Jesus may not have had a wife. The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife is a scrap of papyrus containing a quote by Jesus speaking of his wife and how she would be a disciple. The fragment may be a fraud.
Two years ago, Dr. Karen King of Harvard’s Divinity School, gave a presentation to a group of Coptic scholars in Rome. She presented a faded tan piece of papyrus smaller than a business card. On it were words attributed to Jesus speaking of his wife and how she would be a disciple. Dr. King noted the fragment of papyrus was dated to the 4th Century.
Dr. Askeland, an American professor doing research in Germany at Protestant University Wuppertal, studied an Internet copy of Dr. King’s Coptic text and noticed the handwriting bore a striking resemblance to a Gospel of John he had studied.
Curious, Dr. Askeland found the Internet copy of the Gospel of John and compared its fragments with Internet photographs of the Codex Qau. This codex is an authentic relic discovered in 1923 at an Egyptian burial site. The John text Dr. Askeland studied came from another source. Both versions of John had identical breaks for 17 lines.
Finding so many similarities in the two papyruses defied coincidence. Dr. Askeland now believes the non-Codex Qau version of John was copied by a forger off the Internet. Scraps of faded or blank ancient papyrus were most likely used to create the forgery and get past the carbon dating. The ink from the period could have been easily reproduced. Since the handwriting from the John text appears to be made by the same person who wrote the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife, both must be frauds lending credence that Jesus may not have been married.
Malcolm Choat of Macquarie University in Australia is a Coptic expert. He believes the Dr. Askeland’s evidence is persuasive, but not clear cut. He wants the original fragments of the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife and the fragmented the John texts studied side by side. Choat also wants to use high-resolution images taken of the texts and analyzed before rendering a final judgment.
Roger Bagnall, a respected papyrologist at New York University, had sided with Dr. King in stating the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife was most likely genuine. Concerning the skeptics, he has found most people want the gospel to be deemed a fake. The fact that Jesus may have been married goes against Church Doctrine. In his opinion, the John and Jesus’ Wife fragments were not written by the same hand. Testing has found the ink used in both parchments are similar, but not the same.
The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife requires answers from Dr. King concerning its authenticity. How and where did she obtain the fragment? She has kept her source private. Dr. King realizes the validity of the papyrus has been challenged and she too wants to ensure the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife is genuine.
Egypt has a history spanning 5,000 years. Finding antiquates is a common occurrence. Generations of Egyptian grave robbers go outside whenever it rains. They watch where the water flows. Anywhere in the desert where water drains into the ground has a good chance of having a tomb underneath. Another way of telling a tomb has been robbed is the influx of otherwise unseen ancient artifacts becoming available. Gullible tourists are convinced they have purchased something from ancient Egypt only to later discover they bought a fake. The same can happen to professional researchers.
A fragment of writing with Jesus saying he had a wife and she would be a disciple needs its origin and authenticity confirmed. The similar handwritings Dr. Askeland believes he has found on the Jesus and John fragments require closer scrutiny. Jesus either having or not having a wife deserves a further investigation.
By Brian T. Yates