Jesus 'Wife' Papyrus Is a Fake: Expert

Francis Watson: Modern forger 'patched' it together

By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff

Posted Sep 22, 2012 3:08 PM CDT

(Newser) – A New Testament scholar has weighed in on the ancient document that mentions Jesus having a wife, the Guardian reports. His verdict: Not worth the papyrus it's written on. "I would be very surprised if it were not a modern forgery," writes Francis Watson of Durham University in an online article. He argues that the sentence fragments on the document are copied—with small changes—from editions of the Gospel of Thomas currently in print.

Watson even spotted a line break in one word that appears taken from a modern version of the gospel, which is an ancient Christian or Gnostic work. "The text has been constructed out of small pieces—words or phrases—culled mostly from the Coptic Gospel of Thomas," he writes. "This level of dependence on extant pieces of Coptic text is more plausibly attributed to a modern author." Watson says the papyrus itself may date back 1,700 years, but the author was modern and had a "limited facility in Coptic."

Divinity professor Karen L. King holds a fourth-century fragment of papyrus that she says is the only existing ancient text that quotes Jesus explicitly referring to having a wife.   (AP Photo/Harvard University, Rose Lincoln)
The papyrus in question.   (AP Photo/Harvard University, Karen L. King)
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