'Jesus Wife' fragment gets more testing, delays article
A scholarly article based on the 'Jesus Wife' fragment was delayed as researchers waited on further testing.
January 3rd, 2013
02:30 PM ET

'Jesus Wife' fragment gets more testing, delays article

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Editor
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(CNN) - One of the most anticipated articles in religion circles will be absent from the pages of the January edition of the Harvard Theological Review. Harvard Divinity School professor Karen King's final article on the "Jesus wife" fragment did not make the scholarly journal because further testing on the Coptic papyrus fragment has not been finished.

King announced the findings of the 1.5-by-3 inch, honey-colored fragment in September at the International Association for Coptic Studies conference in Rome. In a draft version of the article submitted for publication in the January edition, King and her co-author said the scrap had written in Coptic, a language used by Egyptian Christians, "Jesus said to them, 'My wife," but was then cut off.

King said the fragment dates to the 4th century but could be a copy of an early gospel from the 2nd century.  King and her research partners dubbed the hypothetical text "the Gospel of Jesus' Wife."

Despite King's insistence, the discovery did not prove anything definitive on the marital status of Jesus.

The announcement of the papyrus scrap exploded in the media.

"The earliest reliable historical tradition is completely silent on that. So we're in the same position we were before it was found. We don't know if [Jesus] was married or not," King told reporters in a conference call from Rome in September.

5 questions and answers about Jesus' 'wife'

A dealer took the fragment to King for analysis and translation in 2011. The dealer wishes to remain anonymous, she said.

"We're moving ahead with the testing, but it is not yet complete, and so the article will await until we have the results," King said in an email to CNN.

"The owner of the fragment has been making arrangements for further testing and analysis of the fragment, including testing by independent laboratories with the resources and specific expertise necessary to produce and interpret reliable results. This testing is still underway," Kathyrn Dodgson, director of communications for the Harvard Divinity School, said in a email to CNN.

"Harvard Theological Review is planning to publish Professor King’s paper after conclusion of all the testing so that the results may be incorporated," Dodgson said. "Until testing is complete, there is nothing more to say at this point."

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In her original article King explained how a papyrus expert had dated the fragment to the right time frame and how an expert on Coptic linguistics said the grammar seemed to fit the time period, as well.  But what was untested in the early goings was the ink used on the papyrus.

Elaine Pagels, a professor from Princeton University who is an expert on gnostic writings such as this one, noted to CNN in September "You can find boxes filled with Coptic fragments," but what makes this one significant is for the first time it explicitly has Jesus referring to "my wife."

Faking antiquities is not uncommon, which is part of the reason so many critics questioned the authenticity of a text that potentially went against nearly every other ancient text concerning Jesus. Other scholars refused to comment on the find until the full battery of testing could be completed.

“The academic community has been badly burned,” Douglas A. Campbell, an associate professor of New Testament at Duke Divinity School said in September, noting how similar discoveries have turned out to be fakes.  The provenance of the document, "the history of where it came from and how they got it,” was a great concern to Campbell and other academics.

The Vatican newspaper weighed in on the matter in late September mincing no words and calling the fragment “a fake.”

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On the day King announced the fragment, the Smithsonian channel announced it had been working with King for months on a documentary about the find and the authentication process.  It had been slated to air in early October but was pulled back.

Tom Hayden, general manager of the Smithsonian channel, said in a statement in October  the delay "will enable us to present a richer and more complete story. We will be announcing a new premiere date in the coming weeks."

No announcement has been made as to when the premier will happen.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Catholic Church • Christianity • Vatican

soundoff (1,768 Responses)
  1. VladBudapest

    I am a scientist and have been working for the last five years on a project to develop a device that will prove God does not exist. Should God, exist the next project is to develop a device to restrain God and to display it for people to see for a fee.

    January 4, 2013 at 11:59 am |
    • StayinAlive

      I'm working on a device that will hopefully terminate trolls.

      January 4, 2013 at 12:03 pm |
    • msadr

      LOl. Good luck with that.

      January 4, 2013 at 9:35 pm |
  2. cedar rapids

    'Jesus said to them, 'My wife," but was then cut off.'

    he needs to find a phone with better coverage, mine used to do that all the time.

    January 4, 2013 at 11:56 am |
  3. palintwit

    I predict that someday soon the town of Wasilla, Alaska will become as big a tourist attraction as Graceland. It will be renamed Sarahland and every Tea Party Patriot south of the Mason- Dixon line will gladly pay $25 or $35 for the chance to tour the trailer park where Sarah Palin lives. They will also get too see the actual outhouse where she takes her morning dump.

