‘Wife of Jesus’ fragment no threat to Christianity
Mark Giszczak, Assistant Professor of Sacred Scripture at the Augustine Institute in Denver, said that those who use sources like the papyrus to continue a controversy over whether Jesus was married are “really seeking to revive the ghost of Dan Brown’s ‘The Da Vinci Code’ novel.”
He told CNA Sept. 19 that some of the interest in these sources derives from an “obsession with making Jesus seem like nothing special, a mere human teacher rather than the Son of God.”
“Jesus, the incarnate Word, confronts every generation anew with his radical claims to be God and to die for the world,” he stated. “The story of his life should not be rewritten, but received and believed in.”
The text in question is a fragment of papyrus written in the Egyptian Coptic language. The fragment is about 1.5 inches by 3 inches.
It bears the phrase “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife …’” and on the next line it allegedly says “she will be able to be my disciple.”
The origin of the fragment is not known, though it was first examined in the 1980s. It appears to date to the fourth century and likely came from Egypt. Its owner remains anonymous and is trying to sell his collection to Harvard.
Harvard Divinity School historian Karen L. King reported on the fragment in Rome on Sept. 18 at the International Congress of Coptic Studies.
Giszczak said the Catholic Church has never taught that Jesus was married and the New Testament does not say he had a wife.
“A fourth century text that reports that Jesus said ‘my wife’ does not change what we know about Jesus from the New Testament,” he said. “Rather, it shows that certain fourth century Coptic-speakers might have believed that Jesus was married, a belief which contradicts the account of the gospels.”
Some Old Testament figures like the prophet Jeremiah and first-century Jews practiced celibacy, while Jesus himself encouraged the practice in Matthew 19, Giszczak noted.
King has consulted with experts who say that the fragment is likely not a forgery. She has suggested that the fragment is copied from a second-century Greek text. [More]