Marriage of Jesus 5 Papyrus fragment in Egyptian Coptic

In the previous chapter we saw how Mary Magdalene was portrayed in the 3° century Pistis Sophia. The 2° century writing of the Gospel of Mary, portrays Mary as a source of secret revelation because of her close relationship to the Saviour. At one point Peter asks,

“Sister, We know that the Saviour loved you more than the rest of women. Tell us the words of the Saviour which you remember – which you know but we do not nor have we heard them” (section 10, trans. George W. MacRae and R. McL. Wilson).

Mary reveals what the master-teacher had told her, not as a physical man on earth, but in a vision. When she would have been the wife of Jesus, why did he not spend time enough with her to talk about such matters and why did he have to come to her in a vision?

Mary reports herself that several of the disciples were none too impressed by Mary’s purported insights into heavenly things. Andrew responded to her revelation by saying

“I at least do not believe that the Saviour said this. For certainly these teachings are strange ideas” (section 17).

Such remarks, and the one of Peter who asked:

“Did he really speak privately with a woman and not openly to us? Are we to turn about and all listen to her? Did he prefer her to us?”

may be inserted in the writings on purpose to give it more credibility? But also from the replies we do not get a clear insight that the woman speaking would have received such a special place to become the spouse of the Messiah. they also seem to doubt that Jesus would have spoken privately to that woman, called Mary Magdalene. Again when she would have been his wife than Jesus would certainly have taken time to speak with her privately.

In the canonic gospels we come to hear Jesus calling Peter a satan. This is now also repeated by Levi who speaks up for Mary. He chides Peter because he has

“always been hot-tempered.”

and says:

“Now I see you contending against the woman like the adversaries. But if the Saviour made her worthy, who are you indeed to reject her? Surely the Saviour knows her very well. That is why he loved her more than us” (section 18).

For many having in the Gospel of Philip having the most suggestive passage:

“And the companion of the Saviour is Mary Magdalene. But Christ loved her more than all the disciples and used to kiss her often on her mouth. The rest of the disciples were offended by it and expressed disapproval. They said to him, ‘Why do you love her more than all of us?’ The Saviour answered and said to them, ‘Why do I not love you like her?’ When a blind man and one who sees are both together in darkness, they are no different from one another. Then the light comes, then he who sees will see the light, and he who is blind will remain in darkness” (sections 63-63).

Do not be Afraid

Women around Christ – Do not be Afraid (Photo credit: Lawrence OP)

The text may very well use the metaphor of kissing to say that Jesus revealed truth to Mary. If this is true, the The Gospel of Philip is consistent with what we have seen elsewhere in the Gnostic gospels. But also by kissing a woman on the mouth this should not yet mean he had a very intimate relationship with her as a lover. He also just could have been very befriended or have considered himself as a protector of her, and as such kissing her affectionately. (In certain cultures it is also not strange to kiss other people on their mouth, without having to be the husband or wife.)

In 2012 professor Karen L. King announced the existence of a papyrus fragment with writing in Egyptian Coptic that includes the words, “Jesus said to them, ‘my wife…'”.  She and her colleague AnneMarie Luijendijk named the fragment the “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife” for reference purposes. King has stated that the fragment:

“should not be taken as proof that Jesus, the historical person, was actually married”.

The "Gospel of Jesus's Wife," a papyrus written in Coptic and containing text that refers to Jesus being married, is looking more and more like it is not authentic, research is revealing.

The “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife,” a papyrus written in Coptic and containing text that refers to Jesus being married, is looking more and more like it is not authentic, research is revealing.

Papyrological examination, scientific analysis of the ink and papyrus, and various forms of imaging were performed by multiple professional teams. These usually included comparative testing of a fragment of the Gospel of John in Coptic. No evidence of modern fabrication (“forgery”) was then found. Scepsis brought many interested to discuss and research the matter. Today not all are so sure about all the papyrus material being  ancient. Some even say it is clear that it is for 100% a forgery, because even the papyrus may be old the ink is not so old. According to several researchers the papyrus can be dated to the seventh to eighth c.c.e. and might the carbon composition of the ink, too, be consistent with ancient inks. Microscopic imaging was used to investigate whether the ink might be pooled in damaged sections of the fragment in ways that would indicate it had been applied after the damage had already been done. No evidence of such pooling was found.

Harvard University, which announced the papyrus’ discovery, has fallen silent on the artifact, not responding to requests for comment on new developments suggesting the find is a forgery. Giovanni Maria Vian, the editor of the Vatican’s newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, had already called it a fake in September 2012 in an editorial that accompanied an article by leading Coptic scholar Alberto Camplani. For him the brownish-yellow, tattered fragment, about one and a half inches by three inches is a “clumsy forgery.”

