'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. willie

    First it would make sense to prove Jesus ever lived before you determine if he was married. This was 400 years later! Not very historical.

    January 4, 2013 at 1:19 pm |
  2. Jt_flyer

    I don't see why Jesus being married would make him any less of a great philosopher. He was in the public eye only 3 years I believe. What was he doing all the other time?

    January 4, 2013 at 1:14 pm |
    • Franklin

      Jesus being married would imply that he had humanly concerns and desires outside of his mission to sacrifice himself, and that's what really bothers some folks. To them, Jesus was just a form that God took in order to make a symbolic invitation to humanity.

      January 4, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
  3. frank

    As I said the other day, it's pretty obvious there is something to this story about the carpenter and his wife. I really think when the guy with the pointy hat in Rome came out to talk about what pets the carpenter's family kept when he was born, that it was just to prepare people for this story. He might not let the cat out of the bag right away – things don't happen quickly with religion – especially that church. Then there's the whole thing about the boyfriend, the one he loved so much and the feet fetish thing. I think the guy who painted the dinner party picture knew what was going on. Maybe they will find something soon that will shed more light on these issues.

    January 4, 2013 at 12:55 pm |
    • GlendaK

      You forgot the thing with Judas kissing him. Sounds pretty chummy to me.

      January 4, 2013 at 1:23 pm |
  4. tepeters

    It is interesting to see all the extrmes come out as in any blog. Of course there is no God, and religion is but a crutch for some people to cope with life-but just maybe in extreme pain for some people that is OK. Which brings me to my point. There are some who want to vigorously prove he did not exist-I would say he probabaly did and if you take all the religious dogma and theological twaddle away what you have is a guy of his times who had a hope for a world where people could get along (shades of Rodney King); and be nice to each other and be charitable to each other. Take the man out of the Bible and that is really all he taught.

    January 4, 2013 at 12:44 pm |
    • Trevor

      Agreed to all. He surely existed in my mind personally, BUT it's funny that he was not considered "the son of God" until 325AD at the 2nd Council of Nicea when MERE MORTAL MEN decided it literally by a show of hands. He was probably also married, and it has been mostly supressed by "The Church" over the last two millenia. I'm "praying" (ha ha) that the fragment proves to be authentic.

      January 4, 2013 at 1:09 pm |
  5. Joe

    Prof Francis Watson, of Durham University (UK), an expert on Coptic (and certainly no bible-thumper) has written a scholarly article debunking this. It is a modern forgery by someone who knew very little Coptic and borrowed phrases from the Gospel of Thomas. http://www.dur.ac.uk/theology.religion/about/news/?itemno=15333

    January 4, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
  6. tony

    Geo Bush was supposedly religious and he got between 100,00 and 1,000,000 Iraqi civilians killed just a decade ago.

    January 4, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
    • What?

      What does have to do with the article?

      January 4, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
    • What?

      correction. What does this have to do with the article?

      January 4, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
  7. Mike McGough

    This means nothing at all if this is all she has. There are many parables in the bible, along with analogies, etc. Without this being put in context of a fuller text it means nothing at all. The Catholic church has long contended the bride/wife of Christ is his church if I understand the theology right. He could be making reference to this in the sentence but again without a fuller text to put it in context it means nothing at all.

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

    January 4, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
    • cw

      Yeah, I'm trying to remember my scripture... Is it in Matthew or Mark where Jesus goes into a Catholic Church and proclaims it his wife?

      January 4, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
    • Doc

      What he really said, Mike, was "Take my wife...", but was cut off before he could say, "please".

      January 4, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
    • Mike McGough

      A lot of churches interpret Christ as the bridegroom and the bride as the church. The bible itself references it in several places dependent upon how the particular denomination interprets it.

      A good starting point for you is:

      (Ephesians 5:25-27)

      January 4, 2013 at 1:10 pm |
    • CosmicC

      @Doc – you got to it first, but I suspect this to be an age test that too many will fail.

      January 4, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
    • Frank


      January 4, 2013 at 3:43 pm |
  8. jimmy

    To my eyes, this looks like it was done with a Sharpie.

    January 4, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
  9. Kip Oliver

    @Hokie82 – Oklahoma City Bombing...and don't forget 9/11 – they killed thousands in the name of God. They weren't atheists.

    January 4, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
    • Network

      They were doing it in the name of the wrong god.

      January 4, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
    • GAW

      How do you explain thousands doing good in the name of God?

      January 4, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
    • Adam

      The wrong God? So, what are you suggesting? Did you forget about the Crusades? Was that the right God?

