A Marriage Made In Heaven? Ancient Papyrus Fragment May Refer To Jesus’ Wife

Now here’s a question. What do you get for the groom who has everything? Apparently disciples of Jesus may have faced that dilemma after analysis of a centuries-old papyrus fragment refers to the “wife” of Jesus — possibly Mary Magdalene. The fragment, written in Coptic, states “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife …”

Harvard Divinity School Professor Karen King discussed the finding in the January edition of Harvard Theological Review. She stressed that the fragment does not conclusively show Jesus was married.

The bible speaks of Jesus cleansing Mary Magdalene of “seven demons” but not then marrying her. She has often been cited as the only female disciple of Jesus. Also missing are other common matrimonial clues like biblical jokes about the “old ball and chain” back home or going out with for a guys night out. However, one can easily imagine a band playing Proud Mary” by John Fogerty with the disciples singing alone:

Big wheel keep on turnin’
Proud Mary keep on burnin’
Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’ on the river
Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’ on the river


Source: CNN

61 thoughts on “A Marriage Made In Heaven? Ancient Papyrus Fragment May Refer To Jesus’ Wife

  1. Ever since I was old enough to understand the notion of sex and marriage, I have wondered about that. Even asked about it in Sunday school and got slapped down for being inappropriate. It always seemed to me that if the Almighty had sent a part of Himself to earth to experience being human, and to even die after being tortured, it only made sense to me that this God-man should experience ALL that human life had to offer, marriage and sex being an integral part of that. And his mother Mary certainly did not remain a virgin all her life, because the Bible references at least one sibling, James.

    It also never made sense to me those segments of Christianity that disavow wine. I really don’t think that the grape juice served at many churches at communion would have passed muster at either the wedding which was the scene of the First Miracle, or the Last Supper. I have an idea that Jesus also knew what it was like to get a bit of a buzz. Not likely he would be pulled over on his donkey for DUI.

  2. I may, once again, don my armor of faith … it’s a cool outfit…. and join the crazies who will be coming out of the woodwork.

  3. The bible speaks about the Church being Christ’s wife. This is a predominant theme throughout the entire bible. Christ is routinely referred to as the bridegroom. Nothing to see here.

  4. Mespo:

    “Which brings to mind the inevitable questions:”

    “Did Jesus have to walk the dog?”

    Yes, he and his dog Skippy took long walks across the Sea of Galilee.

    “How about take out the trash?”

    Of course he did; he was perfect so he took out the trash; cut the lawn; did the dishes and laundry; rubbed Mary’s feet; avoided the bars and late night poker games with his disciples and most importantly, he was a good listener.

  5. “The fragment, written in Coptic, . . . .”

    Damn! Those Coptics are on a blasphemous roll lately. The Budda had better watch out.

  6. I don’t care either way but I wonder if Coptic might be a langage where the words wife and woman are more loosely defined or interchangeable.

  7. Professor, I rely on you NOT to peddle more ahistorical nonsense without at least some qualifiers. The document, which postdates Jesus’s death by a few centuries, does not refer to Jesus’ wife. And the professor who made the discovery has qualified her discovery far more than your statement that she “stressed that the fragment does not conclusively show Jesus was married.” You are a lawyer and scholar — it would behoove you to be more careful with your words.

  8. OS,

    Good points you raised from scripture. Also too, who was the “James the Just” leader of Jesus followers, who Paul had his falling out with?

  9. OK, Bloggers who know more about this, come in and correct me, but this is what I know.

    1 – Jesus was born under a “cloud” in Hebrew law in that he was reportedly conceived when Mary was betrothed to Joseph but Joseph was not the father of her baby. The law applicable to children born under such circumstances was called, in Hebrew, “Mumzeruth.”

    2 – This was not the same as “b*stardy” and did not involve any civil disabilities to the child EXCEPT that the child was never permitted to MARRY. The reason was that since the father was technically unknown, the child’s marriage MIGHT be accidentally incestuous.

    3 – Mumzerim COULD have sex (as long as it was not adulterous) etc., just NOT marry, and obviously any children they begat would also be Mumzerim, thus not able to marry.

    4 – It was not legal to discriminate in any other way against a Mumzer. There was a HUGE flap, however, because Jesus was KNOWN to be among the best scholars in the land, if not THE finest scholar, yet he was denied a seat on the Sanhedrin. It was commonly known and acknowledged that this was just flat out discrimination, and underlay a lot of the tension between Jesus and the authorities.

