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

In the text that is coming to be known as the “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” the Harvard researcher Karen King rightly points out that new items of information about the historical Jesus are not to be expected from it.

Front of the papyrus "the Gospel of Jesus's wife"

A growing number of scholars have denounced the business card-sized papyrus as a fake, with recent op-eds appearing in The Wall Street Journal and on CNN. Meanwhile, 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.

The document has the disciples talking to their master-teacher Jesus introducing questions about, respectively, leadership, the end, and the kingdom of heaven. In the “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” the abbreviation of Jesus’ name (the nomen sacrum) to =ic takes the same form as in the Thomas examples.

English: Gospel of Thomas or maybe gnostic Gos...

Gospel of Thomas or maybe gnostic Gospel of Peter (see talk page). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to my opinion in case the text has been really constructed out of small pieces – words or phrases – culled from the Coptic Gospel of Thomas, in other manuscripts from that Gospel we should find it back. I do find it strange that certain saying where not discovered yet but can cope that new elements can be found which would set sayings 30, 45, 101 and 114 in new contexts. This is most probably the compositional procedure of a modern author who is not a native speaker of Coptic.

Francis Watson has done a line-by-line comparisons of the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife (GJW) and the Gospel of Thomas (GTh) and focused only on the recto side of the fragment that King has transcribed, translated and edited. Underlinings in Coptic texts and English translations highlight identical wording in Thomas and the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife.

He writes:

It will be convenient to take lines 3 and 4 of GJW together:GJW3-4].arna maria~m =mpsa =m moc a [n? ] . . . . . / peje =ic nau ta hime m~=n [] “deny. Mary is n[ot]* worthy of it…” [ ] . . . . . Jesus said to them, “My wife and*… [arna, “deny”, occurs twice in GTh in the injunctive form, marefarna , “let him deny” (GTh 81; 114). {GTh 47.17; 51.5.}

In the second case, the object of renunciation is “the world” (pkocmoc); in the first, the verb is unqualified: “Let the one who has power deny [marefarna]”. While the gap preceding arna in GJW 3 might be filled with the injunctive and pronominal prefixes (maref- or mareC- ), it is unclear how that would make sense when it is the disciples who are speaking, rather than Jesus himself. The primary model for lines 3-4 is GTh 114: GTh 51.18 peje cimwn petroc

GTh 51.19 nau je mare mari ham ei ebol =nhyt=n

GTh 51.20 je =nc hiome =mpsa an =mpwnhpeje =ic

(Simon Peter said / to them, “Let Mary leave us, for women are not worthy of life.” Jesus said …”)

Here the author or compiler of GJW has taken four elements from GTh 114, reversing the order of the third and fourth of them. “Mary” is directly linked to “not worthy of…”, and the intervening reference to “women” now follows the introductory formula, “Jesus said”, where it is changed to “my woman” , = “my wife” (tahime). (hime is one of a number of variant spellings listed under chime in W. E. Crum, A Coptic Dictionary , Oxford: OUP, 1939, 385a. There are also variant spellings of the plural, of which Thomas’s chiome is one.) {The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife: How a fake Gospel-Fragment was composed, Francis Watson, Durham University, U.K, First posted, 20 September 2012 Revised, 26 September, 2012}

After this Jesus speaking either of a woman, the woman, a wife, the wife or his wife, he continues with what we also can find in the Thomas gospel “She will be able to be a disciple to me”. In case Magdalene would have been more than a pupil to him and would have build up a personal relation with him, I doubt if Jesus would use the loanword ma;ytyc  meaning “to be or become a disciple”.

The front side of folios 13 and 14 of a Greek ...

