Did Jesus have a wife?
A paper presented at a scholarly gathering in Rome has raised new questions about the personal life of Jesus Christ, reports The Telegraph.
The paper, delivered by Christianity expert Karen King, contained a translation of text from a recently discovered tiny piece of ancient papyrus. The translation quotes Christ referring to Mary as “my wife”. Based on the type of material, the language used and the state of preservation, it is believed that the document came from Egypt and was written around the 2nd century.
This is the first such reference ever unearthed. Modern Christian doctrine maintains that Jesus never married but this belief stands unsupported by any kind of reliable historical documentation.
This new evidence suggests that early Christians were not united in that belief and, in fact, stood divided in their views on the role marriage within the context of a faithful life.
“If the second century date of composition is correct, the fragment does provide direct evidence that claims about Jesus’ marital status first arose over a century after the death of Jesus in the context of intra-Christian controversies over sexuality, marriage, and discipleship,” King wrote in the paper with colleague AnneMarie Luijendijk, a professor of religion at Princeton University.
“If it is what it purports to be, then it’s the first of its kind to show up,” said Bart Ehrman, a religious-studies expert and author at the University of North Carolina.
“We certainly didn’t have anything like that before.”
Ehrman notes that the reference in the text to Jesus’ wife doesn’t mean he actually had a wife.
“This shows there was a follower in the second century who may have thought Jesus was married,” said Ehrman.
This one new fragment is not likely to settle the debate but it is significant in that it sheds light on the evolution of thought within the church.