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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. Dan S.

    Experts who have examined the papyrus think it is almost certainly genuine, but there is no real proof either way. Of course, it might say something like "My wife, if I had one, would distract me from my ministry, so I will remain unmarried." But probably not.

    September 29, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
  2. Southerner

    The vitriol here is just wrong. You can refuse to believe in Jesus and all else t he Bible tells us. But you don't have to be so mean spirited about it.

    September 29, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
    • fyre

      We get annoyed when any crazy belief system is shoved down our throats, especially if it influences laws that affect all of us. I think people are just venting.

      September 29, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • End Religion

      Religion should be treated with ridicule, hatred and contempt, and I claim that right.
      @4:10
      [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PY8fjFKAC5k&w=640&h=360]

      September 29, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
  3. John D.

    the Vatican is right for now. this piece of cloth has never been scientifically examined by anyone. not even the person who found it. there was a recent article about this in the UK news. she claims it is too small to cut a piece off for carbon testing. she says it will ruin the "artifact". i only put it in quotes because at this point there is no evidence that it is real. if it is dated and truly deemed ancient. then we can start discussing the message seriously. until then...it's all academic.

    September 29, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
  4. Sin Breaker

    Everyone will bow before Jesus.

    September 29, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
  5. Kummin

    I see from the comments that the atheists come out from under their rocks in force on articles like this. Oh well, they come and go. . . . . . .

    September 29, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • Byron Jones

      As does all flesh. One doesn't have to be an atheist to be skeptical.

      September 29, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • End Religion

      we're here to help religion continue to diminish. Soon the nuthouse known as religion will only consist of the craziest of mental patients.

      September 29, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • RBSG

      And when atheists post articles, the Christians come out in force. It's a free country. What's your point?

      September 29, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
  6. mike

    suuuure its fake! the vatican never lies! hahaha (sarcasm)

    September 29, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
  7. scientificpoetry

    Really... who cares... Religion has worn out it's welcome in the civilized world. Let it die a slow death in the 3rd world as it becomes more civilized over time.

    September 29, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
  8. Larry

    I noticed the article doesn't mention when and how the Vatican scientifically examined the fragment.

    September 29, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • Jebuswasmarried

      Oh, the Vatican is above that.... Gotta perpetuate the myths...

      September 29, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
    • Vince

      Exactly. Circle the wagons and damn the truth. Tell the idiots whatever we need to.

      September 29, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
    • Byron Jones

      They don't need to. It was a divine revelation.

      September 29, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
    • John D.

      that's because it's never been scientifically examined by anyone. not even the person who found it. there was a recent article about this in the UK news. she claims it is too small to cut a piece off for carbon testing. she says it will ruin the "artifact". i only put it in quotes because at this point there is no evidence that it is real. if it is dated and truly deemed ancient. then we can start taking the message seriously and go from there.

      September 29, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
  9. Frances French

    I know the cloth is real. My family has a really old invitation and a silver tea set from Jesus and Mary's wedding. But I am not sending it To the Vatican..............

    September 29, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • Byron Jones

      The tea set better be sterling and not plate.

      September 29, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • Frances French

      It is Mr. Jones. Would you care to visit for High Tea some afternoon?

      September 29, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
    • Byron Jones

      Why thank you, Ms. French

      September 29, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
    • Frances French

      Not at all Mr. Jones I would gladly Host the party. That's what we call it.

      September 29, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
  10. Joe

    Have to agree with the Vatican here. Almost all of his adult life he traveled around hanging out with a dozen friends, all were male. Obviously he wasn't married. It wasn't legal for him to get married in that time period.

    September 29, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • Byron Jones

      No kidding? Jews weren't allowed to marry then?

      September 29, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
  11. Last Day

    Vatican,

    SON OF MAN has already COME, as JESUS foretold,
    in the beginning of this most critical Third and Last DAY (=MILLENNIUM) now (John 6/27, 40)!
    So immediately give ear and listen to him now, and thus clearly and unmistakably see JESUS here again (Luke 13/35 = John 6/40) before it may be too late for you then (Matthew 7/21-23)!

    http://www.holy-19-harvest.com
    UNIVERSAL MAGNIFICENT MIRACLES

    September 29, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • Byron Jones

      Running a little short on the meds?

      September 29, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
  12. iambicpentamaster

    A fake?

    Really?

    Which surprises no one...

    September 29, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
  13. Ed

    No proof of Jesus ever living either.

    September 29, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
    • Brian

      Tons of proof that he existed..So much so that it is very very rare to find any historian, etc who denies he was not a real person...and usually in that case they are making a hypothesis of his non-existence.
      Tons of questions on aspects of his life, was he really as important at the time, etc etc...

