The Slatest

Much-Debated “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife” Is Probably Real, Papyrus-ologists Say

Karen L. King/Harvard/Wikipedia

The so-called “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife,” a faded fragment of papyrus whose 2012 unveiling caused plenty of controversy, appears to be the real deal—or, more specifically, is more likely to be an authentic ancient text than some sort of modern fake, according to a group of scholars. Here’s the New York Times with the details of today’s biblical news:

Skepticism about the tiny scrap of papyrus has been fierce because it contained a phrase never before seen in any piece of Scripture: “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife…’ ” Too convenient for some, it also contained the words “she will be able to be my disciple,” a clause that inflamed the debate in some churches over whether women should be allowed to be priests.

The papyrus fragment has now been analyzed by professors of electrical engineering, chemistry and biology at Columbia University, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who reported that it resembles other ancient papyri from the fourth to the eighth centuries. (Scientists at the University of Arizona, who dated the fragment to centuries before the birth of Jesus, concluded that their results were unreliable.)

According to the scholars, who published their findings Thursday, the fragment of writing is likely somewhere between 1,300 and 1,800 years old. So to be clear: Given the text was created, at the earliest, hundreds of years after the historical Jesus’s lifetime, it is of course not definitive evidence of such a wife’s existence. (Karen King, the Harvard Divinity School historian who gave the papyrus its name, has said all along that, in the words of the Times, “it should not be regarded as evidence that Jesus married, only that early Christians were actively discussing celibacy, sex, marriage and discipleship.”)

The Catholic Church has previously said it believes the fragment is a forgery and that priests should carry on with the whole “lifetime of celibacy” thing. Much more over at the Times.