    5 – There was lots of this and that about John the Baptist and even brother James and I never could follow it, but essentially, Jesus probably had a common-law wife but no children. It would seem very likely that a woman who had been divorced by someone for being barren might have ended up in a nice, committed relationship with Jesus. Remember: they opposed ADULTERY but not extramarital sex, so long as neither partner was otherwise married and so forth. It was much more about property rights than sexual jealousy, at that point in time, I think.

    Caveat: I haven’t done the research and a lot of this is my guesswork combined with stuff I have been TOLD about what the historical texts (both religious and other) say. I never personally read them.

  10. Mike S, I think that was James, Jesus’ brother. HE was supposed to take over and lead, after Jesus’ death; political stuff prevented that. He would have followed Jesus’ teachings pretty closely, probably. Oh well, we know how that goes…

  11. You mean that the bible might not contain the absolute, error-free history of the world? OMG! LOL

    How otherwise intelligent people (and of course the endlessly ignorant and gullible too) can give themselves over to these myths is forever beyond me.

  12. DMHCarver:

    “Professor, I rely on you NOT to peddle more ahistorical nonsense without at least some qualifiers. The document, which postdates Jesus’s death by a few centuries, does not refer to Jesus’ wife. And the professor who made the discovery has qualified her discovery far more than your statement that she “stressed that the fragment does not conclusively show Jesus was married.” You are a lawyer and scholar — it would behoove you to be more careful with your words.”

    **************************

    Who cares? It’s like debating who would win a fight Thor or Jupiter or Jesus. BTW my money is on Thor. He’s got the hammer down! Jupiter is not very accurate with those thunderbolts and Jesus was a gentle carpenter or stonemason or whatever. It’s cartoon wars.

  13. In all fairness, if this was a Coptic text it was probably part of a Gnostic tradition where terms like this take on metaphorical meaning; in Revelation, for example, Jerusalem is portrayed as Jesus’s bride.

    What is more interesting is the possibility that the “virgin” birth is a mistranslation, and that the original term meant “young woman.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Almah

    This squares with accounts from, for example, the Gospel of Thomas, which makes no attempt to portray Jesus as supernatural (beyond being a divinely inspired prophet).

  14. Apparently the snippets of text that have been translated say:

    ===========

    not [to] me. My mother gave me life…

    The disciples said to Jesus…

    deny. Mary is worthy of it.

    I said to them, “my wife…

    She will be able to be my disciple…

    Let wicked people swell up…

    As for me, I dwell with her in order to…

    an image…

    =================

    There was obviously missing text everywhere in between these snippets, and even these snippets are ambiguous in many ways. Yet nothing about what any of them or all taken together MIGHT MEAN proves or disproves anything about whether or not Jesus was married. And to me, the question is interesting in that (a) it puts into play a lot of the silly notions not only about Jesus as a historical figure but also about Jesus as a religious symbol; and that (b) although it doesn’t matter at all, at this point, whether he was “married” or not, the authenticity of the archeological item reported on by the Harvard Professor is, like the question of Jesus’ marital status itself, probably one of those mysteries that can never be solved but that can always be a vehicle for fascinating debates, testing both the quality and the limits of “knowledge.”

  15. Darren Smith,

    Yeah. And translating from Arameic (Jesus times langurage, not Hebreic) manuscript to Greek gave us “maiden” rendered as “virgin”, We see what that mistake has given us.

  16. DHM Carver,

    It would behoove you to learn more about the society Jesus was born into. A good jew, which he was or intended to be, did not remain without a wife so long as Jesus is said to have done.
    He was aware of the ills of the “world”, but surely did not strive against experiencing real manhood as defined by his society.

    He said: Overgive all else and follow me, and they did. But what says that his wife did not follow with him, and was a source of strife, as can happen when wifey has opinions too. “Don’t forget the women without rights”, she said.

    All that is written in the holy gospel has one main thrust: to establish a pastoral apostolic church with world dominance. Necessary tales to support this purpose are simply made as needed.

  17. mespo,

    I’ll take that bet. Thor is a badass, but his power is derivative of Woden’s whereas Jupiter (also a master of thunder and lightning) is a primary like Woden. I’ll give the edge to one who creates a thing over one who merely can control a thing in a combat situation. Get ready to rumble!

