A newly-discovered ancient text labeled “The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” could prove Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married. The Fourth-century papyrus challenges one of the cornerstones of Christian religion: that Jesus was celibate.
The discovery was made by Harvard Divinity School Professor Karen L. King, who specializes in Coptic literature, Gnosticism and women in the Bible. King made a presentation of her research on Tuesday evening in Rome.The papyrus’s authenticity and date have yet to be confirmed; however King and other scholars are pretty sure they are dealing with a real historic gem.
The Vatican has not yet commented on King’s finding and suggestions.
Text written on an 8cm by 4cm piece of papyrus has Jesus speaking to his disciples saying ‘my wife’ in the Coptic language. The text is written in the old Coptic language on both sides of the papyrus. The inscription on one side is badly damaged and the test is undecipherable. Only two words – ‘my mother’ and ‘three’ – could be identified. However it’s the other side that has sparked the interest.
The phrase ‘my wife’ challenges the settled portrayal of Mary Magdalene as a whore and the Christian concept of abstinence. It casts doubt “on the whole Catholic claim of a celibate priesthood based on Jesus’ celibacy,” King told Smithsonian Magazine.
“Christian tradition has long held that Jesus was not married, even though no reliable historical evidence exists to support that claim,” King said at a conference in Rome on Tuesday.
The initial origin of the text is unclear. The owner who showed it to King found it in 1997 in a collection of papyri that he acquired from the previous owner, who was German. The papyrus is said to originate from Upper Egypt. Professor King says it must be reliable evidence of Jesus’ biography. She claims it was likely composed in Koine around a century after the crucifixion, and later translated into Egyptian Coptic.
But what does this prove? Here is an alternative view.