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.
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.
© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM
Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for January 2015
General Intention: That those from diverse religious traditions and all people of good will may work together for peace.
Missionary Intention: That in this year dedicated to consecrated life, religious men and women may rediscover the joy of following Christ and strive to serve the poor with zeal.
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