The “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” was determined to be authentic by the Harvard Theological Review. The papyrus fragment has been a point of controversy, as it quotes Jesus as saying “my wife.” Although many questioned the document’s authenticity, experts concluded it was written during the eighth century in Egypt.
Harvard professor Karen L. King introduced the ancient document in 2012, during an academic conference in Rome. Throughout her presentation, the Harvard Divinity School historian provided evidence that the document is authentic.
However, many experts, including Vatican representatives, dismissed the text as a forgery. Following the reveal, historians, theologians, and archaeologists, continue to debate the document’s origin and meaning.
The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife was authenticated through numerous tests, including carbon dating. Researchers determined that the document dates to the eight century. As reported by Boston Globe, they also concluded that the ink used on the document is “consistent with carbon-based inks used by ancient Egyptians.”
King said the results answered some questions about the document. However, the historical and religious implications are unclear:
“I’m basically hoping that we can move past the issue of forgery to questions about the significance of this fragment for the history of Christianity.”
The religious historian does not believe the document proves Jesus was married. In her opinion, the text actually refers to a religious debate. King hopes to learn what sparked the debate:
“Why does Jesus being married, or not, even matter? Why is it that people had such an incredible reaction to this?”
Although the Harvard Theological Review’s conclusion is compelling, some experts still doubt the authenticity of the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife.
Boston.com reports that Brown University Egyptologist Leo Depuydt believes the document was obviously forged:
“Nothing is going to change my mind… As a forgery, it is bad to the point of being farcical or fobbish… I don’t buy the argument that this is sophisticated. I think it could be done in an afternoon by an undergraduate student.”
Despite the criticism, King is convinced the document is authentic. The owner wishes to remain anonymous. However, King said the document was purchased in 1999.
Although the fragment was obviously separated from the original document, the text reportedly reads “my mother gave me life… and Jesus said to them, ‘my wife,’… she will be able to be my disciple.”
King believes The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife may contain text copied from an earlier Greek document. Although the meaning and origin of the text will remain a topic of debate, King is certain the document is “an important addition to the study of the development of Christianity.”