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.
Disney’s Pocahantas has little in common with the historical Indian princess
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 contemporaryand 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
both the archeological and art worlds, provenance is vital in proving whether something is authentic.
The Mona Lisa
Provenance is merely the history of a piece. For example, the provenance of the famous Leonardo da Vinci painting “Mona Lisa” is the verifiable record that the artwork in the Louvre Museum is indeed the real thing. In 1550, the painting was described by da Vinci biographer Giorgio Vasari 31 years after his death. Those who had known the master artist were still living – such as Agostino Vespucci and the family of Lisa del Giocondo, who is believed by many to be portrayed in the painting. The painting was inherited by one of da Vinci’s students and sold to King François I of France. It was kept at Fontainebleau Palace until King Louis XIV took it to the Palace of Versailles. After the French Revolution, it was moved to the Louvre, then to Napoleon’s bedroom, then back to the Louvre and was carefully hidden during such conflicts as the Franco-Prussian War (1870–1871) and World War II. It was stolen on August 21, 1911, but recovered two years later. Thus, experts do not dispute that the painting is the real thing.