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. MadGOPer

    The Vatican wouldn't want anything to mess with established dogma... If Jesus was married, so much the better.. Otherwise, being 30+ years old single man in Jewish society of the time would get you funny looks even before you started preaching the Word of God..

    September 29, 2012 at 11:09 am |
  2. Gary-BG

    The name Jesus was a very common name in the days of Christ much like today John or Dave is.So even if proven authentic it does not prove it was a mention of Jesus of Nazareth. Regardless it was the work of the "Cross" that matters not any other work done by Christ.

    September 29, 2012 at 11:09 am |
  3. st. kevin

    Jesus would not have spoken the words shown on the fragment; therefore it's a fake. It doesn't fit his style of speaking.

    September 29, 2012 at 11:09 am |
    • waitasec

      why not? have you read the gospel according to mary, or thomas or even judas?

      September 29, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • wjshelton

      ... and you know this because?

      September 29, 2012 at 11:14 am |
    • SixDegrees

      Given that we don't have a single actual example of his speaking or writing style, I don't see how you can reach such a conclusion.

      September 29, 2012 at 11:18 am |
    • Jonboy

      His Style of speaking? lmao. You do realize that Jesus never wrote anything and all of the gospels were written a couple of hundred years after his supposed death as third or fourth hand accounts, right? It's not like he had a secretary or a stenographer.

      September 29, 2012 at 11:22 am |
  4. templeknight

    The all boy club at the vatican says its a fake, english translation he was married to Magdalene and it terrifies them, the foundation of the church has been torn asunder.

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

      How would Jesus being married terrify the church? It would mean jesus needed someone to cook for him and wash his dirty loincloth. He was made man after all. Someone had to fetch his newspaper and nag him all day. Is that so hard to comprehend?

      September 29, 2012 at 11:12 am |
  5. Jesuhsus

    the findings of the 1.5- by 3-inch honey-colored fragment. OMG. That was a postage stamp back then. Silly christians!

    September 29, 2012 at 11:08 am |
  6. pfoneill

    Roman Catholics should, en masse, in every country on earth, go on a wild bloody rampage, burning, looting and killing, over this insult to the messiah.

    September 29, 2012 at 11:08 am |
  7. Blessed are the Cheesemakers

    I really enjoy the irony when the religious decide to be skeptical of extraordinary claims.

    September 29, 2012 at 11:05 am |
    • Rufus T. Firefly


      September 29, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • sneeky

      I'm not following you... are you SUGGESTING that some part of the Bible or religion in general is based on extraordinary claims?? Why that's just blasphemy! The Bible is ALL fact and you should do as it says verbatim! To do otherwise will doom you to helll. On another note, I think I read somewhere that Jesus may have had an affair with Santa Claus's wife, but I'm still investigating this.

      September 29, 2012 at 11:19 am |
  8. charles

    I am sure whatever CBS decides the world will accept

    September 29, 2012 at 11:05 am |
  9. JJ

    World: No one cares what the Vatican has to say about this.

    September 29, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • Peggy

      Exactly. The Vatican should stop dictating what others believe or think.

      September 29, 2012 at 11:12 am |
  10. Rufus T. Firefly

    "The best way to challenge the authenticity of any belief claim is to systematically study it and weigh the evidence against its critics."

    I disagree, the best way to challenge the authenticity of any belief claim is to systematically study it and weigh the idea against evidence. That's hypothesis testing – they built that whole science thing out of it....

    September 29, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • thisgus

      How do you prove anything about a belief? A belief can't be proven true or false, it's a belief. I believe in true love, are you claiming you can prove I don't believe that?

      September 29, 2012 at 11:10 am |
  11. kathy

    Of course the vatican will say that. WIth all their ridiculous beliefs and rules that do not include women they will never admit that possibly Jesus was a man like every one else.

    September 29, 2012 at 11:04 am |
  12. Pagan72

    Jesus is Married To Isis. If you think not, contact a medium. He has been Married To Isis for a long, long time.

    September 29, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • Pagan72

      They have been Married for over 2,000 years.

