A Harvard professor who caused a huge splash when she unveiled a small fragment of papyrus that she said referred to Jesus being married now says it’s likely a forgery.
Harvard Divinity School professor Karen King presented the piece of papyrus in Rome in 2012. The fragment, written in Coptic, includes the phrase, “Jesus said to them, My wife.”
Right from the beginning, it sparked controversy and debate among scholars. Doubts about its authenticity were raised almost immediately.
King said it is more likely than not that the fragment is a modern forgery. She cited an investigative article published last week on the website of The Atlantic magazine that raised questions about the owner of papyrus, Florida businessman Walter Fritz. The Atlantic also was the first to report her concession that the papyrus is likely a fake.
“If you ask me today which direction am I leaning more toward — ancient text or a modern forgery — based on this new evidence, I’m leaning toward modern forgery,” King told The Associated Press.
The Atlantic found inconsistencies in Fritz’s story about how he came to acquire the papyrus and in a document he gave to King purporting to authenticate it.
“This evidence does make a difference in judging whether it was a forgery or not, and it pushes the evidence toward it being a forgery,” King said.
A valid telephone number could not be found for Fritz. In an email sent to the AP on Monday, Fritz included a letter he sent to The Atlantic in which he denied forging, altering or manipulating the papyrus or its inscription.
Mark Goodacre, a professor of religious studies at Duke University, said doubts about the fragment were raised within hours of King showing the text at a conference in Rome.
“When you show something like that to people who spend their entire lives starting at these things, a lot of them could straightaway tell there was something fishy about it,” Goodacre said.
He said he credits King with having “a lot of guts” to acknowledge that she was likely duped.
King said she has always maintained that the fragment wasn’t evidence about whether Jesus was married.
“It’s at most a part of the early Christian story about should Christians marry, and so on and so forth,” she said.
She said she is “not happy” about being lied to, but felt “oddly relieved” after reading the Atlantic article.
“I think having the truth is always kind of centering,” she said.
David Hempton, dean of Harvard Divinity School, said in a statement that its mission is to “pursue truth through scholarship, investigation and vigorous debate.”
The school is “grateful to the many scholars, scientists, technicians and journalists who have devoted their expertise to understanding the background and meaning of the papyrus fragment,” Hempton said.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
Arthur Hartsock says
Jesus lived in a very tumultuous time. Shortly after his death (and according to New Testament-resurrection) there was a revolt against Roman rule which resulted in Jerusalem being surrounded by Roman soldiers and completely destroyed and most Jewish inhabitants killed (60ish AD). Then in 130 AD there was another Jewish revolt that resulted in Jews being driven from Palestine. This started the Diaspora. The beginnings of the New Testament were being written among all of this chaos. 90% of the Jews of that time were slaughtered. Most New Testament writings were at best second hand knowledge. Also many writings of that period were destroyed. Anything written during that time was written among this chaos. So all information about that time in history is sketchy at best.
Justin W says
It’s my understanding that Jesus was a common name at the time. It is possible that a different man who was married also had the name Jesus.
Unlikely, for AFAIK, the letter “J” does not now, nor has ever existed in either Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek , or Latin. His Name would likely have been more akin to “Y’shua”, for some of the apocryphal texts i’ve seen spell it either Yeshua or Yashua.
More on-point, a book entitled The Urantia Book claims(in the section devoted to Christ) that He DID marry, but that His wife died young, thus explaining the “well-acquainted with grief” passage.
Either way, it makes no difference as to His mission or message…which is far superior, spiritually, to that of the Muslims, based on observing the fruit of following the teachings…at least for the Sunnis, Shi’ites, and Wahabbis; the branch of which Rumi was a member, the Sufis, has much to recommend it.
“The test of every religious, political, or educational system, is the man which it forms. If a system injures the intelligence it is bad. If it injures the character it is vicious. If it injures the conscience it is criminal.”
— Henri Frederic Amiel(1821-1881)
Source: Journal, 17 June 1852
Granted, there have been many who claimed Christ, yet whose hearts were far from His(Cardinal Richelieu, several popes, and the slew of child molesters come to mind), but there have been many noble men, women, and deeds as a direct result of at least trying to obey Him…including, but not limited to, the DoI and Constitution, for examples.
Your comment was interesting and informative. I enjoyed reading it. Thank you.
For unknown reasons, yesterday i simply could not remember(and didn’t have time to look up) the “man of sorrows, well-acquainted with grief” passage.
THE BIBLE AND JESUS WERE MYTHS..THE SCRIBESWANTED TO PUT A SCARE IN THE PEOPLE AND IT WORKED..THERE IS NO MENTION OF THE CAVEMAN AND DYNASAURS..TOO MANY FAIRTALES…NOAH WOULD NEED A FLEET OF TITANICS TO HOLD ALL 35M SPIECES..PLUS ANOTHER FLEET FOR FOOD…ITS ALL A CROCK OF SHIT!! !! NOBODY PARTED THE RED SEA..AT THE EAST END WHERE THEY CROSSED U CAN WALK ACROSS WITH A SOUTH WIND AT LOW TIDE IN 1 FOOT OF WATER…IT HAS MORE SEX THEN THE NEW PLAYBOY…BEGAT AND BEGOT DOESNT MEAN BEGIN AND BEGONE….THE PYRAMIDS R THE ONLY TRUTH IN THERE…REVELATIONS CAN BE DECODED ANYWAY U LIKE…PICKING OUT WORDS TO MAKE IT LOOK LIKE THESE THINGS WILL HAPPEN…SUPERMAN COMICS R MORE REAL !!!!