      January 4, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
    • Really??

      no one has ever done good in the name of god. They do good in what they believe is in the name of god. Big difference.

      January 4, 2013 at 12:53 pm |
    • rich

      @gaw – name one good thing that is done in the name of any god, that could not have been done by a non believer. Then name me the litany of bad things that are done in the name of gods.

      January 4, 2013 at 12:55 pm |
    • Trevor

      Hey Rich......"CURIOUSER"...?!?!?!?!

      January 4, 2013 at 1:14 pm |
    • Queen of Hearts

      "Hey Rich......"CURIOUSER"...?!?!?!?!"

      "Curiouser and curiouser" refers to a quote from "Alice in Wonderland" when things were getting strange for her. It's perfectly acceptable in common speech.

      (the word "chortle" was made up by Lewis Carroll for the Jabberwock to say in "Alice in Wonderland" too, btw)

      January 4, 2013 at 1:25 pm |
    • Joe

      Actually Timothy McVey claimed to be an atheist and asked that guards keep away Christians who were trying to convert him.

      January 4, 2013 at 3:14 pm |
  10. nO POST

    At the crucifixion, Jesus told John to look after his mother Mary – had Jesus been married, I'm sure he would have had John look after his wife also. Just saying.

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

      That would have been edited out as it most probably was at the council of Nicea.

      January 4, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
    • rich

      and yet Mark 14:50 states that all of the apostles fled... Hmmm curiouser and curiouser.

      January 4, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
    • CosmicC

      Let's just pretend for a moment that these were really the words of Jesus (and assume that Jesus existed). In that context,t he responsibility of Jesus' wife would have gone to his brother by Jewish law.

      January 4, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
  11. Universe

    God in Quran says, (holy Islamic scripture)

    “They even attribute to Him sons and daughters, without any knowledge. Be He glorified. He is the Most High, far above their claims.” Quran [6:100]

    “The example of Jesus, as far as GOD is concerned, is the same as that of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him, "Be," and he was.” Quran [3:59]

    ‘They said, "You have to be Jewish or Christian, to be guided." Say, "We follow the religion of Abraham – monotheism – he never was an idol worshiper." [2:135]

    “Proclaim, He is the One and only GOD. The Absolute GOD. Never did He beget. Nor was He begotten. None equals Him." [112:1]

    The Messiah, son of Mary is no more than a messenger like the messengers before him, and his mother was a saint. Both of them used to eat the food. Note how we explain the revelations for them, and note how they still deviate! [5:75]

    It does not befit God that He begets a son, be He glorified. To have anything done, He simply says to it, "Be," and it is. [19:35]

    “No soul can carry the sins of another soul. If a soul that is loaded with sins implores another to bear part of its load, no other soul can carry any part of it, even if they were related. ... [35:18]

    O people, here is a parable that you must ponder carefully: the idols you set up beside God can never create a fly, even if they banded together to do so. Furthermore, if the fly steals anything from them, they cannot recover it; weak is the pursuer and the pursued. [22:73]

    They do not value God as He should be valued. God is the Most Powerful, the Almighty.[22:74]

    If you obey the majority of people on earth, they will divert you from the path of God. They follow only conjecture; they only guess. [Quran 6:116]

    “There shall be no compulsion in religion: the right way is now distinct from the wrong way. Anyone who denounces the devil and believes in God has grasped the strongest bond; one that never breaks. God is Hearer, Omniscient.” [2:256]

    “God: there is no other god besides Him, the Living, the Eternal. Never a moment of unawareness or slumber overtakes Him. To Him belongs everything in the heavens and everything on earth. Who could intercede with Him, except in accordance with His will? He knows their past, and their future. No one attains any knowledge, except as He wills. His dominion encompasses the heavens and the earth, and ruling them never burdens Him. He is the Most High, the Great.” [2:255]

    Thanks for taking time to read my post. Please take a moment to clear your misconception by going to whyIslam org website.

    January 4, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
    • K from AZ

      Why would I go to that sight to read about an EVIL religion started by a war-mongering pedophile?

      January 4, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
    • hal 9001

      I'm sorry, "Universe", but "God", "GOD", "He", "Him", "Most High", "Most Powerful", "Hearer", "Omniscient", "One", "Almighty", "Living", "Eternal" and "the Great" are elements of mythology, therefore all of your assertions are unfounded. Using my Idiomatic Expression Equivalency module (IEE), the expression that best matches the degree to which your assertions may represent truths is: "EPIC FAIL".

      January 4, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
    • JCV

      Thanks for the post – very interesting reading. I just wish others could lay aside their hate long enough to at least read and think about the passages. Maybe they are afraid they will learn something.

