Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Jesus evokes his wife

When I heard that the US novelist Dan Brown had suggested, in The Da Vinci Code, that Jesus had been married to Mary Magdalene, I was totally uninterested. Besides, I struggled through no more than half-a-dozen pages of that atrocious best-seller before I was utterly bored... by the author's crime-novel style and his make-believe content.

That's definitely not my kettle of fish. On the other hand, I studied eagerly a French book by Marie-France Etchegoin and Frédéric Lenoir whose sole purpose consisted of analyzing and demolishing all the nasty mumbo-jumbo served up in Brown's silly novel.

The only reason I started out by mentioning Dan Brown's novel is to point out emphatically that it has nothing whatsoever to do with the subject of the present blog post.

Today in Rome, the Harvard historian Karen King revealed the existence of a small fragment of papyrus with eight lines of text written in 4th-century Coptic (the language of Egypt).

photo Evan McGlinn for The New York Times              

This papyrus fragment contains words that are linked in a way that has never occurred before in any ancient text concerning Jesus.

The fourth line reads:
Jesus said to them, "My wife..."
Then the fifth line reads:
she will be able to be my disciple
Already, the words on this piece of papyrus are being referred to as The Gospel of Jesus's Wife. As such, they will be associated with the amazing documents known as the Nag Hammadi library, which I mentioned in my blog posts of April 2007 entitled Sharing life together [display] and Gnostic discoveries [display]. These so-called codices (bound books) were discovered in December 1945, protected by a sealed jar and buried in the sand at the foot of the cliffs of Jabal al-Tarif, alongside the Nile in Upper Egypt.

Cliffs of Jabal al-Tarif in Egypt, near Nag Hammadi.

By chance, this afternoon, shortly before stumbling upon this news of the newly-revealed papyrus, I had been thinking about writing a blog post on one of the most extraordinary documents in the Nag Hammadi library: the Gospel of Thomas. I'll do that later on... Meanwhile, I imagine the huge impact of today's news—the possibility of a female disciple of Jesus—upon the established church of Rome, which has never accepted the idea that a woman might become a priest.

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