According to an ancient papyrus which has been extensively studied at Harvard, Jesus was married to a wife who he said was allowed to be his disciple. The papyrus scrap is owned by a private collector and has been the subject of debate since it was revealed in Rome at a conference in 2012. Since then, the papyrus has flown quietly under the radar with little media attention because religious scholars immediatley labeled the papyrus scrap a forgery.
Indeed, there have been many forgeries of religious documents and objects throughout the ages, so the expectation that researchers would find forgery in this case was high. However, Harvard scientists have come forward to say that they can find no evidence of forgery in the shocking find—a document that could change the way Jesus is viewed in Christianity and beyond.
The papyrus states “Jesus said to them…my wife, she is able to be my disciple.” Whether or not Jesus was ever married has always been the subject of great debate in the Catholic Church specifically. In that religion, women are barred from serving as clergy members, and the justification has always been that none of Jesus’ disciples were women. The new findings by Harvard that Jesus was indeed married according to the ancient papyrus could turn that idea on its head.
In a presentation on Harvard’s website entitled The Gospel of Jesus’s Wife: Scientific testing and imaging as of March 2014, researchers explain that they have performed numerous tests on the papyrus and that they have found no evidence of forgery. They used carbon dating and microscopic imaging to determine that the ink on the papyrus is consistent with ancient writing and that it dates from seventh to the eighth century. They also examined the scrap for signs of “pooling” which could indicate that someone artificially “aged” the document and then applied the writing. No evidence of pooling was found.
Perhaps most significantly, the researchers examined the document to make sure that the word “wife” actually translates to “wife” and not another word like “womanly.” They explain:
Careful examination was also made of certain letters, especially the all-important alpha on the heavily inscribed side of the fragment (“recto”) in line 4, which reads “my wife”. If a sigma had been overwritten by this alpha, the meaning would have been changed from “the woman” to “my wife.” No evidence of overwriting is evident.
Critics say that they are not satisfied that the document is proof that Jesus was married. Others say that since he refers to his wife directly, it is evident that he was married because most people in speaking of their spouse say “my husband” or “my wife” and not “I am married.” The reference to wife or husband is usually enough to prove that a person is indeed married.
The findings by Harvard will most likely do nothing to end the ongoing controversy over whether Jesus was married, but more significantly, will probably make no change in Catholic doctrine. Chances are slim that women will soon be allowed to become priests, serve in any high position as members of the clergy or enjoy any of the other privileges males do when they are in such positions.
A new study by Harvard on ancient papyrus has revealed that Jesus was married, and no evidence of forgery was able to be found. Despite this, those who stand to gain from keeping only men in power in the church will most likely remain skeptical of the findings.
Opinion By: Rebecca Savastio