      January 4, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
  12. The_Mick

    There are a lot of Coptic texts – like the Gospel according to Mary Magdalene that says your an idiot if you think the Resurrection of Jesus was Physical and not just Spiritual – which have not been accepted as authoritative by the Western Christian Churches. So whether this Jesus' wife piece is "authentic" or not has nothing to do with whether it's authoritative or not. On the other hand...the New Testament claims Jesus said, "Suffer (allow) the little children to come unto me." ANYONE at the time knew a Jewish Rabbi was not allowed to interact with small children unless he was married! Additionally, since medicine wasn't very advanced at the time of Jesus' death, people who weren't dead were too often buried by those thinking they were. So a family member was required by law to visit the grave 3 days later to make sure the deceased was really deceased. So which "family member" went to Jesus' grave on the 3rd day according to the New Testament? Mary Magdalene! I doubt that anyone in the Christian Church of the First Century, knowing the customs of the time, had any doubt about their marriage!

    January 4, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
    • nO POST

      Jesus broke many of the Jewish laws (most noteably the sabbath) to show the teachers of the law and the pharisess their own hipocrisy.

      January 4, 2013 at 12:44 pm |
    • msadr

      I've read what remains of the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, and it doesn't say that at all.

      January 4, 2013 at 9:18 pm |
  13. Bob

    Jesus was the son of Satan! How can all of you be blind to this? Who else would claim to be God? To be free of sin?

    Jesus is a part of Satan's master plan! Can anyone disprove this????

    January 4, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
    • nO POST

      The proof is in the Bible. Now, can you prove your claim?

      January 4, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
    • Bob

      @nO POST
      The Bible was written by the devil's men about his one and only son, Jesus. It is not a source of truth, but the ultimate betrayal of man by man.

      January 4, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
    • nO POST

      You've convinced me. Thanks. I am now a satan worshipper.

      January 4, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
    • Bob

      @nO POST
      Good. It is important to know who you love deep in your heart. Our master will be pleased.

      January 4, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
    • nO POST

      Tell master satan I look forward to being tormented with him for the rest of eternity once God places his final judgment on him and all our fallen angels.

      January 4, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
    • Bob

      God is our slave. I often defecate in his mouth.

      January 4, 2013 at 1:53 pm |
  14. joseph

    One ? then were did man and his inside body come from,in it's technical use,(2) what or who made each creature and there inter body in each different animal just as a leopard body function and it's speed is different than a lion or a jaguar so all you no believers and science professors answer those question's and I will change my faith because that's all you have in this corrupt world of man ! P.S. and give me a clone of each human and animal and I will change my faith until then all you unbeliever's need to shut up because you use word's off fool's !

    January 4, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
    • psych ward staff

      Uh on, someone threw up their word salad again; clean-up on page 4, pronto!

      January 4, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
    • Which God?

      @ psych ward. Jeebus, that was truly funny!

      January 4, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      im guessing that sanity isnt your first language there joseph.

      January 4, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
    • jimmy

      Joey: You need to go to school. Starting with Grade 1.

      January 4, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
    • Souljacker

      Oh dear, Mr. Dictionary seems to have deserted us once again!

      January 4, 2013 at 12:44 pm |
  15. Fladabosco

    Hmmm, did you notice that it very clearly says 'CNN" in the lower left corner? Hmmmm....

    January 4, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
  16. Deen

    Folks go to youtube and type " JESUS in ISLAM" and you will be amazed and thankful you did.

    January 4, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
    • Lea

      They also talk a lot about his return and many signs for the people.

      January 4, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
  17. palintwit

    The fake palintwit is back – 11:44 am

    January 4, 2013 at 12:12 pm |
  18. Leah Reis

    Anyone who is familiar with the Jewish laws knows that Jesus had to be married.

    January 4, 2013 at 12:06 pm |
    • Ben

      If you are referring to Jesus being a rabbi and therefore required to be married then there is no specific reference in the Talmud requiring marriage. Though uncommon for a rabbi not to be married, there are examples; for instance, Ben Azzai who was bethrothed to be married but never actually married. Christian tradition and scripture clearly states that the Church; i.e. those who accept His atoning sacrifice as Messiah, are in fact His Bride. The reference in this coptic piece would more accurately be translated as bride and not necessarily "wife"; but that wouldn't be controversial or newsworthy.

      January 4, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
    • Canada

      Man has to follow law because he is not blameless. Jesus was Blameless and in fact, IS the law. he didn't have to be married. the Law was not for him.

