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. gango

    What if I found a piece a paper that read "George Washington said, My fifth wife. . ." Just a scrap of paper centuries after he died and nothing at all to suggest he was every married more than once. Would these good scholars believe what my anonymous piece of paper says or would they have a healthy skepticism?

    September 29, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
    • Yugnok

      Yeah in the future someone is going to find evidence that Lincoln was a vampire hunter.

      September 29, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
  2. Marie

    It is my understanding of the Bible that Jesus often referred to the "church" as his wife. Priests are married to the church which in turn would make the church their wife.

    September 29, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
    • joeymom

      Being Coptic, it is more likely that this fragment is from an outlying Christian sect, such as the Gnostic Christians. Many of these fringe groups taught that Jesus was married. I have no clue why it would make any difference.

      September 29, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
    • neo

      You are correct Marie. The Bible is quite clear on what you said. The bride of Christ is the church, His people.

      September 29, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • End Religion

      religious folks are arguing over the minutiae in the "lives" of imaginary people.

      September 29, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
  3. Joe

    Attention wing nuts, it's a fake just to rattle all of your cages

    Wake up, does it look like an anchient text? Does it look like it was discovered after 1000 years? Does it look like the anchient handwriting? Or does it look like a ridiculously cheap fake?

    September 29, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
    • joeymom

      Actually, it looks very much like an ancient text, in similar condition to other ancient text fragments found from the period. Is there a reason a non-canonical second-century text- of which there are many that survive- is causing you such a furor?

      September 29, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
    • Dave

      Yes...it bothers him because it causes him to question his faith. You ask for proof that this thing is real...but you don't ask for proof that the bible is real? The evidence is the same. Believe what you want.

      September 29, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • Rick Shultz

      Actually you can't tell anything valuable about things like this fragment just by going on the way they look. You have to do tests.
      In this particular instance the tests indicate that the parchment and the language and grammar of the Coptic writing are correct for the period in question and that this fragment is more than likely genuine. That being said it should not matter a great deal to
      Christians if Jesus WAS married. It is merely an indicator that he lived according to the Jewish tradition of his time. No more and no less. I don't consider myself a "wingnut", just a believer whose life will not be affected by this in any really significant way. It
      DOES make me wonder about CNN though. They seem to be scraping the bottom of the barrel to come up with SOMETHING that
      will cause more religious and political arguments and divide people more than they already are. As if we don't have enough of that nonsense already.

      September 29, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
  4. Proudfoot

    many are called but few are chosen Jesus is LORD!!!

    September 29, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • MagicPanties

      and if you're extra good this year, Santa will bring you lots of presents too

      September 29, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
  5. Jr

    I hope the Catholics don't start rioting in the streets like the Muslims are.

    September 29, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • Rufus T. Firefly

      They got most of their bloodlust out of their system in the Crusades, the Inquisition, and the forced conversions of Native Americans. Now they like to talk as if their religion would never do such things.

      September 29, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
  6. Last Day


    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)!


    GOD created His book of Universe and His book of Religion based on same 19 coded, Symmetrical most Superb Mathematical Language!

    September 29, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
  7. logan5

    Ya the papyrus is fake and so is the claim that Jesus was of supernatural origin, if he existed at all. Matter of fact, the entire Christian belief system is fake, just like all the others.

    September 29, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
  8. Marketfog

    I believe the papyrus is genuine, but it was written 400 years after Christ by a community that also produced other epistles that were found wanting. Knowing what I do about strict orthodox communities, where everyone is expected to get married young and have lots of children, and Rabbis are married, I believe that Christ was married. If C. was married, this would knock out the justification the Church uses for requiring that priests do not marry.

    September 29, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • Yugnok

      The qumranites were a group of Jews living during Jesus time that were celibate. Some believe that John the Baptist was one of them.

      Celibacy was unusual in Jesus' time–but not unheard of.

      September 29, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
  9. achepotlex

    I think the 3rd Harry Potter book was a forgery. There was never a prisoner on Azkaban.

    September 29, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
  10. Cindy

    Seems the monitors will not let me post, even though I was quoteing the Bible.

    September 29, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • End Religion

      quoting garbage from the bible is good reason to delete your comments

      September 29, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
  11. BrianG

    Without at least a listing of the Vatican's "substantial reasons" —which it certainly seems could be listed— this item isn't even a news story and is worthy neither of publication nor attention. What we have here is simply another CNN fail.

