A Newly Deciphered Papyrus: Does Jesus Address His Wife?

Breaking news from Rome…

A historian of early Christianity at Harvard Divinity School has identified a scrap of papyrus that she says was written in Coptic in the fourth century and contains a phrase never seen in any piece of Scripture: “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife …’” Just below the line about Jesus having a wife, the papyrus includes a second provocative clause that purportedly says, “she will be able to be my disciple.”

The scholar is none other than Karen King of Harvard University and you can read the complete New York Times story here. Prof. King will publish more details on her discovery in a forthcoming issue of Harvard Theological Review, see the Harvard Divinity School Bulletin coverage here, with links to the draft article.

I have written extensively on this subject on my blog, suggesting that my colleagues, from Ben Witherington to Bart Ehrman (representing quite a spread of views), who are so insistent that “there is not a shred of evidence that Jesus was married,” reconsider the question. I have changed my own position since publishing The Jesus Dynasty in 2006 in which I too insisted the “Jesus was married” idea was long on speculation and short on evidence.

The implications of the two Talpiot tombs are one factor in my own shift, but I consider that evidence secondary compared to the textual evidence, including the evidence from silence, that I had previously dismissed. Although I would not attribute or “blame” Karen King, the late Jane Schaberg, Ann Graham Brock, April DeConick, or a host of others for my views, I have been greatly influenced by their diverse work on Mary Magdalene. My own more recent positions I have laid out here, here, and in the four part extended series here. I also would recommend Birger Pearson’s latest piece that is linked here with some of my comments.

Karen King has released two videos in which she talks about of her discovery and offers more details, well worth watching:

Smithsonian Interview

Harvard Divinity School

The Smithsonian Channel will present an exclusive special based on the just-announced discovery of an ancient text in which Jesus speaks of “my wife.”

“The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” will premiere on Sunday, Sept. 30, at 8 p.m. ET/PT, produced by Dan Chambers. You can read more here.