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Document is too young, uncorroborated, and likely is a work of fiction.

An ancient papyrus scrap has been declared authentic by subsequent scholarly review. The scrap is controversial because it suggests that Jesus may have had a wife.

Professor Karen King with the controversial papyrus scrap. The scrap is authentic, but its words are very likely fiction.

Professor Karen King with the controversial papyrus scrap. The scrap is authentic, but its words are very likely fiction.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - In 2012, a scrap of papyrus became controversial after it was revealed to say "Jesus said to them, 'My wife. and she will be able to be my disciple.'"

We know for many reasons that Jesus did not have a wife, yet a scrap of paper which purports to be a primary source indicates he did. So scientists delved further into the matter. Using a variety of dating methods including spectroscopy, scientists from Columbia University declared in the Harvard Review:

"Over the past two years, extensive testing of the papyrus and the carbon ink, as well as analysis of the handwriting and grammar, all indicate that the existing material fragment dates to between the sixth and ninth centuries CE [Common Era]. None of the testing has produced any evidence that the fragment is a modern fabrication or forgery."

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In other words, the document dates back to the sixth to ninth era, AD, which makes the document much newer than the gospels.

Still, the document itself appears to be authentic. The handwriting isn't the best, however it appears to be correctly written in Coptic Egyptian, which lends credence to its authenticity.

The document is by no means a bombshell, despite what the media may have made of it. The document was composed, at its earliest, six hundred years following the birth of Christ and likely later. None of the older, primary source materials for the Bible speak of Jesus having a wife, nor is there any evidence of a tradition or belief consistent with this view from the times of Christ himself.

What we do have is a scrap that appears to be authentic, but as a fragment we have no overall context for the fragment. The work itself could be entirely fictional, as it likely is, yet we lack the context in which to appreciate it.

For now, researchers can rest assured the document is real, in and of itself, however the story it probably tells is as much a fiction as if the document were a modern-day forgery. Even in the sixth century, controversy abounded.

Papyrus can fade and crack and turn to dust, forgers and storytellers can write what they like until their stories are forgotten, however the Church abides forever, and that is the greatest comfort of all from this controversy.


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Keywords: Jesus, wife, papyrus, forgery, study, authentic, controversy


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1 - 6 of 6 Comments

  1. Jzk
    11 months ago

    Well of course Jesus is married, to the church! He refers to himself as the 'bridegroom' in the gospels. Furthermore, marriage is used as an analogy between the relationship of Jesus and his church more than anything else in the gospels.

  2. rosanne santos
    11 months ago

    Just because Jesus' wife is not mentioned does not mean he did not have one. There is no mention of a wife for the Apostle Peter either but we know Peter had a wife because of Gospel stories of Peter's mother-in-law. Wives were seldom mentioned in the Gospels because women were of lesser status then men. Hebrew law required marriage by age 18 of all men and celibacy was very rare and not esteemed at all. It makes sense that there would be no mention of Jesus as married since all Jewish men married but it makes no sense that there would be no mention of Jesus as celibate if Jesus was celibate because a celibate Jesus would have been striking and different and worthy of mention.

  3. dan
    11 months ago

    6-9th c. in manuscript terms is like yesterday. There are fragments of the gospels from around 100 A.D. and complete gospels before 200 A.D.

    All I see is one small fragment among the myriads of apocryphal, pseudepigraphical, and other fanciful materials that pre-date the 6th century.

  4. Ken
    11 months ago

    "We know for many reasons that Jesus did not have a wife..."

    But how can you say you know that with certainty? By relying on what others wrote about Jesus many years after his life and death? Why would it be a bad thing if it were discovered that Jesus did have a wife?

  5. Paul Carrozzo
    11 months ago

    So, I ask,what are you saying? Your response is vanilla at best. How does one take your answer to a ,"see I told you Jesus was married" and debate in an effective manner? Nothing was ever found in Catholic History I believe that supports a wife, yet your response to this event is lacking.

  6. George Ronald Adkisson
    11 months ago

    Jesus lived a reality... that being, the choice was his to make, dispite tradition and custom...Anyone could have said Christ may have had a wife and took the time to write it down in not so technical a fashion as the ones reared in the temple of their heads like Christ...and the meaning conveyed appropriately to the ones that had ears to listen. Freedom was not far from everyone's grasp...even in Greece.They continued dispite the their surroundings did not include anything they would have desired as a job description.
    Has Gnosticism found a critic was given support by a chaotic government, when there was mythical marriage between Joseph and Assenath?
    John 14:26
    "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you."
    After may have chosen to marry and practiced what you could afford in dollars and cents during that period of time missing spirituality.

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