Vatican newspaper says papyrus fragment with Jesus’s wife reference was a fake, Smithsonian delays documentary

By Daniel Levine,

As criticism of the piece of papyrus that allegedly referred to Jesus’s wife mounts, the Smithsonian has decided to postpone its documentary on the papyrus. The move comes just after a Vatican newspaper declared it a fraud.

Earlier this month, Harvard Divinity School professor Karen King claimed that a small piece of papyrus claimed that it contained the phrase “Jesus said to them, 'My wife ...’” in the Coptic language.

Since then, there have been several criticisms of the findings, although King herself was sure to admit that the piece did not say definitively that Jesus had a wife.

“This fragment, this new piece of papyrus evidence, does not prove that (Jesus) was married, nor does it prove that he was not married,” King told reporters. “The earliest reliable historical tradition is completely silent on that...So we're in the same position we were before it was found. We don't know if he was married or not.”

The Vatican had remained quiet until L'Osservatore Romano editor-in-chief Gian Maria Vian published an editorial Friday that called it a fake, reported CNN.

“Substantial reasons would lead us to conclude that the papyrus is actually a clumsy counterfeit,” he wrote. “In other words, in any case it is a fake.”

The editorial also took aim at the American media, essentially stating that it blew the story out of proportion.

The Smithsonian Channel planned to air a documentary on King’s findings, but have decided to shelve it for the time being. According to The Washington Post, it was supposed to air on Sunday, but has been delayed “until the text undergoes further tests,” a spokesman said.

King’s analysis will be published in the January edition of Harvard Theological Review. She did post a draft at the Harvard Divinity School's website.

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