Though everyone else yelled “FAKE”, scholar says ‘Jesus’ wife’ evidence is genuine

Another update to the back and forth about the piece of papyrus that suggests Jesus had a wife.

Papyrus Referring to Jesus’ Wife Is More Likely Ancient Than Fake, Scientists Say – NYTimes.com.

A faded fragment of papyrus known as the “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife,” which caused an uproar when unveiled by a Harvard Divinity School historian in 2012, has been tested by scientists who conclude in a journal published on Thursday that the ink and papyrus are very likely ancient, and not a modern forgery.

The papyrus fragment has now been analyzed by professors of electrical engineering, chemistry and biology at Columbia University, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who reported that it resembles other ancient papyri from the fourth to the eighth centuries. (Scientists at the University of Arizona, who dated the fragment to centuries before the birth of Jesus, concluded that their results were unreliable.)

The test results do not prove that Jesus had a wife or disciples who were women, only that the fragment is more likely a snippet from an ancient manuscript than a fake, the scholars agree. Karen L. King, the historian at Harvard Divinity School who gave the papyrus its name and fame, has said all along that it should not be regarded as evidence that Jesus married, only that early Christians were actively discussing celibacy, sex, marriage and discipleship.

King is convinced it’s genuine based on multiple lines of evidence. But that doesn’t seem to change the minds of the many who think it’s fake, created to be controversial.

As Eve Siebert noted here previously: “She does connect the fragment to Gnostic works like the Gospels of Thomas and Mary. It should be emphasized that she does NOT claim the fragment is evidence that Jesus was married, only that it is evidence that some early Christians believed that he was.”

So, that’s just it, the question is regarding the authenticity of the artifact, not its interpretation. It’s still dated centuries after Jesus.

I have no idea. But have your say in the comments. Here are the previous stories on this popular papyrus.

Is small scrap of faded papyrus first evidence that Jesus had a wife? (UPDATE: Doubts.

Vatican conclude “Jesus’ wife” papyrus fragment is fake.

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  17 comments for “Though everyone else yelled “FAKE”, scholar says ‘Jesus’ wife’ evidence is genuine

  1. Kevin
    April 10, 2014 at 10:37 AM

    Poor Mrs. Jesus. Imagine being married to a man who’s always right. Do you think she would ever have said in anger, “Jesus, I’m getting cross with you”? I wonder if the fragment divulges his middle name? I know it begins with “H”.

    • Mark Riegel
      April 10, 2014 at 5:35 PM

      The “H” stands for “Haploid.”

  2. Eve
    April 10, 2014 at 11:14 AM

    I haven’t read all the articles yet, but Harvard Theological Review, which delayed publication of King’s article for over a year, published a skeptical article as well, by Brown University’s Leo Depuydt, a Coptic expert. The language of the fragment and its apparently derivative nature are still problems.

  3. don salter
    April 10, 2014 at 11:14 AM

    I think there is a lot of doubt about the existence of Jesus; so it is a moot point for me.

    • Alan
      April 10, 2014 at 5:51 PM

      I think you have hit the nail on the head. There is nothing that convinces me of Jesus’ existencelet alone his wife.

    • Ryan
      April 10, 2014 at 6:03 PM

      Actually there isn’t. The vast majority of academia accepts that Jesus actually existed. For a good number of reasons. The current interest in, and broad promotion of, claims otherwise is largely down the promotion of the concept (rather disappointingly) by certain prominent atheists, and the classic stoner “blow your mind” with crazy “facts” mentality. The hypothesis that he didn’t exist is valid and current among scholars though, rather than being fringe nonsense. It just isn’t particularly well supported, and the number of serious academics exploring the idea is pretty limited.

