‘Jesus wife’ Coptic papyrus is a fake, declares Vatican newspaper

AP In this Sept. 5, 2012 photo released by Harvard University, divinity professor Karen L. King holds a fourth century … Continued


In this Sept. 5, 2012 photo released by Harvard University, divinity professor Karen L. King holds a fourth century fragment of papyrus that she says is the only existing ancient text that quotes Jesus explicitly referring to having a wife.

Citing concerns about fragment’s authenticity and its origin, the paper also criticized Harvard, a Vatican newspaper declared the so-called “Jesus wife” papyrus a fake.

Nine days after early Christianity scholar Karen King announced the discovery of an ancient text suggesting that some Christians believed Jesus was married, the debate has been seemingly nonstop about the Coptic fragment’s authenticity and its role in understanding Jesus’ life.

“The newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, published an article Thursday by leading Coptic scholar Alberto Camplani and an accompanying editorial by the newspaper’s editor, Giovanni Maria Vian, an expert in early Christianity. They both cited concerns expressed by other scholars about the fragment’s authenticity and the fact that it was purchased on the market without a known archaeological provenance,” the Associated Press reported Thursday.

Last week, Harvard Divinity School professor Karen King cited the ancient text during a presentation at a conference for Coptic scholars in Rome. The text while not declaring that he was married, suggests some early Christians believed he had a wife.

Camplani, a professor at Rome’s La Sapienza university who helped organize Tenth International Congress of Coptic Studies, said he and other attendees questioned King’s understanding of the text. 

Some religion blogs recently reported that the Harvard Theological Review declined to publish her paper. The academic journal plans to feasture her research in the January edition pending testing of the fragment.

“Dr. King’s ‘marriage fragment’ paper, which Harvard Theological Review is planning to publish in its January, 2013, edition – if testing of the ink and other aspects of the fragment are completed in time – will include her responses to the vigorous and appropriate academic debate engendered by discovery of the fragment, as well as her report on the ink analysis, and further examination of the fragment,” according to a statement released Wednesday by the Harvard Divinity School.

On Sept. 18, the Harvard Divinity School professor announced her findings at a conference of Coptic scholars held in Rome.

“Christian tradition has long held that Jesus was not married, even though no reliable historical evidence exists to support that claim,” King said in a divinity school news release. “This new gospel doesn’t prove that Jesus was married, but it tells us that the whole question only came up as part of vociferous debates about sexuality and marriage. From the very beginning, Christians disagreed about whether it was better not to marry, but it was over a century after Jesus’s death before they began appealing to Jesus’s marital status to support their positions.”

King posted a draft of the paper as well as a question-and-answer and pictures of the fragment on a page on the Harvard Divinity School Web site.

Karen L. King


This Sept. 5, 2012 photo released by Harvard University shows a fourth century fragment of papyrus that divinity professor Karen L. King says is the only existing ancient text that quotes Jesus explicitly referring to having a wife.

Smithsonian Channel, which planned to chronicle the story behind King’s discovery in a documentary on Sunday, postponed the program. The channel delayed the broadcast “until the text undergoes further tests,” a spokesman said Thursday. A new premiere date won’t be announced until it’s determined when the tests take place.

Since the headline-grabbing announcement, scholars have weighed in on the discovery.

“Several top Coptic specialists dismissed the fragment as a probable forgery almost immediately after King’s presentation at a major gathering of scholars in Rome,” the Boston Globe reported. “And a British New Testament scholar, Francis Watson, posted several short papers online during the last week arguing — persuasively, to some in the field — that the fragment’s text is probably a modern forger’s pastiche of words and phrases taken from the single surviving copy of the Gospel of Thomas.”

Related content from On Faith:

Christians have nothing to fear, but something to learn

Doubts about Jesus’ wife papyrus

Papyrus confirms early church history

Five big questions about the discovery

Mrs. Jesus, is it really you?

Scholars question authenticity of papyrus

Did Jesus have a wife?

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  • It wasn’t me

    Some are praying that this is not true others that is is so priests can marry and leave kids alone.

