The Inside Story of a Controversial New Text About Jesus

According to a top religion scholar, this 1,600-year-old text fragment suggests some early Christians believed Jesus was married—possibly to Mary Magdalene

Karen L. King, the Hollis professor of divinity, believes that the fragment's 33 words refers to Jesus having a wife (© Karen L. King)

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Would she need 100 percent confidence? I asked.

“One-hundred percent doesn’t exist,” she told me. “But 50-50 doesn’t cut it.”

* * *

“Women, Sex and Gender in Ancient Christianity” met on the first floor of Andover Hall. It was a humid September afternoon and the class’s first day. So many students were filing in that King had to ask the latecomers to heft chairs in from a neighboring classroom.

“I can just sit on the floor,” volunteered a young woman in a pink tank-top and a necklace bearing a silver cross.

“Not for three hours,” King said.

She asked the students to introduce themselves and say why they’d signed up for the class.

“Roman Catholic feminist theology,” one student said of her interests.

“Monasticism,” said another.

“The sexualized language of repentance.”


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