A tiny fragment of papyrus no bigger than a business card written in Coptic Egyptian has the power to completely shake up the world of biblical scholarship. What's written on it appears to be a quotation from Jesus. And he says he has a wife. The tiny fragment, dubbed the "Gospel of Jesus' Wife," is made up of 33 words — eight lines on the front, and six badly-faded lines on the back. It caused quite a stir when it was originally revealed by Harvard researcher Karen King back in September 2012. It was immediately dismissed by both the Vatican and leading academics as a probable forgery.
However, new analysis has revealed that the papyrus and the ink are likely ancient. The analysis, published in the Harvard Theological Review Thursday, was carried out by professors of biology, chemistry and electrical engineering at Columbia University, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who used microscopic and multispectral imaging. In the write-up King, a Harvard professor, dated the fragment to the seventh or eighth centuries.
The fragment appears to be torn from a conversation between Jesus and his disciples. According to the write-up in the Harvard Theological Review, part of the first line says "My mother gave me life," and then on the fourth line is written "Jesus said to them, 'My wife...'" The fifth line says "...she is able to be my disciple..."
Of course, the fragment doesn't prove that Jesus had a wife. It just shows that some early Christians — or whoever wrote these words — might have thought that he did. After all, the fragment has been dated much later than the gospels of the New Testament, which biblical scholars regard as the oldest and most reliable account of Jesus' life. They do not mention a wife.
But it is pretty darn cool, even just as a little flash of the past that has survived all these years.
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