Dr. Karen L. King, a historian with the Harvard Divinity School, has made a startling new discovery — she has found a small piece of papyrus that suggests that Jesus may have had a wife. An announcement of the discovery was made in Rome last Tuesday. Before then it had been kept very quiet, and only revealed to a select few scholars who could help determine whether the document was a forgery. They have determined that it most likely is noy, though where the document came from exactly remains a mystery. It is currently owned by a private collector, who remains anonymous because he does not wish to sell the artifact.
Dated as being from the fourth century and written in Coptic, the piece of Papyrus is tiny, only about the size of a business card, and it can only be read with a magnifying glass. The legible fragments were translated to this handful of phrases:
“Not (to) me. My mother gave to me li[fe]
The disciples said to Jesus
“deny. Mary is worthy of it”
“Jesus said to them, “My wife”
“she will be able to be my disciple.”
“Let wicked people swell up”
“As for me, I dwell with her in order to”
The highlighted portions seem to suggest that Jesus had a wife, and that maybe even she was his disciple, or that he had a female disciple at all. Biblical historians have long been in debate as to whether Mary Magdalene was Jesus’ wife and/or his disciple, and this fragment will reopen that debate. It is important to note, however, that this fragment was still written 400 years after the fact, and may not be proof that Jesus, as a historical figure, had a wife. (Though Jewish men at the time wore beards if they were married, and Jesus has always been depicted as bearded). What it does show is that early Christians were having a discussion about whether Jesus was celibate or married, and what path his followers at that time should take.
This document is also very important when it comes to the question of whether women should be allowed to be priests in the Roman Catholic Church. The practice has been officially denied by the Vatican because in the model that Jesus set up in his time, he had no female disciples. But if further proof could be found that he did, then there would be no basis for that argument.
[Via The New York Times]