A Faded Piece of Papyrus Refers to Jesus’ Wife
By LAURIE GOODSTEIN
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 was 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.
Let's be clear: I don't have a problem with a news story about this fourth-century scrap of gnostic text that has little or nothing to do with the historical Jesus described in the four Gospels and testified to by first-century Christian witnesses. I do have a problem with how the story is presented, as it is simply misleading. First, the headline: "...Refers to Jesus' Wife". Sure, it may refer to "Jesus' wife", but that is akin to me writing a note with reference to George Washington's harem or mention of Thomas Jefferson's homosexual lover. Saying it doesn't make it so, especially many decades, or even centuries, after the fact.