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. IslandAtheist

    Now if they could just admit religion is.

    September 28, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
  2. axolotl

    Why should we trust the Vatican to be truthful about anything? Just anoher cover-up by them -

    September 28, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
  3. emdub

    The poop, who was in fact a n a z i – would like you to continue to listen to his version of history.

    September 28, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
  4. Sam Yaza


    think Mary and Jesus

    love is the only thing stronger then God. and love would be strong enough to do it.

    September 28, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
  5. JFCanton

    Not sure why the Vatican cares. There was plenty of nonsensical stuff written at the time that people then regarded as having some religious import: many of the Gnostic writings make you wonder if they had somehow acquired peyote.

    September 28, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
  6. Organic1

    That is odd, they would find fault so quickly, after all they spent years on trying to defend the 'shroud'. Who would have thought they would try to lie, of all things, about writing that contains characters of the time period and on material found at the same time period. Just too many correct things here to be true. They are so smart.... (NOT)

    September 28, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
    • JFCanton

      You have to understand who "they" is, though. The source is not a member of the clergy-it's the lay editor of the newspaper. People in such positions routinely get a bug up their rear ends for whatever reason (and as a bonus, this guy looks like Richard Schiff).

      September 28, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
    • Shane

      They defended the shroud, a proven fake, for years but come right out saying this is one.

      I don't buy it. I think its just a rush to keep their religion unchanged and keep the priests celibate.

      September 28, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
    • JFCanton

      In that case "they" IS the church, which has vouched for the authenticity of the Shroud almost since it first popped up in European records (mid 14th century). But science has higher standards than to have pronounced it a fake. The radiocarbon date is helpful, but the fact that we haven't been able to replicate the image is a decided problem.

      September 28, 2012 at 7:10 pm |
  7. AvdBerg

    For a better understanding of the history of Catholicism, Islam, Mormonism, Christianity, and Judaism and its spread throughout the world, we invite you to read the articles ‘The Mystery Babylon’, ‘Can Christianity or Any Other Religion Save You?’, ‘World History and Developments in the Middle East’ and ‘Clash of Civilizations’, listed on our website http://www.aworlddeceived.ca

    All of the other pages and articles listed on our website explain how and by whom this whole world has been deceived as confirmed in Revelation 12:9.
    Seek, and ye shall find (Matthew 7:7).

    September 28, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
    • rush limbaugh

      Decemeber 21, 2012. save the date and dont renew anything past that date. enough said. dont worry about an obama second term – theres only gonna be 6 1/2 weeks of it. yippee no taxes due april 2013

      September 28, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      Dan Brown called... he wants his script back.

      September 28, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
    • mama kindless

      Revelation??? Everyone knows St John the Dope crashed his camel into a lake of bath salts or worse to come up with that mess. My goodness.

      September 28, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
  8. sir_ken_g

    Well of course the Vatican would call it fake. It would blow their fairy tale otherwise.

    September 28, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
    • JFCanton

      Which part of it? I don't recall there being any doctrines relevant to Jesus *not* being married, although I'm sure a theoretical wife would have been pretty PO'd if he stopped working to be an itinerant preacher and then went and got himself crucified...

      The sort of atheism that is found on the Internet is often not readily distinguishable from lack of interest in higher-level thought. Bertrand Russell would probably rather try to have a conversation with snake charmers.

      September 28, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
  9. Emperor Obama

    What I sayeth is what ah say? Does yas hears me? The church is wrong cause in Kenya where I grows up, ah mean in Indonesia where ahs been – nno no I mean Cleveland Hawaii where I is from says we got no Jezuss rounds here. Ah likes cathaholics cause they be a votin for me. Yahoo. Jews and rednecks can vote for me too later. thanks all – alleeh ackbar – i mean bless you all.

    September 28, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
    • NPRJim

      Racist idiot.

      September 28, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
    • Education is My Religion

      Get a clue, troll. Your ignorance is painful.

      September 28, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
    • snoozie

      Not that this is the point of your silly rambling, but anyone who has ever heard the president speak knows he has far more command of the English language than you portray him as having. Oh, and the rest is all wrong, too.

      September 28, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
    • Gerry Daley

      Well, you did prove one thing: That any idiot can use a computer these days.

      September 28, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
  10. Reasonable

    I'm not Catholic, but something is seemingly really off about this 'find'. I agree ~ a fake. Just call it a 'gut feeling' for now.

    September 28, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
    • howard stern

      no guts no glory

      September 28, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
  11. Jerry

    Of course he was "married" – his wife's name was "Steve".......

    September 28, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
    • howard stern

      it was elton

      September 28, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
  12. Peaches LaRue

    The Vatican is a fake.

    Need anymore be said?

    September 28, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
  13. mike

    Well if the vatican says its false then stop the clock!! It MUST be false. If it said jesus was a pedophile then what? They would just lie about it.

    September 28, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      They'd be on mission to locate jesus if they thought he was a ped like them, they'd want to protect him like they do the other peds.

      September 28, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
  14. PraiseTheLard

    No more "fake" than the so-called "Gospels"...

    September 28, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
    • NPRJim

      The Gospels are very real...The truth in them is highly suspect, but they are real.

