'Jesus' Wife' Papyrus Testing Delays Harvard Theological Review Report on Discovery

The Harvard Theological Review's latest journal has left out the long-awaited article describing the discovery of a Coptic papyrus fragment believed to reference the wife of Jesus, after it was announced that more tests need to be conducted to determine the legitimacy of the artifact.

"We're moving ahead with the testing, but it is not yet complete, and so the article will await until we have the results," Harvard Divinity School professor Karen King shared with CNN.

"The owner of the fragment has been making arrangements for further testing and analysis of the fragment, including testing by independent laboratories with the resources and specific expertise necessary to produce and interpret reliable results. This testing is still underway," added Kathryn Dodgson, director of communications for the Harvard Divinity School.

Dubbed the "Jesus' wife" papyrus, the fragment was unveiled by King in Sept. 2012 at a conference in Rome. The professor claimed that it was the only existing ancient text which refers to Jesus having a wife, presumably by the name of Mary. Believed to be from the 2nd century, some of the artifact's translated passages from Coptic read: "Jesus said to them," "My wife …" and "she will be able to be my disciple …"

King and her team called the text "the Gospel of Jesus' Wife," but its authenticity has been widely questioned by scholars and theologians. The Vatican's leading newspaper also suggested that it was a fake, with Alberto Camplani, a leading scholar on Coptic documents, writing in L'Osservatore Romano:

"In spite of the drift in the media marked by tones which are quick to shock, unlike so many other items presented at the conference, the papyrus was not discovered in the process of excavation but came from an antiquarian market," Camplani wrote. "Such an object demands that numerous precautions be taken to establish its reliability and exclude the possibility of forgery."

The Smithsonian Channel had been planning a documentary on the fragment, calling it "one of the most significant discoveries of all time," and prepping for a Sept. 30, 2012 air date, but later decided to postpone the show indefinitely until further testing was conducted. In October, the channel announced that the postponement "will enable us to present a richer and more complete story. We will be announcing a new premiere date in the coming weeks," although no such date has yet been set.

In a draft of the lengthy paper that was supposed to be published in the January edition of the Harvard Theological Review, King writes that the finding and its announcement was not an attempt to reconstruct the historical Jesus.

"Nor do I argue that historically there is any evidence that if Jesus was married, it was to Mary Magdalene. She appears in the most reliable historical information as a prominent disciple of Jesus," King wrote.

Dodgson of Harvard Divinity School insisted, however, that the journal would eventually publish the paper once testing of the fragment is completed.

"Harvard Theological Review is planning to publish Professor King's paper after conclusion of all the testing so that the results may be incorporated. Until testing is complete, there is nothing more to say at this point," Dodgson said.