Is a scrap of papyrus suggesting that Jesus had a wife authentic? Scholars were yesterday questioning the much-publicised discovery by a Harvard scholar that a 4th-century fragment of papyrus provided the first evidence that some early Christians believed Jesus was married.
Experts in the illicit antiquities trade were also wondering about the motive of the fragment's anonymous owner, noting that the document's value has likely to have increased amid the publicity of the find.
Karen King, a professor at Harvard Divinity School, announced the finding earlier in the week at an international congress on Coptic studies in Rome. The text, written in Coptic, contains a dialogue in which Jesus refers to "my wife," whom he identifies as Mary.
Yesterday, Ms King's paper was a hot topic of conversation at the conference. Christian tradition has long held that Jesus was unmarried, although there is no reliable historical evidence to support that. Stephen Emmel, a professor at the University of Münster, said the text accurately quotes Jesus as saying "my wife." But he said "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". AP