The Papyrus of Jesus’s Wife

Big news. A fourth century Coptic papyrus fragment asserts Jesus was married. This is at the New York Times today:

The finding is being made public in Rome on Tuesday at an international meeting of Coptic scholars by the [Harvard] historian Karen L. King, […]

Dr. King gave an interview and showed the papyrus fragment, encased in glass, to reporters from The New York Times, The Boston Globe and Harvard Magazine in her garret office in the tower at Harvard Divinity School last Thursday. She left the next day for Rome to deliver her paper on the find on Tuesday at the International Congress of Coptic Studies.

She repeatedly cautioned that this fragment should not be taken as proof that Jesus, the historical person, was actually married. The text was probably written centuries after Jesus lived, and all other early, historically reliable Christian literature is silent on the question, she said.

But the discovery is exciting, Dr. King said, because it is the first known statement from antiquity that refers to Jesus speaking of a wife. It provides further evidence that there was an active discussion among early Christians about whether Jesus was celibate or married, and which path his followers should choose.

“This fragment suggests that some early Christians had a tradition that Jesus was married,” Dr. King said.

Here’s a link to a scholar who thinks that the historical Jesus may well have been married.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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