  18. Rafflaw, all men were entitled to multiple wives back then, and there WERE no Mormons yet. Most men could only AFFORD one wife, if that. :-(

  19. Malisha,

    Spinning further on your comment:

    What denies that Jesus did not have muzzerim (?) children? He was popular with the ladies, for evolutinary approved reasons. And what says that Paulus, was not a “natural child of Jesus,
    adopted by a Roman citizen, who on the way to
    Damascus had his vision. Etc etc.

    Lots of possibilities. Unfortunately they did not have cell cameras then. But then our way of recording is at least as ephemeral as papyrus.

    Historically there are no contemporary references to Jesus. Only the monk inserted forgery in Josephus “History of the Jews”.

  20. rafflaw 1, September 19, 2012 at 1:09 pm

    Dredd,
    Interesting video.
    =========================================
    Yeah, wives that are also mothers can boil the cabbage down.

    I highly recommend them.

  21. A biblical-timey message from god came to me as they did to George II.

    Remembering Malisha’s point that extramarital sex was OK but NOT adultery. And now reading of Almah in Wiki, then god spoke to me.

    “Thou shall not plow another man’s field unless you are prepared to pay for the issue thereof.”

    Copyright asserted, etc 2012. ;-)

  22. With respect to the Harvard researcher’s views on the
    Coptic fragment.

    Would it be correct to ascribe it to contending “Christian” views, or more correctly to Agnostic views? Or was there a clear distinction when it was written? WTF WAS Constantine endorsing?

    Only religious support for state power, of course. As many others have said. As all rulers before him too. He did not want to compete on Roman divinity of Caesars, nor the praise of local jokels. Look what’s succeeding on the franchise market. Let’s see what deal can I make. Offer my wife’s hand in searching after Jesus remains, etc.

  23. Malisha,
    I am aware that the Mormons weren’t in existence yet and that many sects allowed multiple wives, just trying to add a little sarcasm. I guess too little! :)

  24. Gene and MespoLXXIILXXIILXXII,

    It would make a great episode of Celebrity Death Match. Don’t count out Jesus—remember he took down Satan in an episode of South Park (not to mention saving Santa from the Iraqis in another episode—who could forget his immortal words: “My children, you should know something… I’m packing.”)

  25. “Historically there are no contemporary references to Jesus. Only the monk inserted forgery in Josephus “History of the Jews”. – You are, of course totally discounting that the Bible itself is contemporary which is problematic.

  26. Chris,

    That is correct. I was giving sources external to the religious movement. Did I miss one?
    The point used by historians in this matter is that there were one other major person operating doing similar miracles, etc who was widely noted in
    documents which have survived. But nothing at all on Jesus.
    You understand I presume the nature of the comparison.
    Even a comparatively minor person called the “Egyptian” who led a revolt within the jews of Israel which was quashed, and he was executed.

    One can assign credence to the Bible as a post-factum recording of tales told by believers some decades after his death. But by historians concerned with the existence of Jesus the man, this is not accepted.

  27. “Even a comparatively minor person called the “Egyptian” who led a revolt within the Jews of Israel which was quashed, and he was executed.”

    ID707,

    You are quite right in this comment about the difficulty of contemporary sources establishing that there was a Jesus. My own take based on much I’ve read is that Jesus did exist, but was mythologized into the “Son of god” by Paul, who never knew him. The “Moshiach” (Messiah) longed for by Jews at the time was to be their King who God would designate to lead them to rid themselves of oppression. While the “Moshiach” (referential to Moses) would
    have supernatural aid from God, he was nevertheless human in all respects. My surmise is that Jesus was a revolutionary leader, claiming Mosaic descent,
    whose revolution failed and he was crucified by the Romans for treason. One
    must remember the “mocking” writing on the cross about him purporting to be the “King of the Jews”. In Roman edicts regarding lands under their rule, only
    Caesar was allowed to appoint Kings, therefore Jesus’ claim was treason.

    As for those using their “bible” as proof, the best evidence is that the “Gospels were written years after Jesus’ death by people who had not directly known him. When Constantine established the “Roman Church” at the council of Nicaea 320 AD, many changes were made to the original “Gospels” and to Paul’s writings in order to make it all acceptable to the Romans. All religions would seem to have a nub of somewhat historic truth as laid down by their founding prophets (Though I’m not sure of Joseph Smith, L. Ron Hubbard and Syung Yung Moon) which their successors in power then alter in order to establish the discipline which controls the believers.

