Friday, 11 April 2014

Did Jesus have a wife?

From today's Daily Telegraph;http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/10758940/Papyrus-referring-to-Jesus-having-a-wife-was-not-forged-tests-find.html

Papyrus referring to Jesus having a wife was not forged, tests find

a fragment of papyrus that divinity professor Karen L. King said is the only existing ancient text that quotes Jesus explicitly referring to having a wife
A fragment of papyrus that divinity professor Karen L. King said is the only existing ancient text that quotes Jesus explicitly referring to having a wife
Picture: AP

Scientific tests find no evidence of forgery in ancient papyrus referring to Jesus having a wife

A scrap of ancient Egyptian papyrus, which refers to Jesus having been married, has been found to be authentic.

Scientific tests on the document, which was unveiled by Karen King, a Harvard academic, in September 2012 have found no evidence of the document having been forged.

She had presented the fragment at a six day conference in Rome, but significantly her contribution was not reported at the time by either the Vatican newspaper or Vatican radio.

The controversy hinged on four words, written in Coptic, which translated to “Jesus said to them, my wife’’.

Ms King, who helped translate the text, never asserted the text proved Jesus was married.

She said that it merely was a reference to issues of family and marriage which faced Christians at the time.

But despite this, the document was swiftly denounced as a fake by both Ms King’s academic peers and the Vatican in the furore that followed.

According to an article in the Harvard Theological Review the document was subjected to intensive testing which included matching the document to other papyri of around the same time.

The scientific research was carried out by academics - including biologists and chemists - from Harvard, Columbia University and MIT.

"Over the past two years, extensive testing of the papyrus and the carbon ink, as well as analysis of the handwriting and grammar, all indicate that the existing material fragment dates to between the sixth and ninth centuries CE (common era),” the review concluded.

“None of the testing has produced any evidence that the fragment is a modern fabrication or forgery."


  1. One of the things we learn from this is that someone in the middle ages apparently believed or assumed that Jesus had a wife. We don’t know whether the belief was shared by many others, where it came from, when it started or why. There are very few ancient documents that lend any support for the idea, and these only suggest that there was a close relationship, not necessarily a marriage, between Jesus and Mary Magdalene, and that Mary Magdalene played a prominent leadership role in the early church.

    There are one or two archaeological inscriptions dating from Old Testament times indicating that Yahweh, or Jehovah, also had a female consort known as Asherah.

    We also learn some interesting things from people’s reactions to such discoveries. Some sectors of our population become instantly polarised, rather like the USA population during the O. J. Simpson murder trial. Some, for instance, go into automatic denial mode, rather like the Exclusive Brethren after the Aberdeen scandal, emphatically denying things before they had any evidence one way or the other.

    For instance, we have it on the authority of BDH that JSH reacted in this way. “That’s what I loved about my father, that he rejected it straight away, he wouldn’t even consider it, he didn’t give it even space, didn’t give any space of time at all to consider that Aberdeen had any truth about it. I mean, the accusations against our beloved, he didn’t even consider it for a minute, he just rejected it out of hand.” See Notes of Meetings B. D. Hales and Other Ministry (Pocket White Book) P489 page 15 (Mount Gambier, 23 February 2013).

    I don’t think you could get a better definition of prejudice than that. Making up your mind before you have enough evidence, or in the worst cases refusing even to look at evidence.

    1. With typical EB dissonant logic, the mantra of the next leader after Aberdeen (J H Symington 1970-87) was, "No preference or prejudice." I guess what he meant was: Subsume yourself entirely and *prefer* the Brethren position exactly as I run it, or take a running jump (into excommunication & outer darkness & loss of all your family).

      Odd how cult-like that sounds, once you're on the outside of it.

      I wonder what BDH's position would be on Jesus' missus... whatever it is, that is what the flock will *believe*, or else. Evidence, opinion, logic or anything else notwithstanding.

    2. JSH, a man who several years before the 1970 Aberdeen incident with JT Jnr was witnessed saying ' I found I had lost my taste for Mr Taylor's ministry' !

  2. I wonder which Jesus the fragment is referring to. The name Jesus was pretty common in C1 Palestine at the time; just as Jude (Judah) or Simon (Simeon) or James (Jacob) were.

    The Bible teaches that the collective church is the bride of Christ. In the OT Israel was referred to as the "wife" of Yahweh but was cast out due to their prolonged and persistent idolatry. God started a new thing with the creation of the church in the NT.

    Just my pennyworth.

    1. There is a translation of the fragmentary text that you can read at
      From the translation it seems that the Jesus referred to was someone with disciples, but as you say, there were plenty of people in 1st Century Palestine called Jesus, or Yeshua as they would probably pronounce it.

  3. http://historicaljesusresearch.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/interview-with-caroline-t-schroeder-re.html

    1. When Caroline Schroeder says the fragment is a forgery, she clearly means a modern forgery, because her conclusion is based on evidence that the author composed the text by copying words from images of Coptic texts that are available on-line.

      This is difficult to reconcile with the carbon-dating results carried out in two independent laboratories and reported in the Harvard Theological Review. Both the papyrus and the ink were dated to somewhere around the 6th to 9th Centuries, and probably 6th to 7th. See https://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayFulltext?type=6&fid=9226238&jid=HTR&volumeId=107&issueId=02&aid=9226237&fulltextType=RA&fileId=S0017816014000133

      If these authors are all correct in their conclusions, it suggests that the forger must somehow have obtained a bit of papyrus made in the middle ages and then written on it with ink made from equally old materials.

      Finding these materials would be difficult, and it is doubtful that there would be any financial incentive to create such a forgery, because the ancient papyrus might be worth more in its original and genuine form before being defaced by the hand of a modern forger.

      A remote possibility that occurs to me is that the forger could have grown papyrus plants in an atmosphere depleted of carbon-14 or enriched with carbon-12, and then made papyrus from them. Such an atmosphere could be created by mixing air with a carefully controlled amount of fumes obtained by burning coal or coke. He would also need to oxidize the papyrus to the right extent to simulate the oxidation that occurs naturally with age. It could only have been done by someone with considerable expertise in physics, chemistry and papyrology. If that is how it was done, it must be a first. As far as I know this has never been done before.

      There are several ways by which this kind of forgery could be detected. Other dating methods could give the game away. If the papyrus was manufactured recently, tritium dating would probably prove it. It will be interesting to see what other evidence emerges.