A prominent New Testament scholar who for four years has promoted a papyrus fragment suggesting that Jesus was married has accepted it is probably a fake.
Professor Karen King, a historian of Christianity at Harvard University, unveiled the small piece of papyrus in 2012 at a conference in Rome.
The fragment, the size of a business card, contains amongst 14 lines of Coptic text the phrase “Jesus said to them, My wife.”
Although some scholars immediately dismissed it as a fake, others supported Prof King, and the papyrus created controversy in the world of biblical scholarship. It appeared to confirm a central claim of the popular novel The Da Vinci Code that Jesus was married, though Prof King never claimed this, only saying it was evidence that one group of early Christians believed he was.
But a major article by journalist Ariel Sabar in Atlantic magazine this week traced the provenance of the fragment, presenting evidence that it had been forged by a former student of Egyptology, owner of an auto parts company and pornographer, who claimed to have been molested by a priest in his childhood.
After reading Sabar’s article Prof King admitted yesterday: “It tips the balance towards forgery.”