      January 4, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
    • SImran

      And exactly why should we accept your statement that Jesus was blameless?

      January 4, 2013 at 12:46 pm |
  19. robCM

    So he had a wife, lots of men have a wife, some have many!

    January 4, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
    • midwest rail

      And some men don't have to be a bigamist to have one wife too many.

      January 4, 2013 at 12:07 pm |
    • John

      A bigamist? Why do religious articles always bring the biggest morons around?

      January 4, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
  20. Seth Pascal

    "Atheist have a higher rate of criminals than any other group."
    Prove it.

    January 4, 2013 at 12:03 pm |
    • Hokie82

      Columbine, VA Tech, Aurora, Oregon, Phoenix, Sandy Hook. They not only have a higher rate, but when an atheist goes off there are no morals to stop them. So they do massive amounts of damage.

      January 4, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
    • Pete

      The Sandy shooter attended a Christian school and you're claiming he was an atheists. LOL! Christians always lie and can't follow their own bible.

      January 4, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
    • therealpeace2all


      This is a 'sincere' question to your posting, as I truly don't know, nor have I researched it. Apparently you have.

      So... in all of those cases, the killers were/are avowed stated atheists ?


      January 4, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
    • tony

      Atheists have as much morality and conscience as anyone else. They just don't let some religious nutjob leaders and spiels override them.

      Like FDLS marrying off 12 yr olds, and Jim Jones slaughtering whole families and the Pope swearing off condoms in an aids epidemic.

      January 4, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
    • Ben

      Hitler, Stalin, Mao , Pol Pot all atheists and perpetrators of history's greatest genecide and human atrocitiey

      January 4, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      'Ben – Hitler, Stalin, Mao , Pol Pot all atheists and perpetrators of history's greatest genecide and human atrocitiey'

      Hitler was a catholic who claimed that he was doing god's will in killing the jews.

      January 4, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
    • SImran

      In public statements, especially at the beginning of his rule, Hitler frequently spoke positively about the Christian German culture,[3] and his belief in an Aryan Christ.[13] Before his ascension to power, Hitler stated before a crowd in Munich: "My feeling as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded only by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God's truth! was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter. In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders. How terrific was his fight against the Jewish poison. Today, after two thousand years, with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before the fact that it was for this that He had to shed his blood upon the Cross. As a Christian, I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice."[14]
      In a proclamation to the German Nation February 1, 1933 Hitler stated, "The National Government will regard it as its first and foremost duty to revive in the nation the spirit of unity and co-operation. It will preserve and defend those basic principles on which our nation has been built. It regards Christianity as the foundation of our national morality, and the family as the basis of national life."[15]

      January 4, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
    • SImran

      Stalin was raised very religious in the Greek Orthodox Church. He was named after Saint Joseph and was raised to be a priest. His father was a priest and young Joseph spent five years in a Greek Orthodox seminary.1

      But Stalin’s father beat him mercilessly, and Stalin once described his childhood as having been “raised in a poor priest-ridden household.”1 Perhaps this contributed to his decision to become a Marxist revolutionary.

      During his time in power, Stalin had a complex relationship with religion. He officially adopted the Russian Communist Party’s stance on religion, claiming atheism and continuing the tradition of teaching atheism in schools and propagating the idea that religion was only damaging to a perfect communist society. Stalin even took it further than his predecessor, Lenin, and initiated a nationwide campaign to destroy churches and religious property and even persecute and kill church officials.2 It is said that under Stalin, the Russian Orthodox Church went from 50,000 to 500 open and operating churches.3

      Stalin once said:

      You know, they are fooling us, there is no God… all this talk about God is sheer nonsense.4

      But during World War II, Stalin eased up considerably on religion. He allowed for tens of thousands of Russian Orthodox churches to reopen, adopted an official policy of tolerance toward Muslims,3 and re-established the hierarchy of leadership in the Russian Orthodox Church.5 There were even rumors that Stalin had reconsidered his own personal relationship to religion when he took a “mysterious retreat” in 1941.

      January 4, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
    • SImran

      Pol Pot was raised a Buddhist and Catholic. In this regard, Dr. Ian Harris, a Reader in Religious Studies at the University College of St. Martin, relates: "In one of his early writings Pol Pot wrote approvingly that the 'democratic regime will bring back the Buddhist moralism because our great leader Buddha was the first to have taught [democracy].'" Although in comparison to the Abrahamic religions its history is far less violent, Buddhism has not been entirely devoid of atrocity in its spread and practice.

      January 4, 2013 at 12:41 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.