  • yeshu2004

    Christianity first appeared in Egypt in 42 AD in the Egyptian city of Alexandria, a city founded by Alexander. Jesus’ disciple Mark preached in Alexandria and many became Christians. If Jesus had a wife, Mark, a contemporary and disciple of Jesus, would have told the new converts, the Coptic Christians. Alexandria was a well developed, cultured city with a huge library. Rome was ruled at that time by Claudius, with a strong Christian population in Rome. There was also a theological school in Alexandria, the Catechetical School, the oldest school in the world. Founded around 190 AD by the scholar Pantanaus the school of Alexandria became an important institution of religious learning, where students were taught by scholars such as Athenagoras, Clement, Didymus, and Origen, the father of theology and who was also active in the field of commentary and comparative Biblical studies. The theological institutions of Egypt and the great Christian scholars who lived in Egypt long before this fake papyrus fragment was found, do not say anywhere that Jesus had a wife. In these circumstances, Karen’s thesis that the early Christians believed that Jesus had a wife is a fallacious fabrication. Karen claims that this papyrus was written 400 years after the resurrection of Jesus. Who owned it all these 1612 years? Why the Coptic Church in Cairo was not aware of it? How could Karen fix the age of the papyrus to 400 years without subjecting it to carbon dating? Probably it would have been produced quite recently by using a crumpled papyrus. So there is something fishy, something shady and something malefic in the entire episode. It is evident from all accounts that the faded papyrus fragment is fabricated, manipulated and concocted with a sinister motive. If such a fake papyrus about Mohammed had been exhibited, the fate of the Dutch film maker Theo Van Gogh would have happened to the sponsor.

    Dan Brown also scandalized Jesus in his book, The Da vinci Code. Dan Brown told a lie that t

  • Souheil Bayoud

    What has the Gnostic writings to do with the true gospel of salvation? Anything based on a lie is a lie.The Holy blood Holy grail pretend that Jesus escaped death on the cross and married Mary Magdalene.Then da Vinci code pretend a secret marriage between Jesus and Mary Magdalene and the real blood of the grail is inside Mary based on the painting of the last supper by Leonardo Da Vinci.After that some persons pretend finding Jesus tomb and bones and carried DNA tests! and statistics on names! Now a scholar has a writing words on a papyrus about Jesus wife and titled that papyrus in the shape of a credit card,a gospel! Through history many people has and still tried to strip Jesus of His deity.They believe in a Jesus who was a mere man,a great teacher with spiritual insight but otherwise ordinary.The marriage of Jesus is taken to be proof that He was not God in the flesh,but only a mortal man.Actually in the above fake stories there is a very dangerous and deceiving lie about the real blood and the wife.The truth is that real and Holy blood is on Jesus’ forehead and not in the womb of Mary Magdalene or any other woman.This is revealed by Souheil Bayoud in the true story The Coin Of The Temple.As for the wife,the impossibility of the marriage of Jesus is not and will not be revealed to disbelievers and opponents to Orthodox Christianity and the Church.

  • MyHouston

    “{t}his new gospel”?

    Aren’t we getting a bit ahead of ourselves with such a bold claim? It’s a scrap of papyrus and, even if authenticated, does not amount to a new Gospel.

    Look at Genesis 19:14. We are told that Lot went to talk to his sons-in-law. Earlier we had been told that Lot’s daughters were virgins. The explanation is that the sons-in-law had been given in pledge to the daughters and could have no relations with any other woman. For all practical purposes related to status within the community, the daughters were wives, and the relationship would later be sexually consummated when the marriage actually took place.

    It’s hard to imagine that Jesus of Nazareth, however, even if only pledged, would have neglected the care of his wife since, from the Cross, he was so diligent to give the care of his mother to St. John. Internal evidence from the gospels shows numerous references to women, and it’s hard to imagine that all references to such a distinguished woman as his wife might have been would have been purged by the early Church. I doubt that anyone anywhere has ever been a better friend to women than Jesus Christ.

  • leibowde84

    Jesus was probably married … but, what’s the big deal. The real problem is that people think Jesus’ marital status has something to do with doctrine forbidding the ordination of women and priests to be married. In regards to the latter, it has been known for some time that the historical reason for denying priests the right to get married was a financial one. Supporting the families of priests was something that the early Catholic Church was not willing to do, so they figured out a way around it. As a church, it was their choice to make … however damaging it has been to young molested boys and priests’ happiness in general. But to claim in any way that this decision had something to do with Jesus’ marital status shows a complete ignorance of the Catholic Church’s history. Get real everybody!! It’s always about money.

  • di89

    As if there has never been a married man who has done anything like that…not, say, any football coaches or anything.

  • tatooyou

    I seriously doubt that what Jesus taught was “about money”.

    If so called “Christian Churchs” are about money, it’s because their sect is and has been apostate.

  • tatooyou

    There is nothing in the Gospels that would remotely imply or give thought to Jesus being married.

