Would Your View of Jesus Change if He Had a Wife?

A papyrus fragment with a reference to Jesus having a wife has been discovered and could change the way the Church views the priesthood.

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A piece of papyrus with the words "Jesus said to them, 'My wife…'" was discovered by a historian from Harvard Divinity School, reigniting the debate on whether or not Jesus was married. The scrap is four by eight centimeters, and eight lines are written in black ink.

The papyrus was brought to Dr. Karen L. King, who studies early Christianity, by an anonymous owner. King specializes in Coptic literature, the language in which the fragment was written. She says this is the first hard evidence that Jesus was married.

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"This fragment suggests that some early Christians had a tradition that Jesus was married," she said. "There was, we already know, a controversy in the second century over whether Jesus was married, caught up with a debate about whether Christians should marry and have sex."

Whether or not Jesus was married is still a relevant topic in Christianity, particularly the Roman Catholic Church. The Vatican maintains that only men can be priests and they should not marry, because they are to follow in the tradition of Jesus. It has been speculated that Mary Magdalene was Jesus's wife, and Dan Brown's bestselling novel The DaVinci Code explored this theme. Despite a shortage of priests in the Catholic Church, it continues to exclude women from the vocation.

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Close examination of the scrap of papyrus by scientists has led them to declare its authenticity because of the difficulties involved in forging something like it. Papyrologist Roger Bagnall said that a forger would have to know Coptic grammar, handwriting, and ideas. Another papyrologist, AnneMarie Luijendijk, said, "It would be impossible to forge."

"It helps to remind us that practically everything that later generations told about Jesus was put together and edited by somebody well after his death, and represents the view of Jesus that they were trying to get across," said Bagnall. "It's not going to change history in a dramatic way, but it does give us a much sharper view of one little corner of Christianity we couldn't see into before."

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King cautioned against using her discovery as absolute proof that Jesus, the historical figure, had a wife. She said other historical Christian literature has made no mention of a wife, and the text was likely written centuries after Jesus himself lived. It is also torn in such a way that deciphering the exact context of the reference is impossible. In the fourth line Jesus says "my wife," and the following line reads "… she will be able to be my disciple," but there are no other contextual clues given.

"It's not saying we've got the smoking gun that Jesus is married," King said.

What do you think? Would your view of Jesus change if he had a wife? Click here to take the poll and comment below.