    September 29, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
    • xirume

      Why don't you start your own news site? That way everything can be perfect and always to your liking.

      September 29, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
    • Yugnok

      Don't you just love how these so called journalists think that every editorial published from some guy in the L'Osservatore Romano is an official statement from the Vatican?

      The media in the USA is just hilarious.

      September 29, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
  12. southernwonder

    religion is blind misleading the blind.

    September 29, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
  13. Speedy

    The left are blind. They will make up whatever allow them to behave like they want.
    Judges 21:25 OT
    In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

    September 29, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • fyre


      September 29, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • Matt

      Got any evidence, other than words written by ignorant ancients that still believe the Sun went around the Earth? Or that pigs are unclean, because they were ignorant of food safety? Or that foreskins need to be removed to identify oneself as a member of the group? It is a good thing that more and more young people are losing the faith of their parents, soon your kind will die off.

      September 29, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • ProfEmeritus


      September 29, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • ProfEmeritus

      That was an "Amen" to Speedy.

      September 29, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
  14. kumar soysa

    Jesus Christ is the Son of God and He came to save the sinner and to reconcile man to God, thus giving man everlasting life. That was His ministry, not to have wives and raise a family. If one is not moved in one's heart to believe this simple, this very SIMPLE message of love and compassion of the Creator God, the Father then in God;s Holy name, ignore the Scriptures and refrain from blasphemy.

    September 29, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • Horus

      Your a lost cause. You deny every piece of evidence that contradicts your "beliefs" because a book tells you so. A book maybe that the romans created to make you another easily manipulated sheep on this planet. A book maybe that derived from egyptian texts when romans invaded egypt. A book maybe that was enforced on you by your parents, teachers, and society itself. If you ask me, your scared. Scared to admit that you wasted your precious time going to a church to worship a figure that you know nothing about. Scared that your going to be damned if you deny the bible or the divinity of Jesus. Scared to even look in another direction towards salvation in fear of Hell. Don't be scared. Don't fear death. and Don't fear Hell. They are non existent. And as long as your living scared your going to be another average citizen who throws away his time and money preparing for his eminent death.

      September 29, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • End Religion

      This morning there was a knock at my door. When I answered the door I found a well groomed, nicely dressed couple. The man spoke first:

      John: "Hi! I'm John, and this is Mary."

      Mary: "Hi! We're here to invite you to come kiss Hank's ass with us."

      Me: "Pardon me?! What are you talking about? Who's Hank, and why would I want to kiss His ass?"

      John: "If you kiss Hank's ass, He'll give you a million dollars; and if you don't, He'll kick the guts out of you."

      Me: "What? Is this some sort of bizarre mob shake-down?"

      John: "Hank is a billionaire philanthropist. Hank built this town. Hank owns this town. He can do whatever He wants, and what He wants is to give you a million dollars, but He can't until you kiss His ass."

      Me: "That doesn't make any sense. Why..."

      Mary: "Who are you to question Hank's gift? Don't you want a million dollars? Isn't it worth a little kiss on the ass?"

      Me: "Well maybe, if it's legit, but..."

      John: "Then come kiss Hank's ass with us."

      Me: "Do you kiss Hank's ass often?"

      Mary: "Oh yes, all the time..."

      Me: "And has He given you a million dollars?"

      John: "Well no. You don't actually get the money until you leave town."

      Me: "So why don't you just leave town now?"

      Mary: "You can't leave until Hank tells you to, or you don't get the money, and He kicks the guts
      out of you."

      Me: "Do you know anyone who kissed Hank's ass, left town, and got the million dollars?"

      John: "My mother kissed Hank's ass for years. She left town last year, and I'm sure she got the money."

      Me: "Haven't you talked to her since then?"

      John: "Of course not, Hank doesn't allow it."

      Me: "So what makes you think He'll actually give you the money if you've never talked to anyone who got the money?"

      Mary: "Well, He gives you a little bit before you leave. Maybe you'll get a raise, maybe you'll win a small lotto, maybe you'll just find a twenty-dollar bill on the street."

      Me: "What's that got to do with Hank?"

      John: "Hank has certain 'connections.'"

      Me: "I'm sorry, but this sounds like some sort of bizarre con game."

      John: "But it's a million dollars, can you really take the chance? And remember, if you don't kiss Hank's ass He'll kick the guts out of you."

