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. Mike Ford

    If anyone is interested in textual criticism, this link provides a proper and thorough analysis of the fragment and why it probably is a fake (and not just cause the Vatican says so!! 😉



    October 6, 2012 at 12:31 am |
  2. AJ

    It is funny how people don't believe in God of the Bible and dismiss Christianity as being man made. I hear things like all the stories in the Bible are not true and certain books contradict each other. Yet, if the Bible was written by man and not God, man would never have written the Bible like it is. Man would never have written claims that "Jesus is God", not himself, that man is a wicked sinner destined for Hell if he doesn't believe, that man has nothing, but must always rely on God and make divorce limited to be so strict. The church leaders in the days, would have objected to this and never allowed these things to make it in the Bible. Yet, the Bible describes things totally opposite.....God is the glorious person and we are not. Nobody would ever write the Bible where man is not glorious like God. Funny huh?

    October 5, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
    • bz

      Except if the people writing it could give you access to God's forgiveness for a small fee.....

      October 5, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
    • Susan Brinkley

      You are making an insupportable statement. First of all, literature is full of imperfect human models, and even evil ones. No one who looks objectively at the human condition would describe our race as "glorious" and free of what you would call sin; it's hardly necessary to have religion to see imperfection in the human race.

      Secondly, if you suppose for a moment that religion is about control – not control of mankind by a supreme being, but control of men by other men – then it makes perfect sense for the Bible to be written exactly as it is. No one who is told "you are glorious" is going to agree to be bound by rules.

      October 5, 2012 at 7:44 pm |
    • End Religion

      what's funny is the lengths you'll go to keep our faith alive in the face of an obvious scam.

      October 6, 2012 at 12:02 am |
    • Sunlit Web

      I agree. In that day nobody would have written that man is in need of God and that being humbled in God's presence is a path toward growth. That ran contrary to the Roman understanding of God. It ran contrary to the Greeks treatment of God or gods. The idea that humbling yourself and being more benign toward your fellow man defied the independence and aggression which built the Roman empire. And was too simple compared to the maze of rituals practiced by the pharisees.

      It wasn't until the message became widespread that it was capitalized on and used for nefariousness means. That was never the intent of the Gospel. When Jesus overturned the tables, he was sending that message into the future. To rebuke those who would "give access to God's forgiveness for a small fee". That's why Simon the sorcerer could not buy the Holy Spirit. It's not for sale. But that doesn't stop men from trying to to "sell" it.

      October 6, 2012 at 7:27 am |
  3. Lennon Was Right

    The Vatican calling anything "fake" brings that whole pot/kettle thing to mind, doesn't it?!?!

    October 5, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • Bill Deacon


      October 5, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
    • rational


      October 5, 2012 at 10:59 pm |
  4. Bill Deacon

    You don't even know the word "Rabbi" but you think you know what their customs were and whether someone was subject to that? Why did you even bother?

    October 5, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Whoops! that was for Salemboy. Mouse error.

      October 5, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
  5. DWN

    I can see it now! Harvard Divinity School will have a course dedicated to an ancient scrap of paper! It will quickly become scripture at Portland State University!

    October 5, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
  6. DWN

    This is a ridiculous topic. It generates more heat than light, so I suppose CNN thinks it is doing us a favor. Maybe Kurt Cobain is the ideal hero for a brain-dead generation. "Here we are now!, ENTERTAIN US!"

    October 5, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
  7. Welfare Mittens

    It's funny because they acknowledged that there was no evidence that JC had a wife. Moral of the story, just because it's written doe not mean it really happened. Of course, this too is applicable to the bible. It was written by men, not god! Furthermore, it was written in another language and things often get lost in translation. So everybody take a chill pill and wait for your god to come and save you...

    October 5, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
  8. Reality Newspaper

    The bible is a fake

    October 5, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • C A

      The Bible states God will hold accountable anyone who misleads people away from him. Careful what you say on these posts. Instead of arguing with you about whether or not God exist, why don't you investigate the Bible and take the time to read it. Thtat's what I did; and when I did, I realized God does exist, the proof was there all along, and it didn't require me to believe it. Much like oxygen, you can't taste God, you can't smell or even see Him, but again, like oxygen, God without a doubt exist. I hope your find the truth. God Bless You

      October 5, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
    • sceptichound

      CA – Very Taliban of you to threaten freedom of speech and the commentors here.