      September 28, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
  15. Rick Shultz

    It does not surprise me in the least that the Vatican would claim this fragment is fake. It makes the same claim everytime something surfaces that contradicts its own version of history. What I don't understand is why there are those who say that this would destroy Christianity. I don't see that because Jesus was born into and lived in the Jewish tradition of the time for most of
    his life. He did the the things other Jews did such as reading scripture in the synagogue,etc. and it does not matter to me if he was married as Jewish tradition would dictate. He was still sent by God to be fully human as well as fully divine. Why would it matter so much to a true believer if Jesus DID humble Himself to the flesh in order to do His plain duty to be fruitful and multiply?

    September 28, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
  16. Patti

    It's sad to think that there are people who value the opinion hypocritical pedophiles.

    September 28, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
    • jim

      I don't – of course they'll say it's a fake – duh

      September 28, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
  17. Byron

    Very interesting... how the church I grew up in is so quick to dismiss a THOUGHT that something MIGHT need to be investigated. That investigation MIGHT shed some light on an unknown time. Fear of the unknown ??... or do they actually KNOW, and fear, that some hidden fragment of knowledge MIGHT become public. What's buried in those Vatican Archives they guard so well ? Fear plays such a central role in church history... fear of...knowledge ??

    September 28, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
    • John

      Byron you are forgetting that all of the Gnostic claims – and that's all that this is – were long ago dismissed from mainline Christianity. People of past ages were not stupid, they did lack our technical advances (that most "modern" people don't understand anyway), but they didn't lack in the ability to reason. The gnostic claims were all examined critically in light of teachings of the patristic fathers and the sacred scripture. They fail on many many different levels. Nothing here is new, not even the fact that every time there is a claim of anything that would seem to cast doubt about orthodox Christianity it gets front page coverage – while counter-claims, and critical examination of the claims, gets ignored or buried in the back-pages. Note also that while the Vatican newspaper did indeed print the story doubting the authenticity of the papyrus, it was a number of scholars who have raised doubts about the athenticity of the papyrus (meaning that is wasn't even from the time period claimed – let alone historically accurate which no one has claimed)

      September 28, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
    • JFCanton

      It is disturbingly popular to assume that people of past ages were stupid, though...

      September 28, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
  18. TopCat

    Faith must trample underfoot, all reason, sense and understanding. – Martin Luther

    September 28, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
    • Education is My Religion

      Reason, sense and understanding must trample underfoot all religion.

      September 28, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
  19. ronvan

    CHUKLE, CHUKLE!!! WHAT gets people's underware in a bunch real fast? RELIGION!! Those that PREACH that the Bible DEFINES the life and times of MY lord & savior!? YET, who can say, without doubt, that it is 100% accurate? According to what I have read, the Qur'an is the ORIGINAL teachings & word of Mohammad? WHO can say, without doubt that this is true? How many people have been killed in the name of religion? How many years / centuries has religious WARS been going on? FOREVER!!! In reference to this newly found item. EXPERTS? Depends on who is running them! One says it is authentic, others NO. Another says you can get papyrus anywhere and ADD writing to it? Wouldn't that make the "experts" stupid? You can date the age but not the writing?? And then some translate the words one way, others a different meaning altogether? ALL religious, written material, has been and IS written by humans! Throughout time, who can say that the people doing the "rewriting / updates" changed some things, left other things out, made a great story out of a little one? Remember, there has only been one "PERFECT" human on this planet, and look what we did to him!! And there is just ONE WORD that makes us, and defines our beleives & religion, that is FAITH!! You cannot make atheistists beleive and you cannot change those that do!! When I finally pass, and, hopefully, enter the kingdom, THEN & ONLY THEN, will the truth be shown to me! Until that time my FAITH keeps me going!

    September 28, 2012 at 5:58 pm |

    they really have some nerve calling ANYTHING fake!
    i wish they would all die!!!!!!!!!!!

    September 28, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
    • Patti

      Well said.

      September 28, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
    • Rick Shultz

      If you wish death on so many, your life must be truly empty of love. I pity you. I have seen a lot of people who are like you and I pity them too. You and they will never know the joy that Jesus wished for us all. I will pray that some day your cynicism and your
      hate leave you and you are healthy again.

      September 28, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      I would never wish death upon all. I wish the end of religion and how it sadly plays a part in our world, especially given the time we live in.

      Rick: Nor will you ever know the joy of jesus because there is nothing to say he ever existed. So while you pray for us, we will think for you...your way of thinking is outdated and is detrimental to the world...if you do not change your way of thinking, you will be part of the reason we die off as a species sooner than we should...non-believers are the ones opening the eyes to what is happening and we are the ones pushing for the biggest changes.

      September 28, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
    • Rick Shultz

      I would seem that you have decided that because I believe in the Divinity of Jesus that I am a religious nut of some sort. I am not.
      Science has its place just as religion does. It saddens me that you think faith is a detriment to the world. I think it may be the only thing that saves us from dying off sooner than we should. And this statement; "Nor will you ever know the joy of jesus because there is nothing to say he ever existed." is flatly wrong. There is ample proof in the writings of Josephus and Tacitus that Jesus
      did, in fact, exist. You can jump on me all you want about my belief in Jesus' Divinity, but denying he ever existed is going against the imperative of recorded history, and is inaccurate.

      September 29, 2012 at 12:24 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.