'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. UncleJohn

    The words on either side of 'my wife" are 'take' and 'please.'

    January 4, 2013 at 7:36 pm |
    • Gerry from Bayonne

      I knew Henny was God!

      January 4, 2013 at 7:39 pm |
  2. snowboarder

    since the jury is still out on the existence of an actual historical jesus, the discovery of a wife might lend some credence to him.

    January 4, 2013 at 7:32 pm |
  3. Vic Stench

    The only authoritative word of God is the Bible. The Koran, or any other fragments from so-called holy books are false

    January 4, 2013 at 7:21 pm |
    • Gerry from Bayonne

      How do you know the Bible is the word of god?

      January 4, 2013 at 7:23 pm |
    • Yossarian

      I hope you're reading your Old Testament in Hebrew and your New Testament in Greek, then. Any other language requires a translation. Translators are human and make mistakes.

      January 4, 2013 at 7:26 pm |
    • Gerry from Bayonne

      @Yasarrin – you sound as dumb as Vic.

      January 4, 2013 at 7:31 pm |
    • D.R.

      Says someone named Vic Stench.

      January 4, 2013 at 7:32 pm |
    • Yossarian

      Not my fault that an uncomplicated analogy flew right over your head. Perhaps you should slow down and actually read posts before replying.

      January 4, 2013 at 7:33 pm |
    • Gerry from Bayonne

      @yassarin – not sure I follow you!

      January 4, 2013 at 7:38 pm |
    • copanut

      "Authoritative" because Augustine hand picked the components 300 years after the fact? How quaint.

      January 4, 2013 at 8:38 pm |
    • heliocracy

      Vic, you do realize a bunch of guys sat around and decided which books would be included in the Bible and which would not, right? Are you now saying that those guys were infallible? Sounds like heresy to me.

      January 4, 2013 at 10:03 pm |
  4. DJones

    Such a fragment is of little us except for the curiosity of it. Can you imagine if fragment of printed matter were collected today and later surfaced? You would have tabloids, GOP speeches, Liberal material, NRA advertisements and Hollywood comedies all side by side. Only a nut would think it all means and defines the same thing. There are heretics today and there were heretics back then, so what?

    January 4, 2013 at 7:14 pm |
    • Vic Stench

      What kind of psycho-babble are you pushing?

      January 4, 2013 at 7:19 pm |
    • heliocracy

      We're talking about a time when pretty much the only people who could read or write were monks. They weren't writing about Kim K. and Madonna.

      January 4, 2013 at 10:04 pm |
  5. Jerry

    C'mon, people, you know Jesus didn't have a wife – it wouldn't have gone over very well with his 12 husbands......

    January 4, 2013 at 7:08 pm |
  6. baytay

    Also, the church (believers of Jesus) are called his bride and he is referred for as the bridegroom...its symbolism. The English language is so stupid that the Aramaic Jesus spoke is too hard to translate and most of the heart of the subject is lost in translation

    January 4, 2013 at 6:57 pm |
    • End Religion

      if the language was so awesome why did it die?

      January 4, 2013 at 8:11 pm |
  7. baytay

    It was not a "W" it was an "L" for .........Life

    January 4, 2013 at 6:53 pm |
  8. Sly

    I believe this is really from Jesus's husband, as Jesus was gay.

    "And then he came upon Him as a friend, hugging and caressing Him ..." (Bruce 10:40).

    That's ok, it really doesn't change anything – he just had a little sugar in his tank. All power to Him.

    January 4, 2013 at 6:19 pm |
    • End Religion

      his "lost years" were spent in the theater falling in love with show tunes

      January 4, 2013 at 6:22 pm |
  9. Veritas Vox Liberabit

    Hope this is authentic. Jesus was a great man, and it would be wonderful if he got to experience the love of a good woman before he died. I like the idea that he married Mary Magdalene.

    January 4, 2013 at 6:16 pm |
    • JJ

      Even if it is authentic it was written down about 350 years after the death of Jesus so can any of that be trusted just as all the text of the bible written by those who never met Jesus and then re-translated 100s of times?