    These “early Christians” were of a period of time when the Christianity was well on it’s way into apostacy.

  • itsthedax

    This is the same Vatican that validates “miracles”? I think the Dan Brown version is probably more accurate.

  • Secular1

    Good grief both of you the reason for celibate priesthood was because of several popes were not only married with children and all (for example Borgia). But it was introduced as a reform, as the popes were given to lot of nepotism and corruption. There is no fairy tale basis for it. Not only the popes were married but were a bunch of philandering pod scum, with harems of concubines. This nonsense that the chief clown in the gown in rome is infallible and knows what teh non-existing sky daddy wants is utter rubbish and those who subscribe to that view point are pathetically deluded.

  • cprdcnats

    This is the same charge by top Coptic scholars in the Boston Globe. That it provokes your vitriol remarks when a Vatican newspaper came to the same conclusion says more of your irrational intolerance.

  • cprdcnats

    It very much matters if Jesus was married in the temporal sense. Given the scriptures describing the Church as the bride of Christ and Jesus as the unblemished lamb and his sacrifice to restore humanity. One might be able to reconcile it if one rejects the true god, true man doctrine. If all you take away from Christianity in that which can be reconciled and support the current platform of a temporal political party. Unfortunately too many influenced by the modern gnostic revivalists, such as King, do.

  • Secular1

    Cprdcnats, BG has no bone in the debate. Where as RCC has a great deal of conflict of interest and also they are the least qualified to make any critiques given their job is to make up and unmake scat up. Like when they wanted to fleece dumb rich morons they instituted what was it called – right indulgences to sell them like cotton candy. The rich dumb morons could not figure it out even by the name and paid up for the the reigning pond scum (pope ) go all the way to the bank laughing.. It is not our intolerance that you need to complain, but you should direct your ire at RCC, for 20 centuries of bovine excrement peddling.

  • itsthedax

    I don’t know what everyone’s upset about. He could have been married to a guy.

  • cprdcnats

    Again, same hatred. All over something which both the scholars consulted by the BG and the scholars consulted by the Vatican agree on. Get help. FInd healing. Your hatred will eat away at your soul.

  • itsthedax

    Hatred? No, I don’t hate anything or anyone. OK, truth be told, I hate lima beans, but that’s it.

    Why do you equate healthy skepticism with hatred? Why do you screaming when someone disagrees with you? Perhaps you should step back and get a little perspective in your life.

  • Awake

    Jesus was a man. Son of god? Yes, as we all are. And daughters of god as well. If women are so evil and sex is so terrible and wives so horrible it is very, very doubtful that God would have his “son” born into a world of humans. No, sorry it makes no sense. Whether Jesus was married or had girlfriends is not the important thing. He was trying to let people know they could elevate their consciousness by seeing their common origin and common interests. Don’t complicate it with dogma and fantasy. He was human.

  • em te at heart

    Some people go ALL out to create contorversity……Jesus was real and every since, people have had different views of Him!!!!!!!

  • annpenn1

    Forget Dan Brown. Read Kathleen McGowan’s “The Expected One” for a better researched depiction of the issue.

  • dcrswm

    Who cares if a jewish guy who died (and stayed dead) over 2000 years ago was married or not?

  • bedecerning

    This is the same vatican that is prosecuting a man becaus he exposed malfeasance and criminal acts by higher ups in the vatican. Unbelievable.

  • bsumpter3

    Because catholic priests are not allowed to marry, and find victims, you know what i mean?

  • leibowde84

    I never said that Jesus’ message was “about money.” I merely stated that the decision of the vatican to outlaw marriage for the ordained was predicated on church spending. The doctrine has little if anything to do with the life of Jesus or his disciples, which is why I personally feel that Jesus’ marital status is not important.

  • longleveler

    If Jesus was married, with a wife at home, then why did he go and spend 40 days in the wilderness? What was he doing? Hunting? What wife would be OK with that? That alone proves he wasn’t married. Don’t need a bunch of scientists, historians, and religious hoy-paloy to tell me that.

  • jmbm1

    Wait. You revealed the truth in the “true story” you wrote? Wow…. did you also like your own post?

  • ReadMoreWatchLess

    In those days–far more than today–it would have been very unusual for an able-bodied male to not be married.

    Comes the next question: “Why would Jesus not have married?”

  • wjmdjm

    Because the Vatican knows all about “fake.”

    Who needs historical documents when the “infallible” pope would have us believe his version of God simply because the pope sits on a throne of gold and wears a funny hat.