The fourth century Coptic Christian papyrus fragment announced by Professor Karen King of Harvard back in 2012 containing one segment of the papyrus's text, with the words "Jesus said to them, 'My wife...”, was immediately denounced by both the scientific and theological communities as a fraudulent document.
One segment of the papyrus's text, the words "Jesus said to them, 'My wife...” was extremely controversial due to the church’s prevailing male dominance; both within the Bible and its contemporary leadership in areas like the priesthood, pastoral authority, elder-ship and deacons.
As such, the potential of such a document being found authentic presented difficult theological and ecclesiastical problems which have the potential to affect Christianity as never before. Christians hung their proverbial hat on the fact that the fragment was dismissed as a forgery by some historians.
A prime example was the Coptic scholar, Christian Askeland who stated "It is very probable that it's a fake," in a widely viewed YouTube video. As such, the Christian community basically dismissed any potential of credibility to the fragment.
In my article from 2012 “Jesus might have been married”, the papyrus fragment was only seen as a possibility; now however, it is a reality and how it will ultimately affect the church is anybody’s guess.
It went on to say that, “the testing of the papyrus, the ink, the handwriting and the grammar, however, all point to the document's authenticity, according to a recent statement from the Harvard Divinity School”.
There was also a technique called micro-Raman spectroscopy utilized to help determine the authenticity of the fragment.
Timothy M. Swager, a chemistry professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told The New York Times, that there is absolutely no evidence that the fragment had been doctored up.
Scientific American reported that, “Swager used infrared spectroscopy, which analyzes the low-frequency light from an object, to see if the ink showed any inconsistencies or variations that would suggest it was a recent forgery. None were found”.
Test revealed that the carbon in the ink matched samples of other papyrus documents that date from the first to eighth centuries A.D.
The conclusion of these tests present a problem for the church where there are no original manuscripts of Biblical text and even the oldest copies only date back to the late first century; meaning the “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife” is possibly as old as any part of the Biblical New Testament; giving rise to the question of "How can such an aged document about Jesus be wrong"?
So, what does this mean for the church?
The church will either have to accept and utilize this new revelation as an additional part of Jesus’s humanity or refuse to accept its credibility and continue in the knowledge that the real Jesus has not and is not being proclaimed to the world.
Unfortunately the majority of Christianity will probably choose to follow the latter and as such deny a vital possibility of Jesus’s life.
As stated in my earlier article, “most first century Christians actually acknowledged or at least assumed that Jesus was married and had no problem with it; rightfully so, as many of the original disciples who grew up with Jesus and who were actually related to Jesus would have well known the marital status of Jesus and would probably have made more out of Him not being married”
The credibility of the fragment has renewed questions about the role of women and married men in ministerial leadership; in both the New Testament and current church.
Harvard Divinity School Professor, Dr. Karen L. King (who made the original announcement) says "This gospel fragment provides a reason to reconsider what we thought we knew by asking what the role claims of Jesus' marital status played historically in early Christian controversies over marriage, celibacy and family,"
Moving from the possibility to the probability of Jesus having been a married man is exactly like accepting Him as ones savior; it is a matter of personal faith.
Now however, it comes with allot more credibility.
But once again, it makes no difference if Jesus was married or not as we are not asked to accept Jesus as a married man; only as Savior and Lord.
© 2014 Dr. Lee W. Outlaw III