Karen Leigh King

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Karen Leigh King (born 1954) is an American academic working in the field of early Christianity and Gnosticism.


Karen King was Winn Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Harvard Divinity School, from 1998 - 2008; in October 2009, she succeeded Harvey Cox to become the first woman appointed to the Hollis Chair, the oldest endowed chair in the United States (1721).[1]

She was described by Newsweek as "an authority on women's roles in the early church."[2] From 1984 to 1997, she was professor of religious studies at Occidental College.

She is a member of the Jesus Seminar, of the Westar Institute.

The Gospel of Jesus' Wife[edit]

In September 2012, King published details of what she described as the Gospel of Jesus' Wife at the International Congress of Coptic Studies,[3] that she considered to be authentic.[4] In a 2012 documentary, King commented on the implications of the 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.[5]

The current consensus among scholars is that the Gospel of Jesus' Wife is a modern forgery.[6][7] In 2016 in response to journalist Ariel Sabar's research into the provenance of the Gospel of Jesus' Wife, King revised her opinion on the fragment saying that the evidence "presses in the direction of forgery."[8][9]


King's books include:

  • Allogenes, a critical edition (1984)
  • Gnostic studies: Revelation of the Unknowable God (1995)
  • Revelation of the Unknowable God: With Text, Translation, and Notes to NHC XI, 3 Allogenes (1995)
  • Images of the Feminine in Gnosticism (Studies in Antiquity & Christianity) (2000)
  • What is Gnosticism? (2003)
  • The Gospel of Mary of Magdala (2003)
  • The Gospel of Mary of Magdala: Jesus and the First Woman Apostle (2003)
  • The Secret Revelation of John (2008)

King also co-authored Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity with Elaine Pagels, and was the co-editor of Women and Goddess Traditions: In Antiquity and Today (Studies in Antiquity and Christianity).


  1. ^ "King, Madigan Receive New Faculty Posts at HDS". Harvard Divinity School. Retrieved 23 December 2010. 
  2. ^ "Secrets behind The Da Vinci Code.".
  3. ^ Goodstein, Laurie (September 18, 2012). "A Faded Piece of Papyrus Refers to Jesus' Wife". The New York Times. 
  4. ^ http://www.haaretz.com/news/world/ancient-papyrus-fragment-makes-reference-to-jesus-wife-1.465599
  5. ^ The Gospel of Jesus's Wife directed by Andy Webb (Blink Films, 2012)
  6. ^ Joel Baden and Candida Moss (December 2014). "The Curious Case of Jesus’s Wife". The Atlantic. 
  7. ^ Ariel Sabar (July 2016). "The Unbelievable Tale of Jesus's Wife". The Atlantic. 
  8. ^ Sabar, Ariel. "Karen King Responds to ‘The Unbelievable Tale of Jesus’s Wife’". Retrieved 17 June 2016. 
  9. ^ Sabar, Ariel. "The Unbelievable Tale of Jesus’s Wife". Retrieved 17 June 2016. 

External links[edit]