The front side of folios 13 and 14 of a Greek papyrus manuscript of the Gospel of Luke containing verses 11:50–12:12 and 13:6-24, P. Chester Beatty I (Gregory-Aland no. P 45 ). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The phrase as a whole is a Coptic equivalent of the Lukan ou0 du/natai ei]nai/ mou maqhth/j (Lk.14.26, cf.vv. 27, 33), which the GTh passage probably echoes. In Luke, however, the Coptic text uses different although synonymous formulations.(=mmns[om etrefrma;ytyc nai (Lk.14.26); =mmns[om etrefswpe nai =mma;ytyc (Lk.14.27); mmns[om =mmof etrefswpe nai =mma;ytyc (Lk.14.33). {The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife: How a fake Gospel-Fragment was composed, Francis Watson, Durham University, U.K, First posted, 20 September 2012 Revised, 26 September, 2012}

The origin of the verbal phrase in GJW 5 appears to lie in GTh 101, along with GJW 1. {The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife: How a fake Gospel-Fragment was composed, Francis Watson, Durham University, U.K, First posted, 20 September 2012 Revised, 26 September, 2012}

“26 « ወደ እኔ የሚመጣ ሁሉ አባቱንና እናቱን፥ ሚስቱንና ልጆቹን፥ ወንድሞቹንና እኅቶቹን፥ የራሱንም ሕይወት እንኳ ከእኔ አብልጦ የሚወድ ከሆነ የእኔ ደቀ መዝሙር ሊሆን አይችልም። 27 የራሱን መስቀል ተሸክሞ የማይከተለኝ፥ የእኔ ደቀ መዝሙር ሊሆን አይችልም።” (Luke 14:26-27 Amharic87)
“እንዲሁም ከእናንተ መካከል ያለውን ሁሉ ለእኔ ሲል ያልተወ ማንም ሰው የእኔ ደቀ መዝሙር መሆን አይችልም። »” (Luke 14:33 Amharic87)

“If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, and wife, and children, and brothers, and sisters, and his own life too, he is unable to be My taught one. “And whoever does not bear his stake and come after Me is unable to be My taught one. (Luke 14:26-27 The Scriptures 1998+)
“So, then, everyone of you who does not give up all that he has, is unable to be My taught one.  (Luke 14:33 The Scriptures 1998+)

He who comes to me and does not put aside his father, and his mother, and his brothers, and his sisters, and his wife, and his children, and even his own life, he cannot be a disciple to me. And he who does not take up his cross and follow me, cannot be a disciple to me. For which of you, who wishes to build a tower, does not at first sit down and consider its cost, to see if he has enough to finish it? Lest after he has laid the foundation, he is not able to finish it, and all who see it will mock him, Saying, This man began to build, but he was not able to finish. Or which king, who goes to war to fight against a king equal to him, would not at first reason, whether he is able with ten thousand to meet the one who is coming against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while he is far away from him, sends envoys and seeks peace. So every man of you, who would not leave all his possessions, cannot be a disciple to me.  (Luke 14:26-33 Lamsa NT)

Jesus invites everyone to come after him, fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, children, brothers and sisters, and his disciples should know that nobody is excluded to become one of his disciples. Likewise Mary Magdalene gave up her won community and left Magdala to be close to her master, she was accepted as equal to the male disciples, though they did not like it at first. They also had to learn they did have to give up their prejudice against women and should work at their inclination for those Jesus had called.

Jesus his disciples had to learn that their attitude could not stay the same as in the world they were living in. They had to give up their ordinary customs and judgements over people. Mary Magdalene had probably learned what she had to put aside or had to give up, and what she could gain by “giving up the world” to become a ‘full disciple‘ of Jesus. As such she could become as ‘woman’ a ‘wife’ in the Body of Christ. In such a way we could also look at it how the Catholic Church understood it for their priests and monks. They became spouse of Jesus Christ.

I do belief we have to understand the wrong translation of ‘wife’ in this way. I would prefer to use the more correct translation ‘woman’, but those who would prefer to use the word ‘wife’ should see it in that context, Mary Magdalene like other women becoming a ‘wife’ in the Body of Christ, like the sisters in a monastery by their vows found themselves “married to Christ”. It is not a ‘literal’ marriage, or having the female person becoming the sexual partner of Christ, but having the female becoming the spiritual partner of Christ Jesus, like males also should become spiritually connected with Christ, becoming ‘one body’. This is not literally by having sex with Jesus, but being united in thought or spirit. Like Jesus is one with God, we also do  have to become one with Jesus and through him also becoming one with God.

