Was Jesus married? Roger Bagnall weighs in on newly-discovered papyrus

by Shaun Manning on September 19, 2012

Karen L. King, a historian of early Christianity at Harvard Divinity School, is preparing to present a newly-discovered 4th-century papyrus containing the phrase, “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife …'” The document, a tiny fragment of a larger piece that has since been lost, was delivered to King by an anonymous collector, who is considering donating the papyrus to Harvard. King said that, unlike the notoriously mistranslated Gospel of Judas, the Coptic word for “wife” is unambiguous and could not mean anything else; she cautioned that it does not mean the historical Jesus was married, but that some early Christian traditions may have held that he was.

But is it real?

“The world is not really crawling with crooked papyrologists,” said Roger Bagnall,  director of New York University’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World and the author of the 2006 University of Michigan Press title Women’s Letters from Ancient Egypt, 30 BC-AD 800. Speaking with the New York Times, he said that the writer’s expertise in Coptic grammar and handwriting along with the pattern of ink fading into the papyrus fibers makes it “hard to construct a scenario that is at all plausible in which somebody fakes something like this.”

King’s findings will be published in the Harvard Theological Review. Read more about the papyrus here.

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