    January 4, 2013 at 11:53 am |
  4. Jesus is Worse than Jerry Sandusky

    At least Jerry doesn't have a bunch of followers that kill and pillage as they "Honor The Lord"
    jesus also supports pedos since the Pope protects those evil ho-mos

    January 4, 2013 at 11:45 am |
    • richunix

      Thats a little over the top remark. Granted I do not support christianity nor do I follow in the those belief. However, people that do belive and by you saying that Jesus, the Pope and Jerry are one in the same...Dude that is just wrong.

      January 4, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
    • CosmicC

      If Jesus was the man portrayed in the gospels, his reaction to the Pope would be "get up off your knees and spend that gold on condoms for the poor."

      January 4, 2013 at 1:31 pm |
  5. MagicPanties

    My invisible pink unicorn tells me she has no spouse, but I found a note that said "my imaginary wife..." and it makes me wonder.

    January 4, 2013 at 11:44 am |
  6. Johnny 5

    A Roman soldier by the name Tiberious Iulius Abdes Pantera appears to be the true father of Jesus. If this is true, then it's end of story. Finally...

    January 4, 2013 at 11:36 am |
    • tepeters

      Well that account was written by a rabidly anti-christian Greek philosopher named Celsus- so it probably is about as accurate as calling Jesus God.

      January 4, 2013 at 11:50 am |
    • tepeters

      Joseph was probabaly dad.

      January 4, 2013 at 11:52 am |
    • Laura

      No legitimate scholar believes that. Celsus pulled the common name "Panthera" out of his butt, and there is no evidence to support it. James Tabor said it was Tiberius Pantera just because he might have been in the area around the time.

      January 4, 2013 at 11:57 am |
  7. James PDX

    The Christian god's claimed characteristics prove he does not exist. A perfect, loving, all knowing, all powerful being would have no need to cause suffering to anyone. Anything he wanted to accomplish he could accomplish equally well without death or suffering. God's "mysterious ways" and secret "plan" are just a cop out to get around this paradox. Does A god exist? Possibly. Does the Christian god as he is described exist? Not a chance.

    January 4, 2013 at 11:35 am |
    • tepeters

      Your re-statment of the Epicurean critique is spot on. Though religionists have tried to argue against it by reason of free will and the valid reason not to prevent evil is for our own good-that does not take into account natural disasters and accidents whihc have evil consequences in terms of suffering and harm and even in the case of moral evil the idea of free will is necessary for our own good still makes the God concept malevolent and we are but creatures created for his amusement.

      If God is willing to prevent evil, but is not able to
      Then He is not omnipotent.
      If He is able, but not willing
      Then He is malevolent.
      If He is both able and willing
      Then whence cometh evil?
      If He is neither able nor willing
      Then why call Him God?

      January 4, 2013 at 12:03 pm |
  8. tepeters

    God is what it always has been in the human mind-a metaphor in linguistic terms, for those aspects of reality man does not know and/or cannot control. He invents religion so that he can make himself believe he know what is not known and controls what cannot be controlled. So he thinks by faith, obedience, sacrifices, prayers, incantations, and rituals he can dissuade the uncontrollable to do him harm or judge him badly. As for Jesus he certainly did exist as a man of his time who had a vision of human beings living in harmony that he called the Kingdom of God. We know that htere were many interpretations of Jesus after his death, the Christian being just one whihc won out because it was adopted by the Roman Empire. The Christian interpretation of Jesus deified him and turned the message of Jesus into the message about Jesus-big difference.

    January 4, 2013 at 11:35 am |
  9. wimsy

    I conclude that J.C. was not married. Imagine a woman whose boyfriend hangs out with a dozen other hippies, has the power to turn water into wine, and who is never home. Think she'd marry him? Think her father would let her marry him?

    January 4, 2013 at 11:32 am |
    • CosmicC

      Mountain Girl married Jerry. That's proof enough for me.

      January 4, 2013 at 1:55 pm |
  10. brad

    Well if the Vatican said it is a fake then it must be. Afterall, if anyone knows anything about religious men having wives it would be them.

    January 4, 2013 at 11:26 am |
  11. richunix

    I wonder why not, it would seem logical to have a wife, especially if your Jewish and Jesus as a Jew.

    January 4, 2013 at 11:22 am |
  12. wendie

    if he had wives, then why no children. Should there not be a line of man from him on down. I personally do not believe. I believe that when we die, we die there is nothing after. We have all been brainwashed to believe or have faith. No one can say for sure about anything as we were not there. It is always and forever will be hear say.

    January 4, 2013 at 11:21 am |
    • SixDegrees

      Lots of couples get married and don't have children, even if they want to.

      January 4, 2013 at 11:28 am |
    • lunchbreaker

      Well, no sperm necessary for Jesus' birth, maybe Jesus did not have any himself.

