(Photo: Karen L. King/Harvard University via Reuters)
In 2012, Harvard Divinity School historian Karen L. King ignited a firestorm when she announced the discovery of a papyrus fragment that suggested that Jesus may have been married. Now, a paper published Thursday in the Harvard Theological Review claims that the document is likely ancient and not a modern forgery.
The controversial suggestion that Jesus had a wife is due to the phrase "Jesus said to them, 'My wife...'" on the fragment. Also, the phrase "she will be able to be my disciple" has some reassessing the role of women in religious leadership.
Dr. King maintains that the fragment is not proof of Jesus's marriage.
"The main topic of the fragment is to affirm that women who are mothers and wives can be disciples of Jesus—a topic that was hotly debated in early Christianity as celibate virginity increasingly became highly valued," she said, according to a Harvard press release.
Analysis by scientists from Columbia University, Harvard and MIT suggests that the fragment is part of an ancient manuscript and has not been tampered with.
MIT chemistry professor Timothy Swager, who worked on the project, told the New York Times there is "absolutely no evidence" that the fragment was doctored, calling it "extremely difficult, if not impossible."
The Harvard Theological Review also published a rebuttal by Leo Depuydt, a professor of Egyptology at Brown University, who, after considering the ink, papyrus and contradicting results of radiocarbon dating tests, is "100% convinced that the Wife of Jesus Fragment is a forgery."