Was Jesus married?
A Harvard University professor unveiled a fourth-century fragment of papyrus she said is the only existing ancient text quoting Jesus explicitly referring to having a wife.
Karen King, an expert in the history of Christianity, said the text contains a dialogue in which Jesus refers to “my wife”, whom he identifies as Mary.
She presented the document at a six-day conference being held at Rome’s La Sapienza University and at the Augustinianum institute of the Pontifical Lateran University.
Prof. King said the fragment of Coptic script is a copy of a gospel, probably written in Greek in the second century.
“Christian tradition has long held that Jesus was not married, even though no reliable historical evidence exists to support that claim,” she told the congress in Rome.
“This new gospel doesn’t prove that Jesus was married but it tells us that the whole question only came up as part of vociferous debates about sexuality and marriage,” said Prof. King.
“From the very beginning, Christians disagreed about whether it was better not to marry but it was over a century after Jesus’s death before they began appealing to Jesus’s marital status to support their positions.”
While several experts agree the yellowish brown papyrus is authentic, final judgement on the fragment depends on further examination by colleagues and further testing, especially of the chemical composition of the ink, according to Prof. King.
Four words in the 3.8cm by 7.6cm fragment provide the first evidence that some early Christians believed Jesus had been married, she said.
Those words, written in a language of ancient Egyptian Christians, translate to “Jesus said to them, my wife”, Prof. King said in a statement. She said that in the dialogue the disciples discuss whether Mary is worthy and Jesus says: “She can be my disciple”.