      January 4, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
    • heh

      Joshua son of Jesus

      January 4, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
    • msadr

      You might find it interesting that the prophet Isaiah said the "suffering Servant" would be Cut off. To be cut off meant that you would die without having a male descendant to carry on your name. Jesus was crucified around the age of 30 to 33. Having spent 4 years prior to his crucifixion traveling, It is very possible that he was cut off.

      January 4, 2013 at 9:12 pm |
  13. Nietodarwin

    The church made priests stop having wives so they wouldn't have to support their widows and children. Of course, if Jesus ever existed, he had a wife. The church is about money, power, and holding on to both. The church will do it's best to shut this study down. "Christians are losers" (Ted Turner)

    January 4, 2013 at 11:19 am |
  14. Mohammad A Dar

    Here is my guess on why people liked to believe Jesus had no wife, or he was unmarried.................Bible or all Jesus related books were written by monks or priests who practiced celibacy, or were unmarried, simple isn't it?

    January 4, 2013 at 11:15 am |
    • Equalizer357

      thats why your prophet married a 9 year old baby...

      January 4, 2013 at 11:26 am |
    • palintwit

      @Equalizer357 Since when are babies 9 years old?

      January 4, 2013 at 11:44 am |
    • Mohammad A Dar

      Fertilizer357, read on life expectancy of people back then, it averaged around 45 to 49, and once the facts are established on Jesus's love life, next thing people should look into age of his wife too, I bet she was no more than 9 either, goon

      January 4, 2013 at 11:45 am |
    • Laura

      The First Lateran Council forbid marriage in 1123–until then, the idea of non-marriage was not officially mandated by the Church as a whole. It didn't even become a real issue in the Church until the 4th century, which was well after the books of the New Testament were written.

      January 4, 2013 at 12:17 pm |
    • K from AZ

      You certainly are!

      January 4, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
  15. I Forgot My Name

    Like all good Jewish men of his time, I bet he had a wife.

    January 4, 2013 at 11:11 am |
    • Dave

      Try twelve.

      January 4, 2013 at 11:14 am |
  16. richunix

    OK CNN stop with the censors!

    January 4, 2013 at 11:09 am |
    • midwest rail

      There are no censors and no moderators here.

      January 4, 2013 at 11:11 am |
    • Seyedibar

      There are no censors. They just have a glitchy system that loses comments about a 1 out of every 5 posts.

      January 4, 2013 at 11:39 am |
  17. friday

    We humans are still too young to understand stuff about God, who He is or who it is...can science with evidence tell us where space/emptiness came from so that the big bang could occur...just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder so is faith in the believers heart..And if the big bang truly took place and life slowly evolved then all these are an imaginable miracles! the more reason I believe in the supernatural force and my spirit agrees.

    January 4, 2013 at 9:50 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      One man's miracle is another's engineering.
      "Supernatural" is a null word.

      January 4, 2013 at 10:22 am |
    • Seyedibar

      We're not too young to figure out god. in fact we have. Every god ever invented by man has been proven to be nothing more than either ancestor-worship and mingled folktales from various sources. In the studies of over 3000 gods, there is not a single god that has withtested the claims of divinity.
      In the case of christianity, judaism, and islam, every biblical patriarch can be corresponded to an existing pharoah of the extended Egyptian empire. Even the jew's Moses was the Egyptian king Thutmose who created 12 new states (tribes) in Palestine and brought with him the Egyptian religions that became Christian dogma, such as the pharoah names Amen and Adonai, the Egyptian ark box, and the legends of the virgin-born messiah.

      January 4, 2013 at 11:09 am |
  18. ???????

    But they can't seem to understand this....
    Stephen Hawking: God didn't create universe

    January 4, 2013 at 9:31 am |
    • Live4Him

      How would he know?

      January 4, 2013 at 9:50 am |
    • ???????

      copy and paste url it is on CNN

      January 4, 2013 at 10:40 am |
    • BigJim

      This is the second-to-last paragraph from the Stephen Hawking article link. Apparently, this article does not prove that God does not exist...

      "But, he said, "a creator God provides a reasonable and credible explanation of why there is a universe, and ... it is somewhat more likely that there is a God than that there is not. That view is not undermined by what Hawking has said.""

      January 4, 2013 at 11:39 am |
    • Seyedibar

      Careful study of history proves that none of the gods worshiped so far existed. No science needed. There may be a god, but it isn't any of the 3000 we've heard of yet.

      January 4, 2013 at 11:42 am |
    • msadr

      I remember a lecture, in person, where he said the exact opposite. Guess he's having trouble figuring it out.

      January 4, 2013 at 9:36 pm |
  19. Kebos

    Jesus, if he existed at all, was a human, just like the rest of us. Could he have been married? Of course! So where's the shock and surprise in this? A more human Jesus is what humanity needs right about now. Not the convoluted story that the RC church has created over the past two millennia.

