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.
BY: Rob Kerby, Senior Editor
antiquities market – plagued by grave robbers and forgers – and not through a legitimate archeological dig. Several scholars told the Times that Dr. King should not have agreed to study the fragment without verifying that it was not obtained illegally.
“It’s usually the science that precedes the big announcements,” noted Evans. “These things aren’t usually left untested, especially where a papyrologist has not uncovered it in Egypt.”
“The circumstances in which it’s come to light really require all scholars to be really cautious about how we proceed,” said Carl R. Holladay, professor of New Testament studies at the Candler School of Theology at
“Such an object demands that numerous precautions be taken to establish its reliability and exclude the possibility of forgery,” wrote Dr. Camplani, who was also critical of the “news media frenzy precipitated by the ‘quick to shock’ assertion that Jesus may have been married,” noted Povoledo. Dr. Camplani suggested that the sensationalistic headlines could have been avoided.
Dr. King is already held in suspicion by conservative religious scholars for her extensive writing about the “Gospels” of Mary, Judas and Philip, rejected as fakes by most biblical academics.
Where did she get the scrap of papyrus? Two years ago, Dr. King says, she received an e-mail from an antiquities collector who asked her to translate a fragment that contained a reference to Jesus’ wife. Dr. King says the owner does not know the history of the fragment and has asked to remain anonymous.
Dr. King herself noted that the fragment itself is no proof at all that Jesus was married. If it is authentic, it would have been written by Egyptian Copts at least 350 years after His death. That makes it about as historically reliable as the 1995 Disney cartoon movie in which 350 years after her death, Pocahantas is portrayed as converting Captain John Smith to become an Earth-worshiping pagan – when in fact contemporary and even a classic painting in the Rotunda of the U.S. document that Smith won the Indian princess over to devout Christianity – not the other way around.
If it is authentic, the papyrus fragment is merely a glimpse of a discussion among Egyptian Christians 350 years after Christ’s life about whether their Savior was married or celibate – much like today’s endless debates over whether Christopher Columbus was a righteous man of God as his personal notes seem to indicate or a villain who should be reviled for opening up the Americas to western occupation and exploitation. In such debates centuries after the fact, emotions may be strong – but public opinion remains just that — opinion. Historical fact must be drawn from reliable records, not musings centuries after the fact.
“Despite her cautions, the finding has prompted ‘Jesus Was Married’ headlines around the world — and jokes about Mrs. Jesus’ ‘honey-do’ list,” notes Goodstein in the Times. “The papyrus fragment, which measures only about 1 ½ by 3 inches, is written in Coptic that Dr. King says is consistent with writing seen in fourth-century Egypt. It is roughly rectangular, torn on all four sides, so that each line of text is incomplete. The ink on the front side contains eight lines, dark enough to be legible. Line 4 purportedly says, ‘Jesus said to them, “My wife…”’ Other phrases in the text suggest that it is an account of a dialogue between Jesus and his disciples, Dr. King maintains. According to her translation, Line 3 includes the words “Mary is worthy of it.” Line 5, immediately after the line about Jesus’ wife, says, “…she will be able to be my disciple.” Line 7 says, “As for me, I dwell with her in order to…”
But the papyrus fragment has no verifiable “provenance” whatever. In