      Me: "Maybe if I could see Hank, talk to Him, get the details straight from Him..."

      Mary: "No one sees Hank, no one talks to Hank."

      Me: "Then how do you kiss His ass?"

      John: "Sometimes we just blow Him a kiss, and think of His ass. Other times we kiss Karl's ass, and he passes it on."

      Me: "Who's Karl?"

      Mary: "A friend of ours. He's the one who taught us all about kissing Hank's ass. All we had to do was take him out to dinner a few times."

      Me: "And you just took his word for it when he said there was a Hank, that Hank wanted you to kiss His ass, and that Hank would reward you?"

      John: "Oh no! Karl has a letter he got from Hank years ago explaining the whole thing. Here's a copy; see for yourself."

      From the Desk of Karl
      1. Kiss Hank's ass and He'll give you a million dollars when you leave town.
      2. Use alcohol in moderation.
      3. Kick the guts out of people who aren't like you.
      4. Eat right.
      5. Hank dictated this list Himself.
      6. The moon is made of green cheese.
      7. Everything Hank says is right.
      8. Wash your hands after going to the bathroom.
      9. Don't use alcohol.
      10. Eat your wieners on buns, no condiments.
      11. Kiss Hank's ass or He'll kick the guts out of you.

      Me: "This appears to be written on Karl's letterhead."

      Mary: "Hank didn't have any paper."

      Me: "I have a hunch that if we checked we'd find this is Karl's handwriting."

      John: "Of course, Hank dictated it."

      Me: "I thought you said no one gets to see Hank?"

      Mary: "Not now, but years ago He would talk to some people."

      Me: "I thought you said He was a philanthropist. What sort of philanthropist kicks the guts out of people just because they're different?"

      Mary: "It's what Hank wants, and Hank's always right."

      Me: "How do you figure that?"

      Mary: "Item 7 says 'Everything Hank says is right.' That's good enough for me!"

      Me: "Maybe your friend Karl just made the whole thing up."

      John: "No way! Item 5 says 'Hank dictated this list himself.' Besides, item 2 says 'Use alcohol in moderation,' Item 4 says 'Eat right,' and item 8 says 'Wash your hands after going to the bathroom.' Everyone knows those things are right, so the rest must be true, too."

      Me: "But 9 says 'Don't use alcohol.' which doesn't quite go with item 2, and 6 says 'The moon is made of green cheese,' which is just plain wrong."

      John: "There's no contradiction between 9 and 2, 9 just clarifies 2. As far as 6 goes, you've never been to the moon, so you can't say for sure."

      Me: "Scientists have pretty firmly established that the moon is made of rock..."

      Mary: "But they don't know if the rock came from the Earth, or from out of space, so it could just as easily be green cheese."

      Me: "I'm not really an expert, but I think the theory that the Moon was somehow 'captured' by the Earth has been discounted*. Besides, not knowing where the rock came from doesn't make it cheese."

      John: "Ha! You just admitted that scientists make mistakes, but we know Hank is always right!"

      Me: "We do?"

      Mary: "Of course we do, Item 7 says so."

      Me: "You're saying Hank's always right because the list says so, the list is right because Hank dictated it, and we know that Hank dictated it because the list says so. That's circular logic, no different than saying 'Hank's right because He says He's right.'"

      John: "Now you're getting it! It's so rewarding to see someone come around to Hank's way of thinking."

      Me: "But...oh, never mind.

      September 29, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • b4bigbang

      @End Religion: But what does your Hank, Mary, Karl story have to do with your final end religion? Your final religion is the American Legion right? Are these people members of your local chapter?

      September 29, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
  15. Speedy

    Jesus haters have been fabricating this evidence for 2,000 years. This is for the Christophobes out there. Jesus is Lord!

    September 29, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • MagicPanties

      I don't hate your Jesus.
      I also don't hate my invisible pink unicorn.

      September 29, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • kumar soysa

      Jesus IS Lord, Alleluiah!

      September 29, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • End Religion

      it is kinda hard to hate someone who never existed

      September 29, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
    • Byron Jones

      This is beginning to sound like a revival. Have a tent, anyone?

      September 29, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
  16. MagicPanties

    This is like saying Santa's elves are fake.

