Does Papyrus Prove Jesus Was Married?

The papyrus mentioning Jesus' wife is likely not a fake, new tests reveal. Still, some question its authenticity.

Does Papyrus Prove Jesus Was Married?
Karen L. King

The papyrus fragment that references Jesus' wife is likely ancient, not forged.

Known as the "Gospel of Jesus's Wife" by the Harvard professor who first announced its discovery in September 2012, the document has undergone a series of tests by researchers at various universities. They've determined it was penned sometime between the sixth and ninth century in Egypt.

The handwriting and ink on the fragment were also examined. Both appear to be consistent with the time period.

But a document that contains the words "Jesus said to them, my wife" is bound to have vocal critics.

When it was first announced, Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore called it a fake.

Even now, an Egyptologist at Brown University told The New York Times the tests were irrelevant. "An undergraduate student with one semester of Coptic (Egyptian language) can make a reed pen and start drawing lines."

The researchers cannot definitively dispute these claims. One writes, "I have not found a 'smoking gun' that indicated beyond doubt that the text was not written in antiquity, but nor can such an examination prove that it is genuine." (Via Harvard Theological Review)

The controversy here is, of course, the reference to Jesus' wife. Karen King, who announced the document, says those few words don't prove Jesus was married.

She sat down with The Boston Globe to discuss the content of the document. The reporter says she believes it suggests "people in the early Christian church may have been fascinated with issues of celibacy, whether priests should marry and the role of women in the early Christian church."

Although she hopes the conversation will shift to one on content, the headlines are still focused on its authenticity. And at this point, the articles lean more fact than fiction.