Was Jesus married? A business card-sized piece of papyrus recently identified by the Harvard Divinity School implies that maybe—just maybe—he was. Apparently the scrap not only reads "Jesus said to them, 'My wife...'" but also, and this could be important, says "she will be able to be my disciple." Dan "The DaVinci Code" Brown must be very happy about this news.
The provenance of the papyrus, which was made public in Rome yesterday, is unknown; but according to Harvard historian Karen King, the people she has shown the second century fragment to believe it to be authentic. What exactly it means is difficult to say—though Harvard actually has a pretty great FAQ set up about it already to go along with a draft af King's article on the "New Coptic Gospel." Still, King does give some context in her article, explaining of the document:
This is the only extant ancient text which explicitly portrays Jesus as referring to a wife. It does not, however, provide evidence that the historical Jesus was married, given the late date of the fragment and the probable date of original composition only in the second half of the second century. Nevertheless, if the second century date of composition is correct, the fragment does provide direct evidence that claims about Jesus’s marital status first arose over a century after the death of Jesus in the context of intra-Christian controversies over sexuality, marriage, and discipleship.
Where this document could get really interesting, the Times notes, is in modern discussions of the role of women in the Roman Catholic Church. But before that conversation happens there is a lot of squinting at a tiny piece of very old papyrus to be done!