Feedback: Was Jesus Married?
A Response to the Claim Made in a Supposed Fourth-century Papyrus Fragment, by Tim Chaffey, AiG–U.S.
Earlier this week, headlines announced that a new discovery shows Jesus was married, and we have received inquiries regarding this subject. These bold claims are based on the discovery of a papyrus fragment written in an ancient Egyptian language known as Coptic.1Is there any basis for such a claim, and would it even matter if Jesus was married?
Dr. Karen King holds the fragment, showing its small size. Without more of the context from the original document, it is highly unlikely that one can properly understand the initial message.
Dr. Karen L. King, a historian from Harvard Divinity School and member of the Jesus Seminar,
recently had the opportunity to examine the smaller-than-business-card-sized fragment when an unnamed private collector asked her to study it to determine its authenticity. At this point, very little is known about the collector and the provenance of the artifact, other than the claim that the owner acquired the piece from a German owner in 1997.
In a draft of her upcoming paper on the subject in the Harvard Theological Review, King, for the purposes of reference, calls the fragment The Gospel of Jesus’s Wife, but what does the fragment state that would merit such a title? According to King, the mere eight partial lines of text from the front of the piece are translated as (brackets indicate where the text cuts off):
- “not [to] me. My mother gave to me li[fe . . .”
- The disciples said to Jesus, “. . . [
- deny. Mary is worthy of it [ (or this could also be “Mary is n[ot] worthy of it.”)
- . . .” Jesus said to them, “my wife . . . [
- . . . she will be able to be my disciple . . . [
- Let wicked people swell up . . . [
- As for me, I dwell with her in order to . . . [
- an image [
Close up shot of the 4 cm x 8 cm fragment. Eight lines of text are visible on the front (pictured), while only a few words can be translated from the back side (not pictured).
The text on the back of the fragment was translated as:
- my moth[er
- three [
- . . . [
- forth which . . . [
- (illegible ink traces)
Without the surrounding context or any other copies of this document, it is practically impossible to determine what this writing is really about. Of course, the fourth line of the front side is what triggered the headlines. According to this Coptic fragment, Jesus was apparently telling His disciples something about His wife.
Read the rest of this interesting article