Sure, it’s a loaded question. “A phony what?” you might wisely ask regarding the recently released papyrus that seems to indicate that Jesus of Nazareth had a wife. A better question is “could it be true?” Christians might be howling over the recent discovery that recalls The Da Vinci Code and the controversy surrounding it, but, most importantly, many scholars are beginning to doubt the authenticity of the “Jesus’ wife” papyrus.
Scholars have started questioning the authenticity of the highly-publicized “Jesus’ wife” papyrus discovered and released by Harvard Divinity School professor Karen L. King, who herself emphasized that the papyrus is hardly proof that the historical Jesus was married in the Harvard Divinity School news release that announced its existence. The Coptic text, which was probably translated from a second-century Greek text, contains a dialogue in which Jesus refers to “my wife,” whom he identifies as Mary.
Christian tradition has long held that Jesus was unmarried, though the newly sparked debate over the papyrus’ discovery speaks more to the debate of the role of women in the church rather than challenging the unmarried Jesus tradition, notes NBC News.
Similar to the “Jesus’ tomb” discovery several years ago, scholars and antiquities trade experts have questioned the authenticity of the discovery, with some completely dismissing the discovery and others questioning the motives ofKing and the document’s original owner.
“There’s something about this fragment in its appearance and also in the grammar of the Coptic that strikes me as being not completely convincing somehow,” said Stephen Emmel, a professor of Coptology at the University of Muenster and member of the international advisory panel that reviewed the 2006 discovery of the Gospel of Judas.
“I would say it’s a forgery. The script doesn’t look authentic,” said Alin Suciu, a papyrologist at the University of Hamburg.
Some scholars have called the discovery moot, as the fragment does not bear valuable context.
“There are thousands of scraps of papyrus where you find crazy things,” said Wolf-Peter Funk, a noted Coptic linguist. “It can be anything,” he continued, adding that the form of the fragment is “suspicious.”
King has also admitted that the owner of the papyrus wants to sell his collection to Harvard. This, of course, makes the discovery all the more suspicious as there may be financial incentive surrounding its publicity.
“There are all sorts of really dodgy things about this,” said David Gill, professor of archaeological heritage at University Campus Suffolk. “This looks to me as if any sensible, responsible academic would keep their distance from it.”
Furthermore, why are we only hearing about the papyrus now?
“I personally think, as a researcher, that the paper is not authentic because it was, if it had been in Egypt before, we would have known of it and we would have heard of it before it left Egypt,” said Hany Sadak, the director general of the Coptic Museum in Cairo.
Do you think that the papyrus is authentic? Did Jesus have a wife?