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Does Coptic Papyrus Prove Jesus was Married?

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Dr. Karen L. King, a professor at Harvard Divinity School, has released what she claims may be a 4th century papyrus that depicts Jesus as being. Here’s how the “discovery” is being reported:

“A small fragment of faded papyrus contains a suggestion that Jesus may have been married.

“The fragment, with just eight lines of text on the front and six lines on the back, is from a fourth-century dialogue, written in the Coptic language, between Jesus and his disciples. In it, Jesus speaks of ‘my wife,’ according to Harvard professor Karen L. King, who discovered the fragment.

“‘The most exciting line in the whole fragment . . . is the sentence ‘Jesus said to them [his disciples], my wife.’”

Anyone familiar with the history of Christian doctrine knows that the church has always taught that Jesus never married because there is no mention of Him being married. There is nothing in the gospel accounts, the book of Acts, where we would expect to find mention of Jesus’ wife since His mother and brothers are mentioned (1:14) or in the epistles. While Jesus holds up the sanctity of marriage (Matt. 19:1–12), it was not His designed purpose to marry. His bride is the church (John 3:29; Eph. 5:25–27; Rev. 19:7–9; 21:2, 9).

Attacks on the Christian faith are a dime a dozen. It wasn’t that long ago that there were claims that Jesus’ burial box (ossuary) was found implying that Jesus did not rise from the dead on third day “according to the Scriptures.” Such an assertion went to the heart of the Christian faith. The apostle Paul wrote:

“Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied” (1 Cor. 15:12–20).

So what’s the answer to the 4th-century papyrus that claims Jesus was married?

First, the claim that that it’s a 4th-century document, written 300 years after an abundance of first-century testimony to the contrary, is a huge problem for the veracity of the papyrus. The gospels and epistles are first-century, eye-witness historical accounts (1 John 1:1–4). All the New Testament books were written prior to the destruction of Jerusalem that took place in AD 70. See John A.T. Robinson’s book Redating the New Testament for a defense of this position.

To reject first-century, eye-witness testimony would be like someone in 1920 claiming they had a better understanding of the Pilgrim landing in Massachusetts and the settlement in Plymouth than than the eyewitness account of William Bradford’s Of Plymouth Plantation.

Second, the papyrus is a fragment. A fragment of what? Who was the author? We don’t know. King’s site on the papyrus states: “This remaining piece is too small to tell us anything definite about who may have composed, read, or circulated it.” Consider how many false attributions there have been in recorded history.

Third, there were many documents that were written centuries after Jesus lived that had views of Jesus that deliberately portrayed Him in a way that suited Gnostic beliefs. It’s not much different from the way Marxists and Socialists try to portray Jesus as a Marxist and Socialist.

Fourth, a number of scholars consider the fragment to be a forgery. The antiquities market is filled with them. The papyrus lacks a history of discovery. “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.”

It’s rather suspicious that the only fragment that is available to the public is one that deals with a Gnostic myth that is the heart of so much liberal “scholarship” today. That’s why it’s not surprising that Francis Watson, a New Testament scholar at Durham University in England, argues in “The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife: How a Fake Gospel-Fragment was Composed” that the “text has been constructed out of small pieces – words or phrases – culled from the Coptic Gospel of Thomas (GTh), especially Sayings 30, 45, 101 and 114, and set in new contexts. This is most probably the compositional procedure of a modern author who is not a native speaker of Coptic.”

Try to pass off a signature of Honus Wagner, Shoeless Joe Jackson, or Babe Ruth as the real deal with no provenance. It can’t be done with experts In the room. Only someone anxious for it to be real will take a chance on a non-verified signature or someone who wants to make a quick buck.

On the August 27, 2012, edition of “Pawn Stars,” a guy came in with a book that he claimed was signed by “Shoeless” Joe Jackson:

“Rick informed the guy that Joe Jackson’s signature is one of the rarest sports autographs. He was a baseball legend that was expelled from baseball for his part in the 1918 Black Sox scandal. The book was Say Tt Aint So, Joe, which was a collaboration of stories about the darker side of sports, including several about Joe. ‘Shoeless’ Joe Jackson was illiterate and his wife was the one who commonly signed copies of the book, but this particular book had another signature matched to Joe’s hand writing. Rick was thrilled by the idea of buying the book, and he decided not to call his hand writing expert. The guy asked a crazy $30,000 which was way out of the ballpark. Rick offered $13,000 as his top price on the big risk.”

As it turned out, Rick made a bad choice. His hand-writing expert was not convinced the signature was real, “but she encouraged Rick to try and get more opinions because Joe Jackson’s signature can be hard to authenticate. . . . Rick sent the book out to a sports’ signature expert and revealed the results at the end of the show.” The autograph was not authentic.

The sports memorabilia world has more integrity than many of today’s academic authorities.

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