by Henry B. Smith Jr. MA
EXCERPT A Harvard study on a papyrus fragment apparently making mention of Jesus and a “wife” was recently published. ABR Director of Development, Henry Smith, writes this brief commentary for ABR supporters and web visitors.
Professor Karen King of Harvard Divinity School recently presented a paper at the International Association of Coptic Studies in Rome, making public a fragment of papyrus that seems to infer that Jesus had a wife. This fragment she provocatively titled: The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife.
Pictured on the right is the so-called Gospel of Jesus’ Wife. Below is the view of the back. Courtesy: AP
Some Basic Facts
1. The papyrus fragment is about 1.5 by 3 inches, rather small. No other extant manuscript of this text has yet to be discovered.
2. The origin of this fragment is unknown.
3. The fragment has been dated by scholars to somewhere between the 3rd and 4th centuries AD, but as Dr. Daniel Wallace notes, “The date assigned to it—fourth century—is largely an educated guess. Coptic manuscripts are notoriously difficult to date.”1
4. The text may have originated in the 2nd century AD, since it seems to have similar ideas found in Gnostic and other texts from that period.
4. The small amount of text does not provide enough information to determine the larger context, nor if it is even merited to refer to the writing as part of the “Gospel” genre.
5. We do not even know if the “wife” reference is some kind of poetic or non-literal expression, and so it hardly even qualifies as evidence that the author believed Jesus was married. Even if the context is literal, all this fragment proves, as Todd Bolen has succinctly stated it, is: “Somebody Once Believed Jesus Had A Wife”2….
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