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Ancient Coptic Text Contains Reference To Jesus Wife

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Ancient Coptic Text Contains Reference To Jesus Wife

Do you realize how potentially huge and troublesome this is for the Catholic Church? - AK

Ancient Coptic Text Contains Reference To Jesus Wife  Jesus-wife-papyrus

By Laurie Goodstein, The New York Times, Updated: September-18-12 1:34 PM

NYT: Historian says papyrus refers to Jesus' wife

Karen L. King / Harvard

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - A historian of early Christianity at Harvard Divinity
School has identified a scrap of papyrus that she says was written in
Coptic in the fourth century and contains a phrase never seen in any
piece of scripture: "Jesus said to them, 'My wife …'"

The faded papyrus fragment
is smaller than a business card, with eight lines on one side, in black
ink legible under a magnifying glass. Just below the line about Jesus
having a wife, the papyrus includes a second provocative clause that
purportedly says, “she will be able to be my disciple.”

The finding is being made public in Rome on Tuesday at an international meeting of Coptic scholars by the historian Karen L. King ,
who has published several books about new Gospel discoveries and is the
first woman to hold the nation’s oldest endowed chair, the Hollis
professor of divinity.

The provenance of the papyrus fragment is a mystery, and its owner has
asked to remain anonymous. Until Tuesday, King had shown the fragment to
only a small circle of experts in papyrology and Coptic linguistics,
who concluded that it is most likely not a forgery. But she and her
collaborators say they are eager for more scholars to weigh in and
perhaps upend their conclusions.

Even with many questions unsettled, the discovery could reignite the
debate over whether Jesus was married, whether Mary Magdalene was his
wife and whether he had a female disciple. These debates date to the
early centuries of Christianity, scholars say. But they are relevant
today, when global Christianity is roiling over the place of women in
ministry and the boundaries of marriage.

The discussion is particularly animated in the Roman Catholic Church,
where despite calls for change, the Vatican has reiterated the teaching
that the priesthood cannot be opened to women and married men because of
the model set by Jesus.

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, 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,” King said. “There was, we already know, a
controversy in the second century over whether Jesus was married, caught
up with a debate about whether Christians should marry and have sex.”

King first learned about what she calls “The Gospel of Jesus' Wife” when
she received an e-mail in 2010 from a private collector who asked her
to translate it. King, 58, specializes in Coptic literature, and has
written books on the Gospel of Judas, the Gospel of Mary of Magdala,
Gnosticism and women in antiquity.

The owner, who has a collection of Greek, Coptic and Arabic papyri, is
not willing to be identified by name, nationality or location, because,
King said, “He doesn’t want to be hounded by people who want to buy

When, where or how the fragment was discovered is unknown. The collector
acquired it in a batch of papyri in 1997 from the previous owner, a
German. It came with a handwritten note in German that names a professor
of Egyptology in Berlin, now deceased, and cited him calling the
fragment “the sole example” of a text in which Jesus claims a wife.

The owner carried the fragment to the Divinity School in December 2011
and left it with King. She said she was initially suspicious, but it
looked promising enough to explore. Three months later, she carried the
fragment in her red handbag to New York to show it to two colleagues,
both papyrologists: Roger Bagnall, director of the Institute for the
Study of the Ancient World, at New York University; and AnneMarie
Luijendijk, an associate professor of religion at Princeton University.

They examined the scrap under sharp magnification. It was very small —
only 4 by 8 centimeters. The lettering was splotchy and uneven, the hand
of an amateur, but not unusual for the time period, when many
Christians were poor and persecuted.

It was written in Coptic, an Egyptian language that uses Greek
characters — and more precisely, in Sahidic Coptic, a dialect from
southern Egypt, Luijendijk said in an interview.

What convinced them it was probably genuine was the fading of the ink on
the papyrus fibers, and traces of ink adhered to the bent fibers at the
torn edges. The back side is so faint that only five words are visible,
one only partly: “my moth[er],” “three,” “forth which.”

“It would be impossible to forge,” said Dr. Luijendijk, who contributed to Dr. King’s paper.

