Source Newsroom: Cornell University
Kim Haines-Eitzen, the Chair for the Department of Near Eastern Studies, and the Director of the Religious Studies Program, discusses the recent revelation by Karen King, Harvard Divinity School, of evidence that Jesus had a wife.
“The news of a papyrus fragment that mentions Jesus’ wife is the latest in a long string of recent media sensationalism regarding early Christian origins.
“We have only to recall the James Ossuary Inscription, the Gospel of Judas, and the ‘Jesus in the Dead Sea Scrolls’ hype. New evidence naturally helps us understand and reconstruct early Christian history. But even if validated, this papyrus is certainly not evidence that Jesus had a wife, as Professor King herself admits.
“What it would show is nothing new to historians: early Christianity was remarkably diverse – as are other religious traditions then and now – and debates about celibacy, gender and sexuality were closely interwoven with theological controversies.
“For me, as a scholar of religion, these news stories offer exceptional teaching moments, not just about how to reconstruct history but also about how the contemporary religious imagination is engaged by the past.
“Whether or not Jesus had a wife is beyond what this papyrus can tell us; rather, it demonstrates once again the fascination with religious figures and religious controversies is no less modern than it was ancient.”