      October 5, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
    • rational

      CA: the Nazis would have loved you. A true believer.

      October 5, 2012 at 11:00 pm |
    • sam stone

      "Careful what you say on these posts."

      "He knows if you've been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake"

      See the smiliarities?

      "I hope you(r) find the truth"

      Be honest. You hope he finds YOUR truth

      October 8, 2012 at 5:41 am |
  9. Izoto

    Of course it's fake.

    October 5, 2012 at 9:07 am |
    • jesus christ

      So is the bible.

      October 5, 2012 at 11:52 am |
  10. Shelly

    Of course the church is going to state it's fake. The Vatican will continue to rewrite their "bible" over & over to suit their needs. Religion is a farce, and if you buy into it you're weak minded & lack intelligence. I don't know about the authenticity of the letter, but I believe a Jewish man at that time in history would have definitely been married. It was unheard of for a Jew to not be married at that time. It's a remote possibility that he was not married, but doubtful.

    October 5, 2012 at 8:49 am |
  11. God

    I do not think so. I am calling shenanigans on this.

    October 5, 2012 at 8:00 am |
  12. jk

    In other news, virgin births, people coming back from the dead, angels with flaming swords, and curing the sick by touching them are also fake.

    October 5, 2012 at 1:07 am |
    • C A

      the one thing about God that you should know. He doesn't require belief to exist. Many scientist (whom are obviously educated) set out to prove God didn't exist, came to the conclusion that he does. Do your homework and stop assuming. It could cost you an eternity in a "Hot" uncomfertable place. Someday we will ALL die and then it will be to late to realize you were wrong about God existing. Judgement will be passed on everyone upon their death. It's a fact that doesn't require your belief. Please take the time to learn of a God that loves you and does not want to have to send you to Hell becuase you refused to accept his son (Jesus) as the savior for your sins. I say this in Love and not hate. I am a sinner, I will always be a sinner, BUT Jesus Christ is the Lord of my life, my savior, and because of that, I try not to sin. God Bless you; and may He open the eyes of your heart to the truth.

      October 5, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • sam stone

      C A.....

      you cannot prove god does not exist any more than you can prove that the easter bunny does not exist

      provide the names of these supposed scientists who set out to prove a negative

      your empty proxy threats only show that you have no argument, and have to fall back on the "believe or god is going to get you" syndrome

      October 5, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • sam stone

      Also, C A, you seem to play fast and loose with the "facts"

      October 5, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • sam stone

      God is omnicient, no?

      God knew who was going to do what before they were born, no?

      God could forgive without people accepting his son, no?

      The god you worship is a petty, vindictive pr1ck.

      Get back on your knees like a good little slave

      October 5, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • Qman


      Hypocrisy is well known to you.

      By the way... maybe you should understand what you're talking about rather than using your beliefs about christians and god as facts.

      Like in all debates, you have to understand the othersides arguement FULLY before you can even begin to make a statement.

      It's pretty obvious you don't understand what you're talking about.... Must you not forget.. Every believer was once a non-believer. We already have your arguement down.

      I highly incourage you to educate yourself fully, and unbias about what you're trying to understand before you make your judgement on whether something exists or not simply upon your own feelings.

      October 5, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
    • rational

      CA: keep on inhaling. Just don't exhale. Your pollution footprint is too big.

      October 5, 2012 at 11:02 pm |
    • End Religion

      CA: the one thing about God that you should know. He doesn't exist whether you believe or not.

      October 6, 2012 at 12:08 am |
    • sam stone


      god is omniscient, yes or no?

      god is punishing man for what he KNEW y were going to do, yes or no?

      god could forgive just to forgive, yes or no?

      the only conclusion i can come to is that god is a vindictive bully, or he is the edited, translated stories or iron age (or earlier) sheep so-do-mizers

      if you can logically refute what i said (except for the sheep so-do-mizers comment), please do so

      October 8, 2012 at 5:52 am |
    • sam stone

      "He doesn't require belief to exist"

      Yes he does.

