Another big “story” in the news, saying that a big shot Harvard professor has found proof that Jesus was married.

And if you believe that one, here is a copy of an ancient papyrus that I’d like to sell to you:

this one is from the ancient book of LOLCATBIBLEexodux 32

What? There was no LOLCatbible in ancient Israel? Who wudda thot?

So let me be a bit skeptical about headlines stories about a tiny piece of papyrus that was discovered who knows where and given to a feminist Harvard professor who is trying to rewrite the history of Christianity using feminist theory. She was so delighted in finding an ancient paper that agreed with her theories that she only bothered to ask two experts to authenticate it.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Most Catholics would agree with the the Curt Jester blog, who quips:

I am shocked by the story of the 4th century papyrus which refers to Jesus’ wife. Shocked I tell you.  Shocked that the story wasn’t released  just before Christmas or Easter.

Oh well I guess this gives the History Channel some lead time for a new documentary for Christmas

It is always annoying when the press decides a questionable fragment of papyrus from the 4th century mean we can throw away 2000 years of Christian belief without noticing the late date of the purported fragment would put it into the beliefs of a 4th century gnostic cults. If it is written down, it must be true, right?

OR, as the CurtJester says, imagine if an archaeologist from 3000 AD finds a fragment from the book “Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter”…

Or, to take another Egyptian example: Guess what: RamsesII lied about winning the battle of Kardesh.  He has his version of the battle carved all over Egypt, and until the Hittite diplomatic records were found and deciphered, most scholars believed this braggart was telling the truth too.

As usual, after the lie story is trumpeted all over the world, some news stories are pointing out the problem: that a lot of scholars think the whole thing is a forgery.

From SFGate:

Stephen Emmel, a professor of Coptology at the University of Muenster who was on the international advisory panel that reviewed the 2006 discovery of the Gospel of Judas, …questioned whether the document was authentic. “There’s something about this fragment in its appearance and also in the grammar of the Coptic that strikes me as being not completely convincing somehow,” he said in an interview on the sidelines of the conference…

Another participant at the congress, Alin Suciu, a papyrologist at the University of Hamburg, was more blunt. “I would say it’s a forgery. The script doesn’t look authentic” when compared to other samples of Coptic papyrus script dated to the 4th century, he said.

But Professor King, who had two “experts” tell her it looked like the real thing, isn’t fazed when a couple of experienced experts point out a couple of minor problems:

King acknowledged Wednesday that questions remain about the fragment, and she welcomed the feedback from her colleagues. She said she planned to subject the document to ink tests to determine if the chemical components match those used in antiquity.

Huh? A major “breakthrough” and no one bothered to even test if the writer used modern ink? (Important because often forgers use old paper for their forgeries, and the scrap of papyrus has a lot of blotchy writing).

Reality check.

There is no reason that Christians should care if Jesus was single or married, from a theological point of view.

But what is going on is a tendency in academia to make yourself a reputation by bashing Catholic dogma. Heck, if we can prove not all Christians followed the Catholic dogma in the days of early Christianity (something that the writers of the books of Paul and John complained about in the New Testament, and Irenaeus noted in the early second century) we can prove those papists were wrong (or if you are Dan Brown, you can spin it into a conspiracy to take over the world).

Where does truth fit into this? Well, first you have to put it into context.

What is truth?

I tend to ignore a lot of the PC bible theories like the Jesus seminar, because their theories might make sense with an elite group, but Jesus was a working man who preached to ordinary folks.

After living among ordinary folks in three continents, the gospels read true to life.

Peter was a braggart who ran away. Judas was taking gifts bribes from those wanting to see Jesus, and probably skimming the purse.  Jesus didn’t beat the merchants in the Temple for selling things, but for cheating the poor and paying kickbacks to certain officials. And, after exposing their fraud, some of those on-the-take got him arrested and eliminated by the authorities to shut him up.

Heh. Sounds like the Philippines. Except that here, the favorite way to eliminate whistleblowers is a drive-by shooting from a motorcycle.

Even the “miracles” are stuff we see every day. As a doc, I know most of them are coincidence, or placebo effect, or misdiagnosis, but never mind: the folks in the stories act just like folks would act here, or in the small African villages where I worked.

This doesn’t mean that the gospels prove Jesus is God, (that takes the gift of faith) but it does suggest that they were written by someone familiar with village life, not a highfalutin philosopher or monk or the second century equivalent of a university professor who thought religion was about secret formulas and rituals to help you get spiritual power (which is what gnosticism is about, once you get past the hyperbole).

Which is why, when you read the gnostic gospels, you don’t get the feeling of ordinariness.

So Jesus had a wife? No theological problem.

But why release the story as the truth, and start filming the TV special after only two “experts” confirm your theory?

again, from the SFGate story:

Some archaeologists were quick to question Harvard’s ethics, noting that the fragment has no known provenance, or history of where it’s been, and that its current owner may have a financial interest in the publicity being generated about it.

King has said the owner wants to sell his collection to Harvard.


why am I not surprised.


Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines.

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