Gospel of Jesus' Wife
The "Gospel of Jesus' Wife" is the name given to the text on a papyrus fragment with writing in Egyptian Coptic that includes the words, "Jesus said to them, 'my wife...'". The text on the fragment is alleged to be a fourth-century translation of what is said to be "a gospel probably written in Greek in the second half of the second century."
Professor Karen L. King (who announced the existence of the papyrus in 2012) and her colleague AnneMarie Luijendijk named the fragment the "Gospel of Jesus's Wife" for reference purposes but have since acknowledged the name was controversial.[note 1] King has insisted that the fragment, "should not be taken as proof that Jesus, the historical person, was actually married". Luijendijk and fellow papyrologist Roger Bagnall authenticated the papyrus with Luijendijk suggesting it would have been impossible to forge.
The Vatican's semi-official newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, has claimed the gospel is a "very modern forgery". A number of independent scholars have since provided evidence to support this view, suggesting the papyrus includes textual mistakes (a typographical error) identical to those made only in a particular on-line modern iteration of corresponding texts.
However, Professor Alberto Camplani of the Sapienza University of Rome, who was asked to carry out the analysis on which the Vatican's newspaper based its article, is now skeptical about the papyrus fragment being a forgery, stating in a 2012 television documentary: "My first impression was that it was a fake, but I saw the fragment in a newspaper in a bad photograph. Today I am more inclined to believe that it is an ancient papyrus and not a modern forgery." Elsewhere, Professor Camplani added that the papyrus text, "should be read purely symbolically."
According to reports, "the fragment has eight incomplete lines of writing on one side and is badly damaged on the other side, with only three faded words and a few letters of ink that are visible, even with the use of infrared photography and computer-aided enhancement."
King and Luijendijk believe the text was written by Egyptian Christians before AD 400; it is in the language used by those people at that time. They consider that the papyrus fragment comes from a codex, rather than a scroll, as text appears on both sides.
With reference to the speculative source of the text on the fragment, King and Luijendijk used the term "gospel" in a capacious sense which, as they wrote, includes, "all early Christian literature whose narrative or dialogue encompasses some aspect of Jesus's career (including post-resurrection appearances) or which was designated as 'gospel' already in antiquity."
Nothing has been published as to the provenance of the papyrus fragment before 1982, which happens to be the year before the Egyptian authorities passed a Law on the Protection of Antiquities[note 2] strictly regulating the ownership, possession, trade and removal from Egypt of antiquities. As for events after 1982, it is reported that the fragment was acquired in 1997 by its current owner (who wishes to remain anonymous) as part of a cache of papyri and other documents said to have been purchased from a German-American collector who is said, in turn, to have acquired it in the 1960s in then-communist East Germany.
Among the other documents in that cache were:- (a) a type-written letter dated 15 July 1982 addressed to one H. U. Laukamp from Prof. Dr. Peter Munro (Ägyptologisches Seminar, Freie Universität Berlin) which only mentions one of the papyri, reporting that a colleague, Prof. Fecht, had identified it as a 2nd-4th century AD fragment of the Gospel of John in Coptic, and giving recommendations as to its preservation; and (b) an undated and unsigned hand-written note in German and seemingly referring to the Gospel of Jesus' Wife fragment, which reported that "Professor Fecht" believed it is the only instance of a text in which Jesus uses direct speech to refer to a wife. This Professor Fecht is taken to be Gerhard Fecht who was on the faculty of Egyptology at the Free University of Berlin, at all relevant times. Laukamp died in 2001, Fecht in 2006 and Munro in 2009.
The existence of the fourth century papyrus fragment was announced at the International Congress of Coptic Studies in Rome on 18 September 2012 by Karen L. King, Hollis Professor of Divinity at Harvard Divinity School. Scholarly publication of the text with commentary was slated for The Harvard Theological Review in January 2013 but on January 3, King and Kathyrn Dodgson (director of communications for Harvard Divinity School) confirmed to CNN that publication was being delayed pending the results of (in Dodgson's words) "further testing and analysis of the fragment, including testing by independent laboratories with the resources and specific expertise necessary to produce and interpret reliable results." The promised article has not appeared in Harvard Theological Review (Issue 1 of the 2014 volume was published in January 2014).
