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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. Holdon McGroin

    And we would expect his Popeness to say otherwise. If the cult leader had said it was the truth and Jesus did in fact have a wife, THAT would be news. This is business as usual.

    September 29, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
  2. Brad

    OF COURSE Jesus wasn't married! They didn't allow gay marriage back then.

    September 29, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
    • Jebuswasmarried

      Cheap shot. Funny, but cheap

      September 29, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
  3. borntobepolitical

    I would have thought the made in China sticker on the back of a burlap rice sack would have clued them in, but that's just me

    September 29, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
  4. thegadfly

    It probably is "fake", in the sense that it is unreliable. There is very little in the way of first-hand information about Jesus. It's all legend and myth. But what really strikes me here is the irony - that the Catholic church, perpetrators of unspeakable evil and the greatest con in the history of mankind, is pronouncing the artifact "fake". Boy, if the pope weren't infallible, he'd sure be full of it.

    September 29, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
    • Jebuswasmarried

      Indeed. Just a couple of the books were written shortly after the time in which it is believed that Jesus died. Most of them were written between 40 and 150 years after his death. And the final list was complicated in the 3rd century ad. Those who still read the apocryphal books, (the Gnostics ) we met by the sword of Constantine s soldiers.

      September 29, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
  5. James PDX

    If celibacy is more holy than marriage, then why does it lead to pedophilia?

    September 29, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
  6. meemee

    The New Testament does provide some evidence that Jesus was married. At the wedding at Cana, Jesus is treated as the groom, which is why he was treated as the master of ceremonies. Also, when Jesus orders Mary (Magdalene) to cease mourning when he comes to "raise" her brother from death, only scholars familiar with Jewish practice in that time would know that only a husband may order this and only of his wife. Third, although not included in the 4th century "final" (not really) New Testament, the Gospel of Phillip contains the controversial lines where the disciples argue about Mary Magdalene's role and her relationship with Jesus is illuminated. "He loved her more than any of the other disciples and kissed her often, on the (blank); the text is obscured. Apologists have claimed that this was a "holy kiss" that Christians often practiced on greeting. However, if it was, why would it deserve such special note? Then, there is the tradition in Southern France in Provence where Marie Magdalene is said to have arrived in the year 44 with a daughter and her brother, Joseph of Arimathea. Since the early middle ages a holy site, a cave at St. Baume has been recognized as her place of habitation and was a shrine of holy pilgrims at least locally. The cave was molested during the French Revolution and relics stolen including what was said to be her skull and a humerus. Those artifacts are claimed to be in the custody of an Italian noble to this day. The site of her landing is a village that has existed since Roman times named St. Marie Magdalene de la Mere. There are two (at least) early religious paintings that depict Jesus and Mary Magdalene as a married man and wife. They were recovered from churches in Soutern France and Germany. This demonstrates early Church acceptance of the fact of their marriage. The necessity for Jesus to have been celibate as well as a celibate clergy comes from pagan Egyptian practices that arose when early Christians in Alexandria merged with the remaining Egyptian religions in the early 4th century when they united against Jews there. Even the Roman Catholic robes and headgear are strikingly similar to the pagan Egyptian costume, which has nothing to do with Christian requirements before its establishment. The Vatican has vested interests in denouncing any evidence that would challenge their practices and traditions and can hardly be relied upon as an objective, unbiased party where the authenticity of this papyrus sample or anything else is concerned. The papyrus was tested rigorously before the announcement of its existence was made. It will take more than apologist rationalization to challenge its authenticity.

    September 29, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
    • Joe Anzilotti

      "meemee"–I guess that is an appropriate name for some one interested in only furthering his or her interests. Do you work at Harvard also?
      At any rate, if you do not think enough about your thoughts to use your real name, what is the point of discussing any of your postions? Have a wonderful day in your make believe world.

      September 29, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
    • Jebuswasmarried

      Great post. Add to it that it was very, very uncommon, and rather odd for a Jewish man in his late 20s early 30s not to be married back then. Also, the church over the centuries went out of its way to render magdalene with a poor image, and to exclude the book of magdalene from the Constantine version of the bible.

