Sunday, 23 September 2012

Did Jesus really have a wife?

This papyrus has been in the news recently, and it appeared on the Daily Telegraph's gallery of pictures, here.

A tiny fragment of papyrus mentioning Jesus and his wife
A tiny fragment of papyrus, apparently mentioning Jesus and his wife.

The caption says "This is a previously unknown scrap of ancient papyrus written in ancient Egyptian Coptic. 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.  Picture: REUTERS/Karen L. King/Harvard University"

The provenance of this fragment is hazy, from everything I have read.  It might be real, or it might be a forgery.  The discoverer, Harvard Professor Karen King still has an open mind on the question of its veracity, but she compares the text with the Gospel of Thomas which is one of the gospels that never made it into the canon of the bible.  (This is the one which seems to be a collection of the sayings of Jesus.)

Karen King with the papyrus fragment
Karen King with the papyrus fragment

Of course there are many people who don't actually believe that Jesus existed at all, so nothing is completely certain, and perhaps the new revelations don't matter at all.  But is it an interesting and surprising new twist to an old story, at least.  The question for me might be re-phrased.

Did the wife of Jesus actually have a husband?

And it is interesting to observe that the Vatican seems to be hoping that the whole problem will go away on its own.

So far they have said . . . absolutely nothing.

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