Dan Brown may not have been the only one believing Jesus was married as new findings are revealed.
A piece of papyrus with the words, “Jesus said to them, ‘My Wife,” shows some early Christians may have believed the Son of God was married.
The small piece of papyrus is written in Coptic, a language used by Egyptian Christians, was unveiled to the world the International Association for Coptic Studies in Rome. Harvard Divinity School Professor Karen King revealed the 1.5 inch by 3 inch tattered papyrus and with it reignited the great debate over Jesus being married.
“Christian tradition has long held that Jesus was not married, even though no reliable historical evidence exists to support that claim,” King said. “This fragment suggests that other Christians of that period were claiming that he was married. The ‘Gospel of Jesus’s Wife’ now shows that some Christians thought otherwise,” she said.
The provenance of the papyrus is not completely known. In 2010 King was contacted to help translate it by a private collector who has remained anonymous. The Coptic nature of the writing may mean its origins are from Syria or Egypt. The way in which it was obtained is still unknown which has led to it being dismissed by many.
While the belief that Jesus was married would be a shock to most Christians, for a Latter-day Saint the discovery would only solidify the importance and sacredness of marriage. The LDS document ‘The Family: A Proclamation to the World’ was released by the Church in 1995 and reiterates marriage as an important aspect of life. “The family is ordained of God,” it states. “Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan.”
Dr. Matthew Grey, Professor of Ancient Scripture at BYU, said the papyrus “only shows that the Christian community of later centuries was interested in the question of Jesus’ marital status, and that this particular community (possibly Gnostics in second or third century Egypt) believed that Jesus was married. Other texts from this period, including the Gnostic Gospel of Philip, show a similar interest and belief. While this is a valuable insight into the dynamics of Egyptian Christianity in Late Antiquity, it does not affect our understanding of the historical Jesus.
“It is important for Latter-day Saints to remember that the Church does not have an official position on Jesus’ marital status,” Grey said. “The canonical New Testament gospels do not provide evidence one way or the other. Restoration scripture, both ancient and modern, similarly does not comment on the issue. Ultimately, we do not know whether or not Jesus was married, and this fragment does not change that.”
BYU Student and LDS church member Kyle Spencer said that while the papyrus “hadn’t yet been found to be authentic” knowing that it was real or not wasn’t “pertinent to my salvation.”
If it were true it would “prove that other religions traditions were incorrect, such as celibacy and refraining from marriage,” Spencer said. “But it wouldn’t disprove anything that we believe because we believe that to obtain exaltation we have to be married.”
Although early leaders of the LDS church expressed their personal views on the debate the Church itself has no official view. In 2006, Dale Bills, a spokesman for the Church, gave a statement which said, “The belief that Christ was married has never been official Church doctrine. It is neither sanctioned nor taught by the church. While it is true that a few church leaders in the mid-1800s expressed their opinions on the matter, it was not then, and is not now, church doctrine”.