Harvard not yet publishing claim Jesus had wife

September 22, 2012 by Jay Lindsay

Harvard University says it hasn't committed to publishing research that purportedly shows some early Christians believed Jesus had a wife even though its divinity school touted the research during a publicity blitz this week.

The research centers on a fourth-century papyrus fragment containing Coptic text in which Jesus uses the words "my wife." On Tuesday, Harvard Divinity School professor Karen King announced at an international conference that the fragment was the only existing ancient text in which Jesus explicitly talks of having a wife.

Harvard also said King's research was scheduled to be published in the Harvard Theological Review in January and noted the journal was peer-reviewed, which implied the research had been fully vetted.

But on Friday, the review's co-editor Kevin Madigan said he and his co-editor had only "provisionally" committed to a January publication, pending the results of the ongoing studies. In an email, Madigan said the added studies include "scientific dating and further reports from Coptic papyrologists and grammarians."

After Tuesday's announcement, The Associated Press raised questions about the fragment's authenticity and provenance, quoting scholars at the international congress on Coptic studies in Rome, where King delivered the paper. The scholars said the fragment's grammar, form and content raised several red flags. Alin Suciu, a papyrologist at the University of Hamburg, flatly called it a "forgery."

Boston University archaeologist Ricardo Elia said Friday that the Harvard Theological Review should delay publication until the fragment's owner and origins are more clearly documented.

Harvard has kept the owner anonymous, and Elia said that raises questions about , because Harvard appears to be protecting the owner, a collector, from other claims to the fragment. The school has said the papyrus most likely came from Egypt, which means it could be Egypt's cultural property, Elia said.

"If it's real, it was looted and smuggled, most likely," he said. "If it's not real, then it shouldn't even be out there in the discussion."

Elia said "lurking behind all of this is the suspicion that the collector is doing this for the purpose of having the scholar authenticate a piece, and get a lot of attention to it, and then turn around and sell it."

King's announcement about the fragment, which she called the Gospel of Jesus's Wife, came after the school released details in advance to The New York Times and The Boston Globe, which gave the story prominent play. The Smithsonian Channel is planning to debut a program about it at end of the month.

Text on the papyrus fragment, written in the language of early Egyptian Christians, records Jesus referring to a woman, Mary, as "my wife," and later saying, "She can be my disciple."

King emphasized the 1.5 inch (38.1 millimeter)-by-3-inch (76.2-millimeter) fragment was not proof Jesus was married, just evidence that some thought he was. Christian tradition holds that was unmarried. Evidence to the contrary, or that he had a female disciple, would fuel debate over the role of women in the church.

King said further testing would be done on the fragment, including ink tests to determine if the chemical components match those used in antiquity.

King also took the fragment to two papyrologists who determined it was very likely authentic. One of the experts, AnneMarie Luijendijk, of Princeton University, said papyrus fragments often don't have provenances because many were taken from Egypt long before that was a major concern.

The Vatican newspaper and Vatican Radio frequently cover academic conferences like the one King attended, but there was no mention of King's discovery in any Vatican media on Tuesday.

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1.8 / 5 (5) Sep 22, 2012
How is this related to any aspect of this site?
2.3 / 5 (18) Sep 22, 2012
How is this related to any aspect of this site?
You'll note at the top of the page, under the physorg logo, a number of subjects, one of which is archeology. This article is about archeology which is a science and which is an aspect of this site.

Make sense?
1.9 / 5 (9) Sep 22, 2012
Science = "The disciplined acquisition of knowledge",

perhaps its time all religions were understood to have arisen without any discipline at all as they all claim something which can never be tested and is purely emotionally based on "Voices in the Head" of a tiny number of people who get massive self-esteem from claims.

Surely then, as Science has shown immense advances far beyond any religion that these cults be treated with the scrutiny they deserve.

Isnt it time the deity claimed by any religion actually appear and make themselves known, that they are not aliens and not phantoms of the use of psychotropics or random vivid/lucid dreams etc...

I'm now firmly of the belief that if any religion wants tax free status which allows their 'inventors' or progenitors to get a tax free benefit that their deity appear before the relevant government committees as soon as is inhumanely possible !


I await but wont hold my breath, I have faith I wont need to ;-)
5 / 5 (3) Sep 22, 2012
Even if this is a genuine fourth-century papyrus, it does not mean Jesus ever mentioned a wife, it does not mean he ever existed. It only means someone in the fourth century wrote this on papyrus. It is highly questionable whether Jesus was any more than an imaginary Sun God mixed in with a few claimants to be messiahs. Not one piece of contemporary evidence to show his existence.
3.3 / 5 (7) Sep 23, 2012
Now, I just looked through the Chicago White pages and there were 22 full pages of Jesus Gomez. Which Jesus are we talking about?

Please don't say the mythical one.
1 / 5 (3) Sep 23, 2012
Doug_Huffman offered
There is the Demarcation Problem to consider. See Karl Popper's [i]The Logic of Scientific Discovery[/i].
Yes this problem or rather 'issue' has been around for a long time. However, do you really think we need to consider this in respect of religion & contrast with the foundations & scaffolding of contemporary science ?

The biggest issue which has never been addressed by any religion is why the deity doesn't communicate unequivocally & can only be claimed by "Voices in the Head" ?

I've thought on this demarcation issue now & then, its best addressed IMHO by applying "The provenance of Truth".

ie. What is the source of knowledge which is laid bare & how does it arise ?

If you look at religious works honestly, they only speak:-
Authority, Status, Punishment and Devotion" & results in zero functionality.

Science speaks:-
Objectivity, Hypothesis, Observation, Experiment & results in complete & effective functionality.

Which makes most sense I wonder ?
1 / 5 (3) Sep 24, 2012
Doug_Huffman might notice we are on phys.org
Which contemporary science is this that is different from religion?
Doh, the hard sciences, biochemistry etc. Maths is clearly demonstrable, there incl in hard sciences though philosophy of maths overlaps the 'science' of maths...
..which questionable systems of knowledge have 'science' in their name, e.g., "social science", or "climate science"..
You can throw away astrology as in no evidence, fail DB trials etc

Just because some throw the word science in doesnt mean the demarcation issue applies, it has more reflection of most peoples ignorance of the relevant disciplines esp those related to "Social" though there are demonstrable core values easily testable but the level of complexity is not appreciated - this also apples to climate issues.

Independent evidentiary & substantive issues are necessary in all respects, with climate though we start with a given - an essentially closed system with expanding variables & ranges etc...

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