BOSTON (AP) — New scientific tests suggest a fragment of papyrus in which Jesus speaks of “my wife” is more likely an ancient document than a forgery, according to an article published Thursday by the Harvard Theological Review.
The text, which is written in Coptic and is roughly the size of a business card, specifically contains the phrase “Jesus said to them, my wife.”
Karen King, a Harvard professor of divinity, says the papyrus probably dates to eighth century Egypt, based on radiocarbon dating and tests on the ink’s chemical composition.
“If it was written in the eighth or even the ninth century, it’s still an ancient document,” she said in a conference call Thursday. “It’s not a modern forgery.”
But, she stressed, the fragment doesn’t prove that the historical Jesus was actually married. Most reliable evidence from early Christianity is silent on Jesus’ marital status, King added.
If anything, she says, the papyrus provides insight into early Christianity’s debates over family life.
“Early Christians were extremely interested in whether or not they should marry or be celibate or whether it was OK to have a family or whether one should remain virginal,” King said.
King said the papyrus, which contains about eight partial lines of text, appears to make the case that mothers and wives can be disciples. Jesus references his mother, wife, and another female as his disciples apparently discuss whether a woman — identified as “Mary” — can join their ranks.
According to King’s translation, the text then reads “Jesus said to them, “My wife …” That is followed in the next line by “… she is able to be my disciple …”
King originally revealed existence of the papyrus in 2012. Calling it the “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife,” her announcement sparked debate among religious and ancient scholars. But publication of her findings was delayed for the tests. King maintains the “gospel” moniker was appropriate.
While the papyrus is too small to discern anything definitive about who composed it, King argued Thursday that the text belongs to a body of ancient texts that illuminate facets of Jesus’ life. “It contains a dialogue between Jesus and his disciples,” she said. “That would normally put it in the category of gospel.”
King hopes the research puts to rest questions about the text’s authenticity.
But Brown University Professor Leo Depuydt, in an analysis also published Thursday by the Harvard Theological Review, was not convinced. He said the text contains grammatical errors that a native Coptic speaker would not make. King suggested in a phone interview that the text is written in an informal style that is found in other ancient Coptic texts.
Others have questioned the mysterious provenance of the papyrus.
King says she obtained the text in 2011 from a donor that wants to remain anonymous. That owner had purchased the text in 1999 from a collector who, in turn, had acquired it in East Germany around 1963.
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25 photos Launch gallery
1. Me & the homie @jaleelwhite #RujohnFoundation Happy to be in Jamaica! Good times
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5. Good Morning. Early day in Detroit! Making press rounds for @thebossnetwork's Ladies That Lead Tour. Thank you @traycemadre and @colourbynumbr for my glam.
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6. POWER the best show on TV @djenvy, Queens we so big out here. #EFFENVODKA #FRIGO
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7. They said u lost a step, wasn't explosive as once was, the best days was in the real view, questioned your drive, your leadership, your commitment, you don't have killer instinct, going back home is the worst mistake in your career, he got the coach fired, players traded, won't work between him and Kyrie, Him and Kev won't work, love your teammates to much, there's no way he can deliver a championship in his hometown, etc etc etc.... But guess what THATS NONE OF MY BUSINESS #StriveForGreatness #ThisOneIsForTheLand #PutSomeRespeckOnMyName Hahahaha!!! Yes sir
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8. Oooooh weeee this man right here is responsible for at least three of our four babies!! #JOE ❤❤❤🎤 #rnb #king #voicelikebutter #ForPeetesSake
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9. Hanging with my @abcnetwork family! @abcunclebuck tonite y'all check us out ! @anthonyanderson @traceeellisross
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10. My broski ( @sayeedshahidi ) and I are on Top 5 Live on @go90 at 5 (which is super duper close)! Make sure to tune in :) #UncleBuck #Blackish
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11. Lights out💤 #GoodNight
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12. Late nights mornings
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13. Ran into the lovely talented @siedahgarrett on this brutiful favvuz deh!
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14. #halal #love #thedargans #kattwilliamsSHOW #mashallah when that Jennah piece HIT!! @sweetjennahcollection glasses by @baddieglamaccessories LIZ 😍 @dynamiteko top @dazzledmv and jeans @thevision414 and shoes: @louboutinworld
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17. From the bottom of my ❤️, thank you new followers & old! & hello fellow night owls! #grateful #racheltrue #naturalhair #curlyhair #curlygirl #healthyhair
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18. I feel so grateful because I met these amazing young minds, visiting from Houston TX, during their college tour stop today at #usc.These students are ALL extraordinary and embody academic excellence so I'm humbled to have shared a few moments with them to applaud and celebrate their bright futures ahead! Thank you @EmergeFellows for inviting me to speak and blessing me with your love and attention this afternoon!
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19. Happy Fathers Day Pops. U taught me how to be a man. Lessons of love, hard work & gratefulness. Sorry the fishing didn't stick. LOL. I Love U!
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20. Sky Zone and Ice Cream! Best Fathers Day Ever!! Photo credit @mariahcarey
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