Jesus Christ May Have Had a Wife; Every Thug Needs a LadyS

Looks like you really will be the last person you know to be married: a scrap of ancient papyrus that some scholars are calling a new gospel suggests that confirmed bachelor Jesus Christ may, in fact, have had a wife.

Here's the fragment (one of nine incomplete lines on the papyrus) that has everyone elbowing Christ in the ribs and arching their eyebrows at him:

"…Jesus said to them, ‘My wife…'"

Word of the papyrus scrap, believed to be a 4th century copy of a 2nd century Greek text, comes from Karen L. King, a professor of divinity from Harvard, who tells Harvard Magazine she received it from a collector who wishes to remain anonymous.

Though King has begun referring to the papyrus scrap as "The Gospel of Jesus' Wife," she is eager to point out that it doesn't offer any proof that Jesus was really married; only that some Christians in the second century believed him to be. (Other surviving fragments from the same time period identify Jesus as celibate.)

If the lines are, in fact, a copy of an earlier Greek text, the earliest they would likely have been written is 150 years after Jesus' death, well after anyone who might have known Jesus (or his lovely wife Brittany) would have died.

According to Harvard Magazine, the fragment's current owner is a collector of Coptic (and Greek and Arabic) papyri, who approached Professor King to translate the text because he does not read Coptic, but merely collects priceless, irreplaceable scraps of ancient papyrus records for funsies.

After initially blowing him off because she had better things to do than look at some guy's cool piece of trash with squiggles on it, King then examined digital photographs of the artifact and eventually asked to see it in person. She then enlisted the help of a couple of the world's leading papyrologists—who were definitely super busy; it's a miracle they were available.

The group was wary of verifying the document at first, especially since, the Boston Globe notes, pieces of papyrus are easy to acquire on the antiquities market and also sharpies are easy to acquire at many office supply stores. But based upon a number of factors, including hard-to-replicate insect damage, traces of ink left on damaged, and fraying end fragments, the crew determined that the artifact just might be authentic.

However, the fact that the scholars are pretty sure the text is not a forgery hasn't kept them from bitching about the quality of the penmanship like a couple of hyper mean elementary school teachers:

"We put it up on the screen and we all sort of said, ‘Eeew,' " said [Roger Bagnall, one of the papyrologists who studied the scrap]. "We thought it was ugly. And it is ugly. The handwriting is not nice — thick, badly controlled strokes made by somebody who didn't have a very good pen."

Nagging, nagging, nagging. Just like Jesus' wife used to do.

Harvard Magazine // Boston Globe // Image via Tony Alter/flickr