Before You Go Out and Buy Jesus a Wedding Gift…

Reporters are abuzz with the possibility that 2,000 years of Christian tradition could be disregarded because a scrap of papyrus from the 4th century has been found linking the words “Jesus” and “my wife.” Of course, there’s more to the story and actual archaeologists are now weighing in.

From the Associated Press:

ROME (AP) — Is a scrap of papyrus suggesting that Jesus had a wife authentic?

Scholars on Wednesday questioned the much-publicized discovery by a Harvard scholar that a 4th century fragment of papyrus provided the first evidence that some early Christians believed Jesus was married.

And experts in the illicit antiquities trade also wondered about the motive of the fragment’s anonymous owner, noting that the document’s value has likely increased amid the publicity of the still-unproven find.

*****************************************
Stephen Emmel, a professor of Coptology at the University of Muenster who was on the international advisory panel that reviewed the 2006 discovery of the Gospel of Judas, said the text accurately quotes Jesus as saying “my wife.” But he questioned whether the document was authentic.

“There’s something about this fragment in its appearance and also in the grammar of the Coptic that strikes me as being not completely convincing somehow,” he said in an interview on the sidelines of the conference.

Another participant at the congress, Alin Suciu, a papyrologist at the University of Hamburg, was more blunt.

“I would say it’s a forgery. The script doesn’t look authentic” when compared to other samples of Coptic papyrus script dated to the 4th century, he said.

*****************************************
On Tuesday, Harvard Divinity School announced the finding to great fanfare and said King’s paper would be published in January’s Harvard Theological Review. Harvard said the fragment most likely came from Egypt, and that its earliest documentation is from the early 1980s indicating that a now-deceased professor in Germany thought it evidence of a possible marriage of Jesus.

Some archaeologists were quick to question Harvard’s ethics, noting that the fragment has no known provenance, or history of where it’s been, and that its owner may have a financial interest in the publicity being generated about it.

King has said the owner wants to sell his collection to Harvard.

“There are all sorts of really dodgy things about this,” said David Gill, professor of archaeological heritage at University Campus Suffolk and author of the Looting Matters blog, which closely follows the illicit trade in antiquities. “This looks to me as if any sensible, responsible academic would keep their distance from it.”

He cited the ongoing debate in academia over publishing articles about possibly dubiously obtained antiquities, thus potentially fueling the illicit market. He questioned, for example, whether the letter from the German Egyptologist was authentic, and whether Harvard should have contacted Egyptian authorities about the find.

For the whole story, go here.

About Tony Rossi

After graduating from St. John's University in New York with degrees in Communications and English, Tony Rossi found a job at the Catholic media organization, The Christophers, that allowed him to indulge his interest in religion, media, and pop culture. He served as The Christophers' TV producer for 11 years, and is currently the host and producer of the organization's radio show/podcast Christopher Closeup, writer and editor of their syndicated Light One Candle column, and producer/scriptwriter of the annual Christopher Awards ceremony.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X