#Open journalism No news is bad news

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support The Journal
Dublin: 10°C Tuesday 28 September 2021

Was Jesus married? Harvard scholar finds text which mentions his 'wife'

The piece of papyrus, believed to date from the fourth century AD, quotes Jesus as talking about his wife.

The piece of payrus
The piece of payrus
Image: AP Photo/Harvard University, Karen L. King


It’s a question that has surfaced repeatedly over the years, from reinterpretations of Biblical texts to Dan Brown novels.

Now, however, a professor at Harvard University has discovered a piece of papyrus from the 4th century which she says quotes Jesus as mentioning his wife.

The words, written in Coptic and believed to date from the fourth century, translate as “Jesus said to them, my wife…,” according to the Harvard Gazette.

Professor Karen King of the Harvard Divinity School revealed the existence of the papyrus at a major international conference on Coptic studies at the Vatican in Rome.

She says that the fragment does not provide definitive proof that Jesus was married, which many Christians disagree about,  but reopens the debate over whether he was or not.

Jesus identifies his wife as “Mary” in the tiny fragment. “The disciples discuss whether Mary is worthy, and Jesus states that “she can be my disciple,” said King.

“Christian tradition has long held that Jesus was not married, even though no reliable historical evidence exists to support that claim,” she said.

This new gospel doesn’t prove that Jesus was married, but it tells us that the whole question only came up as part of vociferous debates about sexuality and marriage.

She added:

From the very beginning, Christians disagreed about whether it was better not to marry, but it was over a century after Jesus’ death before they began appealing to Jesus’ marital status to support their positions.

Several experts have said that the tiny papyrus fragment, measuring about one and a half inches by three inches, is authentic but King said that final judgment on the fragment “depends on further examination by colleagues and further testing, especially of the chemical composition of the ink”.

The fragment belonged to an anonymous private collected who asked King to help analyse and translate it.

Harvard divinity professor Karen King holding the fragment of papyrus (AP Photo/Harvard University/Rose Lincoln)

Read: “We got one egg a year” – survivors’  submission provides evidence of State interaction with Magdalene Laundries >

Read: Group of young priests band together to buy a church in Limerick >

About the author:

Christine Bohan

Read next: