Papyrus referring to wife of Jesus

Scientists say papyrus referring to wife of Jesus is no fake


In September, 2012, a faded fragment of papyrus, which has controversially come to be known as 'The Gospel of Jesus’s Wife', made international headlines when it was unveilled by Harvard Divinity School historian Karen L. King.  The announcement, unsurprisingly, was met with both anger and elation, as well as a great deal of skepticism as it contained a phrase never seen before in any other scripture: " Jesus said to them, my wife…." , and " she will be able to be my disciple", a phrase that stirred debate over whether women should be allowed to be priests.  An editorial in the Vatican’s newspaper declared that the papyrus was a fake, as did a number of other scholars. However, the fragment has now been thoroughly tested by scientists who conclude, in a report published in the Harvard Theological Review , that the ink (actually pigment) and papyrus have ancient origins, and the fragment is not, therefore, a modern forgery.

The papyrus fragment has now been tested by scientists at Columbia University, Harvard University, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.), who carried out carbon-dating as well as micro-Raman spectroscopy to determine the chemical composition of the ink. The results revealed that: the papyrus can be dated to approximately 700 to 800 AD, it is consistent with other papyri from the fourth to the eight centuries, the carbon black ink (actually a type of pigment) was typical of that used on other papyri of the time, and the text did not show any variations or inconsistencies which would suggest doctoring.

The text is written in Sahidic, a language of ancient Egypt, and the study authors have suggested that it may be a transcription of an earlier Coptic text that was based on a Greek copy made centuries earlier, as many early Christian gospels are. Therefore, a date of 700 to 800 AD does not mean that this was the first time the text appeared.

However, scientific analysis is not always enough to convince some. The Harvard Theological review, is also publishing a counter piece by Egyptologist at Brown University, Leo Depuydt, whose paper predates the scientific analysis. According to a report on the story in the New York Times , Dr Depuydt said that testing the fragment was irrelevant and he saw “no need to inspect it”. He said he decided that it is a fake based on a newspaper photograph of the papyrus in which he saw “grammatical errors”, as well as similarity to writing in the Gospel of Thomas. In a rebuttal, King finds Depuydt’s textual analysis unpersuasive.

Dr King has been quick to point out that the test results do not prove that Jesus had a wife or disciples who were women, only that the fragment is ancient rather than forged. She does hope, however, that the discussion, commentary, and focus can now move on from ‘is it fake?’ to ‘what does all this mean?’

Featured image:  The front of a papyrus fragment from an early Christian codex on which is written the Gospel of Jesus's Wife. Photo credit: Karen L. King

By April Holloway


I'm just very skeptical about the timing and content of the "Gospel of Jesus' Wife". Each fragmentary sentence adds towards a "Da Vinci code"-style interpretation, with very little "what on earth does that mean" stuff that I'd expect to see in a fragment. Also the fact that it's appeared in the wake of lots of pop-culture references to Jesus' wife, makes me wonder... there are plenty of now very rich people who would benefit enormously from a discovery like this (or even just a passing reference, let alone an "almost too good to be true" example with each line driving the point home like this does); would it be impossible for them to make a forgery?

What's more, the scholars are still divided by the evidence: the media lapped it up to begin with, then reported it a definite fake at the say-so of one lot of experts, and now declare it's definitely genuine because of a new article by the university who published it to begin with. To be certain one way or the other when it remains unclear seems more than a little premature.

I've not read your book, but authoring a book obviously does not make you an authority on the subject. Nor is your "stunning and comprehensive proof" as stunning and comprehensive as you would like to think it is...My efforts are little more than to seek out the truth - and the truth is exactly what history says it is; all Gnostics were, by definition, heretics who sought to either Judasize or Hellenize (depending on the Gnostic sect in question) the orthodox faith which Christ and His Apostles taught and died for...As for "the lies" you profess the Church has perpetrated on the world's societies for "two millennia" in suppressing the truth[s] of Gnosticism, the amount of ancient extant documents available to anyone who would seek them out leaves no room for doubt - The Church fault to protect the orthodox faith from the evil schemes of Jews and Hellenists who sought to pollute the new faith with their prejudices and presuppositions...In closing, you couldn't be more wrong, historically speaking, when you claim the various "Gnostics were destroyed by the "Church." History is very clear in how the Roman/Byzantium authorities exiled all Gnostics from the empire after 381 A.D. That much is true. But all Gnostic sects were free to flee the empire without harassment, as they ultimately did, while fleeing to Arabia and North Africa where they found refuge with like minded oriental heretics. In fact, Gnosticism took root there and eventually blossomed into its most dominant form - Islam. Had you been the authority on the subject you claim to be, you would have known this. Because you obviously lack the most basic knowledge on the subject, I invite you to read my new book on the subject which can be found at

Seven Star Hand's picture

I am the author of "Finishing the Mysteries of Gods and Symbols" and I have already delivered stunning and comprehensive proof of my assertions, which likewise exposes your efforts here as yet another attempt to protect the lies of those who spent the past two millennia hiding the truth about what actually occurred back then. The Gnostics were destroyed by the "Church," as were a long line of those labeled heretics, because they actually had some evidence that Christianity was a Roman deception.

Obviously you've never studied the New Testament, the Dead Sea Scrolls or Gnosticism, for had you done so you could never have made the outlandish claims you just made...To say, for example, "If most people actually understood what the Gnostics were saying it would become clear that most thought Jesus was a blatant deception." When quite the opposite is clear - for ALL Gnostics believed Jesus of Nazareth was some form of the Messiah and, as a consequence, would have found your words offensive...The Dead Sea Scrolls were written hundreds of years before the origins of the Christian Gnostic movement. So how you claim "They (Gnostic texts) instead made assertions that have been validated by the contents of the Dead Sea Scrolls and other archeological finds" only shows how little you understand the subject[s] at hand...You go on to write "The Gnostics often used satire along with symbolism and other literary tools to expose the lies of the Church in Rome." Considering that "The Church of Rome" was only one of five Patriarchal Sees during the era which saw so much Gnostic activity, and did not become the Papal power that it is within the worldwide church until the 7th century - a full 300 years after the various Gnostic heresies had been forced out of the Roman/Byzantine Empire - you're claim, like much you say, is simply nonsense...

If most people actually understood what the Gnostics were saying it would become clear that most thought Jesus was a blatant deception. They instead made assertions that have been validated by the contents of the Dead Sea Scrolls and other archeological finds. This so called "gospel" may be on old "paper" but there is zero evidence that it was an actual book. The Gnostics often used satire along with symbolism and other literary tools to expose the lies of the Church in Rome. Here is another example of what they thought about "Jesus", which by the way is a false "translation" of "Joshua"... Likewise James should be "Jacob." If the "Church" has been truthful, why lie for so long about things like names and deeds?

12. The disciples said to Jesus, "We know that you are going to leave us. Who will be our leader?"
Jesus said to them, "No matter where you are you are to go to James the Just, for whose sake heaven and earth came into being."

Time to get a clue, since I, the "just one," have already "returned" and my name never was Jesus.


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