False Alarm: Papyrus Introducing Jesus’ Wife A Fake, Says Vatican

Sorry, everyone, false alarm. After all the debate about the recently discovered papyrus referring to Jesus’ wife, we find out that said papyrus is, in fact, a fake. It’s kind of a bummer, really, that after all the heated debates about Jesus’ marital status (could he have had a wife? Was she a church leader? Did they have kids? Oh, gosh, did they have sex?) to find out that not only was the document a fake, it was a really bad fake. L’Osseratore Romano, the Vatican’s newspaper, states, “Substantial reasons would lead one to conclude that the papyrus is indeed a clumsy fogery.” Editor Gian Maria Vian goes on to report, “In any case, it’s a fake.” The rather harsh editorial goes on to say that the papyrus is an “inept forgery,” claims The New York Times.

Poor Professor King. The Harvard Divinity School professor has already written a paper on the “marriage fragment,” and shared her findings with the media, and given a speech on it at a conference for Coptic Scholars, and had a documentary planned! Karen King has maintained from the discovery of the fragment that, while it doesn’t prove that Jesus was married, the fragment, but opens up a whole discussion on marriage and sexuality during Jesus’ lifetime. The Washington Post reports that, in a divinity school news release, King claimed:

“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.”

Too bad it’s not real.

Other scholars have been more hesitant than King to accept the fragment’s authenticity. Alberto Camplani was suspicious from the beginning, since “the papyrus had been found on the antiquarian market and not through a dig.” Dr. Camplani, a professor at Rome’s La Sapienza University, wrote, “Such an object demands that numerous precautions be taken to establish its reliability and exclude the possibility of forgery,”The Washington Post reports.


In an article by The New York Times, Camplani was quick to judge not just the media for using Jesus’ alleged marriage for shock factor, but Dr. King for participating. Camplani suggested that the “sensationalistic headlines” could have been avoided had Dr. King waited to share her “findings” with other scholars and researchers, before allerting the media.

Makes sense, since now the Smithsonian Channel, which planned to “chronicle the story behind King’s discovery in a documentary on Sunday,” had to delay their program. Plus, King’s paper now might not get published.

Perhaps we can all take a valuable lesson from this whole fiasco. Before you take the time to write a thesis and make a television program about something, make sure its legit.