    January 4, 2013 at 7:54 am |
    • Joe from CT, not Lieberman

      Just like some denominations like to put quotation marks around the passages in the Gospels mentioning Jesus' brothers and sisters, claiming this is a term meaning "cousins" or other kin. At that period, the Greek language the Gospels were written in had unique terms for pretty much every degree of kinship. When they say brothers and sisters, they mean brothers and sisters. Then we always get the line "these were Joseph's children from a previous marriage" primarily due to the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches' insistence of Miriam's continual Virginity.
      How about this – why was Jesus in the seat of honor at the Marriage at Cana? It was years before he started his public ministry, so why should this son of a "craftsman" (Joseph was never specifically referred to as a carpenter) be in the seat of honor if it was not HIS wedding?

      January 4, 2013 at 10:13 am |
    • @joe

      That is a good point. Why indeed.

      January 4, 2013 at 11:17 am |
    • pugh7755

      It says seat of honor, not bridegrooms seat. Have you ever heard of a best man, or a maid of honor? Jesus had a life before he started his ministry, therefore he woud have the chance to be in a seat of honor at a freinds wedding. Nice try, but unfortunately for you, there are smarter people in this world.

      January 4, 2013 at 11:21 am |
    • @pugh

      Wow apparently not you. Before calling out stupidity in others look at yourself. The comment is about honor at HIS wedding. nothing to do with best man. HIS wedding is why he has honor tilte.

      January 4, 2013 at 11:51 am |
  20. T-Roy

    This would be detrimental to USA safety. The only reason the Christians in the USA are morally good is because of their fear of hell and of god. If it is proven that god does not exist, then you will have 250 million delusional socio and pychopaths running around killing, stealing and raping. Since they believe that we get our morals from the bible, without the bible being true, there would be no reason to be good... The only moral people left would ironically be the Atheists...

    January 4, 2013 at 7:35 am |
    • End Religion

      We'll assume this is sarcasm, since we know morality is practiced by many animals. Religious folks attribute morality to the bible but when they finally realize the the bible is a fraud good behaviour won't simply vanish. Good people will still be good, bad ones will be bad. While I'm sure on the spectrum of human behaviour there will be some who will break the law since there is no longer a threat of hell, there would also likely be as many who will come to understand that because there is no eternal afterlife we should treat each other better in the here and now since that is truly all the time we have.

      January 4, 2013 at 8:03 am |
    • B.S.

      What does that say about Christians or any other religious people? They are in fact horrible monsters who cannot control themselves without the threat of eternal punishment...

      January 4, 2013 at 9:48 am |
    • Live4Him

      So, what happens if it is proven that God DOES exist?

      January 4, 2013 at 9:52 am |
    • Leroy

      T, that would be why less religious countries e.g. Canada and several in Scandinavia have such low crime rates compared to us. Oh, wait...

      Hey, don't be such a square element; lose the hyphen and buy a vowel. "e" is a good one.

      January 4, 2013 at 10:38 am |
    • pugh7755

      Atheists would be the only moral people left? Do you actually believe your own rhetoric? Why can anoerson not be moral if the Bible was found to be false? Atheist have a higher rate of criminals than any other group. You must be another delusional athirst who is not intellegent enough to believe in something bigger than than themselves. Lets face it, atheists only exist because they do not want to be held responsible for their actions, so they try to disprove the Bible so they can feel like they are GOOD WITH OUT GOD and will not be judge for their immorality. Thank you for your post. I needed a good laugh today. God bless.

      January 4, 2013 at 11:30 am |
    • @pugh

      You're not the sharpest tool in the shed are you pugh? Let the grown up talk.

      January 4, 2013 at 11:56 am |
    • @pugh

      What are you talking about Pugh7755. Athiest have the highest criminal rate???? I tell you whats high......you! Check your facts and quit listening to preachers from behind a poduim.

      January 4, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
    • Which God?

      @ pugh7755 Let me guess. The numerals after your handle signify the year of your birth, followed by your IQ of 55. Sharp cookie there.

      January 4, 2013 at 12:17 pm |
    • CosmicC

      I don't think it would be 250 million, because I think there are many people people who do not need a Calvinistic fear of perpetual torment to be good members of society, but I do think there would be 10's of millions of people who would become very dangerous. They would believe the benefits of crime would outweigh the chance of being caught and convicted. If they fear that Santa Claus can see them when they're sleeping and awake and give them their ultimate Christmas present (GI Joe with the Kung Fu Grip or a lump of coal), they'll behave.

      January 4, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
    • msadr

      T-Roy, how on earth does the Idea that Jesus was married result in the conclusion that God does not exist? That doesn't make sense.

      January 4, 2013 at 9:15 pm |
    • raulisodo

      @T-Roy: "then you will have 250 million delusional socio and pychopaths running around killing, stealing and raping" ...but we DO!

      January 5, 2013 at 10:52 am |
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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.