      September 29, 2012 at 11:05 am |
  13. lyon

    Steve in St. Louis I agree with much of the tings you said But its funny how you know all the details as if you were there when they burn all the Books

    September 29, 2012 at 11:03 am |
  14. HenryMiller

    The First Council of Nicaea defined Catholic "truth" in 325 CE, and they're not about to let any newly discovered facts get in the way of that.

    September 29, 2012 at 11:03 am |
  15. Ron

    What else would they say...... they need to maintain the idea that only MEN can rule their church and women are second class members good for cleaning the churches.

    September 29, 2012 at 11:03 am |
  16. Matt in Oregon

    Of course they say its fake. They have a vested interest in maintaining church dogma.

    September 29, 2012 at 11:00 am |
  17. Liam

    It probably is fake. Just like all of the after-the-fact writings that describe a man that lived 200 years prior. How about some incontrovertible proof there was a historic Jesus? The world is still waiting for one shred of empirical evidence.

    September 29, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • thisgus

      And yet a huge portion of the world still worships him as God. Imagine that.

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

      It's likely that the gospels of Matthew. Mark and Luke were written within 50 years of Jesus's death.

      September 29, 2012 at 11:12 am |
    • Paul

      The oldest surviving piece of the Gospel of John is from around AD 125-175, from Egypt. Paul's writing were in the AD 50's. This was much later. Where on earth are you getting the absurd statement that there's no evidence that Jesus existed? And where is this "200 years after" nonsense?

      September 29, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • OTOH


      And 2/3rds of the World does not.

      Over 2,000 years, and this is how true people think these stories are? It took maybe 50 years for the laws of gravity to be accepted worldwide - same for rabies, polio and smallpox vaccinations, telephone communication, trains, cars, and all sorts of other things that are REAL.

      September 29, 2012 at 11:13 am |
  18. Sebastian2

    So what? The Shroud of Turin is also a fake (the materials have been carbon dated to a later period), but the Vatican still plays along with that one....

    September 29, 2012 at 10:59 am |
    • JasonR

      I don't believe that Shroud of Turin is fake. It's been shown that the cloth samples taken for carbon dating came from an area of the shroud that had been rewoven. No credible method dating from the Middle Ages has been shown that could have made the Shroud image.

      September 29, 2012 at 11:08 am |

      The pollen and other organic contaminants skewed the carbon dating numbers. You can look it up, as they say. A really dascinating topic, though. Sorta like a "challenge" to us.

      September 29, 2012 at 11:21 am |
    • GoldenRudy

      Did you miss the study that said the cloth (aka shroud) had seeds in it from a plant only known to be from the area of Jerusalem? And that that flower only goes to seed in the month of April? That the cloth was partially burnt and that would alter the carbon dating to the time of the fire? And the ability to produce a 3-d image appears to have been unknown at the time of the latest carbon dating to the 14th century? I believe the Catholic Church's position is that you can believe it is the burial shroud of Christ or not. It is not an article of faith. No one will be murdered, no building will be destroyed by faithful Catholics, if you do not believe it is the actual burial shroud.

      September 29, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
  19. earl

    As mentioned by someone earlier this article provides no details in support of the "fake" decision. Technology is available to test the age of the paper this was written on and no where do they describe the "word" that they are assuming means "wife." Word translations vary widely depending on the actual date and time of it's use so why didn't they elaborate on the actual words they are claiming describe Jesus as having a wife! Ancient language translations vary widely during this time period and since the actual date this was supposedly written is not narrowed down and the "wife" statement is incomplete the whole theory is suspect. Worthless article!!! No wonder CNN is going down the toilet.

    September 29, 2012 at 10:58 am |
    • Pagan72

      Actually. the truth is here. Jesus Married Isis. He did not marry while incarnate,

      September 29, 2012 at 11:01 am |
  20. GoldenRudy

    I am waiting for the Harvard Divinity School (oh my) to undertake the study of Islam and the Koran. I await the results of that study to either confirm or refute the claims therein about the character of "the Prophet" and the dogma contained in the Koran. It seems to me there is many more interested in a learned review of Islam today than there is in an assessment of Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Taoism, Buddhism, Wicca, etc..

    September 29, 2012 at 10:56 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.