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Gospel of Jesus' Wife

A newly identified Coptic codex

Prof. Karen L. King of Harvard Divinity School has identified a very small piece of ancient papyrus as being a 4th century CE Christian text written in Coptic. huffingtonpost.com. The document's provenance is sketchy. Dr. King states, "The papyrus currently belongs to a private collector. * * * [I]ts language (Sahidic Coptic) as well as the conditions for the preservation of organic material indicate that it was found in Egypt. Nothing is known about the circumstances of its discovery * * *." A New Coptic Gospel Papyrus by Karen L. King at p. 2. Prof. King and two other scholars found, "Our lengthy discussion about the characteristics of the papyrus (detailed below) concluded with the judgement that the papyrus was very likely an authentic ancient text that could be dated on paleographical grounds to circa 4th century C.E." ibid at p. 3.

Skipping past additional preliminaries, here is the translation of the fragmented text published by King.
1 ] “not [to] me. My mother gave to me li[fe…”
2 ] The disciples said to Jesus, “.[
3 ] deny. Mary is worthy of it
4 ]……” Jesus said to them, “My wife . .[ [
5 ]… she will be able to be my disciple . . [
6 ] Let wicked people swell up … [
7] As for me, I dwell with her in order to . [
8] an image [

1 ] my moth[er
2 ] three [
3 ] … [
4 ] forth which … [
5 ] (illegible ink traces)
6 ] (illegible ink traces)
ibid at pages 15-16. Three things jump out from this text: a) Mary was a disciple of Jesus, b) the other disciples were not happy about that fact, c) Mary was the wife of Jesus. One can quibble whether "Mary" referred to in line 3 of the text is the same as "my wife" referred to in line 4 but I think the intention is clear. In no text does Jesus ever refer to his mother as "Mary". Thus, although his mother is referenced in line 1, I think it is clear that "Mary" in line 3 refers to the wife of Jesus.

Prof. King makes an interesting connection between line 1 of the text and a Nag Hammadi text.
A probable restoration for the lacuna prior to first line and in 1: * * * [�gWhoever does not hate his father and his mother will] not [be able to become] my [disciple]. My mother gave me li[fe]�h) can be suggested based on comparison with GosThom 101 (49:32-50:11); cp. also Luke 14:26 (Sahidic).
ibid at page 16. Note: I previously discussed G of T, Saying 101 in this essay, see middle of page. This new codex, in my view, fits firmly within the milieu of texts from Nag Hammadi. It also reminds one of the Gospel According to Mary, which takes place post-crucifixion and without the presence of Jesus among the disciples. Therein, the disciples acknowledge that Jesus taught Mary and ask her to share the knowledge with them. When she does, they argue whether the content of what she relates really came from the master. Andrew flatly refuses to believe Mary. Peter questions Mary also apparently not believing Mary. Levi defends Mary. This new codex appears to relate an argument between Jesus and his disciples over the status of Mary as a disciple, which dovetails nicely with the subject matter of the Gospel According to Mary. In my view, this lends weight to the argument for its authenticity.

The King report is quite definitive that the text has Jesus referring to his wife. "The meaning of taàime as 'my wife' is unequivocal; the word can have only this meaning. Given that Jesus is the speaker, the possessive article indicates that he is speaking of his wife." ibid at page 18. That fact by itself is of huge significance to understanding the historical Jesus.


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