  28. MikeS,

    I thank you for your information and opinions.
    The mystery of Jesus, even if the Bibles recording of him is taken as fact, is deep with many contravening
    issues and views on the human plane.

    Many in most religions have said: Show yourself. He has yet to do it to a crowd. Until then I remain a skeptic of all religions.

  29. John Isner,

    I can understand your enthusiasm—at least I think it was what you expressed. I felt similarly when reading about the Gospel of Thomas, etc and the Hammadi manuscripts.

    However, reading about the agnostics of the time by a lady professor at Harvard cooled my enthusiasm.

    Shall we say that the ME (my summary) was a fermenting pot of religious invention at that time.
    Agnostics in effect said that each man could make up his own religion. Many took early christianity as a starting point. Establishing schools and drawing paying students was one motive, just as it was in the Greek academies.

    The Holy Apostolic church said of course that that’s no way to run a religion, with new crackpot ideas competing with old crackpot ideas every other week. And they won.

    Wish I could give you the name of the Harvard professor. But check out the agnostics. The manuscripts are thought to be genuine, and hidden when christian monks attacked these agnostic retreats.
    But proof of Christ? No, sorry no support here for Jesus as a man.

    The irony is that what we know is that which was written by their major enemies, catholic bishops, etc.
    So what is read in terms of description was written by ther enemy. And the winners write history as they will.

  30. I enjoy this blog, and read virtually every post, but when it strays to religious topics, I am aghast at the bad history, wrong history, speculation masquerading as fact, and outright anti-religious bigotry that crop up in the comments. It is discouraging to read those on the left sounding like Tea Partiers discussing the Constitution.

  31. Mary Magdalene was what most people think she was. I don’t believe in the last supper. I also don’t believe in demons.

  32. Onlooker from Troy bleated:

    “You mean that the bible might not contain the absolute, error-free history of the world? OMG! LOL

    How otherwise intelligent people (and of course the endlessly ignorant and gullible too) can give themselves over to these myths is forever beyond me.”

    It’s actually stood the test of time better than anything else. If you would read the scriptures and have an understanding of it beyond the shallow atheist website level, you might gain some wisdom.

  33. Hubert Cumberdale,

    I don’t frequent “shallow atheist website level”. Those I leave to you.

    However if you read the essays written by Lucretius, Einstein. Carl Sagan and Salman Rushdie—-plus many more in Hitchens’ “the Portable Atheist” you will find a good, well-written introduction of sufficiently deep level.

    Then I think you may be qualified to understand the atheist position.

    As to the qualities of the Bible, I would compare them to any multi-author book. Polished in places, but hardly well-written, conceived, and obviously not bearing a
    divine inspiration. IOW, rather plebian. But if that is in you tastes, then that is your choice. You are like all
    of us can choose at will.

  34. Matt J,

    Interestingly, Jesus believed in demons. Many don’t realize that. And for example he quieted the waters, he waa in his mind using his God given powers to drive out the demons which made them unruly. And since his fellow men there did to believe, then they were amazed.

    What is they had consulted the weatherman instead. What would we be reading today?

  35. “Lots of possibilities. Unfortunately they did not have cell cameras then. But then our way of recording is at least as ephemeral as papyrus.”

    ‘At Least’? I prefer to believe ‘Far More’…

    Everything is digital now…Imagine for a second that we lose power, completely, as in we lose the ability to harness or create electricity.

    How much digital information is lost in an instant, which is not stored in some other non-electric media?

    We find papyrus with legible words written in languages we can sort of dechiper…future archeologists will find thumb-drives that will be non-sensical widgets or jewelry.

  36. idealist707 1, September 21, 2012 at 3:02 am

    Hubert Cumberdale,

    I don’t frequent “shallow atheist website level”. Those I leave to you.

    However if you read the essays written by Lucretius, Einstein. Carl Sagan and Salman Rushdie—-plus many more in Hitchens’ “the Portable Atheist” you will find a good, well-written introduction of sufficiently deep level.

    Then I think you may be qualified to understand the atheist position.
    —————————————————————————————-
    Who do you think built those stone structures?

  37. idealist707 1, September 21, 2012 at 3:06 am

    What is they had consulted the weatherman instead. What would we be reading today?
    ——————-
    Your own stupidity.

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