      September 29, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
    • dr_bugsy

      The papyrus may be authentic in it's age, but it was written centuries after the fact and therefore cannot be considered first-hand knowledge. So, it actually changes nothing.

      September 29, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
    • Jebuswasmarried

      Most of the NT was written far after "the fact"

      September 29, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
    • bruce marsh

      Politically motivated opinions have no scientific value.

      September 29, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
  7. Realist

    the pope, cardinals and bishops need this to be fake. Otherwise it would make them look silly with jesus having been heteros-exual and they being gay.

    September 29, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • Yugnok

      Actually the Church doesn't care what a 4th Century piece of papyrus says. Its not damaging to anything they believe in the least bit.

      Even the article in the Vatican newspaper is just an editorial and doesn't reflect any official position of the Church.

      September 29, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
    • Realist

      actually,, most don't like the filthy catholic pedo church

      September 29, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
  8. Yugnok

    An editorial written in the Vatican Newspaper does not reflect any official position of the Church. L'Osservatore Romano does not speak for the Vatican.

    Whether it is write or wrong, this article is the belief of a guy who wrote in that newspaper. Get your facts straight.

    Stop saying "Vatican Says" everytime someone writes in their newspaper. These journalists are just comical.

    September 29, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
  9. michael

    It would have been helpful to know whither or not the Vatican or one of their representatives physically looked at the fragment or if their denial was solely based on their historical beliefs.

    September 29, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • Pete

      Of course the vatican would declare it a fake! They have far too much invested in this scam to permit free and critical thinking!

      September 29, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
  10. Joe Anzilotti

    As others have already pointed out–you do not need any training in "papyrology" in order to see immediately that this is a poor fraud. The "untrained" eye can see that right away.
    I think the "professor" who has attempted to foist such a fake onto the scholarly community should be demoted to some base activity without a salary. Of course she already "works" at Harvard. What else can I say? It is similar to doing "geography" in recent years with the "National Geographic" if you get my drift.
    This "professor" should be ashamed of herself. An apology is in order.
    As for others who like to insist something else–it is amazing to me the length they will go in order to continue the hedonistic lifestyle without any brakes on their aberrations with further attempted destruction of existing barriers. However, last time I checked, truth subjects everyone to it–independently of what we do.

    September 29, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
    • James PDX

      What's wrong with hedonism? Anytime God wants to do something, he just does it, consequences be damned.

      September 29, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • Rick

      U mad bro?

      September 29, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
    • meemee

      Yes, this God of three religions seemed to be not only a self-centered hedonist and an egotist without match.

      September 29, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
    • Seyedibar

      Doesn't appear to be a fraud at first glance. The papyrus is authentically made, the ink aged correctly, the condition proper for its age. It appears to be no different than the Q scrolls (one of which mentions jesus' wife), which have been authenticated to the middle first century. The photo appears to be of a genuine artifact.
      Still doesn't mean that you should believe in folktales as truth, but it's a cool find regardless.

      September 29, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • Jebuswasmarried

      Does your ranting comes with any scientific evidence, or are you just venting?

      September 29, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
    • Joe Anzilotti

      meme, what do you expect from The God of the universe? Should He ask your permission for anything He does? Here we go with that make believe world again. Does He need to clear His plans with some type of board of directors? What are you on anyway?

      September 29, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
    • Stian Brinch

      Joe, thanks for adding one of the few rational responses to this silly excercise. "Journalists" (a phony "profession" to be sure) around the world have been doing their best over the last forty years to erode centuries of Christian and Jewish traditions and Western cultural ideals. They'll regret it when guys like Castro and Chavez and Putin and Palestinian Poobahs gain their ultimate foothold in the Western world and begin some cultural cleansing of their own. Journalists will be among the first to feel the sting.

      September 29, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
    • James PDX

      Joe, if god were infallible, I would say no. But since he screws up all the time, I think perhaps a board of directors would be a good idea. Of course, any sensible board would immediately vote god out.

