Jesus’s ‘wife’: Credible evidence?

A Harvard divinity professor unveiled a scarp of papyrus that states that Jesus was married.

It’s a discovery that may just “rock the foundations of Christianity as we know it,” said Mary Sharratt in The Wall Street Journal. A 4th-century scrap of papyrus revealed to the world last week states that Jesus Christ had a wife. To be precise, the torn papyrus contains two sentence fragments: “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife,’” and “‘she will be able to be my disciple.’” The Harvard divinity professor who unveiled the papyrus, Karen L. King, concedes it doesn’t prove that Jesus was married, but says it does show that some early Christians once believed he was. That would directly contradict the Catholic Church’s teaching that Jesus was celibate, and had only male apostles. Other recently discovered Christian texts from this era also describe Mary Magdalene as Jesus’s wife and “companion,” said the Rev. Cynthia Bourgeault in It was only centuries later that the church’s “patriarchal and misogynist hierarchy” began equating divine perfection with celibacy, so as to justify keeping women in subordinate positions.

Someone’s been reading too much Dan Brown, said Ross Douthat in The clearest explanation for “why we don’t have any direct evidence of a Mrs. Jesus” is that there wasn’t one. The most persuasive contemporary account of Jesus’s life is the New Testament, which makes no mention of a wife. And a scrap of paper written 400 years after Jesus’s crucifixion is hardly evidence of a “historical rewrite job by the church fathers” to suppress women. It’s also unlikely to change anything in the Catholic Church, said the Rev. Jonathan Morris in The tradition of the celibate, male-only priesthood is “rooted in a determination to imitate Jesus’s will as we see it in the Gospel”—not as we see it on a fragment of papyrus “the size of a business card.”

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