      January 4, 2013 at 6:23 pm |
    • JD

      Study history. The Magdalenes were a sect which included men and women. He actually married Mary of Bethany which was a member of the Magdalene sect.

      January 4, 2013 at 7:45 pm |
  10. lol??

    Ok, Christians, I've heard plenty about the church being the bride here. You know the name of the groom. What's the name of the bride? In my youth a buddy an' me would crash wedding receptions for the free drinks. Our con was being with the band. You better believe we knew the names of the parties involved.

    January 4, 2013 at 6:09 pm |
  11. A Christian.

    “Hell is being defined by your circvmstances, and believing that definition.”

    January 4, 2013 at 6:05 pm |
    • Veritas Vox Liberabit

      And Jean-Paul Sartre said "Hell is other people." But what the hell does anyone really know about hell? Nothing, zip, nada. But that doesn't stop anyone from speaking as if they do, and condemning anyone who has a different opinion. We know as much about hell as we do about pixies and unicorns, and we have just as much evidence for the existence of those things.

      January 4, 2013 at 6:23 pm |
    • A Christian.

      I've seen hell on earth. I don't like it.

      January 4, 2013 at 6:26 pm |
  12. paul

    there was many cults and false prophets back then, produceing statues of false gods was a big industry , greek goddess diana was a huge industry alone, the name jesus, james, john, luke , mark, mathew and many others were common names used back then as it is still to-day, there are many people named jesus, the jesus we christians seek was not married, no one has brought so much peace and love along with respect for others than the jesus we christians seek, the bible said there will be other people that will say he is here , or there, or he has gone into the desert, DO NOT BELIEVE THEM.

    January 4, 2013 at 6:02 pm |
    • End Religion

      Great point. Note to self: Paul says, "do not believe anything any religious person says."
      Got it!

      January 4, 2013 at 6:11 pm |
    • han solo

      "do not believe anything any religious person says."

      Jesus p:ssed of a bunch of religious people and they tried to push him off a cliff.

      January 4, 2013 at 6:24 pm |
  13. Hathaway

    The fools, yes referring to the atheists continue to argue on frivolous articles such as this.

    January 4, 2013 at 6:00 pm |
    • OTOH

      Atheists are going far deeper into the subject than merely this frivolous article.

      January 4, 2013 at 6:02 pm |
    • Veritas Vox Liberabit

      @Hathaway: there's a passage in the Bible that says anyone who calls someone else a fool is in danger of hellfire. I'm just sayin'. Atheism is based on rational thought and objective consideration of facts. Religion is based on nothing except a willingness to believe in something that cannot be proven. Which of those positions seems more foolish?

      January 4, 2013 at 6:11 pm |
    • Splishkid

      Hathaway: why did Jesus cure one mans blindness instead of eliminating the condition BLINDNESS ? would that of been more benevolent ?

      January 4, 2013 at 7:12 pm |
    • JJ

      Just another hypocritical Christian. Enjoy hell.

      January 4, 2013 at 7:27 pm |
  14. polemicist

    People will believe anything except the real thing.

    January 4, 2013 at 5:48 pm |
    • Call me Bwana

      ANd I suppose you have been granted the knowledge of the real thing. Have a Coke, it`s the real thing!

      January 4, 2013 at 5:54 pm |
    • Epacific

      And we all know that the real thing is:
      Dr. Pepper!!

      January 4, 2013 at 5:55 pm |
    • End Religion

      Yes, it is the same guy from American Werewolf in London...


      January 4, 2013 at 6:12 pm |
  15. randy

    Jesus was not married. Jesus was not gay. This fragment has many problems and is unrealiable. What amazes me is that people would rather believe this fragment, instead of the Bible. The Bible is without eror, and God guided its writing. Check out 4tuth.net.

    January 4, 2013 at 5:40 pm |
    • Bill

      If the Bible is without error, then why can't I stone children or marry multiple wives?? And why is everyone eating shrimp???

      January 4, 2013 at 5:44 pm |
    • Live4Him

      I like your spirit, but you're in the wrong here. There are over 200,000 known errors in the Bible (i.e. when comparing all the ancient Biblical manuscipts to each other), while still being 99.9% identical. The variances are known as errors. None of these error affect the basic doctrine. But atheist will point these error out, not knowing how insignificant they really are.

