Christ was married, ancient fragment of papyrus suggests


EVIDENCE HAS emerged suggesting early Christians believed Jesus Christ was married. The evidence consists of a few words on a previously unknown papyrus fragment: “Jesus said to them, my wife . . .”

Two researchers in the United States, Karen King, Hollis professor of divinity at Harvard University’s Divinity School, and AnneMarie Luijendijk, an associate professor of religion at Princeton, say they believe the fragment, from the 2nd century AD, is part of a newly discovered gospel.

One side of the fragment contains eight incomplete lines of handwriting in Coptic, while the other side is badly damaged and the ink so faded that only three words and a few individual letters are still visible, even with infrared photography. Despite its tiny size and poor condition, Prof King said, the fragment provides tantalising glimpses of issues to do with family, discipleship and marriage of concern to ancient Christians.

Official church teaching has long rubbished suggestions that Christ married Mary Magdalene. Professors King and Luijendijk gave details of their findings in a statement, posted on the Divinity School’s website.

A fuller explanation will be published in the January 2013 issue of Harvard Theological Review, a peer-reviewed journal.

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

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

Little is known about the discovery of the fragment, but it is believed to have come from Egypt because it is written in Coptic, translated from the original ancient Greek. – (Agencies)