      October 8, 2012 at 5:55 am |
    • UncleBenny

      "He doesn't require belief to exist"

      "Yes he does."

      And still he doesn't exist. Believing don't make it so.

      October 9, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • UncleBenny

      " Many scientist (whom are obviously educated) set out to prove God didn't exist, came to the conclusion that he does. "

      Oh? Care to name a few?

      October 9, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
  13. kpete

    of course it is a fake. Just like everything else people have found, discovered and whatever else throughout the centuries that the Catholic Church doesn't agree with. They need to come up with something a little more concrete and just denying everything. I'm sick of it.

    October 4, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
    • Salemboy94

      Eh, it doesn't really matter. Jewish Priests (and I use this term loosely, forgive me for not knowing the exact phrase) back in the day had to marry before attaining office. Christ was technically one of those priests, so yeah, he was married beforehand.

      October 5, 2012 at 5:05 am |
  14. Good News

    @Sam Stone,

    This absolutely proves the existence and the ultimate power of the GOD (of Abraham);
    This is what Moses, Jesus, David, and Muhammad (all of whom are honorable Prophets descended from Abraham)
    prophesied for this most critical Third and Last Day (=Millennium) now! (John 6/27, 40)
    So this is the long awaited and anticipated most critical and important "Messenger/MESSAGE of the Covenant" (brought by the Son of David in Psalms, the Son of Man in Gospels, the Son of Muhammad in Quran) for the eternal Salvation and everlasting benefits of all humanity who will wholeheartedly listen to it and rightfully observe it now!



    October 4, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • sam stone

      Wow, you saying that this proves it is enough for me......

      You must be god's messanger

      October 4, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • sam stone

      You sure have a low standard of proof. But then, this is not unusual among fanatics.

      October 4, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
    • richunix

      Change your heading to read as: "Whacko-News"

      October 5, 2012 at 8:02 am |
    • Susan Brinkley

      Is that what it proves? I think it proves that fairies dance on my dog's head. But that could just be me.

      October 5, 2012 at 7:49 pm |
    • End Religion

      @Susan: why would PeeWee Herman dance on your dog's head?

      October 6, 2012 at 12:10 am |
  15. Good News

    @Sam Stone,

    "Mathematics" is the most powerful Language that thus proves the absolute Existence and the ultimate Power of this one and only real GOD over all Universe and whatever herein now!
    So here please, clearly see His most wonderful and superb "Mathematical Signatures" over all Universe, galaxies, planets, stars, mountains, rivers, living beings, their chromosomes, bones, elements, atoms, etc.
    and thus clearly and unmistakably understand that HE is alive and fully in Charge:



    October 4, 2012 at 6:42 am |
    • sam stone

      Good News: How again does this prove the existence not only of A god, but the CHRISTIAN god?

      October 4, 2012 at 10:00 am |
    • sam stone

      Seems like an awful lot of conjecture to me.

      October 4, 2012 at 10:07 am |
    • SouthernCelt

      God created the heavens and the Earth, all that is, seen and unseen.... Ever heard that before? Ask any Christian, Jew, or Muslim, if God exists and you'll get the same answer. They won't agree on much else but on that they all agree. Puts you in the minority doesn't it?

      October 4, 2012 at 10:26 am |
    • sam stone

      Southern Celt: Yes it does. So what? Can you tell me how a person makes the logical leap from the possibility a creator to a being that judges human interaction? How does the complexity of the universe imply the existence of a heaven or a hell?

      October 4, 2012 at 10:35 am |
    • SouthernCelt

      Heaven is something to be hoped for and was created by God. Hell was created by Satan and his willing accomplices, e.g. us.
      We all create our own Hell.

      October 4, 2012 at 10:45 am |
    • SouthernCelt

      As for complexity, Man's understanding of the Universe around him (or her) is defined by physcial and natural laws including Mathematics. That very complexity suggests a power greater than Man, unless you ignore its existence and just say 'I don't know'. Unacceptable, study until you do know.

