The “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” was introduced to the world by Harvard professor Karen L. King at a conference in Rome 18 months ago. Many of King’s academic peers, as well as the Vatican newspaper, dismissed the discovery as a fake.
However, new tests have resulted with no evidence of modern forgery in a text written on ancient Egyptian papyrus that refers to Jesus as being married.
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…’ ” 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.
The results of the tests do not prove that Jesus had a wife or female disciples, but instead that the fragment is more likely a snippet from an ancient manuscript than a fake, the scholars agree. “I took very seriously the comments of such a wide range of people that it might be a forgery,” Dr. King said in an interview this week.
“When you have all the evidence pointing in one direction, it doesn’t make it 100 percent, but history is not a place where 100 percent is a common thing,” Dr. King said.