      September 29, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • Joe Anzilotti

      James you are one funny guy. Obama would probably enjoy a beer with you. I don't think you are talking about The God when you feel that He needs a board of directors. Your thinking (or lack of thinking) seems a little on the deranged side. But like I said, Obama would probably enjoy a beer with you.

      September 29, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • Joe Anzilotti

      Stian, I agree with your remarks totally. You certainly reach a reasonable conclusion.

      September 29, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • Joe Anzilotti

      James, might I remind you that God by definition is infallible? That is a self evident assertion. Now let us consider that Stout.

      September 29, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
  11. Barry OCarter ll

    Once I saw a Harvard Professor was involved I knew it was a fake.

    September 29, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
    • Joe Anzilotti

      You're on the money Barry.

      September 29, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • Rick

      Once I saw Christianity was involved I knew it was fake.

      September 29, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • Stian Brinch

      Barry made me laugh. And I agree.

      September 29, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
    • Stian Brinch

      Rick, what is your personal pathology that makes you hostile to those who have faith in a God who affirms that good will always ultimately triumphs over evil? Are you evil, or simply weak and cannot suppress your own carnal urges to overindulge in unconventional ways to abuse your body and you hate to be reminded that many other people are stronger than you and can live righteous lives?

      September 29, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
  12. Another Dude in Colorado

    If the Vatican is calling this fake ... well, it is therefore undoubtedly genuine.

    September 29, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
    • Realist

      we need to arrest the pope and bishops for crimes against humanity,, what filthy pigs they are..

      Former catholic rap-ed and so-domized by catholic priests. One of those pedos is a bishop today who is close with the pope.

      September 29, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
  13. Hugh Beaumont

    Now she's plea bargaining: “We don't know if he was married or not."
    We know Jesus was not married. I'm telling you. Jesus was not married.

    September 29, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • dieo360

      he wasn't married? so you were there? or you read a book with all the facts, maybe written by someone who was there? oh ... yeah ... i thought so .... you have no idea, and you are taking what everyone else says as complete and 100% fact when they are doing the same thing you are doing.

      September 29, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
    • Seyedibar

      of course he wasn't.. How can someone who never existed get married?

      September 29, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
  14. RBSG

    So much fuss about a made-up mythological figure who didn't even exist. This is as silly as arguing about whether Santa Claus's boots have laces, buttons or straps.

    September 29, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • Yugnok

      Whether you like it or not Jesus was a real person that had a huge impact on historical events. Its understandable why people would examine and debate him.

      September 29, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • RBSG

      Whether you like it or not, the actual historicity of Jesus cannot be corroborated by anything scientific or actually historical. The only mentions of such a figure is in religious books full of inconsistencies. His "existence" is about as real as that of "Spider-Man", "Santa Claus" or "Mark Twain".

      September 29, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • ExpatKeith

      I'm certainly no Christian, but to deny that Jesus even existed, in light of all historical record to the contrary, is laughable. Whether or not he existed isn't even a logical question. Whether he was, in fact, the son of God is the only dispute.

      September 29, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
    • RBSG

      Expat Keith, there is no "historical" record of Jesus' existence. Do some actual research.

      September 29, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
    • dr_bugsy

      Do a little research, before you make a bigger fool of yourself.

      September 29, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
  15. Jim

    Reminded of "The Life of Brian". In it there are priceless examples of hysterical religiosity: "What did he say?" "He said blessed are the cheese-makers!" is my favorite. The other is a scene in which there is an argument as to which parcel of clothing to follow, shoe or some other... Typially Roman-CATHOLICS exposed! My all time favorite anecdote comes from my deceased Grandfather, who while visiting the Vatican in the 1970's was approached by black-robed nuns asking for pittances for the poor. His reply? "Why don't you tell the Pope to sell some of that junk [gold] they got in there?"

    September 29, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
  16. GoldenRudy

    A hundred, two hundred years from now historians will question whether Obama existed or not. They will wonder, they will ponder, "How could such an advanced society elect such a person that led that country to its demise?" No one will believe that a total incompetent, socialist fool could be elected by the people in the most advanced society known to educated man.