      October 4, 2012 at 10:49 am |
    • sam stone

      Southern Celt: Again, how does a "power greater than man" imply a heaven or a hell?

      October 4, 2012 at 10:51 am |
    • SouthernCelt

      A Power Greater than Man, would have to be God. If God exists, then Satan must exist too. Good v. Evil, Love v. Hate, Darn that old Free Will anyway :-).

      October 4, 2012 at 10:55 am |
    • sam stone

      Southern Celt: Seems like a huge leap of logic to me. But whatever works for you

      October 4, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • sam stone

      Why does "a power greater than man" have to be good or evil? Are those not labels man creates?

      October 4, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • sam stone

      Southern Celt: Can't a creator JUST be a creator, without all the heaven vs. hell, good vs bad mythology?

      October 4, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
    • sam stone

      "A Power Greater than Man, would have to be God"


      October 4, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
    • sam stone


      October 4, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • sam stone

      No answer? I'm shocked, shocked I tell you!

      October 4, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • SouthernCelt

      Sorry Sam, I can't spend all day on the Internet. I do have a life, after all. God exists, therefore he has to have a place to exist in the Universe he created. Where He exists is called Heaven. Satan and his angels used to live there, but came to think they were as powerful as God, learned otherwise, and were thrown out of heaven. Where they exist is called Hell. Whether or not it is a physical place it separates the soul from its Creator.

      October 5, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
    • SouthernCelt

      If you were to list every power on earth, they could be categorized into Good things and Evil. Some cross the line, a little alchohol is good, too much is truly evil :-). Moderation in all things is a good axiom to follow. The good thing come from God, the evil things come from the opposite of God, which is Satan, or CNN depending on your viewpoint :-).

      October 5, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
    • Non-Main Stream Religion

      @SouthernCelt Actually, Lucifer, who is popularly known as Satan, is an Angel who was cast out of Heaven by God because he believed that he and the other Angels were above humans and did not follow God's will that they put humans first. He went against the grain, not because he thought he was better than God. He thought they were better than humans. When he was cast out, and this part I am a little fuzzy on, there was already what is known as Hell and so that is where he was put. He found that other Angels felt the same as he did and they left to join him. Today, people kneel to God and his Angels (Protectors and Guardians of Humankind) which is ironic because that is what Lucifer has always wanted. That's funny to me.

      October 5, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
    • sam stone

      "God exists, therefore he has to have a place to exist in the Universe he created. Where He exists is called Heaven. Satan and his angels used to live there, but came to think they were as powerful as God, learned otherwise, and were thrown out of heaven. Where they exist is called Hell"

      More conjecture.

      October 5, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • End Religion

      @southernDolt: "Puts you in the minority doesn't it?"

      Your logical leaps are anything but. Majority is not necessarily correct. The majority of cavemen believed earthquakes were due to an angry god shaking the ground. They slowly learned the facts of the matter. We understand jesus and god did not and do not exist. Deluded folks like you are slowly accepting that fact. We understand it will take a while for you to get over the embarrassment of believing in such an obvious scam.

      "Heaven is something to be hoped for and was created by God. Hell was created by Satan and his willing accomplices, e.g. us.
      We all create our own Hell."

      Heaven, god, hell, satan, the whole shebang: fraud. You do in a sense "create your own" because you'll chosen to live in a state of fear your entire life. Excellent work.

      "As for complexity, Man's understanding of the Universe around him (or her) is defined by physcial and natural laws including Mathematics. That very complexity suggests a power greater than Man, unless you ignore its existence and just say 'I don't know'. Unacceptable, study until you do know."

      "i don't understand" != god

      October 6, 2012 at 12:25 am |
  16. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things. .

    October 4, 2012 at 4:37 am |
    • truth be told

      Loosen up. I can't get my hand out of you.

      October 4, 2012 at 4:54 am |
    • rational

      to "..not healty": yes prayer changes things, it slows down your metabolism.

      October 5, 2012 at 11:04 pm |
  17. Good News

    @Peteyroo and Tom,

    Yes, it is already –Mathematically– proven that there is indeed a GOD,
    and Jesus was a real Prophet of this GOD,

    and thus

    the Son of Man has already come with the "Clouds of Heaven,"
    in the beginning of this most critical Third and Last DAY (=MILLENNIUM) now, (John 6/40)
    as prophet Jesus thus clearly prophesied here (Mark 13/26-27)!



