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


He has a point; "Orthodoxy" was determined more from Paul's theology (who had more converts who called themselves "Paul's" despite his wishes) than the others'. There was a lot of diversity in the early church (still detectable in the canonical Gospels, for example) that was stamped out by the councils. This was not approved by Jesus or the unanimous decision of his apostles, but rather emerged gradually over a number of centuries following Christ's death.

Why or how could you imply Paul's writings were Gnostic in nature?...Gnostic "Christianity" was a homogenization of various beliefs, rituals, liturgy, cosmologies, dualism, etc of various paganisms (depending on the geographical location the Gnostic "super apostle" in question inhabited). Furthermore, all forms of Gnosticism, because of the influence of Hellenistic thought, dualism and disdain of the material world (Hellenized Gnosticism), and the Jewish disdain over the thought of God incarnate (Ebionite Gnosticism), denied the incarnation of Jesus Christ in various ingenious ways. Paul, on the other hand, taught - without question - the incarnation of the Word and Wisdom of God. How, then, could you confuse Paul's theology for being Gnostic in any way?...Or do you, which appears to be more likely, simply not know very much about the origins, history and beliefs of Gnosticism?...

By your comments on Gnosticism, does that mean that the Letters of Paul to various congregations were in fact Gnostic writings? if so, how did they find their way into the New Testament?

A game of sophistry? hardly. I am only stating that just because it is/was viewed as heretical by the Church, does not change the veracity, or lack thereof, of the 'Gospel' 's contents. It is not a outlandish thing to suggest that not every document suppressed by the Church was suppressed for an upstanding and truthfully valid reason. Similarly to how banned books lists for schools operate now, the purpose of labeling this document as heretical was to weed out information that the Church did not like circulating amongst its congregation(s), for one reason or another. The purpose being that future members of the church would be unaware of its message. Why that happened, whether it was due to pure outlandish claims in said 'Gospel', the document contained uncomfortable information the Church was trying to stamp out, or perhaps that it just did not fit within the framework of the New Testament that the leaders of the Church were establishing, is not known. all that is known is that it did not make it into the New Testament, and as a consequence, we have been unaware of this document until now. The Church can be, and has been, very effective at what it does.

Obviously you want to play a game of sophistry, but in this case such a game has little intellectual value. Webster's says "heretical" means "of, relating to, or characterized by departure from accepted beliefs or standards." Consequently, because Jesus Christ and His Apostles set the orthodox teachings and beliefs of Christianity, any deviation from those teachings then was, by definition - heretical...The Gnostics of the 2nd and 3rd centuries understood this. Which explains why they were forced to use the names of various apostles and Old Testament saints as authors of their various heretical texts. When they claimed Peter or Thomas, for example, authored a text they were, in essence, attempting to argue that that particular work was orthodox because it was authored by an apostle...They were in essence lying - which is what heretics do; They try to exchange the truth for a lie...


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