Questions persist after testing of ‘Jesus Wife’ papyrus

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The fragment of papyrus that offers fresh evidence that some early Christians believed Jesus was married. Photo courtesy Karen L. King

The fragment of papyrus that offers fresh evidence that some early Christians believed Jesus was married. Photo courtesy Karen L. King

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(RNS) A year and a half after unveiling a slip of papyrus that she dubbed the “Gospel of Jesus's Wife,” Harvard Bible scholar Karen King has released the results of long-delayed testing on the controversial fragment that appear to show it is not a modern forgery. But a host of questions remain.

  • Marie

    ““The main topic of the fragment is to affirm that women who are mothers and wives can be disciples of Jesus”

    I do not understand this. Of course women can be and are disciples of Jesus. We all are disciples of Jesus — duh!

    So, what exactly is King getting at here?

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  • Fran

    Of course, said document is a fake, not only considering its date very long after the death of Jesus in 33 C.E., but also considering what the entire Word of God, the Holy Bible, has to say about Jesus and his life. Jesus had a prehuman existence with his Father, Almighty God (Colossians 1:13-16; Proverbs 8:22-31), and became a human to give his life as a perfect ransom sacrifice for imperfect mankind to obtain everlasting life (John 3:16). Not only was this God’s purpose for Jesus, his Son, but also Jesus’primarily focused on preaching the “good news of God’s kingdom” or heavenly government (Matthew 9:35) as the only hope to rule over mankind (Daniel 2:44). Besides that, Jesus is a mediator between imperfect men and God (1 Tim. 2:5) and Jesus is also King of God’s kingdom (1 Corinthians 15:25), which will soon bring great blessings to meek mankind (Psalms 37:10,11; Isaiah 11:1-9; Revelation 21:1-4). It is very evident from Holy Scriptures that God’s purpose for Jesus was not for him to get married and have a family; that is a common purpose for mankind in general. God’s most important goal, through the life and death of his son, Jesus, was the eternal salvation of humans on earth, along with the destruction of all evil elements, and Jesus lovingly did his Father’s will in all respects, all done because of their intense love for us.

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    I’m puzzled. Are the standards of authenticity in the archaeological academic world so much lower than that of the academic art world?
    As I recall art works of unknown provenance are automatically considered suspect. But, apparently, because the topic of the paper fits so nicely with today’s hotly debated topics it gets reported on with breathless wonder and treated in the media as some sort of startling revelation
    But as Marie rightfully wrote–women and all Christians are disciples–Duh.
    However it gives chance for questioning or attacking the Catholic-Orthodox ancient Tradition of an all male fatherly priesthood in our sexually confused
    modern culture.

  • My comment is this and that Jesus was a popular name back then and since it does not stated as Jesus the Christ it could be almost anyone. We are always trying to find ways to look at Jesus the Christ as a man and we push aside His deity. It was his deity that renewed our relationship through His sacrifice on the cross.

  • John

    Can Catholics hear fair and honest critical questions in the 21st century?

    They didn’t do so well in the 1500 and 1600s now did they?

  • Larry

    If the comments on this story are any indication, the answer appears to be no.

    You have Fran screeching that it has to be a fake because her interpretation of the Bible tells her so. Never mind that the Bible she cites to is a work which was specifically edited down to its current form. One which erased an oral tradition which existed in early Christianity.

    You have Deacon John just casting aspersions and innuendo for its own sake.

    IMO, given the date between 400 to 800 AD, my guess is it is from some long forgotten sect or offshoot of Christianity. You are talking about a period when churches were just getting organized and centralizing Christian dogma. Splinter groups, unorthodox versions of the faith would have the lifespan of a mayfly.

  • Frank

    Much ado about nothing.

  • Mark Edwards

    If we require “originals” to certify authenticity, then 100% of the Bible is suspect. There are no existing “original” gospels, no letters of Paul or Peter or James, no Psalms, no prophecies of Isaiah or Micah. Unlike art, ancient writings rely on the examination and comparison of copies to determine authenticity. For Scripture, it also relies on the movement of God’s Spirit in those who read and meditate on them.

    What I don’t get is the super-defensive stands taken by “traditionalists.” There seems to be a lot of reading-into the discovery of this fragment that somehow it will cause the downfall of millennia of doctrine and faith tradition. But it’s just been discovered – what it really means and those implications are yet to be discerned. This irrational fear of anything “new” is most un-Christ-like. His most common admonition in the Gospels is “Do not be afraid”!

  • deigloria

    “Of course women can be and are disciples of Jesus. We all are disciples of Jesus — duh!
    So, what exactly is King getting at here?”
    — Just what he said. Of course, we all know *now* what you affirm. In ancient times, however, many people did not know, or not surely, because of the widespread low opinion of women. Writings like this may have helped spread the gospel message you proclaim.

  • deigloria

    A valid point, not to be overlooked.

  • Robert Landbeck

    It seems wholly logical to me that Jesus should have a wife. If the ‘ Fall’ of humanity happened within a covenant of marriage, one might conclude that our ‘restoration’ to grace would obversely be found again within some insight into the nature of human spiritual union. Jesus would hardly be credible or able to teach such an insight as a celibate man.

