“Jesus said to them, my wife.” – Karen King reads the papyrus

Ancient papyrus reveals ‘Jesus Christ’s wife’, set to renew fierce debate

Reuters | Sep 19, 2012, 05.02PM IST

BOSTON: A previously unknown scrap ofancient papyrus written in ancient Egyptian Coptic includes the words “Jesus said to them, my wife,” — a discovery likely to renew a fierce debate in the Christian world over whether Jesus was married.

The existence of the fourth-century fragment — not much bigger than a business card — was revealed at a conference in Rome on Tuesday byKaren King, Hollis Professor of Divinity atHarvard Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

“Christian tradition has long held that Jesus was not married, even though no reliable historical evidence exists to support that claim,” King said in a statement released by Harvard.

“This new gospel doesn’t prove that Jesus was married, but it tells us that the whole question only came up as part of vociferous debates about sexuality and marriage.”

Despite the Catholic Church’s insistence that Jesus was not married, the idea resurfaces on a regular basis, notably with the 2003 publication of Dan Brown’s best-seller ” The Da Vinci Code,” which angered many Christians because it was based on the idea that Jesus was married toMary Magdalene and had children.

King said the fragment, unveiled at the Tenth International Congress of Coptic Studies, provided the first evidence that some early Christians believed Jesus had been married.

Roger Bagnall, director of the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World in New York, said he believed the fragment, which King has called ” The Gospel of Jesus’s wife,” was authentic.

But further examination will be made by experts, as well as additional testing of the papyrus fragment, described as brownish-yellow and tattered. Of particular interest will be the chemical composition of the ink.

The fragment is owned by an anonymous private collector who contacted King to help translate and analyze it, and is thought to have been discovered in Egypt or perhaps Syria.

King said that it was not until around 200 AD that claims started to surface, via the theologian known as Clement of Alexandria, that Jesus did not marry.

“This fragment suggests that other Christians of that period were claiming that he was married” but does not provide actual evidence of a marriage, she said.

“Christian tradition preserved only those voices that claimed Jesus never married. The ‘Gospel of Jesus’s Wife’ now shows that some Christians thought otherwise.”

King’s analysis of the fragment is slated for publication in the Harvard Theological Review in January 2013. She has posted a draft of the paper, and images of the fragment, on the Harvard Divinity School website.


Hollis Professorship

The Hollis Professorship of Divinity at HDS, endowed in 1721 and now held by Karen King, was the first named chair at Harvard and is the oldest endowed professorship in the United States.

Read Karen King’s profile

The Gospel of Jesus’s Wife: A New Coptic Gospel Papyrus


Papyrus fragment: front. Karen L. King 2012Papyrus fragment: front. Karen L. King 2012
Papyrus text: front. Karen L. King 2012
Papyrus fragment: back. Karen L. King 2012Papyrus fragment: back. Karen L. King 2012
Papyrus text: back. Karen L. King 2012


1. Does the Gospel of Jesus’s Wife prove that Jesus was married?
2. How do we know this fragment is not a forgery?
3. What is the significance of the Gospel of Jesus’s Wife?
4. Who wrote the Gospel of Jesus’s Wife?
5. Why is the fragment called the Gospel of Jesus’s Wife?
6. What is the Gospel of Jesus’s Wife?
7. Where is the fragment from?
8. What language is the fragment written in?
9. What is the approximate date of the material fragment?
10. What is the approximate date when this gospel was composed?
11. When was the fragment discovered?
12. What are some of the other newly discovered ancient Christian writings?

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