London: Historical experts have slammed claims made in a newly discovered ancient papyrus, which suggests that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, describing the fragment as “suspicious” and “a forgery.”
The antique attracted worldwide attention because of a bombshell phrase written in Egyptian Coptic that says Jesus refers to Magdalene as “my wife” when speaking to his disciples.
The 8cm by 4cm fragment supports an undercurrent in Christian thought that undermines centuries of Church dogma by suggesting the Christian Messiah was not celibate.
In the text, Jesus appears to be defending her against some criticism, saying “she will be my disciple.” Two lines later he then tells the disciples: “I dwell with her.”
But historical experts at a Coptic conference in Rome dismissed the papyrus, the Daily Mail reported.
Stephen Emmel, professor of Coptology at the University of Muenster, was on the international advisory panel that reviewed the 2006 discovery of the Gospel of Judas.
He said the text accurately quotes Jesus as saying “my wife,” but added: “There’s something about this fragment in its appearance and also in the grammar of the Coptic that strikes me as being not completely convincing somehow.”
University of Hamburg papyrologist Alin Suciu simply declared: “I would say it’s a forgery. The script doesn’t look authentic.”
Wolf-Peter Funk, a Coptic linguist, said the fragment cannot be judged as it has no context and dismissed it as “suspicious.”
“There are thousands of scraps of papyrus where you find crazy things. It can be anything,” he said.
The incomplete manuscript, written in the ancient Egyptian Coptic language, has been studied by Karen King, Hollis professor of divinity at Harvard University, the oldest endowed academic seat in the US.
King acknowledged there were unanswered questions about the fragment, and said she planned to carry out ink tests to determine its authenticity.
“We still have some work to do, testing the ink and so on and so forth, but what is exciting about this fragment is that it’s the first case we have of Christians claiming that Jesus had a wife,” she said.
King also made the point that the text does not offer any historical evidence of Jesus being married, merely that some Christians believed he was 200 years after he died.
She also revealed that the owner of the papyrus wants to sell it – prompting further speculation over its authenticity.