Robin Boyd says
No need to yell, Joe. Yelling doesn’t make your post any more rational than if you typed in lower case. Just an FYI, you are thinking of scripture wrongly. Look up what parables are. Old Testament (Hebrew Testament) is strictly about the relationship between God and the Hebrews. Cavemen and dinosaurs were not Jewish, so there was no need for them to be addressed. The Bible is not a science book or a history book, but there is some science and history in there. To dismiss such a collection of writings is poor judgement.
In an infinite universe – apparently, with infinite parallel universes, too – infinite possibilities exist. It would not surprise me in the least that our own imaginations can and have created populations on other worlds. That, and justice; suppose you were one of those people who liked to torture cats – and upon your death, you were sent to a planet where the dominant life form was intelligent cats – and you were THEIR plaything.
You’re free to believe as you believe – but at some point, you’ll need to accept a new paradigm or suffer the consequences of denial.
Joe: When you die and your spirit which is the intellect of your soul leaves your body into another dimension all I can say is have a good trip to hell. You might want to make things right with your maker as your time nears.
What a sad take you have on the Bible. For myself, I’d rather believe and be thought stupid if it turns out not to be true, than to lose everything if, as I believe, the Bible turns out to be the true and correct word of God. Good luck, buddy.
Arthur Hartsock says
Many Biblical characters are also written of by other Egyptian, Roman, Greek, Babylonian scribes. Josephus mentions Pontious Pilate and a few New Testament characters. Myth is a story told for a moral purpose. Bible would qualify is a myth in this meaning. No one is forced to accept the doctrine/message of the Bible. But it doesn’t hurt to read it.
Joe: You could read Alice in Wonderland and not see the message as Lady Mom did, and until you diligently seek truth , it’ll never be revealed to you. we’re praying for you
Robin Boyd says
After years of studying Biblical scripture to prove to myself it is a fabricated set of tales, I came to believe that the Biblical man Jesus is who He says He is in scripture. That said, I see no reason why the man Jesus could not have been married. In fact, it seems odd that Jesus would not have been married. If so, why no mention of it? Because normal things were not written about and it would have been normal for Jesus to have had a wife. Who knows, Jesus may have had a wife who died young and that is what freed Him up to start His destined mission. We really just don’t know, and it really just doesn’t matter.
Maybe a celibate, and unmarried, Jesus was a better fit in the strategy of separating traditional Jewish thought from that of the early, soon to become Christian, line of thought espoused by Paul of Antioch, et.al. Indian monastic thought at the time, and in many cases, made the case for an asceticism which included celibacy, as well, thereby precluding marriage. Jesus, under the name Isa or Isua, is said to have traveled to India during the time between his meeting with the elders at the temple he attended at the age of thirteen, and beginning His ministry at the age of 33yo. The Catholic Church took a different tack by imposing celibacy, and forbidding the marriage of its priests, in order to remove them from the cares of the secular life, so they could concentrate more fully on their spiritual mindset and mission.
The Catholic Church does not prohibit marriage of all of it’s priests, only those of the predominate Roman Rite. Priests of the Eastern Rites are allowed to marry and sire children. An Eastern Rite bishop may not remarry if his wife dies.
I hope you find the truth, Joe. Seek and you will find.
I think it almost would be beneficial to say that Jesus had once had a wife which would make him more acceptable to other religions. For example, Islam does not accept homosexuals and believe that they should be killed. They do not believe in Christ. Not sure if maybe they think that Jesus was not heterosexual.
Brenda Munro says
Jesus does indeed have a wife! Check out Revelation 21 where an angel in a prophetic vision shows the apostle John the Lamb’s wife, New Jerusalem, prepared as a bride for her husband (Christ Jesus). Rev. 19:7 says we should rejoice and be overjoyed and let us give him the glory because the marriage of the Lamb (Jesus) has arrived and his wife has prepared herself. While much of the content is symbolic, the scriptures referring to Christ’s bride do foreshadow real events coming up in the future. If you would like further information, go to the website JW.Org.
Arnold Wolf says
There was no historian taking notes at the time of a man called Jesus Christ or whatever his Hebrew/Aramaic name. A man named Paul or Sol was on his trip to Syria when he had a vision. The vision announced that he was Jesus, the Messiah. Then the books of the New Testament were initially written of which there are no originals. The New Testament rewrote over the centuries, and even King James had his people rewrite a version of a version of a version, etc.
There is no proof that Jesus went to a Baptist church for if he were to return today, which church would he feel most comfortable. Remember, he studied with Rabbis in synagogues, and most of the Jesus story copied from the Roman god Mithra, the identical tale of events. Virgin birth, grew to be a messianic type, killed and rose up again. Coincidence?