A piece of papyrus with the words “Jesus said to them, my wife” has been dated to the 6th to 9th centuries, Harvard Divinity School reports.
The small fragment — a mere 1 1/2 inches by 3 inches — caused a storm of criticism in 2012 when Karen L. King, a professor at the school, announced its existence in 2012. The origin and author of the papyrus remains a mystery. All we know is a collector, who owned the papyrus and wishes to remain anonymous, had asked for King’s help in finding out more about it.
The Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, wasted no time in calling the papyrus “a clumsy forgery.” “And not a very good one at that,” Leo Depuydt, an Egyptologist at Brown University, concurs. Depuydt believes it’s nothing more than a bad copy of some phrases from the so-called Gospel of Thomas.
King, however, immediately called it The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife. The papyrus fragment contains eight tantalizing, but partial, lines of text— written in Sahidic, a language of ancient Egypt. The phrases contained therein include:
“My mother gave me life.”
“And Jesus said to them, ‘My wife.’ ”
“She will be able to be my disciple.”
King, therefore, believes the papyrus (1) proves not that Jesus had a wife, but that some early Christians used texts that said he did; (2) affirms “that women who are wives and mothers can be Jesus’s disciples.”
Why all the fuss about women being disciples? Certainly, women were prominent early Christian martyrs, and the stories about them played a significant role in the early church.
You can read more about the fragment here.
A handy question/answer format on the papyrus can be found here.