Bagnall reasoned that a forger would have had to be expert in Coptic
grammar, handwriting and ideas. Most forgeries he has seen were nothing
more than gibberish. And if it were a forgery intended to cause a
sensation or make someone rich, why would it have lain in obscurity for
so many years?

“It’s hard to construct a scenario that is at all plausible in which
somebody fakes something like this. The world is not really crawling
with crooked papyrologists,” Bagnall said.

The piece is torn into a rough rectangle, so that the document is
missing its adjoining text on the left, right, top and bottom — most
likely the work of a dealer who divided up a larger piece to maximize
his profit, Dr. Bagnall said.

Much of the context, therefore, is missing. But King was struck by
phrases in the fragment like “My mother gave to me life,” and “Mary is
worthy of it,” which resemble snippets from the Gospels of Thomas and
Mary. Experts believe those were written in the late second century and
translated into Coptic. She surmises that this fragment is also copied
from a second-century Greek text.

The meaning of the words, “my wife,” is beyond question, Dr. King said.
“These words can mean nothing else.” The text beyond “my wife” is cut

King did not have the ink dated using carbon testing. She said it would
require scraping off too much, destroying the relic. She still plans to
have the ink tested by spectroscopy, which could roughly determine its
age by its chemical composition.

King submitted her paper to The Harvard Theological Review, which asked
three scholars to review it. Two questioned its authenticity, but they
had seen only low-resolution photographs of the fragment and were
unaware that expert papyrologists had seen the actual item and judged it
to be genuine, King said. One of the two questioned the grammar,
translation and interpretation.

Ariel Shisha-Halevy, an eminent Coptic linguist at Hebrew University in
Jerusalem, was consulted, and responded in an email in September, “I
believe — on the basis of language and grammar — the text is authentic.”

Major doubts allayed, The Review plans to publish King’s article in its January issue.

The owner has offered to donate the papyrus to Harvard if the university
buys a “substantial part of his collection,” King said, which Harvard
is considering. She said she will “push him to come forward,” in part to
avoid stoking conspiracy theories.

The notion that Jesus had a wife was the central conceit of the best
seller and movie “The Da Vinci Code.” But King said she wants nothing to
do with the Code or its author: “At least, don’t say this proves Dan
Brown was right.”

This report, "A Faded Piece of Papyrus Refers to Jesus' Wife," first appeared in The New York Times.

Posted by
Obi-Wan Kabuki

5:08 AM

Thanks to:



I love this! Thanks for sharing Purpleskyz!

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You are so welcome Ponee. Love your new avatar! Purplelishess!

Funny about this item.... I heard about it on the radio also on my way to work. Interesting that MSM is reporting it.



My daughter was excited to read this post and the link! SHe has been doing some research of her own and finds information like this interesting. SHe is also interested in info on the Dead Sea Scrolls



I will see if I can dig up any info today that she may not have found yet.



1.The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in eleven caves along the northwest shore of the Dead Sea between the years 1947 and 1956. The area is 13 miles east of Jerusalem and is 1300 feet below sea level. The mostly fragmented texts, are numbered according to the cave that they came out of. They have been called the greatest manuscript discovery of modern times. See a Dead Sea Scroll Jar.

2. Only Caves 1 and 11 have produced relatively intact manuscripts. Discovered in 1952, Cave 4 produced the largest find. About 15,000 fragments from more than 500 manuscripts were found.
3. In all, scholars have identified the remains of about 825 to 870 separate scrolls.

4. The Scrolls can be divided into two categories—biblical and non-biblical. Fragments of every book of the Hebrew canon (Old Testament) have been discovered except for the book of Esther.

5. There are now identified among the scrolls, 19 copies of the Book of Isaiah, 25 copies of Deuteronomy and 30 copies of the Psalms .

6. Prophecies by Ezekiel, Jeremiah and Daniel not found in the Bible are written in the Scrolls.

7. The Isaiah Scroll, found relatively intact, is 1000 years older than any previously known copy of Isaiah. In fact, the scrolls are the oldest group of Old Testament manuscripts ever found.

8. In the Scrolls are found never before seen psalms attributed to King David and Joshua.

9.There are nonbiblical writings along the order of commentaries on the OT, paraphrases that expand on the Law, rule books of the community, war conduct, thanksgiving psalms, hymnic compositions, benedictions, liturgical texts, and sapiential (wisdom) writings.