      Computer analysis of all the known New Testament manuscripts reveal only 0.1 percent variance. That means that 99.9 percent of the manuscripts' contents are in perfect agreement. Most of the small percentage of actual differences are in spelling (such as the English "honour" versus "honor"), word order ("Paul the apostle" verses "the apostle Paul"), and grammar ("Father who art in heaven" versus "Father which art in heaven"). And none of the variations affects any basic doctrine.

      Hall, Terry – How the Bible Became a Book, SP Publications, 1990 , pg. 135)

      January 4, 2013 at 5:45 pm |
    • Live4Him

      @Bill: Because the US Government would come after you! 🙂

      January 4, 2013 at 5:46 pm |
    • Call me Bwana

      Randy, just how thick can you get?

      January 4, 2013 at 5:52 pm |
    • Epacific

      "Lighthouses are more helpful than churches."
      – Benjamin Franklin

      January 4, 2013 at 5:54 pm |
    • End Religion

      lol @ Epacific, great quote

      January 4, 2013 at 6:14 pm |
    • Susan StoHelit

      Odd that you think you have a certainty on this – when the Bible never addresses if Jesus is or is not married – or is or is not gay. Do you believe God had told you to have this otherwise sacrilegious belief in your own omniscience on this matter?

      January 4, 2013 at 6:22 pm |
  16. babooph

    The evangelicals now must pray another fragment does not show his wife to be named Bruce...

    January 4, 2013 at 5:39 pm |
    • End Religion

      why do you think "jesus before 30" isn't in the bible? Dude was throwing wild swing parties with his disciples-to-be. Lots of dates, goats and sweaty, hairy men. There is reportedly a bit of papyrus scroll stashed in the Vatican that reports on Jesus' visions of the future where he watched and fell in love with all Doris Day movies and music by George Michael.

      January 4, 2013 at 6:19 pm |
  17. OOO

    Of course, your both wrong. Jesus didn't really exist!

    January 4, 2013 at 5:38 pm |
    • Live4Him

      Of course! Everything prior to your birth is a fairytale to explain where you came from!

      January 4, 2013 at 5:41 pm |
    • OOO


      January 4, 2013 at 5:44 pm |
    • Live4Him

      Well, you obviously don't believe any recorded history – since you ignore the history of Jesus – so that must include all the history before your birth. Right?

      January 4, 2013 at 5:48 pm |
    • OOO

      No, wrong.

      January 4, 2013 at 5:49 pm |
    • Yossarian

      Look up Last-Thursdayism.

      January 4, 2013 at 7:30 pm |
  18. STLBroker

    Of course Jesus was/is married. The church is his bride and he is the bridegroom.

    January 4, 2013 at 5:36 pm |
    • Sixpence in my shoe


      So you, as a Church member, are Jesus's wife?

      January 4, 2013 at 5:49 pm |
    • It should be an interesting honeymoon

      It should be an interesting honeymoon.

      January 4, 2013 at 8:02 pm |
  19. Lenny

    Of course Jesus was not married, he traveled around with 12 other guys. It wasn't legal for him to get married back then.

    January 4, 2013 at 5:28 pm |
    • Call me Bwana

      Lenny, Lenny! You should have stayed in school a bit longer

      January 4, 2013 at 5:38 pm |
  20. Live4Him

    @tallulah13 "They didn't find DNA. ... They sequenced proteins ... similar to chickens.": Ummmm... Ever consider what is sequenced in proteins? DNA. How do they know they are similar to chickens? DNA. Recent reports also indicate that DNA has been partially sequenced.

    January 4, 2013 at 5:24 pm |
    • Live4Him

      Here's a reference:

      January 4, 2013 at 5:31 pm |
    • tallulah13

      I read the article. DNA referred to was DNA from an insect preserved in amber, as I had mentioned before. They found soft tissue from the dinosaur, not DNA. They are trying to reverse engineer dinosaur DNA from chickens. Protein sequencing is not the same thing as DNA sequencing.

      January 5, 2013 at 3:39 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.