A Portion of Papyrus and the so called “Wife of Jesus”

Photo credit:  Photo by Karen L. King

A fourth century scrap of papyrus written in Coptic has received headlines and mass attention in the media. What is all the fuss about? It contains a line that says, “Jesus said to them, ‘my wife…’” along with some other incomplete sentences. Does this mean that He did have a wife? How should Christians respond to such a finding and media fuss?

Firstly, it is interesting that the media ignores the content of second and third century findings that affirm the reliability and teaching of the New Testament, but place great attention on this fourth century portion of papyrus. Apologist, James White observes in a recent blog post, “Funny how the media makes so much of tiny scraps from the fourth century but never tell anyone about the tiny scraps from the second century that substantiate the canonical, biblical testimony of Jesus, isn’t it?”

Secondly, it is amazing how many conclusions and speculations begin based on an incomplete sentence of a portion of papyrus. Why not write about ancient finding that carry overwhelming support of other numerous manuscripts and ancient translations?

Unlike this portion of papyrus, the New Testament is a reflection of an extraordinary preservation of ancient documents. There are over 5,300 manuscripts containing parts of the New Testament (small and large portions) and it is estimated that almost an entire translation of the New Testament could be formed based on the writings of the early church fathers alone. Dated from around AD 100-150 is a small papyrus containing a few verses from the Gospel of John confirmed by other documents and writings years and centuries later. However, many ignore an overwhelming amount of evidence pointing to consistency in place of hype in the media.

Such a statement found in this fourth century portion of papyrus ignores the teaching of the New Testament and is in no way to be viewed as a document carrying Divine authority.

I conclude with these important words from Al Mohler,
“This is sensationalism masquerading as scholarship. Nevertheless, do not miss what all this really represents — an effort to replace biblical Christianity with an entirely new faith.1
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Recommended Reading:

A Note to the Secular World: Do Your History By the faithful Dr James White (blog post)

Reasons We Believe by Nathan Busenitz (especially pages 113-152)

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Andrew Courtis

Andrew Courtis

ANDREW - Serves as Pastor of Hills Bible Church. I am married to Dianne and we have three children (Kate, Emma and Jack). I was born and raised in Melbourne, moved to Adelaide to undertake theological studies (BMin.), and have completed additional studies with the Australian College of Theology (MATh.). I have served in pastoral ministry in both Melbourne and Sydney and am a qualified school teacher. I am committed to expository preaching and making the word of God known and understood.

2 thoughts on “A Portion of Papyrus and the so called “Wife of Jesus””

  1. Thanks Andrew for this. Often people try to find evidence to back up their belief/political agenda/passion instead of allowing their faith to be refined by the truth revealed in the tested and proven early manuscripts of the Bible.

    Apologetics often brings out two types of people: Those who want to learn and those who just want to argue. We can get caught up in unproductive conversations that don’t testify to the mercy and saving grace that God has for all those who sincerely want to be saved.

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