  • Elledra

    Regarding Marie’s comment: I think the argument (in the Middle Ages and now) for having an all-male priesthood rests on the idea that all of Jesus “official” disciples in the four canonical gospels were male. If you could say this was not true, based on another verified source from the time, you’d have more ammo to argue women could be priests. So this fragment could be a bombshell.

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  • Mary A believer

    My faith in Jesus would not be any less if it were to be proven he was married.I feel it would increase my beliefs knowing God our father truly wanted his only begotten son to live his short life on earth as a child and then a man who had the true human experience of being a son and a husband. Jesus was born a jew and most young Jewish males married, what is it so hard to imagine a prophet living a life that was common at the time he lived. Does it make one holier or more believable to be celibate.

  • Wayne Amelung

    Jesus Married?
    Some have suggested the possibility that Jesus of Nazareth was married. The following Scripture will examine that possibility.

    Luke 1:1-4, John 20:30-31, 21:24-25
    These references indicate clearly that there were many other teachings, experiences, miracles, and writings that were left out of the final gospels accounts because there were too many of them and they were repetitions of eyewitnesses accounts that were already included in the four apostolic authorized gospels.

    John 2:1-12
    Jesus was from the small town of Nazareth. Cana was a small town about 8 miles north. Jesus and his family and his disciples were invited guests. The bride and groom were unknown and had no contact with Jesus, his family, nor his disciples. Jesus has no wife, and took no wife with him when he left the small town.

    John 19:25-27
    During Jesus’ final hour on the cross, several people were with him, one man and a few women, including his mother, Mary, and Mary Magdelene. Jesus gave care of his mother to John the Beloved. Jesus did not give care of Mary Magdelene to John the Beloved. If Jesus was married, he would have given care of his wife to John the Beloved as well. Jesus was not married.

    Acts 1:9-15
    The resurrected Jesus appeared many times to many people over 40 days. After his resurrection appearances, Jesus ascended into heaven where he remains until his return to earth at his Second Coming. The is no mention of anyone as significant as his wife or children.

    Matthew 8:14-17; Mark 1:29-34; Luke 4:38-41; 1 Corinthians 9:5
    Apostle Peter’s wife is mentioned and he takes her on his missions as Apostle Paul noted.
    If Jesus had a wife, she would have been mentioned by both Apostles Peter and Paul. Jesus was never married, nor did he have any children.

    Jesus had blood brothers and sisters who did not believe him. Jesus’ mother, Mary, believed in him. Jesus’ disciples believed in him. Many people in the crowds did not believe in him, some hated him. Among an extremely diverse group of people, if Jesus was married (even secretly), someone would have mentioned this.

    Jesus on Nazareth was never married, nor did he have any children, nor did he ever make any reference to a wife, a girlfriend, or any children.

  • MBF

    Let us say this is authentic and from the 3rd or 4th cenzury, and let us say this actually speaks of Jesus’ wife. So what? There were crazy Gnostic sects even in the 2nd Century that had heretical imaginations and teachings refuted by both the Scriptures and the early church!

  • Larry

    Using modern biblical texts to prove a point here is rather silly. You are citing a text which already has the edits and omissions built into it over the centuries.

    There were many works which did not make it into the Bible for one reason or another and a wealth of oral history which was dropped in favor of creating a central dogma.

    There is nothing to say the “Jesus Wife” writing came from a source which was never included into the official Post Nicaea New Testament or was from offshoot of Christianity which was erased by the passage of time.

  • Mary, it is hard to imagine Jesus having a wife, because most talk about him having a wife after his supposed resurrection and ascension to heaven. Him having a wife leads to suspicion about his deity, and resurrection. And it almost undoubtedly goes against the teachings in the bible, having never mentioned anything about a wife of Jesus. If he did have a wife, he married after the age of 33 and settled down to have a rather normal human existence after his religious adventures ended.

  • If you believe in the Bible to a 100 percent literal degree, you are correct. However, there is also the possibility that Jesus was a man, didn’t die on the cross, or ascend to heaven, and had a wife after his religious endeavors were over.

  • Shirley Johnson

    Jesus Christ didn’t achnowlege Mary the woman whose womb He came out of as any more special than any other person on earth. This is proven to us in Mathew 12:47-50 Then one said unto Him, ‘Behold, Thy mother and Thy brother stand without, desiring to speak with Thee. ‘. But He answered and said unto him that told Him, ” Who is My mother? And who are My brethren? “. And He stretched forth His hand toward His disciples, and said, ” Behold My mother and My brethren! For whosoever shall do the Will of My FATHER in Heaven is My brother, and sister, and mother. “. In no way does He acknowledge anyone as special to Him at all, except His FATHER in Heaven, and those who prove to do His FATHERS Will! And no mention of a wife is given at all here or anywhere else in The Bible. King acknowledges herself that this piece of manuscript was probably a copy of an earlier text. But how could she possibly think or believe this since no mention of an earlier text this could be copied from is given?