      I like Wikipedia for this kind of stuff:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historicity_of_Jesus#Existence

  4. RDW
    April 10, 2014 at 1:16 PM

    I’m leaning towards the idea that Jesus was a fictional character, created by Romans to try to promote a more pacifistic nature amongst Judaic peoples. ” Look, Here was your Holy Man, He says ‘Turn the other cheek’, now behave. “

  5. April 10, 2014 at 1:36 PM

    Could Jesus have been married. Sure, why not? As far as I know marriage was never a sin. Will the fundamentalists ever accept that? Do polar bears live in the Sahara?

    • BobM
      April 13, 2014 at 1:24 AM

      He was a rabbi. I think it was expected if not compulsory.

  6. One Eyed Jack
    April 10, 2014 at 2:27 PM

    As Eve Siebert noted here previously: “She does connect the fragment to Gnostic works like the Gospels of Thomas and Mary. It should be emphasized that she does NOT claim the fragment is evidence that Jesus was married, only that it is evidence that some early Christians believed that he was.”

    Yes, we wouldn’t want to put faith in ancient texts of uncertain authorship penned centuries after the actual events. That would be downright silly…

  7. April 10, 2014 at 4:01 PM

    No doubt some xtians are going to come up with “How can you possibly trust something written so long after the fact?” The irony will be lost on them…

  8. Chris Howard
    April 11, 2014 at 8:22 AM

    The Christians who want to believe that Jesus was married will use this as evidence that their beliefs are correct.

    While the Christians who don’t want to believe that Jesus was married will make rationales as to why the document shouldn’t be trusted.

    That’s the underlying problem with beliefs based upon faith and self- gratification. Said beliefs aren’t about objective truth, and facts. They are about providing rationales for believing what the faithful WANT to believe.

    Very few people actually look at a passage in a holy book and change their minds about an issue they’ve held close to their heart.

    When people do decide to alter their beliefs regarding something near and dear to them it is usually for emotional reasons. They then go back and find evidence for their change of heart, after the fact, and then convince themselves that they did it because the “evidence” dictated that they do so.

    If married Jesus becomes popular culturally then more people will choose to believe that this document is authentic. That’s how ALL faith based beliefs become popularly accepted, how they stick around is an other matter.

  9. eddi
    April 11, 2014 at 2:06 PM

    Is this just some believers getting their knickers wadded up or are academic credentials on the line? As noted Gnostic books have depicted Jesus married, to Mary Magdalen usually, and are dismissed out of hand by dogma. This seems to be another case of mainstream media missing the point. That being, the fragment is antique not recent. Although the debate seems to be ongoing. It has nothing to do with religion or if the fragment is “true”. It’s about grammar, letter construction and other minutiae of the field. This is just another ivory tower bunfight.

    • Ryan
      April 11, 2014 at 11:00 PM

      If memory serves no apocrypha describe Jesus as married, and although there are books/writings that focus on the importance of Mary Magdalen as a disciple or follower none of them get nearly that specific. The whole Jesus and Mary Mag Forevers! thing is as far as I know drawn from the whole Davinci Code/Holy Blood Holy Grail school of conspiracy theory. Otherwise yes the debate here is actually about whether this is a legit scrap of early Christian writing or not. Its the news media that have gotten hung up on the whole “JESUS MARRIED!?” and attempted to connect it to, or derive from it historic details. And in response certain Christian authorities dismissing it out of hand because it is at odds with canon. Which is normal, they do that for all of the apocrypha.

  10. BobM
    April 13, 2014 at 1:26 AM

    Did they test the ink? Just to preclude modern forgery on old papyrus.

    • Eve
      April 16, 2014 at 2:22 PM

      They ran various tests on the ink, but they didn’t date it. Carbon dating the ink would apparently be possible, but it would destroy the fragment. I still haven’t read the scientific reports, partly because I probably wouldn’t understand them and partly because the PDFs are not coming up on my work computer. Regardless, the tests don’t really seem to have changed the situation very much. As far as I can tell, they do not and cannot definitively rule out a modern forgery (on old papyrus). We will be talking about this tonight on Virtual Skeptics.

  11. Tribeca Mike
    May 18, 2014 at 4:16 PM

    I would imahine that by the fourth century she would have remarried at least once.

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