testimony"

      Proving that delusion has existed throughout the ages. Or are you going to claim that the guy who lept into the tiger pit at the zoo last week was the bearer of some profound truth?

      September 29, 2012 at 10:40 am |
    • rich

      Sorry, but there is not evidence that any of the gospel writers were eyewitnesses to the events they describe, and substantial reasons to think that all or most of the gospels were written well after the deaths of anyone who could have been a contemporary of Jesus.

      September 29, 2012 at 10:45 am |
    • jerry d

      I feel sorry for you "no evidence" people. You've obviously been brainwashed by your self righteous teachers. There are many skeptics who've tried to disprove the life, death and resurrection of Jesus through the years. Do you know claim superior enlightenment over them? If you can prove ANYTHING to the contrary of the original written records– you will become instant millionaires. Start by reading the testimony of the original murdering skeptic– the Apostle Paul– in the book of Acts. If you want contemporary skeptics read "Mere Christianity" by C.S. Lewis or "Evidence that Demands a Verdict," by Josh McDowell.

      I doubt you will take this challenge. You might actually have to think for yourself– an ability you seem to lack.

      September 29, 2012 at 11:11 am |
    • rich

      Actually, Jerry D, I have read the gospels in the original Greek. And, like most who are not blinded by their preconceived notions of authorship, I have come to the conclusion that most if not all of them were written in the second century. Mark may have been written as early as the 80's CE. Furthermore, there is absolutely no evidence that the authorship traditionally ascribed to these gospels is accurate. Certainly based on language and internal evidence they do not appear to have been written by any of the disciples described in the gospels.

      I also have to wonder in light of your claims that people do not martyr themselves for 'lies' whether you grant the same claims to truth to the Koran, for which many thousands have died.

      Ultimately, though, the flaw in your logic is that people die for things that they believe all the time, without any real regard to whether they are true or not. Even if I were to grant the validity of your claim that the authors of the gospels were martyred, I would grant as a conclusion only that those martyrs actually believed what they had written...not that it was true.

      September 29, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
    • jerry d


      I'd be surprised if you knew koine greek well enough to read the gospels. But taking you at your word the evidence you cite for late authorship of the gospels is an opinion based on a priori assumptions. Whatever arguments you think you've gotten from your lib college prof's there are just as many and much logically stronger arguments from the other side. Archaeologically, there is stronger evidence now for the earliest dates of the gospels (prior to 60 CE) than when I first studied these things in school and we needed to know both sides. And yes, I can read nt greek– though I'm not claiming to be a scholar.

      The problem with your argument on martyrs is easy if you think on your own. The modern day martyrs are not the eyewitnesses and in most cases are the blind followers. I don't see too many imam's blowing themselves up for the cause. Nor did Mohammed– he did kill his fair share though. The leaders of Islam are the exact opposite of Christ, the 12 disciples and the original eyewitnesses. All the disciples needed to do is recant their testimony and they would have been spared. None of them did.

      September 29, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
  18. Tings

    If the book of Mark was just now discovered, it might also be viewed as fake because it differs from the other 3 gospels. This fragment is no more or less accurate than any of the gospels. All of the Jesus quotes are fake. It's the world's oldest and least accurate game of telephone.

    September 29, 2012 at 10:38 am |
    • GoldenRudy

      RE: Tings. What evidence do you have to backup your claim that all quotes attributed to Jesus are fake? You do know that if you do have such evidence, you will be quite a wealthy person when you make the proof public. Please enlighten us.

      September 29, 2012 at 10:49 am |
    • Ting

      Not one word spoken by Jesus was written down while he was alive. He was illiterate and so were his disciples. I'm sure God intended for it to be this way to test your faith. So keep on believing.

      September 29, 2012 at 10:59 am |
  19. ertwngr

    CNN could have included scholars' near unanimous opinions with supporting research about why this fragment is a fake but didn't. I wonder why. Elsewhere it has been reported that there is no chain of custody for the fragment, that t has no history past a couple decades, that it clearly is cut from a larger fragment by a modern instrument, that the syntax is mixed modern and ancient, and tat the words being pointed as as saying wife may actually mean something entirely different.

    Further, CNN could also have mentioned that the so-called Harvard employed "expert" in this case is a previously proven fraud who has claimed that Mary Madeleine was an Apostle, and that Jesus was not divine. Her motives are clear and her scholarship a joke.

    But instead of including all that, the media just mixes the words "wife" and "Jesus" to draw traffic to their websites. It's a tossup who is more dishonest, CNN or the hoaxster who fed them the story.

    September 29, 2012 at 10:38 am |

    Jesus son of Mary (on whom be peace) will get married and have children in his second coming, for more on this read the final testament – Al Quraan- The Criterion and the statements of his brother Muhammad son of Abdullah ( may Allah exalt his mention).

    Allah The Lord of The Worlds categorically states in the final testament Al Quraan in Chapter 5 Surah Maidah verse 116-119: the following

    And [beware the Day] when Allah will say, "O Jesus, Son of Mary, did you say to the people, 'Take me and my mother as deities besides Allah ?'" He will say, "Exalted are You! It was not for me to say that to which I have no right. If I had said it, You would have known it. You know what is within myself, and I do not know what is within Yourself. Indeed, it is You who is Knower of the unseen.

    I said not to them except what You commanded me – to worship Allah , my Lord and your Lord. And I was a witness over them as long as I was among them; but when You took me up, You were the Observer over them, and You are, over all things, Witness.

    If You should punish them – indeed they are Your servants; but if You forgive them – indeed it is You who is the Exalted in Might, the Wise.

    Allah will say, "This is the Day when the truthful will benefit from their truthfulness." For them are gardens [in Paradise] beneath which rivers flow, wherein they will abide forever, Allah being pleased with them, and they with Him. That is the great attainment.

    Also read http://www.discoveringislam.org/return_of_jesus.htm

    September 29, 2012 at 10:34 am |
    • Sid Fein

      Problem is Jesus is dead, he's not coming back. There is no such thing as a messiah. It's all baloney.

      September 29, 2012 at 10:43 am |
    • Sid Fein

      Oh and so is Mohammed and your religion is a lie too.

      September 29, 2012 at 10:44 am |
    • CLBrown

      The "Jesus" who Muslims claim to believe in is UTTERLY UNRELATED to the Jesus of Christian belief. Don't leave out the belief by Muslims that it will be "Issa" (the "muslim" version's actual name) who will supposedly order the outlawing of Christianity, and will be directly responsible for the execution (by beheading) of any Christian who refuses to convert to Islam. All of that, from the Koran (supposedly the unfiltered words of Allah), or the Hadith (the sayings and deeds of Mohammed, supposedly Allah's "perfect example for all mankind to follow").

      Only one view... Christian or Muslim... or possibly "neither"... can be true. Be clear about that. Despite Islam claiming to include "a guy who used to be called Jesus" in their belief system, there is no common ground between the two.

      The way Muslims treat Jesus is akin to treating Mohammed like Pee Wee Herman, or treatng the "Mahdi" (Islam's supposedly imminent "messiah figure") like a circus clown...

      September 29, 2012 at 11:07 am |
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