The new discovery of an ancient sheet of papyrus has thrown the scholarly world into an uproar. This papyrus was written in Coptic during the fourth century. A historian at Harvard Divinity School has translated it as saying (among other things) a quote from Jesus referring to his wife. Jesus is further quoted as saying that his wife "will be able to be my disciple."
New evidence claims Jesus was married
Were he and Mary Magdalene husband and wife?
The papyrus and the scholar's findings were made public this week in Rome, at a conference of Coptic scholars. The papyrus' owner (a collector of rare Greek and Coptic papyrus fragments) has asked to remain anonymous and the provenance of the scrap of paper (about the size of a business card, according to MSNBC) is unknown. However, experts have concluded that the paper is most likely not a forgery.
Christian scholars have debated for centuries about the relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene, and there have been rumors that Jesus had a female disciple. This tantalizing scrap of historical record adds fuel to both of those fires.
It's not just a musty old historical debate, either. If Jesus had a female disciple, it would greatly improve the standing of women in the Catholic church among others. Historically, the religious oppression of women has been partly due to the inferior roles women were assigned in the Bible. But if Jesus had a wife - an equal - as well as a female disciple, it might change some minds.
After all, the entire reason that the Vatican ruled that women cannot become priests or married men is due to the example that Jesus supposedly set. But what if this tiny scrap of paper turns that conventional wisdom on its head?
Of course, it may be too early to jump to these conclusions, much less to lionize Dan Brown for having promoted the idea of Mary Magdalene having been married to Jesus. Fans of The Da Vinci Code are crying "Aha!" in the wake of this revelation. It seems to bolster Brown's claims (which he lifted whole cloth from Holy Blood, Holy Grail) that Mary Magdalene was a far larger figure in biblical history than history has portrayed.
But when you get right down to it, this is just a scrap of paper on which someone, 400 years after the death of Jesus, wrote about Jesus being married. I can pull out a sheet of paper and write that Jesus was married to Pippa Middleton and they drove a minivan full of four kids plus the family dog to soccer practice. But that doesn't make it true, no matter how many scholars translate it.