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'Jesus Said to Them, "My Wife..."'
Copyright: Karen L. King 2012
Karen L. King holding "Gospel of Jesus' Wife" fragment.

A newly revealed piece of papyrus offers evidence that some early Christians believed Jesus was married, according to a Harvard Divinity School professor.

A fourth-century codex in Coptic quotes Jesus referring to "my wife," Karen King, a scholar of early Christianity, said on Tuesday. It is the only extant text in which Jesus is explicitly portrayed as betrothed, according to King.

King is calling the receipt-sized slip of papyrus "The Gospel of Jesus' Wife." She believes it was originally written in Greek, and later translated into Coptic, an Egyptian language.

The fragment says, "Jesus said to them, 'My wife...,'" according to King. The rest of the sentence is cut off. Another segment says, "As for me, I dwell with her in order to..." The speaker is not named.

The fragment contains just 33 words spread across 14 incomplete lines—less a full-fledged gospel than an ancient crossword puzzle.

"Christian tradition has long held that Jesus was not married, even though no reliable historical evidence exists to support that claim," King said in a statement released Tuesday by Harvard. "This new gospel doesn't prove that Jesus was married, but it tells us that the whole question only came up as part of vociferous debates about sexuality and marriage."

Tuesday's surprise announcement seemed ripped from the pages of Dan Brown's 2003 novel, The Da Vinci Code, which sold millions of copies—and irked the Vatican—by suggesting that Catholic leaders had covered up Jesus' marriage to Mary Magdalene. King said that she does not believe that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene. "At least, don't say this proves ...

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'Jesus Said to Them, "My Wife..."'
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September 2012

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