By Albert Mohler
The whole world changed on Tuesday. At least, that is what many would have us to believe. Smithsonian magazine, published by the Smithsonian Institution, declares that the news released Tuesday was “apt to send jolts through the world of biblical scholarship — and beyond.” Really?
What was this news? Professor Karen King of the Harvard Divinity School announced at a conference in Rome that she had identified an ancient papyrus fragment that includes the phrase, “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife.’” Within hours, headlines around the world advertised the announcement with headlines like “Ancient Papyrus Could Be Evidence that Jesus Had a Wife” (The Telegraph).
The Smithsonian article states that “the announcement at an academic conference in Rome is sure to send shock waves through the Christian world.” The magazine’s breathless enthusiasm for the news about the papyrus probably has more to do with advertising its upcoming television documentary than anything else, but the nation’s most prestigious museum can only injure its reputation with this kind of sensationalism.
A Fragment of a Text, an Even More Fragmentary Argument
What Karen King revealed on Tuesday was a tiny papyrus fragment with Coptic script on both sides. On one side the fragment includes about 30 words on eight fragmentary lines of script. The New York Times described the fragment as “smaller than a business card, with eight lines on one side, in black ink legible under a magnifying glass.” The lines are all fragmentary, with the third line reading “deny. Mary is worthy of it,” and the next reading “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife.’” The fifth states, “she will be able to be my disciple.”….
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