Was Jesus, the Lord and Savior of the Christian world, married? It's a question that's been debated by biblical scholars almost since the time he died. Karen L. King, a historian of early Christianity with Harvard's School of Divinity, recently submitted a scholarly paper about a piece of papyrus written in a Coptic language common in southern Egypt in the very early ages of Christianity. Dr. King, who is 58, specializes in Coptic literature and is an expert and prolific author in her field.
On the papyrus was a written reference to Christ's wife. Two phrases seem to imply his marital status, and the fact that he considered women to be his equals. The first phrase states, "Jesus said to them, 'My wife...'" and the text cuts off. The second phrase written is, "She will be able to be my disciple," giving her equal status among the other disciples.
Conventional Christianity has historically denied that he was married, and the Roman Catholic Church has always insisted that women and married men cannot obtain the priesthood because to do so would go against the way He lived.
Dr. King received the small scrap of papyrus from a private collector, which can be viewed at this link, who told her he'd obtained it from a German collector. When Dr. King first received it, she was skeptical about its origins, but upon further inspection, she came to believe the piece was quite old. She took the artifact to colleagues in New York who specialized in ancient papyrus texts and the three of them examined it extensively. King stated that in the southern Egyptian Coptic dialect, the two words, "My wife" are not a colloquial for anything else. They are not symbolic. She said, "These words can mean nothing else."
Of course, she still remains cautious because the text was probably written a couple of centuries after Christ's death. But when you think about it, the entire Bible as most Christians know it today, was also written centuries after his death.
So, who's right? Are the Coptic verses a hidden truth that the Roman Catholic Church has sought to stamp out? After all, early church leaders chose which texts to include in the Bible and which to exclude, based on their own biased beliefs. Because of this, many skeptics and Christians believe the Coptic verses tell a different and truer story about the Savior, while the Holy Bible is cherry picked. Regardless of all this, no one will ever know the truth.
Aside from carbon dating, which would destroy the document, there is really no sure-fire method of dating the piece. However, the piece will be examined using spectroscopy, which will determine its chemical composition, so they can more accurately find out its age.
Dr. King is presenting her findings on Tuesday to the International Congress of Coptic Studies. The discovery is tantalizing, especially for those who speculate about whether the Son of God lived a life of celibacy or if he took a wife, as would have been the custom of the time.
Image: Egyptian Rosary with Coptic Cross by Silar / Wikimedia