Watson writes:

The eight lines of GJW recto are derived from the Coptic GTh, virtually in their entirety, making dependence certain – a highly unusual form of dependence on words more than sense. The compiler has used a “collage” or “patchwork” compositional technique, and this level of dependence on extant pieces of Coptic text is more plausibly attributed to a modern author, with limited facility in Coptic, than to an ancient one. Indeed, the GJW fragment may be designedly incomplete, its lacunae built into it from the outset. It does not seem possible to fill these lacunae with GTh material contiguous to the fragments cited. The impression of modernity is reinforced by the case in line 1 of dependence on the line-division of the one surviving Coptic manuscript, easily accessible in modern printed editions. {The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife: How a fake Gospel-Fragment was composed, Francis Watson, Durham University, U.K, First posted, 20 September 2012 Revised, 26 September, 2012}

When researchers may find some modernity in the material I do hope more energy and time shall be put in further examination. Further investigations and fresh considerations could bring more clarity. But according Watson it seems unlikely that the “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” will establish itself as a “genuine” product of early gospel writing.

Even if GJW were to be accepted as a 4th century Coptic text, Dr King’s claim that it derives from a Greek original from the 2nd century would be impossible to sustain, along with her attempt to reconstruct an original historical context for it. Where a text is so manifestly dependent on another text in translation, it makes no sense to postulate dependence on an earlier original. {The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife: How a fake Gospel-Fragment was composed, Francis Watson, Durham University, U.K, First posted, 20 September 2012 Revised, 26 September, 2012}

he said with his thanks to Richard Bauckham for emphasizing this point. In Watson’s view, however, a 4th century Coptic origin is equally unlikely.

A modern parallel to the author’s collage technique may be seen in the composition of the Secret Gospel of Mark passages which – as I have argued at length elsewhere – are to be attributed, along with the letter in which they are embedded, to their alleged discoverer, Morton Smith. {Francis Watson, “Beyond Suspicion: On the Authorship of the Mar Saba Letter and the Secret Gospel of Mark”,JTS 61 (2010), 128-70, esp. 139-42, 167-69. See also Stephen C. Carlson, The Gospel Hoax: Morton Smith’s Invention of Secret Mark, Waco, Texas: Baylor University Press, 2005. For the full text of the Clementine letter that incorporates the secret gospel excerpts, see Morton Smith, Clement of Alexandria and the Secret Gospel of Mark, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1973}

As I have shown, Smith’s composition is itself inspired by an explicitly fictional gospel fragment known as the Shred of Nicodemus which features in an otherwise forgotten novel by James M. Hunter, The Mar Saba Mystery (1940). {F. Watson, “Beyond Suspicion”, 161-70}

Both the American scholar and the Canadian novelist create their fake gospel texts from fragments of genuine texts: Mark in the one case, Mark, John and the Old Testament in the other. Perhaps the author of GJW was inspired by the Secret Gospel ’s compositional procedure, which was noted soon after its publication although the correct conclusion was rarely drawn from it.
The Jesus of the Secret Gospel likes to consort naked with young men at night, while seeming hostile to women. {Mar Saba Letter, II.23-III.14; III.14-17 (references are to page and line numbers); see F. Watson, “Beyond Suspicion”,135-36.}

By contrast, the new gospel fragment has Jesus speak disconcertingly of “my wife”. Has this new heterosexual Jesus been created to complement Smith’s homosexual one? {The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife: How a fake Gospel-Fragment was composed, Francis Watson, Durham University, U.K, First posted, 20 September 2012 Revised, 26 September, 2012}

Jesus wife payrus transcriptJesus wife papyrus translation

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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

Marriage of Jesus 5 Papyrus fragment  in Egyptian Coptic

To be followed by:

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:

