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Papyrus Scrap Ignites Jesus Marriage Debate

  • VOA News

Karen King, a professor at Harvard Divinity School, is interviewed outside the Augustinianum institute in Rome, where an international congress on Coptic studies is being held, Sept. 19, 2012.

Karen King, a professor at Harvard Divinity School, is interviewed outside the Augustinianum institute in Rome, where an international congress on Coptic studies is being held, Sept. 19, 2012.

Religious scholars in Rome are arguing over a tiny scrap of papyrus that may indicate some early Christians thought Jesus Christ had a wife.

Speaking this week at a religious studies conference, U.S. professor Karen King of Harvard Divinity School announced that scholars are studying a piece of papyrus that quotes Jesus as saying the words "my wife." King says the papyrus dates from the 4th century, but the age of the ink needs more testing.

The words are written in Coptic, a language of ancient Egyptian Christians, and the context of the words is unclear, as they appear on a scrap only a little larger than a business card.

King says the words do not prove Jesus was married, only that some early Christians may have thought so. Christian tradition has long held that Jesus remained unmarried.

Any new finding about his relationships with women, whether as partners or as disciples, could affect debates about the role of women in the Christian faith.

The artifact is owned by a private collector, leading some skeptics to speculate the owner is courting publicity to increase the value of the object.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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