    September 29, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • Kurtiss

      hah, that was my first thought after reading..."if Santa can have a Mrs. Claus, Jesus can have a Mrs. Christ"

      September 29, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
    • End Religion


      September 29, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
    • b4bigbang

      Here's a video taken at End Religion's American Legion gathering:


      September 29, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
  17. KG in SJCA

    First off, I am not Catholic. With that being said, I get so tired of hearing generalizations about the Catholic priesthood being gay, pedophiles, etc. It is a gross mischaracterization of a large group of people that is totally unfounded (when applied to the group as a whole). I do understand, and reasonably condemn those that have committed this heinous atrocity against humanity we call pedophilia, but if you want a similar example of a mischaracterization try this: Catholic priests are gay, therefore all gays are priests, or even worse, those who committed the pedophilia were gay so......
    As you can see from these two Absolutely UNTRUE statements it is ridiculous and ignorant to ascribe a certain characteristic to an entire group of people.

    It does seem a little suspect that they did call the press conference and alert the media about this find in the way that they did, even though they felt that the statements could not be established even as reasonably believable. It is like the District Attorney holding a press conference to announce that they have found a clue without verifying its authenticity. (Remember Duke?)
    Anyway, it all comes down if you believe the Bible or not as the infallible Word of God. I for one do.

    September 29, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • Dude in Colorado

      KG – Great post, really, about condemning an entire group of people because of the actions of a few bad apples, honestly, spot on, I applaud your lucidity. Just out of curiosity, how do you feel about Muslims? Be honest, now...

      September 29, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
    • End Religion

      there are "infallible words of god" supporting not only the Butt Pirate lifestyle, but also that one should have lots of sex, paid and otherwise.

      September 29, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
    • End Religion

      2 Corinthians 9:6 - The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.

      Ecclesiastes 11:6 - In the morning sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand, for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good.

      Luke 8:11 - Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.

      September 29, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
    • End Religion

      Galatians - For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.

      2 Corinthians 9:12 - For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.

      September 29, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
    • End Religion

      Acts 20:35 - In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

      1 Corinthians 9:11 - If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you?
      (the above supports prostitution)

      September 29, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
    • b4bigbang

      Are you saying that you have prosti tutes at your American Legion convention Mr End?

      September 29, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • b4bigbang

      And how do you know that the American Legion is the end religion? How do you know that there won't be another one come along later?

      September 29, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
    • Life for all

      @End Religion you have no idea what you are talking about your ignorance is not worth responding too. Quoting bible verses pertaining to seeding or sowing always refer to the word of God or the Kingdom of heaven. Please understand something before you rant, your interpretations are simply uneducated blubberings.

      September 29, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • End Religion

      @lifeforall: "@End Religion you have no idea what you are talking about your ignorance is not worth responding too."

      and yet you do respond... that must put you on the same level as me.

      "Quoting bible verses pertaining to seeding or sowing always refer to the word of God or the Kingdom of heaven. Please understand something before you rant, your interpretations are simply uneducated blubberings."

      If the bible is open to interpretation of its meaning, then it is also open to MY interpretation.

      If the bible is NOT open to interpretation, you have some explaining to do about unicorns and talking snakes. You also might want to run out and start killing people who work on Sunday.

      September 29, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • Life for all

      @End Religion
      Wow I didnt expect you to respond so intelligently, I am lost for words. "The Bible is open for interpretation" Yes it is indeed but not by the uneducated or uninlightened and I believe you qualify on both counts and I am not talking about uneducated in the worldly sense but of course you probably dont understand what I am talking about due to your ignorance. lol....

      September 29, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
  18. michael

    How predictable that the organization dependent on keeping the traditional roles of men and women and 'followers' intact has found that this new find cannot be scientific - simply because it contradicts their traditional teachings.

    September 29, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
    • Yugnok

      The Vatican never said anything. This was an editorial by some guy in the Vatican newspaper. That newspaper is just that...a friggen newspaper. It doesn't speak for the Vatican or the Church.

      This whole article is bogus.

      September 29, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
  19. Judy75201

    If the Vatican says it, I'm inclined to believe the opposite.

    September 29, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • Ed

      Agreed. It doesn't even appear from the article that they have inspected it. What are the "substantial reasons"?

      September 29, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
  20. arceon

    Why listen to Vatican's Bullsh!t? It's just an ancient cult trying to be relevant again.

    September 29, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • End Religion

      maybe cut them a little slack.... they did invent the popular party game "Pin The Nail On The Heretic"

      September 29, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
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About this blog

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.