10. The Scrolls are for the most part, written in Hebrew, but there are many written in Aramaic. Aramaic was the common language of the Jews of Palestine for the last two centuries B.C. and of the first two centuries A.D. The discovery of the Scrolls has greatly enhanced our knowledge of these two languages. In addition, there are a few texts written in Greek.

11. The Scrolls appear to be the library of a Jewish sect. The library was hidden away in caves around the outbreak of the First Jewish Revolt (A.D. 66-70) as the Roman army advanced against the rebel Jews.

12. Near the caves are the ancient ruins of Qumran. They were excavated in the early 1950's and appear to be connected with the scrolls.

13. The Dead Sea Scrolls were most likely written by the Essenes during the period from about 200 B.C. to 68 C.E./A.D. The Essenes are mentioned by Josephus and in a few other sources, but not in the New testament. The Essenes were a strict Torah observant, Messianic, apocalyptic, baptist, wilderness, new covenant Jewish sect. They were led by a priest they called the "Teacher of Righteousness," who was opposed and possibly killed by the establishment priesthood in Jerusalem.

14. The enemies of the Qumran community were called the "Sons of Darkness"; they called themselves the "Sons of Light," "the poor," and members of "the Way." They thought of themselves as "the holy ones," who lived in "the house of holiness," because "the Holy Spirit" dwelt with them.

15. The last words of Joseph, Judah, Levi, Naphtali, and Amram (the father of Moses) are written down in the Scrolls.

16. One of the most curious scrolls is the Copper Scroll. Discovered in Cave 3, this scroll records a list of 64 underground hiding places throughout the land of Israel. The deposits are to contain certain amounts of gold, silver, aromatics, and manuscripts. These are believed to be treasures from the Temple at Jerusalem, that were hidden away for safekeeping.

17. The Temple Scroll, found in Cave 11, is the longest scroll. Its present total length is 26.7 feet (8.148 meters). The overall length of the scroll must have been over 28 feet (8.75m).

18. The scrolls contain previously unknown stories about biblical figures such as Enoch, Abraham, and Noah. The story of Abraham includes an explanation why God asked Abraham to sacrifice his only son Isaac.

19. The scrolls are most commonly made of animal skins, but also papyrus and one of copper. They are written with a carbon-based ink, from right to left, using no punctuation except for an occasional paragraph indentation. In fact, in some cases, there are not even spaces between the words.

20. The Scrolls have revolutionized textual criticism of the Old Testament. Interestingly, now with manuscripts predating the medieval period, we find these texts in substantial agreement with the Masoretic text as well as widely variant forms.

21. Some of the Dead Sea Scrolls actually appeared for sale on June 1, 1954 in the Wall Street Journal. The advertisement read — "The Four Dead Sea Scrolls: Biblical manuscripts dating back to at least 200 BC are for sale. This would be an ideal gift to an educational or religious institution by an individual or group. Box F206."

22. Although the Qumran community existed during the time of the ministry of Jesus, none of the Scrolls refer to Him, nor do they mention any of His follower's described in the New Testament.

23. The major intact texts, from Caves 1 & 11, were published by the late fifties and are now housed in the Shrine of the Book museum in Jerusalem.

24. Since the late fifties, about 40% of the Scrolls, mostly fragments from Cave 4, remained unpublished and were unaccessible. It wasn't until 1991, 44 years after the discovery of the first Scroll, after the pressure for publication mounted, that general access was made available to photographs of the Scrolls. In November of 1991 the photos were published by the Biblical Archaeological Society in a nonofficial edition; a computer reconstruction, based on a concordance, was announced; the Huntington Library pledged to open their microfilm files of all the scroll photographs.

25. The Dead Sea Scrolls enhance our knowledge of both Judaism and Christianity. They represent a non-rabbinic form of Judaism and provide a wealth of comparative material for New Testament scholars, including many important parallels to the Jesus movement. They show Christianity to be rooted in Judaism and have been called the evolutionary link between the two.

The rugged terrain of the Qumran area.

Recommended For Further Study:

The Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation
The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible
Understanding the Dead Sea Scrolls



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