Two papyrologists, Roger Bagnall of the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at New York University and AnneMarie Luijendijk, an associate professor of religion at Princeton University, reviewed the fragment and determined it was likely authentic. According to Luijendijk, it would have been impossible to forge.
King told the International Congress of Coptic Studies that the text does not prove that Jesus had a wife. She noted that even as a translation of a 2nd-century AD Greek text, it would still have been written more than 100 years after the death of Jesus. According to King, the earliest and most reliable information about Jesus is silent on the question of his marital status. King also acknowledged, though, that the text (which she suggested is a fragment from a non-canonical gospel) "provide[s] the first evidence that some early Christians believed Jesus had been married." A Harvard News Office article reported that King dated the speculative Greek original to the second half of the second century because it shows close connections to other newly discovered gospels written at that time, especially the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Mary, and the Gospel of Philip.
King later, in a 2012 documentary, commented on the possible implication of the papyrus fragment:
The question on many people's minds is whether this fragment should lead us to re-think whether Jesus was married. I think however, what it leads us to do, is not to answer that question one way or the other, it should lead us to re-think how Christianity understood sexuality and marriage in a very positive way, and to recapture the pleasures of sexuality, the joyfulness and the beauties of human intimate relations.
Ben Witherington, Professor of New Testament Interpretation at the Asbury Theological Seminary, said that while the text might contribute to the study of Gnosticism in the 2nd or 4th century, it should not be considered a "game-changer" for those studying Jesus in a 1st-century historical context. He further explained that, "during the rise of the monastic movement, you had quite a lot of monk-type folks and evangelists who travelled in the company of a sister-wife" and that the term "wife" was open to interpretation.
Father Henry Wansbrough echoed the same sentiments:
It will not have a great deal of importance for the Christian church. It will show that there was a group who had these beliefs in the second century - Christians or semi-Christians - who perhaps had not reflected enough on the implications of the canonical scriptures - to see that Jesus could not have been married. It's a historical interest, rather than a faith interest.
Daniel B. Wallace, of the Dallas Theological Seminary, and others have suggested that the fragment appears to have been intentionally cut, most likely in modern times. They further suggest that this leads to the possibility that in context Jesus' may not have even been speaking of a literal wife.
Since the presentation of the fragment, a number of scholars questioned its authenticity. Craig A. Evans of the Acadia Divinity College, suggested the "oddly written letters" were "probably modern". Others said the handwriting, grammar, shape of the papyrus, and the ink's colour and quality made it suspect. Professor Francis Watson of Durham University published a paper on the papyrus fragment suggesting the text was a "patchwork of texts" from the "genuine" Gospel of Thomas which had been "copied and reassembled out of order".
In September 2012, numerous news services announced that the semi-official newspaper of the Vatican, L'Osservatore Romano, had declared the fragment counterfeit. As of 29 September 2012, all that L'Osservatore's search engine identified on the subject was part of an article dated 28 September 2012 by Professor Alberto Camplani of La Sapienza University in Rome[note 3] protesting against "the excessively direct link between research and journalism [which] had already occurred before the conference". He remarked that while the reports in the news media were marked by tones quick to shock, the papyrus had not been excavated from an archaeological site but had been acquired in the antiquities market, and he therefore urged that "numerous precautions be taken to ... exclude the possibility of forgery". A brief editorial comment appended to the article by the editor of L'Osservatore Romano, Giovanni Maria Vian, dismissed the fragment as in ogni caso un falso ("in any case, a fake"). However, in a 2012 documentary focused on the fragment, Camplani suggested his position had changed and that he now considered it more likely to be authentic.