According to a British theologian the finding of the papyrus could proof what he said already for some time, that:

“God, also known as Yahweh, had a wife named Asherah.”

And that the God had come to earth as a man and has taken a wife here on earth to. In 1967, Raphael Patai was the first historian to mention that the ancient Israelites worshipped both Yahweh and Asherah. The theory has gained new prominence due to the research of Francesca Stavrakopoulou, who began her work at Oxford and is now a senior lecturer in the department of Theology and Religion at the University of Exeter. Last December her findings where again broadcasted on the little screen in Belgium.

Those who consider Jesus to be God and do find he had to have a wife, may find them in both teachings. Some on the other hand say the “mother god Asher” was herself reincarnated in Mary (Maria/Myriam/Miriam), who gave birth to her son Jesus, the “incarnated Yahweh”. Those people do not wonder why their god than would have come to the earth as a reincarnation in the from of Jesus, when the Divine Creator of the World detest those who believe in reincarnations and returning ghosts. Though the Bible is clear that God is a ghost (John 4:24) who can not be seen by man or they would die (Exodus 33:20) and Jesus was seen by many people, who did not die [though God is not a human being or a god who tells lies (Numbers 23:19)].

The papyrus text has been constructed out of small pieces – words or phrases – culled from the Coptic Gospel of Thomas. Yes this gospel keeps turning up.  For those who like jigsaw puzzles and patchwork, here they can find their patchwork of words and phrases which might be copies of writings with lots of fantasy.

According to Karen L. King and AnneMarie Luijendijk

This is the only extant ancient text which explicitly portrays Jesus as referring to a wife.

But she also warned that

It does not, however, provide evidence that the historical Jesus was married, given the late date of the fragment and the probable date of original composition only in the second half of the second century. Nevertheless, if the second century date of composition is correct, the fragment does provide direct evidence that claims about Jesus’s marital status first arose over a century after the death of Jesus in the context of intra-Christian controversies over sexuality, marriage, and discipleship. Just as Clement of Alexandria (d. ca 215 C.E.) described some Christians who insisted Jesus was not married, the fragment suggests that other Christians of that period were claiming that he was married. {See Stromateis III, 6.49; Greek text in Otto Stählin (ed.) Clemens Alexandrinus. Stromata Buch I-VI (Leipzig: J. C. Hinrichs’sche Buchhandlung, 1906) 218}

English: Gospel of Mary, discovered in 1896. P...

Gospel of Mary, discovered in 1896. P. Oxyrhynchus L 3525, Papyrology Room, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

High resolution digital photography and additional manipulation with Photoshop also aided in decipherment of both recto and verso, as well as viewing the manuscript itself in daylight and with magnification. 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.

King has also done more research on the history of what early Christians had to say about Jesus’s marital status and on the interpretation of the fragment itself. She argues that the main topic of the fragment is to affirm that women who are mothers and wives can be disciples of Jesus — a topic that was hotly debated in early Christianity as celibate virginity increasingly became highly valued. In the previous chapters I spoke about that attitude opposite women. From the canonic gospels we can understand that there were single women, young ones, but also mothers and older women who followed Jesus, becoming his disciples and making themselves new pupils.

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Preceding articles:

Marriage of Jesus 1 Mary, John, Judas, Thomas and Brown

Marriage of Jesus 2 Standard writings about Jesus

Marriage of Jesus 3 Listening women

Marriage of Jesus 4 Place of the woman

To be followed by:

Marriage of Jesus 6 Jesus said to them “My wife”

Marriage of Jesus 7 Impaled

Marriage of Jesus 8 Wife of Yahweh

Marriage of Jesus 9 Reason for a new marriage

Marriage of Jesus 10 Old and New Covenant

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Find also:

  1. Translation of Gospel of Jesus’s Wife Papyrus
  2. The Gist
  3. Francis Watson on the papyrus

In Dutch:

  1. Schriftkritiek
  2. Gnostiek, Judas evangelie, bijbelonderricht, zoon van God
  3. Gnostische geschriften toegevoegd aan de Bijbel

