Believe it or not, Harvard University started out as a Christian college where men and women could go and obtain a solid Christian education. Today, it is bastion of secular liberalism. What little Christian teaching remains on the prestigious campus has been polluted and poisoned like arsenic seeping into a community well.
When I first heard the reports that a Harvard professor of early Christianity discovered a fourth century piece of papyrus that refers to Jesus’ wife, I was instantly skeptical as to the authenticity of the claim and the papyrus. The fragile text is only about 1.5 inches by 3 inches in size. It turns out that I’m not the only one who is skeptical.
Professor Karen King announced to the International Conference on Coptic Studies in Rome that the papyrus dates back to the fourth century. On the papyrus, now being referred to as the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife, is found Coptic writing that supposedly has Jesus referring to his wife, whose name is Mary. Amongst all the publicity, King warns that the text does not prove that Jesus had a wife.
In 2006, the Gospel of Judas was discovered and examined by a panel of experts. One of those on the panel was Stephen Emmel, professor of Coptology at the University of Muenster. Emmel says the accurate translation of the papyrus does quote Jesus as saying, ‘my wife.’ However he questions the whether the document is genuine or not, saying:
“There’s something about this fragment in its appearance and also in the grammar of the Coptic that strikes me as being not completely convincing somehow.”
Alin Suciu, a papyrologist from the University of Hamburg expressed his doubts about the papyrus’s authenticity a little more succinctly than Emmel. Suciu stated:
“I would say it’s a forgery. The script doesn’t look authentic.”
Another Coptic linguist, Wolf-Peter Funk, co-director of a project editing the Nag Hammadi Coptic library at Laval University in Quebec, points out that it is nearly impossible to determine exactly what the papyrus script means since there is no context with which to connect the text to. He comments:
“There are thousands of scraps of papyrus where you find crazy things. It can be anything.”
King said she welcomes the questions and is open to further examination including testing the chemical components of the ink to compare it to the ink known to be used during that time. She said:
“We still have some work to do, testing the ink and so on and so forth, but what is exciting about this fragment is that it’s the first case we have of Christians claiming that Jesus had a wife.”
Some critics are questioning Harvard’s ethics concerning the questionable announcement about Jesus’ wife and that it may have been done for financial purposes, since King verified that the current owner is wanting to sell his collection to Harvard. They point out that virtually nothing is known about the origin or history of the papyrus scrap.
David Gill, professor of archaeological heritage at University Campus Suffolk, commented on the ethics involved, saying:
“There are all sorts of really dodgy things about this. This looks to me as if any sensible, responsible academic would keep their distance from it.”
From everything I’ve read, I would be very skeptical to start re-writing history and what the Bible says about Jesus and his life. It’s very much like Barack Obama’s long form birth certificate. Until experts can examine the real thing and place it in the proper context, I would be very cautious about its authenticity. We know Obama’s documents are forgeries, now we have to find out if the Jesus’ wife papyrus is also.