A Harvard professor has revealed an ancient artifact that depicts Jesus talking about his wife. Wahaa? Jesus had a wife? The early Christians who wrote this certainly thought so.
Karen King, the Hollis professor of divinity at the Harvard Divinity School, has unveiled the 1,600-year-old, 33-word papyrus fragment, which includes the phrase “Jesus said to them, ‘My Wife.'” There’s a reference to Mary, presumably Mary Magdalene.
Smithsonian.com published an exclusive look today, while Harvard is also publicizing the discovery and its significance. Here’s what you need to know:
1. It’s the Real Deal
Harvard involved numerous esteemed experts to verify the age of the papyrus, the absorption of the ink, the handwriting, and the grammar and spelling. All indications are that this indeed is an ancient text.
2. It’s Tiny
The papyrus fragment at the center of this shocking news is no bigger than a credit card. Above is a view from the backside. IT’s a piece of papyrus 4-by-8 centimeters. Because it has writing on both sides it was probably part of a book and not a scroll.
3. It’s from Egypt
The text is written in Coptic, an ancient Egyptian language. This helps date the document — to about 300 years after Jesus’ death, translated from a gospel written in Greek about 100 years after his death — and helps place its origin: Egypt.
4. It’s the Only Ancient Text to Depict a Married Jesus
All other texts either have a don’t-ask-don’t-tell approach to Jesus’ marital status or describe him as unmarried.
5. They Made Up the Name
The eggheads at Harvard called it the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife so they’d have something to call it. It fits into the category of a gospel, and it’s the first one to talk about Jesus’ wife, so … bada bing, the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife.
6. It Doesn’t Prove The Da Vinci Code
King won’t say that Jesus did have a wife. She’s saying that a certain group of early Christians believed he did. This fourth-century document, a translation to Coptic from Greek written in second century, is far removed from the historical life of Jesus. However, there is no evidence Jesus was not married. The other writings that address his marital status were also penned long after he lived.
7. It Raises Key Questions
“Why is it that only the literature that said he was celibate survived? And all of the texts that showed he had an intimate relationship with Magdalene or is married didn’t survive? Is that 100 percent happenstance? Or is it because of the fact that celibacy becomes the ideal for Christianity?”
8. The Wife Described is Likely Mary Magdalene
9. Jesus Vouches for Her
King says the text’s 33 words describe Jesus defending this “wife,” likely Mary Magdalene, against someone, likely a disciple — testifying to her worthiness. His words include “She will be able to be my disciple.”
10. You Should Consider the Source: An Impeccable One
The Hollis professor of divinity is an extremely prestigious post. King carries great academic weight. This claim of a married Jesus is not coming from some conspiracy theorist in his parent’s basement.