The Gospel of Jesus' Wife (1)

W. Terry Varner
December 23, 2012

The following study will briefly discuss the recent papyrus fragment, titled by Dr. Karen L. King as, “The Gospel of Jesus' Wife.” Truth? No. Sensationalism? Yes. Wishful thinking? Yes. Falsehood? Yes.

Who is Dr. Karen L. King? Dr. King is a historian of early Christianity at Harvard Divinity School. She is the first woman to hold the nation's oldest endowed chair (288 years) in the United States. The chair is heralded as “one of the most prestigious perches in the United States” (Smithsonian, September 18, 2012: 1). Dr. King has written extensively about the “Gospels” of Mary, Judas, and Philip, which are not part of the biblical canon. In her book, The Gospel of Mary Magdala: Jesus and the First Woman Apostle (2003), she argues from 3rd and 4th century texts that Mary Magdalene was the model for being an apostle. King, along with several other scholars, clearly prefers the voices of the religious heretics than the voice of the apostolic witness of the New Testament. She believes that heresy (error) is truth and that biblical history is nothing more than “myth of origins” (Smithsonian 3). Consider her statement: “You’re talking to someone who’s trying to integrate a whole set of ‘heretical’ [non-biblical] literature into the standard history” (qtd. in Mohler 3). In other words, Dr. King rejects the books of the Bible as truth and the history of Christianity and desires to recreate Christianity from erroneous, rejected “heretical” writings. By what authority does she rewrite biblical history?

The Papyrus Fragment. In 2010, Dr. King received am email from a German-American collector “who asked her to translate a piece of papyrus that contained a reference to Jesus’ wife” (The New York Times, September 20, 2012: 2). The collector purchased the fragment years ago from a source in East Germany. The origin of the fragment is unknown and the collector asked for anonymity. Dr. King presented her paper on the fragment on Tuesday, September 18, 2012, at a meeting of the International Association of Coptic Studies in Rome, Italy.

The rectangular formed papyrus fragment contains the controversial words: “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife.’” The fragment is about 1 1/2 by 3 inches or the size of an ATM card. It is torn on all edges. It is written in 4th century AD Sahidic Coptic, an ancient language of southern Egypt. The fragment contains 33 words in its fragmentary lines. Line 3 says, “Mary is worth it.” Line 4 says, “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife.’” Line 5 says, “She will be able to be my disciple.” Line 7 says, “As for me, I will dwell with her in order to.” The fragment has been enclosed in glass. Dr. King has sensationalized the papyrus fragment with the attention-getting title, “The Gospel of Jesus' Wife.” This has resulted in various jokes about “Mrs. Jesus’ ‘honey-do’ list” (The New York Times 1).

The Claim of Jesus having a Wife. From the following six words, “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife,’” Dr. King claims this is “the first known statement that explicitly claims Jesus had [a] wife” (Time, October 1, 2012: 61). However, this is not first claim that Jesus had a wife by some Bible “scholars.” It will not be the last time such sensational and untruthful statements are made.

In the next article, we document additional claims over the centuries and explain their fallacies. It seems that some desire to undermine the centuries old Bible teaching and to try to ever weaken and destroy the precious faith of many in the inerrancy of the Bible.