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  • Papyrus fragment put to test (news.harvard.edu)
    A wide range of scientific testing indicates that a papyrus fragment containing the words “Jesus said to them, my wife” is an ancient document, dating between the sixth to ninth centuries C.E. Its contents may originally have been composed as early as the second to fourth centuries.
  • ‘Gospel Of Jesus’ Wife’ Papyrus Is Ancient, Not Fake, Experts Say (huffingtonpost.com) incl. Video
    An ancient, business-card-sized papyrus fragment that appears to quote Jesus Christ discussing his wife is real, Harvard University announced Thursday. The fragment caused international uproar when it was revealed by a Harvard historian in September 2012, with prominent academics and the Vatican swiftly deeming it a forgery.
  • How the ‘Jesus’ Wife’ Hoax Fell Apart (online.wsj.com)
    Then last week the story began to crumble faster than an ancient papyrus exposed in the windy Sudan. Mr. Askeland found, among the online links that Harvard used as part of its publicity push, images of another fragment, of the Gospel of John, that turned out to share many similarities—including the handwriting, ink and writing instrument used—with the “wife” fragment. The Gospel of John text, he discovered, had been directly copied from a 1924 publication.”Two factors immediately indicated that this was a forgery,” Mr. Askeland tells me. “First, the fragment shared the same line breaks as the 1924 publication. Second, the fragment contained a peculiar dialect of Coptic called Lycopolitan, which fell out of use during or before the sixth century.” Ms. King had done two radiometric tests, he noted, and “concluded that the papyrus plants used for this fragment had been harvested in the seventh to ninth centuries.” In other words, the fragment that came from the same material as the “Jesus’ wife” fragment was written in a dialect that didn’t exist when the papyrus it appears on was made.
  • ‘Gospel of Jesus’s Wife’ Looks More and More Like a Fake (nbcnews.com)
    since the investigation was published, Live Science has been in contact with an agency in Berlin that issues permits for the exportation of antiquities. Representatives of that agency said they could find no record that a papyrus like this had been exported from their office. It’s possible that the Gospel of Jesus’s Wife papyrus was exported from elsewhere in Germany or from the European Union.
  • Radical feminists say it’s misogynist to reveal “Jesus’ wife” hoax (revisionistreview.blogspot.com)
    I’ve counted 10 different university-level scholars chiming in on two different online sites to heap coals upon the head of anyone who dares to think that King made a mistake, or that she should have consulted a wider range of experts before she helped the Smithsonian turn the papyrus scrap into a television documentary (which finally aired May 5) rather than afterward, as she did.
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    On May 5, the online magazine Religion Dispatches, published by USC’s Annenberg School of Communications and Journalism, featured an article by Eva Mroczek, a religious studies professor at Indiana University, complaining about the title of one of Askeland’s blog posts: Jesus Had an Ugly Sister-in-Law.” Illustrated by a Walt Disney still of Cinderella’s homely siblings (stepsisters, not sisters, but close), Mroczek’s article took Askeland to task for “the sexist language — the use of an ugly woman as a metaphor for a sloppy, forged, worthless text.”Poor Askeland! Bet he never thought that calling a scrap of papyrus “ugly” was a misogynist attack on women! Even Bagnall had deemed the Jesus’ Wife fragment “ugly” in a 2012 interview in the Boston Globe. Mroczek had earlier taken Askeland to task about the word “ugly” in a comment on his blog post. And after Mroczek’s article appeared, he edited the word out of the post’s title.
  • New evidence casts doubt on ‘Gospel of Jesus’ Wife’ (religion.blogs.cnn.com)
    Anonymity, in the world of antiquities, is often a bad sign, compounding the inherent uncertainty when dealing with texts that are bought and sold rather than discovered in a firm archaeological setting.Then there were aspects of the text itself that seemed suspicious.For a fragmented scrap of papyrus, it seemed to have an awful lot of important content on it. Not only did Jesus refer to “my wife,” he also potentially described a certain Mary – perhaps Mary Magdalene? – as “worthy” and capable of being a disciple.It is (almost) too good to be true.At the same time, the handwriting seemed surprisingly sloppy.
  • Historian Says Piece of Papyrus Refers to Jesus’ Wife (nytimes.com)
    Dr. King first learned about what she calls “The Gospel of Jesus’s Wife” when she received an e-mail in 2010 from a private collector who asked her to translate it. Dr. King, 58, specializes in Coptic literature, and has written books on the Gospel of Judas, the Gospel of Mary of Magdala, Gnosticism and women in antiquity.The owner, who has a collection of Greek, Coptic and Arabic papyri, is not willing to be identified by name, nationality or location, because, Dr. King said, “He doesn’t want to be hounded by people who want to buy this.”When, where or how the fragment was discovered is unknown. The collector acquired it in a batch of papyri in 1997 from the previous owner, a German. It came with a handwritten note in German that names a professor of Egyptology in Berlin, now deceased, and cited him calling the fragment “the sole example” of a text in which Jesus claims a wife.
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2 thoughts on “Marriage of Jesus 5 Papyrus fragment in Egyptian Coptic

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