      Not that you care..the proof is longer then one sentence..not as catchy you know....

      September 29, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
    • End Religion

      brian there is not one shred of proof he existed. You only have unreliable accounts, or reports from "sources" involved in the whole scam, and nothing more. But since you're religious, you really don't know what proof is or have a need for it.

      September 29, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
  14. tarasbalderdash

    This is an outrageous tempest in a teapot. The fragment is obviously Gnostic and there is nothing unusual at all about odd use of gender, marriage, etc. in Gnostic gospels. Have a look at some of the odder spots in the Gospel of Thomas, for instance. This doesn't mean he wasn't married. In keeping with the cultural traditions of the time and place it would be very unusual if he wasn't married in his teenage years. But this particular fragment doesn't prove or disprove that. Indeed nothing in the canonical gospels proves or disproves anything. They are heavily redacted accounts of events otherwise unrecorded.

    September 29, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
    • Frances French

      Her, Is that the tea pot my family has along with the invite to Jesus and Mary's wedding? Better not be a tempest in there!

      September 29, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • Byron Jones

      Ms. French,

      Earl Grey, perchance? Not familiar with the tempest type.

      September 29, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
  15. AingealCaithim

    Of course the Catholic Church will say it is a fake, it goes against everything they want people to believe. The Catholic Church is fake, they do not follow the word of God or Jesus. They have made their religion a God instead of making God their religion. They are thieves, pedophiles. Their Bible is also fake. They are not the words of God or Jesus. They are thoughts of men. The Bible has been translated many times and each time important words have been changed , sometimes intentionally and sometimes by mistake. The Catholic Church also took out parts of the Bible that did not suit their wants. They created a Bible according to their ideas and need of control. Not by the word of God or Jesus.

    They are so eager to call others and items, heretical.. It is because they fear the truth coming out. So they deny and condemn.

    I believe in God the Father, His Son Jesus and the Holy Ghost. I also believe that of the Old Testament.

    September 29, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • Vince

      And now a poll shows that a majority of Catholics favor Obama. This is the guy who voted 4 times to let live aborted babies to die in a back room. Also the same guy that mandated the Church to provide contraception to all its people. As if I needed another reason to stop going to Church. Catholicism is dead and irrelevant.

      September 29, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
    • Not so

      I am not Catholic, but I do know a lot about their beliefs. I am sorry but you are mistaken on several issues. They have the exact same bible that Protestants use except they have included 7 ancient Hebrew texts in the old testament portion. It is always wise to know what the other side REALLY believes before assuming and giving statements that are not true.

      September 29, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
  16. CACkle

    So we know nothing more than before...

    September 29, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
  17. Jebuswasmarried

    Add to it that the Romans were very good at keeping records of crucifixions. But no record of a Jesus being crucified during the time of Pilates exists.

    September 29, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
    • theawesomersfranchise

      LOL "Very good"...is that to mean mistake free? Or a meaningless comment that doesn't prove or even help suggest anything substantial?

      September 29, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
    • Jebuswasmarried

      And your comment adds what?

      September 29, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
    • nebuli

      Romans were very good at keeping records of crucifixtions? Rubbish! If you believe that inaccurate nonsense you might just as well believe anything. If you're a sceptic than you must question all statements, whether or not they support your views. Like you, I question of much the gospels, but I prefer to base my questioning on facts, not historically inaccurate propoganda.

      September 29, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
    • Byron Jones

      Pilates came later. Oh. you mean Pilate - never mind

      September 29, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
  18. tony

    Copernicus, Galileo and Luther were all fakes originally according to the "church".

    No change is possible when you are blinded by the fantasy of religious "thinking".

    September 29, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
  19. Matthew

    The mythology of the resurrection is the only part of JC's existence that's relevant to the church, and its follower's, isn't it? Unless, of course, JC was actually married and the division of the estate is still executable in a papal court. They'd probably want to hush that part up. It's troubling enough that JC was actually a human being at one point of his existence. Just having fun here, telling a tale. Wouldn't want an invention of my imagination to affect anybody. You may know how a good story can get out of hand.

    September 29, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
  20. Aezel

    It may very well be fake, but the Vatican doesn't have a clue yet if that is true or not. And that is the important part here, fake or real, before they know or not, they revert back to their dark age thinking style of "if something conflicts with my belief set, attack it!"

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

      Dark age thinking style? Haven't you been following the presidential campaigns? The mode of political discourse in the U.S. for the last 15 years, or the way in which atheists, agnostics, theists, and even the leftover deists have been interacting lately?

      Don't blame people in the Catholic church for thinking and acting the same way everyone else does – that just shows a prejudice.

      September 29, 2012 at 2:33 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.