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Religion Today Blog Christian Blog and Commentary

'The Gospel of Jesus' Wife': Ancient Fragment Stirs Debate

  • Religion Today
    Religious persecution, missions, Christianity around the world
  • 2012 Sep 19
  • Comments

Karen King, a historian from Harvard Divinity School, revealed on Tuesday what she claims to be a fourth-century fragment of papyrus containing the phrase, in Coptic, "Jesus said to them, 'My wife ... '" According to King, the text, referred to as the Gospel of Jesus' Wife, suggests some early Christians might have held the view that Jesus was married, but she stressed that it could not prove Jesus had a wife. Darrell L. Bock, senior research professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, said if this papyrus was authentic, it would be the only text among many to suggest that Jesus had a wife. It represents "a very small minority in a much later period than original Christianity," Bock said. "It is a fourth-century text in a fringe gnostic group that is not representative of the larger groups that are [part of] Christianity." Dr. Joel B. Green, professor of New Testament interpretation at Fuller Seminary, echoed Bock: "We have no evidence at all of any debate among the earliest followers of Jesus regarding Jesus' martial status. This debate surfaced later. It's important to put this in context. Popular literature (say, from the third and fourth centuries) made all sorts of claims about Jesus ... These claims really don't tell us anything about Jesus of Nazareth, the historical person who lived in the first third of the first century. They do tell us about how some people in later centuries worked out their own beliefs and practices." Green also expressed concern over the "hype" often surrounding such discoveries, adding that "any claims that might be put forward about what it means will be guesses." Nothing is known about the circumstances of the fragment's discovery; King believes it may have been excavated from an area in Upper Egypt.