Was Jesus married? New evidence says so - P.M. News

Was Jesus married? New evidence says so

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Four words on a pre­vi­ously un­known pa­py­rus frag­ment pro­vide the first ev­i­dence that some early Chris­tians be­lieved Je­sus had been mar­ried, a Har­vard Uni­vers­ity pro­fes­sor says.

Ka­ren King, a pro­fes­sor of di­vin­ity at the uni­ver­sity, told the 10th In­terna­t­ional Con­gress of Cop­tic Stud­ies on September 18 in Rome that she is await­ing fur­ther test re­sults to help con­firm the ob­jec­t’s au­then­ti­city.

The four words on the frag­ment trans­late to, “Je­sus said to them, my wife.” The words, writ­ten in Cop­tic, a lan­guage of an­cient Egyp­tian Chris­tians, are on a pa­py­rus frag­ment of about 1½ by three inches.

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

Rog­er Bag­nall, di­rec­tor of the In­sti­tute for the Study of the An­cient World in New York, said he be­lieves the frag­ment to be au­then­tic based on ex­amina­t­ion of the pa­py­rus and the hand­writ­ing, and Ar­i­el Shisha-Halevy, a Cop­tic ex­pert at He­brew Uni­vers­ity in Je­ru­sa­lem, con­sid­ers it likely to be au­then­tic on the ba­sis of lan­guage and gram­mar, King said.

Fi­nal judg­ment on the frag­ment, King said, de­pends on fur­ther ex­amina­t­ion by col­leagues and fur­ther test­ing, es­pe­cially of the chem­i­cal com­po­si­tion of the ink.

One side of the frag­ment con­tains eight in­com­plete lines of hand­writ­ing, 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 and com­put­er pho­to en­hance­ment. De­spite its ti­ny size and poor con­di­tion, King said, the frag­ment pro­vides tan­ta­liz­ing glimpses in­to is­sues about fam­i­ly, dis­ci­ple­ship, and mar­riage that con­cerned an­cient Chris­tians.

King and col­league Anne­Ma­rie Lui­jendijk, an as­so­ci­ate pro­fes­sor of re­li­gion at Prince­ton Uni­vers­ity, be­lieve that the frag­ment is part of a newly disco­vered gos­pel. Their anal­y­sis of the frag­ment is sched­uled for pub­lica­t­ion in the Jan­u­ary 2013 is­sue of Har­vard The­o­log­i­cal Re­view.

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King has posted a draft of the pa­per, an ex­ten­sive ques­tion-and-answer on the frag­ment and its mean­ing, and im­ages of it, on a page on the Di­vin­ity School web­site.

The brownish-yellow, tat­tered frag­ment be­longs to an anon­y­mous pri­vate col­lec­tor who con­tacted King to help trans­late and an­a­lyze it, King said. The col­lec­tor pro­vided King with a let­ter from the early 1980s in­di­cat­ing that Pro­fes­sor Ger­hard Fecht from the fac­ul­ty of Egyp­tol­o­gy at the Free Uni­vers­ity in Ber­lin be­lieved it to be ev­i­dence for a pos­si­ble mar­riage of Je­sus.

King said that when the own­er first con­tacted her about the pa­py­rus, in 2010, “I did­n’t be­lieve it was au­then­tic and told him I was­n’t in­ter­est­ed.” But the own­er was per­sist­ent, so in De­cem­ber 2011, King in­vit­ed him to br­ing it to her at Har­vard. Af­ter ex­amining it, in March 2012 King car­ried the frag­ment to New York and, to­geth­er with Lui­jendijk, took it to Bag­nall to be au­then­ticated. When Bag­nall’s ex­amina­t­ion of the hand­writ­ing, ways that the ink had pen­e­trated and in­ter­acted with the pa­py­rus, and oth­er fac­tors, con­firmed its likely au­then­ti­city, work on the anal­y­sis and in­ter­preta­t­ion of the frag­ment be­gan in ear­nest, King said.

Lit­tle is known about the disco­very of the frag­ment, but it is thought to have come from Egypt be­cause it is writ­ten in Cop­tic, the form of the Egyp­tian lan­guage used by Chris­tians there dur­ing the Ro­man im­pe­ri­al pe­ri­od. Lui­jendijk sug­gested that “a frag­ment this dam­aged probably came from an an­cient gar­bage heap like all of the ear­li­est scraps of the New Tes­ta­men­t.” Since there is writ­ing on both sides of the frag­ment, it clearly be­longs to an an­cient book, or co­dex, not a scroll, she said.

The gos­pel of which the frag­ment is but a small part, which King and Lui­jendijk have named the Gos­pel of Je­sus’s Wife for ref­er­ence pur­poses, was probably orig­i­nally writ­ten in Greek, the two pro­fes­sors said, and only lat­er trans­lated in­to Cop­tic for use among con­grega­t­ions of Cop­tic-speaking Chris­tians. King dat­ed the time it was writ­ten to the sec­ond half of the sec­ond cen­tu­ry be­cause it shows close con­nec­tions to oth­er newly disco­vered gos­pels writ­ten at that time, es­pe­cially the Gos­pel of Thom­as, the Gos­pel of Mary, and the Gos­pel of Phil­ip.

Like those gos­pels, it was probably as­cribed to one or more of Je­sus’s clos­est fol­low­ers, but the ac­tu­al au­thor would have re­mained un­known even if more of it had sur­vived. As it stands, the re­main­ing piece is too small to tell us an­y­thing more about who may have com­posed, read, or cir­cu­lat­ed the new gos­pel, King said.

Courtesy of B.D. Colen/Harvard University and World Science staff

For more, go to: http://www.world-science.net/othernews/120918_JesusWife