The “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” Is Most Likely Not a Modern Fake

Chemical analyses show the text was written thousands of years ago

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The papyrus is just a few inches wide. Wikimedia Commons

In 2012, Harvard researcher Karen King revealed the "Gospel of Jesus' Wife."

A small piece of papyrus, the lightly worn document was written in Coptic Egyptian, with parts missing and ink faded, and didn't say much. But what it did say, wrote Ariel Sabar in Smithsonian Magazine two years ago was enough to “send jolts through the world of biblical scholarship—and beyond.”

The fragment’s 33 words, scattered across 14 incomplete lines, leave a good deal to interpretation. But in King’s analysis, and as she argues in a forthcoming article in the Harvard Theological Review, the “wife” Jesus refers to is probably Mary Magdalene, and Jesus appears to be defending her against someone, perhaps one of the male disciples.

“She will be able to be my disciple,” Jesus replies. Then, two lines later, he says: “I dwell with her.”

The papyrus was a stunner: the first and only known text from antiquity to depict a married Jesus.

The new document had a curious past. It was given to King by an anonymous source, and, as Sabar notes, some pieces of the papyrus' history seemed a little too convenient. It didn't take long for the suggestion that the new gospel was a forgery to arise. (Indeed, the possibility was a reservation of King's.)

According to new research, however, scientists are now largely certain that the document is a true piece of early text, and not a modern forgery. Spectroscopic analysis of the ink, says the New York Times, revealed the text was from thousands of years ago.

“The main thing was to see, did somebody doctor this up?” Dr. Swager said in an interview. “And there is absolutely no evidence for that. It would have been extremely difficult, if not impossible.”

The Gospel of Jesus' Wife is, so far as we know, an ancient text. What that means, exactly, is less clear. According to Sabar, Karen King “worried that people would read the headlines and misconstrue her paper as an argument that the historical Jesus was married. But the “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife” was written too long after Jesus’ death to have any value as biography.”

So even if the text is old, it doesn't necessarily mean Jesus was married. It just means that, long ago, someone wrote that he was.

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