Links to modern theories
The modern idea that Jesus was married is largely attributable to Holy Blood, Holy Grail. Its thesis was that Jesus had been married to Mary Magdalene, and that the legends of the Holy Grail were symbolic accounts of his bloodline in Europe. This thesis became much more widely circulated after it was made the center of the plot of The Da Vinci Code, a best-selling 2003 novel by author Dan Brown. However, King rejected the link to The Da Vinci Code, telling the New York Times that she “wants nothing to do with the code or its author: 'At least, don’t say this proves Dan Brown was right.'” 
The fragment also includes the line, "she will be able to be my disciple". The New York Times article notes that scholars date debates over "whether Jesus was married, whether Mary Magdalene was his wife and whether he had a female disciple to the early centuries of Christianity." King asserts that it is clear from the first century canonical gospels that Jesus had female disciples, and it is her contention that, prior to the recently published papyrus fragment, no texts exist which claim that Jesus was married.
- Asked her handling of the public disclosure of the fragment, King admitted that she had, "...misjudged just how inflammatory that title would turn out to be". According to the interviewer, "she's been asking around for ideas on a new, less exciting name".
- Law No. 117, enacted on 6 August 1983
- One of the organisers of the Congress at which Professor King delivered her paper
- The Lessons of Jesus' Wife by Tom Bartlett (The Chronicle of Higher Education, 1 October 2012)
- "The Gospel of Jesus's Wife: A New Coptic Gospel Papyrus". Harvard Divinity School. Retrieved 2012-09-19.
- "Harvard scholar's discovery suggests Jesus had a wife". Fox News (via Associated Press). 18 September 2012. Retrieved 2012-09-19.
- A Faded Piece of Papyrus Refers to Jesus' Wife by Laurie Goodstein (New York Times, 18 September 2012)
- O'Leary, Naomi (28 September 2012). ""Gospel of Jesus' wife" fragment is a fake, Vatican says". Reuters. Retrieved October 16, 2012.
- Brown, Andrew (16 October 2012). "The gospel of Jesus's wife: a very modern fake". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 October 2012.
- The Gospel of Jesus's Wife, directed by Andy Webb (Blink Films for Smithsonian Channel, September 2012)
- A papyrus adrift by Alberto Camplani (L'Osservatore Romano, 28 September 2012)
- "The Gospel Of Jesus' Wife," New Early Christian Text, Indicates Jesus May Have Been Married by Jaweed Kaleem (Huffington Post, 18 September 2012)
- Sabar, Ariel (September 18, 2012). "The Inside Story of the Controversial New Text About Jesus". Smithsonian.com. Retrieved 11 February 2013.
- “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife…’”: A New Coptic Gospel Papyrus by Karen L. King (DRAFT - Harvard Divinity School, 2012)
- "Gospel of Jesus's Wife" revealed in Rome by Harvard scholar by David Trifunov (Global Post, 18 September 2012)
- Was Jesus married? New papyrus fragment fuels debate (Sydney Morning Herald, 19 September 2012)
- Marrapodi, Eric (January 3, 2013). "'Jesus Wife' fragment gets more testing, delays article". CNN Belief Blog. Retrieved 11 February 2013.
- Harvard professor identifies scrap of papyrus suggesting some early Christians believed Jesus was married by Lisa Wangsness (Boston Globe, 18 September 2012)
- Ancient text has Jesus referring to "my wife" (CBC News, 18 September 2012)
- HDS scholar announces existence of new early Christian gospel from Egypt (Harvard Divinity School, 18 September 2012)
- Reality check on Jesus and his "wife" by Alan Boyle (NBCNews.com, 18 September 2012)
- Reality Check: The "Jesus’ Wife" Coptic Fragment by Daniel B. Wallace (danielbwallace.com, 21 September 2012)
- "Jesus Wife" Research Leads To Suspicions That Artifact Is A Fake by Jaweed Kaleem (Huffington Post, 26 September 2012)
- Gospel of Jesus's Wife is fake, claims expert by Andrew Brown (The Guardian, 21 September 2012)