    September 29, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • Jim

      And we have other historically hysterical examples: Rome burned, allegedly while Nero fiddled. Kind of Clintonesque...

      September 29, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • Yugnok

      Instead of fiddling it will say "While the USA burned, Obama golfed then went on the View."

      September 29, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • Hardcharger

      Moron.

      September 29, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • James PDX

      I'm pretty sure they'll be talking much more about Bush than Obama in that light. But you can have your partisan dreams if they allow you to sleep at night.

      September 29, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • dr_bugsy

      James PDX – You do realize the utter hypocrisy of your statement?

      September 29, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • James PDX

      Actually, dr_bugsy, there was no hypocrisy involved whatsoever. Despite the fact that you clearly believe that a person must support one of these two awful parties, I do not. They should both be removed from all positions of power. However, Bush was a much worse president than Obama and I will happily debate this point with you if you like..

      September 29, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • Stian Brinch

      The election of Obama certainly is one of the world's great mysteries and paradoxes. Or maybe it's just another example of mankind's self-destructive nature and the natural chaotic path of a nation that turns its back on faith in a higher power. I'm not even positive that the higher power needs to be the God of Abraham for a society to progress
      ; if you can't get past your skepticism of Biblical miracles, at least consider the miracle of life itself, and ponder the arrogance of those who deny their own insignificance compared to anything in the created universe.

      September 29, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
  17. Kevin

    The Vatican calling a Jesus fragment a fake is like Washington saying there is no Area 51!

    September 29, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
    • John

      What, because both are correct, but there is sufficient vested interest for conspiracy theorists to have something to work with?

      September 29, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
    • Apatheist

      @John Area 51 is not a conspiracy...

      September 29, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
  18. Dude in Colorado

    If Christ was married how does that change the meaning of what he said and taught in his ministry?

    September 29, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
    • truth be told

      It does not matter
      The fragment is 1- not scripture and 2- fake.

      September 29, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • ibsurfing

      It doesn't but it has a profound impact on the Catholic church, and the intentions of the early church "fathers" when codifying the books of the Bible. There really isn't any question that women have been marginalized in every religion of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition.

      September 29, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • mike w

      @truth be told – well that is funny because:
      1. all scripture is fake.

      September 29, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • Body by Jesus

      It means boning is good; Jesus did it. It provides a model for a married priesthood (and therefore a lower percentage of child molesters.)

      September 29, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
    • Rajun Cajun

      Because then it would mean that God looked upon woman as an equal partner in life. Hardly something the Church would want, to confess that the Church holds women in lower esteem than God.

      September 29, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
  19. Lee Bishop

    You'd think that some Harvard "expert" would actually read the Bible before attempting to comment upon Jesus Christ. Throughout the Bible Jesus' wife is identified as the Church.

    September 29, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
    • Another Dude in Colorado

      Prove it.

      September 29, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
    • James PDX

      Which church is that? Jesus was a Jew. Perhaps you meant to say the synagogue?

      September 29, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
    • Here

      Here's an article that writes about it: http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2012/09/the-bible-refers-to-jesus-wife-too/262545/

      The big one: “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it.” (Ephesians 5:25) (i.e. Christ loves the Church as husbands ought to love their wives, ergo the Church is the bride/wife of Christ.)
      Another one is that a large chunk of Revelations is pretty much about the lamb (Christ) marrying the bride (the Church).

      September 30, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
    • Apu

      I'm sorry... one cannot marry a church, anymore than he can marry a 7-11 store.

      September 30, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
  20. stevecomptonart

    Even if it's not a fake it"s probably a Gnostic text. The Gnostics were not Christians but they were related. Jesus was often a part of their cosmology but not central to it. Some view them as the product of pagan syncretic tendencies. They comprised a whole slew of communities like the Manichaeans & Mandeans. The Mandeans are still around today in Iran.

    September 29, 2012 at 1:40 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.