"Gospel of Jesus' Wife" should stir thought, scholar says

Wed Sep 19, 2012 1:00pm EDT
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By Philip Pullella

ROME (Reuters) - An ancient Coptic papyrus whose scribe quotes Jesus referring to "my wife" is the first clear recorded statement of a claim that he was married, the Harvard scholar who unveiled the 1,700-year-old fragment said on Wednesday.

But Karen King, Professor at Harvard Divinity School, said the landmark discovery of the fragment still provided no definitive historical answer to the question of whether Jesus had a spouse.

"This is no silver bullet regarding that question," King told Reuters in an interview in Rome, where she presented her findings.

The fragment, which measures 8 cm by 4 cm (3.1 by 1.6 inches) includes words in ancient Coptic in which a scribe writes: "Jesus said to them, my wife ...".

Another section of the fragment, contains the phrase "she will be able to be my disciple".

"I think the fragment itself is discussing issues about discipleship and family. But certainly the fact that this is the first unequivocal statement we have that claims Jesus had a wife, is of great interest," she said.

King presented her findings at an congress of Coptic Studies in a Vatican-run university across the street from St Peter's Square after they were first announced by Harvard on Tuesday.

The fragment, which was given to King by a private owner for study, is believed to have been written in the fourth century in a dialect of the Coptic language used in northern Egypt.   Continued...

A previously unknown scrap of ancient papyrus written in ancient Egyptian Coptic is pictured in this undated handout photo obtained by Reuters September 18, 2012. The papyrus has four words written in Coptic that provide the first unequivocal evidence that within 150 years of his death, some followers of Jesus, believed him to have been married. REUTERS/Karen L. King/Harvard University/Handout.