Has a Harvard professor proved Jesus had a wife?

Amid the flash of cameras and hubbub of the excited news media, Dr. Karen King unveiled a tiny fragment of an ancient scroll, saying she was publicizing her finding so her academic colleagues could weigh in. And in an uproar, they have.

Does a tiny scrap of papyrus prove that Jesus Christ had a wife? If so, it would contradict the Gospels and throw the entire New Testament and Christianity itself into doubt.

However, the fragment itself is increasingly in doubt with the Smithsonian Channel postponing indefinitely the airing of an hour-long documentary on the document – and reports that a prominent academic journal scheduled to publish findings on the fragment has decided to hold off.

The papyrus fragment

The first announcements about the discovery came from a professor at Harvard University Divinity School, Professor Karen L. King, a historian of early Christianity, who announced that an anonymous German collector had provided her with the fragment of ancient Coptic text – but could provide no details of when or where it was unearthed or by whom.

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On the fragment, Jesus is quoted as using the words “my wife.”

Amid the flash of cameras and hubbub of a dazzled news media, Dr. King picked her words carefully and stopped short of endorsing the authenticity of the fragment. She declared she was making the finding public “despite many unresolved questions” – so that her academic colleagues could weigh in, according to Laurie Goodstein reporting in the New York Times.

“And weigh in, they have,” noted Goodstein. “A few said that the papyrus must be a forgery. Others have questioned Dr. King’s interpretation of its meaning. Some have faulted her for publishing a paper on an item of unknown provenance. And many have criticized her decision to give the scrap of papyrus the attention-getting title ‘The Gospel of Jesus’s Wife,’ as if it had equal weight to other, lengthier texts.”

In Rome, the Vatican called the piece a fake, according  to Elisabetto Povoledo, also reporting in the Times.

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