For those who follow such things, it’s the news.
A small portion of papyrus has come to light with some Coptic writing on it. It is a ‘scrap’, almost literally. The portion has been removed from a larger section of papyrus, from the pictures shown, cut from a page. For identification purposes, it has been given the name, “The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife”. I find that both grandiose and presumptuous, but they didn’t consult with me.
Here is the sensation part: One line – a partial line without the beginning or the end of the sentence – of the text reads “… Jesus says unto them, My wife …” Another line mentions ‘Mary’. A preceding line mentions “… my mother gave to me life…” Since there were several women named Mary who were associated with Jesus during his ministry – including his mother – one cannot decisively say just which Mary is mentioned in the fragment.
Karen King, the professor-scholar who has custody of the fragment, and is the principal studying the fragment announced that preliminary investigation shows the fragment probably to be from Greek and about 300 years after the termination of Christ’s ministry on Earth. She has said due to the temporal remoteness, it is probably not a valid source regarding Jesus’ biography; i.e., it isn’t really a clear proof of Jesus being married. The preliminary investigation indicates the fragment is genuine Coptic writing from the Fourth Century, but tests are ongoing to establish the origin of the fragment beyond a reasonable doubt.
So, even if absolutely legitimate in terms of writing, the fragment represents writing of the Fourth Century and nothing contemporaneous with the Earthly ministry of Jesus. Even if absolutely legitimate in terms of age and authorship (which it may well be), it is incomplete and therefore without context.
Christians have typically believed Jesus was a single and celibate man all His time on Earth. The Bible records no marriage, no ‘girl-friend’ in the current sense and no off spring. In fact, due to the unique nature of Jesus – that of being “… very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father…” there would be no point to Him marrying or fathering children. (There are, of course, other views regarding Jesus’ sex life, but they are not mainstream Christian views and have no Biblical basis.)
The Bible does however speak of Jesus coming marriage and his future wife. The ‘church’ is the Bride of Christ and several references in the New Testament speak of the ‘Wedding Feast of the Lamb’, which will happen when His followers are re-united with the God Head at the end of time.
So, for all my Christian brothers and sisters, let’s not get too worked up over this yet. (For all my non-Christian readers, don’t order the champagne just yet.) This is about as important as the ossuary of James – if one recalls that silliness. Even if genuine, it isn’t a full sentence and therefore has NO meaning.
I’m hoping the rest of the papyrus document shows up. From how this fragment was ‘found’, one can postulate more of it exists. The rest of the original document will surely shed light on the meaning of the fragments available. In the meanwhile, various outlets are sensationalizing the find in an effort to sell copy. Like that’s something novel.
For more details about the research going on, see http://www.hds.harvard.edu/faculty-research/research-projects/the-gospel-of-jesuss-wife