The small papyrus fragment, which has been authenticated, shows that some early Christians rejected priestly celebecy and saw Jesus as a married man – just as his earliest Jewish followers probably did.
Harvard Magazine reports:
…Hollis professor of divinity Karen L. King revealed to a conference of Coptic scholars [in Rome] the existence of a newly discovered Christian gospel. In the fragmentary text, Jesus refers unmistakably to “my wife.”
Written on a piece of papyrus now reduced to just four centimeters high and eight wide, the fragment addresses issues of family and discipleship. “This is the only extant ancient text which explicitly portrays Jesus as referring to a wife,” King writes in her scholarly paper on the “The Gospel of Jesus’s Wife,” which she presented at the Tenth International Congress of Coptic Studies. The session took place across the street from the Vatican at the Institutum Patristicum Augustinianum, a research center within the faculty of theology at the Pontifical Lateran University (known as the Pope’s University).
The paper will appear in the January 2013 issue of the Harvard Theological Review. In an interview, King emphasized that this new discovery does not prove that the historical Jesus was married. This gospel, like others dated to the second century which make opposing claims—that Jesus was celibate, for example—are too late, historically speaking, to provide any evidence as to whether the historical Jesus was married or not, she says. But the fragment does suggest that 150 years or so after Jesus’s birth, Christians were already taking positions on such questions. Significantly, this new text pushes the date at which some Christians were asserting that Jesus was married back to a time contemporaneous with the earliest assertions that he was celibate.…
Close examination had shown that the papyrus was originally created as though it would be used in a scroll. The “joint” or kollêsis between two sheets of papyrus is clearly visible. But the writing on both the front and back of the fragment indicated that it was part of a codex, an early form of book. In the fourth century, scrolls were being made in the traditional way and then cut into sheets like modern pages so that they could be stitched together in book form. Furthermore, a hole in the papyrus where an insect had gnawed it after the ink had been laid strengthened the case for the fragment’s authenticity, as did the presence of ink on damaged, dangling strands of papyrus fibers at the edge of the fragment. “This is almost impossible for a forger to recreate,” says King.
King also sought the expert opinion of Ariel Shisha-Halevy, an expert in Coptic linguistics at Hebrew University, who wrote that he believes on the basis of language and grammar that the text is authentic: “That is to say, all of its noteworthy grammatical features either separately or conjointly do not warrant condemning it as a forgery.”…