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BREAKING NEWS! A Significant New Non-Canonical Gospel Fragment

There is potentially exciting news just out this afternoon. Karen King, scholar of Coptic and Gnosticism at Harvard Divinity School, an expert on the Gnostic Gospels, has just released information about a newly discovered papyrus manuscript – a small fragment the size of a credit card. It is a Gospel fragment of only eight lines. But they are significant lines. On them, Jesus appears to refer … to his wife!!


Here are the graphics and some links.   This is just breaking news, so I don’t have anything more to say about it.

Front of fourth-century papyrus fragment

Front of fourth-century papyrus fragment

Karen L. King’s translation of the 8 lines from the front.

Papyrus front text: Karen L. King 2012

Papyrus front text: Karen L. King 2012

Karen L. King’s translation of the 6 lines on the back.

Fourth-century CE codex in Coptic on Back

Fourth-century CE codex in Coptic on reverse side.


Papyrus reverse side text: Karen L. King 2012

Papyrus reverse side text: Karen L. King 2012.




And here’s a draft of King’s article Harvard Divinity put out:
http://www.hds.harvard.edu/faculty-research/research-projects/the-gospel-of-jesuss-wife [/private]

The Gospel of Jesus’s Wife
Problems with the NRSV (Part 3)



  1. Avatar
    dallaswolf  September 18, 2012

    Did any of the early Apologists ever quote or mention any “heresy” like this? The Da Vinci Coders will be out in force!

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  September 20, 2012

      There are church fathers who deal with the question of whether it is legitimate to marry, but off hand I don’t know of any who deals with the question of whether Jesus was married.

  2. Avatar
    JMarkJones  September 18, 2012

    well that settles it. I’m telling my wife tonight, “babe, you’re now my disciple…you got a problem with that? Talk to The Man.” There again, maybe not (smile). Seriously, very interesting Dr. Ehrman. I saw it earier today in the news and wondered what your take on it would be.

  3. gmatthews
    gmatthews  September 18, 2012

    Is there any estimate on how many lost fragments like this one might be in private hands that have never been made public?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  September 20, 2012

      No estimates that I know of! No way to know, really.

      • gmatthews
        gmatthews  September 20, 2012

        I meant lost fragments that are known to exist in private hands, but that have never been published and that are believed to be “new” fragments. Obviously there’s no way to know how many are in private hands that have never been mentioned or shown to any scholar. Every time a new fragment or gospel is made public (e.g. Thomas, Judas, or even just earlier texts of well-known gospels etc.) I always wonder how many more are out there that scholars know about, but that lay people like me may never hear about.

  4. Avatar
    Mikail78  September 18, 2012

    Just maybe the historical Jesus was married. It’s not beyond the realm of possibility. We’ll probably never know for sure. I always wondered where the idea that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute came from, considering there’s nothing in the New Testament, at least to my knowledge, that indicates this. If Mary Magdalene was a prostitute, that raises some interesting questions. Did she work for the equivalent of an escort agency back in antiquity? 🙂 Sorry if that’s uncalled for. I couldn’t resist. I’ll shut up now.

  5. Avatar
    songster  September 19, 2012

    Always wondered why none of Jesus or the 12 are ever mentioned as being married. Thought marriage was required of males of a certain age.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  September 20, 2012

      Yes, in later times that may have been true. But in the time of the New Testament we know of numerous Jews who were not married (or required to be married), and even Jewish groups (some Essenes) that discouraged marriage. I’ll deal with this later on the blog.

    • Avatar
      EdwardAlan  October 2, 2012

      Peter is said to have a wife in Mt. 8:14, Mk 1:30 & Lk 4:38.

  6. Avatar
    Pat Ferguson  September 19, 2012

    Hmm. “The Da Vinci Code” redux?

  7. Avatar
    Dennis Steenbergen  September 19, 2012

    Wow, Jesus got laid. Sweet.

  8. Avatar
    jimmo  September 19, 2012

    The Harvard article says “Since it refers to Jesus and Mary, it had to have been written after the first century CE.” Why is that?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  September 20, 2012

      Well, strictly speaking it had to be written after they were born. 🙂

      • Avatar
        jimmo  September 20, 2012

        I know that!! :-} Seem like with “after the first century CE” we are talking at least one, if not two, generations. What specifically leads us to the conclusion that it was not from the same time as the canonical gospels or even the Pauline epistles? The fact that non mention a wife and that this first appears in the second century?

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  September 20, 2012

          Yes, I’m agreeing with you!

  9. Avatar
    BradJaeger  September 19, 2012


  10. Avatar
    SJB  September 19, 2012

    Exciting news. The media have been fairly measured in their reports. Alan Boyle at MSNBC quoted you and gave a balanced summation of what the manuscript is and what it might mean. As usual the public comments to the article ranged from amusing to borderline psychotic. I don’t know how many crazy people there are out there but there are sure a lot of crazy ideas floating about.

    A question though. Appparently this fragment wound up in private hands before Prof King had a chance to examine it. Would you say that it happens frequently that these valuable artifacts are collected without first being examined by scholars?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  September 20, 2012

      Yes, it does happen a good deal. Most recently with the Gospel of Judas. The problem is that scholars almost never *find* these things, and so they get to them through other means. But it’s a huge problem. Without knowing when and where, and even how, they were discvoered, there is always reason to doubt their authenticity.

  11. Avatar
    maxhirez  September 19, 2012

    Doesn’t this date to about the time of Vaticanus/Sianiticus, and doesn’t that kind of diminish its impact in light of the fact that its (assumed) composition would have been around or after the era of the proto-orthodox canonical “victory?” Is the value in showing how hard it was for the orthodoxy to stamp out the heresies of the era?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  September 20, 2012

      It’s also the time of the Nag Hammadi library (the Gnostic Gospels). It does show there was a lot of variety out there still in the fourth century (if it’s authentic).

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