Two years after Harvard Divinity School professor Karen L. King declared the existence of a papyrus fragment hailed as “The Gospel of Jesus’s Wife” at the International Coptic Congress in Rome, Harvard University researchers claim the fragment is real.
After receiving the fragment in December 2011 from the owner, King took the papyrus to New York in 2012 to be examined by Roger Bagnall, director of the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at New York University. After Bagnall's initial assessment that the fragment was ancient based on handwriting and other features, further analysis began in earnest.
King maintains her research wasn’t focused on proving Jesus was married, but to confirm his view of women.
"The main topic of the fragment is to affirm that women who are mothers and wives can be disciples of Jesus—a topic that was hotly debated in early Christianity as celibate virginity increasingly became highly valued," King explained.
Twice in the tiny fragment, Jesus speaks of his mother, his wife, and a female disciple—one of whom may be identified as "Mary." The disciples discuss whether Mary is worthy, and Jesus states, "She can be my disciple."
Following the original September 12, 2012 announcement, prominent theologians as well as the Vatican quickly denounced the claim calling it a forgery.
Brown University professor Leo Depuydt refutes the authenticity of the fragment.
“The papyrus fragment seems ripe for a Monty Python sketch,” Depuydt wrote. “I do not want to make light of the situation but rather venture to construct a truly plausible guess as to the actual nature of part of the forger's real intent. If the forger had used italics in addition, one might be in danger of losing one's composure.”
Publication date: April 11, 2014