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What does the “Mrs. Jesus” Papyrus Mean?

A tantalizing discovery–especially tantalizing for those who think The DaVinci Code to be more than just fiction–has hit the news circuit today. A piece of 1,600-year-old papyrus, apparently authentic, has surfaced in Egypt. On this piece of ancient paper, we find the following intriguing bits:

“Jesus said to them, ‘My wife…'” and

“she will be able to be my disciple”

Wow! That pretty much ices this whole Biblical Christianity belief that Jesus never married, doesn’t it? The conservative folks should just fold their tents and skulk quietly back to their hovels where they can bitterly cling their guns and religion. Or maybe not.

Like the much ballyhooed Gospel of Judas, this scrap of paper needn’t mean very much in the grand scheme of Biblical studies. Assuming that it is not a forgery, all it means is that somebody a millenium and a half gone by (and 400 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection) wrote about somebody named Jesus and claimed that this Jesus had a wife.

Let’s imagine for a moment that someone a few hundred years from now finds a scrap of document–probably a fragmented computer file–that indicates that Barack Obama was born in Kenya. That piece of text would seem to be better evidence than the papyrus, since it was produced during the historical figure’s lifetime, yet such a text would not prove anything. It might indicate that some people doubt the birthplace of the President or that some people want to muddy the waters by claiming a foreign birth for the man, but it would not prove anything.

If this fragment proves anything, it is simply that Jesus (presumably the one from Nazareth) has generated a lot of writing over the centuries. That’s good, since I’m centuries late sending a wedding present.

Posted in Commentary.

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