    October 3, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • sam stone

      mathematically proven?


      you sure seem to have a low standard for "proof"

      October 4, 2012 at 4:31 am |
    • SouthernCelt

      Your lack of education is astounding. You are confusing John the Baptist and Jesus. John was the last Prophet, Jesus was the Messiah, sacrificial Lamb of God, Not what the Jews expected, and all the other things that go with being God's Son. No one knows the day or hour of his return, that includes you and your fundamenatalist minister.

      October 4, 2012 at 10:35 am |
    • End Religion

      I always feel so embarrassed for religious people who chide someone else for a lack of education or logic.

      October 6, 2012 at 12:32 am |
  18. uglytoes

    Of course they are calling it a fake. They don't want anyone to start thinking about all the implications that would have to their man made story...

    October 3, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • John

      If I am wrong about my belief in God, I lose nothing. I pass away and rot. If I am right I live forever in heaven. WHAT IF YOUR WRONG?

      October 5, 2012 at 10:52 am |
    • sam stone

      john: silly argument. you could be right about the existence of a god, but wrong about which god. this could put you in the same unenviable situation christians claim awaits non believers

      October 5, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • rational

      reply to John: if you want insurance, please send check to me. I'll guarantee you won't go to hell (because it doesn't exist).
      You're a fool and you're being taken advantage of. Grow up.

      October 5, 2012 at 11:07 pm |
    • UncleBenny


      If I am wrong about my belief in God, I lose nothing. I pass away and rot. If I am right I live forever in heaven. WHAT IF YOUR WRONG?"

      If you're going to quote Pascal, at least give him credit. And I'll bet God would be really impressed with someone's sincerity if they believe because it's the safe bet.

      October 9, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • UncleBenny

      Here's the atheist's version:

      You should live your life and try to make the world a better place for your being in it, whether or not you believe in god. If there is no god, you have lost nothing and will be remembered fondly by those you left behind. If there is a benevolent god, he will judge you on your merits and not just on whether or not you believed in him.

      October 9, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
  19. visitor

    The Vatican would be well advised to be quiet. They are only drawing attention to that which they want to decry.

    October 3, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
    • SouthernCelt

      If you lie about something often enough, the weak minds in the crowd will accept it as true. Take abortion for example, 50 years ago every Christian Chruch in this country considered it a heinous sin. One by one they all changed their positions until only the Cathoilc faith still calls it what it has always been. You expect the Vatican to stay quiet and not defend the Truth?

      October 4, 2012 at 10:40 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      SouthernCelt is driving, he's driving...he shoots....HE SCORES!

      October 4, 2012 at 11:21 am |
    • sam stone

      You expect that the Vatican is in possession of The Truth?

      October 4, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
    • SouthernCelt


      Truth is where you find it. If you want truth ask a philosopher. Pope John Paul II was one of the 20th century's greatest philosophers. Ever read any of his Encyclicals? The are worth reading and making you think.

      October 5, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
    • End Religion

      @southernDolt: "If you lie about something often enough, the weak minds in the crowd will accept it as true."

      Take religion, for example.

      "Truth is where you find it."

      I suppose if you define truth as "belief" but then, of course, it wouldn't be truth.

      October 6, 2012 at 12:35 am |
  20. dax214

    Is it me or is this a common theme with the Vatican? Every time something comes up that contradicts what they say it takes them no time at all to say "It's a fake". I have no gripe against any religion, only the crap that some "organizations" do with it. It has always been men that have come in the name of a religion that have orchestrated some of the worlds greatest travesties. No matter what belief system someone follows I think we should always think for ourselves.

    October 3, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
    • SouthernCelt

      It's you 🙂

      October 4, 2012 at 10:57 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      I've been reading this for two days and it's still funny

      October 5, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
    • Susan Brinkley

      If the papyrus suggested that Jesus had a thing for young boys, the Vatican would see it in a whole different light.

      October 5, 2012 at 7:48 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.