Buzz still abounds about a Harvard scholar’s discovery of a fourth-century Coptic papyrus that provides clues as to what early Christians thought about Jesus.
On the subject of the newly discovered papyrus that quoted Jesus as saying “my wife…” world-renowned theologian N.T. Wright simply had this to say:
“The only surprise was that it’s September. Normally things like this emerge in the ‘silly season’ of July or August. … No serious scholar, whether Christian, Jewish or atheist, will give it more than a sad smile.”
On Tuesday, Karen King, a historian of early Christianity at Harvard Divinity School, presented a paper at a conference in Rome, with information that reignited questions about Jesus’ life as well as debate about celibacy, family and marriage. Jesus being unmarried is a long held traditional Christian belief.
“King also acknowledged that Jesus might have been speaking figuratively when he referred to ‘my wife.’ After all, the fragment is just 33 words long, with incomplete sentences and very little context,” Religion News Service reported Wednesday.
An anonymous private collector contacted King to analyze the ancient text. Some scholars have questioned its authenticity.
“I would say it’s a forgery. The script doesn’t look authentic” when compared with other samples of Coptic papyrus script dated to the fourth century,” said Alin Suciu, a papyrologist at the University of Hamburg in Germany, the Associated Press reported.
A draft of King’s paper about the fourth-century papyrus fragment is available on the divinity school Web site. Her analysis is slated to appear in a forthcoming article in the Harvard Theological Review.
But on Friday, the journal said the research about the ancient text hasn’t been fully verified despite attention given to the text earlier in the week.
AP reported Friday that the “the review’s co-editor Kevin Madigan said he and his co-editor had only ‘provisionally’ committed to a January publication, pending the results of the ongoing studies. In an e-mail, Madigan said the added studies include ‘scientific dating and further reports from Coptic papyrologists and grammarians.’”
The Smithsonian Channel will premiere a special documentary about the papyrus and King’s research on Sunday.