Harvard study suggests ‘Jesus’ wife’ text not fake

FILE - This Sept. 5, 2012 file photo released by Harvard University shows a fragment of papyrus that divinity professor Karen L. King said is the only existing ancient text that quotes Jesus explicitly referring to having a wife. An article published in the Harvard Theological Review on Thursday, April 10, 2014, said new scientific tests suggest the fragment is more likely an ancient document than a forgery. King, an expert in the history of Christianity, said the papyrus probably dates to eighth-century Egypt based on carbon dating tests and tests on the ink's chemical composition. (AP Photo/Harvard University, Karen L. King, File)

FILE - This Sept. 5, 2012 file photo released by Harvard University shows a fragment of papyrus that divinity professor Karen L. King said is the only existing ancient text that quotes Jesus explicitly referring to having a wife. An article published in the Harvard Theological Review on Thursday, April 10, 2014, said new scientific tests suggest the fragment is more likely an ancient document than a forgery. King, an expert in the history of Christianity, said the papyrus probably dates to eighth-century Egypt based on carbon dating tests and tests on the ink's chemical composition. (AP Photo/Harvard University, Karen L. King, File)

BOSTON — New scientific tests suggest a fragment of papyrus in which Jesus speaks of “my wife” is more likely an ancient document than a forgery, according to an article published Thursday by the Harvard Theological Review.

The text, which is written in Coptic and is roughly the size of a business card, specifically contains the phrase “Jesus said to them, my wife.”

Karen King, a Harvard professor of divinity, says the papyrus probably dates to eighth century Egypt, based on radiocarbon dating and tests on the ink’s chemical composition.

“If it was written in the eighth or even the ninth century, it’s still an ancient document,” she said in a conference call Thursday. “It’s not a modern forgery.”

But, she stressed, the fragment doesn’t prove that the historical Jesus was actually married. Most reliable evidence from early Christianity is silent on Jesus’ marital status, King added.

King said the papyrus, which contains about eight partial lines of text, appears to make the case that mothers and wives can be disciples. Jesus references his mother, wife, and another female as his disciples apparently discuss whether a woman — identified as “Mary” — can join their ranks.

According to King’s translation, the text then reads “Jesus said to them, “My wife ...” That is followed in the next line by “... she is able to be my disciple ...”

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