No ‘wife’ for Jesus: Vatican declares papyrus ‘a fake’
It was as predictable as the old adage — “It’s just a piece of paper” — professed by opponents of marriage since the first marriage license was issued in the Middle Ages. As reported Friday by CNN, L’Osservatore Romano — editor-in-chief for the Vatican’s newspaper, Gian Maria Vian – has proclaimed the little fragment of papyrus, which contradicts the long-held Christian belief that Jesus was celibate, to be “a fake.”
“Substantial reasons would lead us to conclude that the papyrus is actually a clumsy counterfeit,” Romano wrote in the paper’s Friday editorial.
In other words, in any case it is a fake.
Elisabetta Povoledo of The New York Times wrote Friday that the Vatican described the revelation as “problematic and controversial,” and most likely a fake.
The findings in the contentious little 1.5 by 3-inch honey-colored papyrus fragment — known otherwise as “The Gospel of Jesus’s Wife” — were announced in Rome earlier this month by Harvard Divinity School professor Karen King at the International Association for Coptic Studies.
The most controversial of King’s translations suggests that Jesus was married.
“Jesus said to them, ‘My wife…’”
“she will be able to be my disciple.”
“As for me I will dwell with her in order to…”
While certainly controversial, the text “does not, however, provide evidence that the historical Jesus was married,” King wrote in a draft of her analysis of the fragment, set to appear in the January edition of Harvard Theological Review.
“This fragment, this new piece of papyrus evidence, does not prove that (Jesus) was married, nor does it prove that he was not married” King clarified during a conference call with reporters earlier in the month. “The earliest reliable historical tradition is completely silent on that.”
Alongside L’Osservatore Romano’s editorial, Povoledo further wrote that Coptic scholar, Alberto Camplani — one of the conference organizers — took issue with King’s translation of the text in his own article because other ancient sources make no mention of Jesus’ marital status.
However, that is not entirely true.
Francis Watson, a New Testament scholar at Durham University in England, argued in his Sept. 20 analysis – “The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife: How a fake Gospel-Fragment was composed” — that “the text” is “fake” because it “has been constructed out of small pieces – words or phrases – culled from the Coptic Gospel of Thomas.
That text, known as The Gospel of Thomas,” was discovered in Nag Hammadi, Egypt, in 1945 among a cache of ancient manuscripts thought to have been written by early Christians known as Gnostics.
In an exchange with Jesus, transcribed in the Gospel of Thomas and shared by The Gnostic Society Library, Simon Peter said:
Make Mary leave us, for females don’t deserve life.
Jesus said, “Look, I will guide her to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every female who makes herself male will enter the domain of Heaven.” (114:1-3)
“Strange as it sounds,” wrote Elaine Pagels in “The Gnostic Gospels” in 1979, this simply states what religious rhetoric assumes: that the men form the legitimate body of the community, while women are allowed to participate only when they assimilate themselves to men.”
Then there is the Gospel of Mary, which was discovered in a Coptic codex in 1896. Two other small fragments – written in Greek — were found at Oxyrhynchus in Northern Egypt.
While the Gospel of Mary is not claimed to be written by Mary Magdalene, she is the prominent figure throughout. In one passage, Christ’s male apostles plead for Magdalene to teach them her special knowledge of Christ’s teachings. [More]