  • Oh Look- Harvard Is Pimping ‘The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife’ – It Must Be Easter! (zwingliusredivivus.wordpress.com)
    Thanks, Harvard, for devolving to the level of the History Channel and the Discovery Channel and The Discovery Channel Canada and being willing to sensationalize a trinket of modern invention.
    +
    Read the essay here by Leo Depuydt from
    Brown University who states what nearly all knew from the beginning, the doc is a forgery.
    We’ve seen this movie too many times, esp. around Easter and its a shame that Harvard went to so much trouble going along with it.
  • New evidence casts doubt on ‘Gospel of Jesus’ Wife’ (religion.blogs.cnn.com)
    one of the typographical errors in an online edition of the “Gospel of Thomas” is replicated, uniquely, in the Jesus’ wife fragment.
    +
    Add to this the fact that the carbon dating of the John papyrus puts it in the seventh to ninth centuries, but Lycopolitan died out as a language sometime before the sixth century. No one wrote anything in Lycopolitan in the period in which this text would have to be dated.
  • Jesus Wife Gospel the Real Thing (writedge.com)
    The testing was very thorough, using micro-Raman spectroscopy for determining that the make-up of the ink matched other 1st to 8th century papyri samples, alongside both microscopic and multispectral imaging as well as radiocarbon testing. Having completed the testing, the conclusion was that the fragment is almost certainly a product of early Christians, not a modern forger, according to Harvard Divinity School.Not that this is universally accepted, by any means, because Brown University professor Leo Depuydt, still maintains the document is a forgery, full of what he calls gross grammatical errors, and employing the same words found in the early Christian text discovered in Nag Hammadi, Egypt, in 1945, the so-called Gospel of Thomas. Why people find it so hard to accept that Jesus, if he even existed, could have had a wife seems very odd, because he was only human, after all.
  • Misogynist Paul, Peter’s Boyfriend, Is the Founder of Christianity! (venitism.blogspot.com)
    Historians believe Jesus had a child with Mary Magdalene.  In apocryphal texts, Magdalene is portrayed as a visionary and leader of the early movement whom Jesus loved more than he loved the other disciples. Several Gnostic gospels, such as the Gospel of Mary, written in the early 2nd century, see Mary as the special disciple of Jesus who has a deeper understanding of his teachings and is asked to impart this to the other disciples.In Gnostic writings, Magdalene is seen as one of the most important of Jesus’ disciples whom he loved more than the others. The Gnostic Gospel of Philip names Magdalene as Jesus’ companion. Gnostic writings describe tensions and jealousy between Magdalene and other disciples, especially misogynist Peter, boyfriend of Paul.
  • ‘Gospel Of Jesus’ Wife’ Papyrus Is Ancient, Not Fake, Experts Say (huffingtonpost.com)
    Although the peer-reviewed paper will now be published in the academic journal and was posted online on Thursday, the criticism is likely to continue. For one, the journal will also run an article by Brown University Egyptology professor Leo Depuydt, who says the fragment is a fake. In the paper, published online Thursday, Depuydt points to grammatical mistakes that he says a native Coptic writer would not make, as well as similarities to another well-known non-canonical biblical text.
  • Jesus Chooses the Twelve Disciples // Jesus Teaches and Heals (travismikhailblog.wordpress.com)
    In these days he went out to the hills to pray; and all night he continued in prayer to God.  And when it was day, he called his disciples, and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles;
  • The Twelve Days of Christmas Explained (wholesalecostumeclub.com)
    As the story goes, from the mid 1500s to the early 1800s Roman Catholics in England had to practice their faith in secrecy. To help the children remember the doctrines of Catholicism and other important facts of the faith, they  wrote this carol as a catechism song with each day of Christmas symbolizing a religious reality.
  • ‘Jesus wife’ text no fake – expert (independent.ie)
    Brown University professor Leo Depuydt, in an analysis also published by the Harvard Theological Review, was not convinced. He said the text contained grammatical errors that a native Coptic speaker would not make. Prof King suggested that the text was written in an informal style found in other ancient Coptic texts.
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8 thoughts on “Marriage of Jesus 6 Jesus said to them “My wife”

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  4. Pingback: Marriage of Jesus 10 Old and New Covenant | Stepping Toes

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