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“Jesus said to them, ‘My wife . . .'”: A New Coptic Papyrus Fragment

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 April 2014

Karen L. King*
Harvard Divinity School


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1 I would like to thank the owner for permission to study and publish GJW and a Coptic fragment of the Gospel of John.

2 The term “gospel” in GJW regards the probable genre of the work to which this fragment belongs. It does not imply canonical status or the historical accuracy of the content. Nor does it imply that GJW was the title in antiquity, or that “Jesus's wife” is the “author” of this work, is a major character in it, or is even a significant topic of discussion.

3 Or: “I exist with it/her”; “I dwell with it/her.”

4 For imaging used in describing the material artifact, see the GJW webpage.

5 See Emmel, Stephen, “On Using ‘Proportional Extension of Text’ as a Criterion for Placing Fragments in a Dismembered Codex,” in Christianity in Egypt: Literary Production and Intellectual Trends in Late Antiquity; Studies in Honor of Tito Orlandi (ed. Buzi, Paola and Camplani, Alberto; SEAug 125; Rome: Institutum Patristicum Augustinianum, 2011) 257–78Google Scholar.

6 Compare, e.g., NHC VI, 11–12.

7 See Turner, Eric G., The Terms Recto and Verso: The Anatomy of a Papyrus Roll (ed. Bingen, Jean and Nachtergael, Georges; vol. 1 of Actes du XVe Congrès international de papyrologie, Bruxelles-Louvain, 29 août–3 septembre 1977; Papyrologica Bruxellensia 16; Brussels: Fondation égyptologique Reine Élisabeth, 1978)Google Scholar.

8 Since carbon pigments are highly resistant to fading, the “faded” appearance is probably due to the absence of ink, which may result from abrasion or some other cause.

9 See Malcolm Choat, “The Gospel of Jesus's Wife: A Preliminary Paleographical Assessment,” below, 160–62, at 162.

10 For imaging illustrating these features, see the GJW webpage.

11 It is not possible to determine whether cutting was done in antiquity or modernity, e.g., perhaps by an antiquities dealer cutting or tearing a larger page into sections in order to have more pieces for sale, as Bagnall suggested in conversation (pers. comm., March 12, 2012). Compare Alin Suciu's comments on a fragment from the Tchacos Codex (“Newly Found Fragments from Codex Tchacos,” Patristics, Apocrypha, Coptic Literature and Manuscripts [blog], October 10, 2010,

12 See imaging posted on the GJW webpage; also Choat, “Assessment,” 161–62.

13 Under microscopic imaging the contamination resembles a resin or wax (see the GJW webpage), but testing to date (Raman and FT-IR) has not succeeded in identifying it.

14 See James T. Yardley and Alexis Hagadorn, “Characterization of the Chemical Nature of the Black Ink in the Manuscript of The Gospel of Jesus's Wife through Micro-Raman Spectroscopy,” brief summary below, 162–64, and full report on the GJW webpage.

15 See Gregory Hodgins, “Accelerated Mass Spectrometry Radiocarbon Determination of Papyrus Samples,” below, 166–69, with supplemental report on the GJW webpage.

16 See Joseph M. Azzarelli, John B. Goods, and Timothy M. Swager, “Study of Two Papyrus Fragments with Fourier Transform Infrared Microspectroscopy” posted on the GJW webpage; the executive summary of this study is published below, 165.

17 See Noreen Tuross, “Accelerated Mass Spectrometry Radiocarbon Determination of Papyrus Samples,” below, 170–71.

18 See Azzarelli, Goods, and Swager, “Executive Summary,” below, 165.

19 See Azzarelli, Goods, and Swager, “Study,” GJW webpage.

20 See similar examples in NHC VI at 63:33–36; 65:8–14; note, too, the cramped script on the culminating page, 78.

21 Her description in this paragraph generally follows Layton's, Bentley categories in A Catalogue of Coptic Literary Manuscripts in the British Library Acquired Since the Year 1906 (London: British Library, 1987) esp. lxiiilxivGoogle Scholar.

22 See Traube, Ludwig, Nomina Sacra. Versuch einer Geschichte der christlichen Kürzung (Quellen und Untersuchungen zur lateinischen Philologie des Mittelalters 2; Munich: Beck, 1907)Google Scholar; Hurtado, Larry W., “The Origin of the Nomina Sacra: A Proposal,” JBL 117 (1998) 655–73Google Scholar; idem, The Earliest Christian Artifacts: Manuscripts and Christian Origins (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2006); Luijendijk, AnneMarie, Greetings in the Lord: Early Christians and the Oxyrhynchus Papyri (HTS 60; Cambridge: Harvard Divinity School, 2008) 5778Google Scholar; Bucking, Scott, “A Sahidic Coptic Manuscript in the Private Collection of Lloyd E. Cotsen (P. Cotsen 1) and the Limits of Papyrological Interpretation,” Journal of Coptic Studies 8 (2006) 5578CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at 59–60.

23 See McNamee, Kathleen, Sigla and Select Marginalia in Greek Literary Papyri (Papyrologica Bruxellensia 26; Brussels: Fondation égyptologique Reine Élisabeth, 1992) 1718Google Scholar; regarding Coptic papyri, see Depuydt, Leo, Catalogue of Coptic Manuscripts in the Pierpont Morgan Library (2 vols.; Corpus of Illuminated Manuscripts 4–5; Louvain: Peeters, 1993) 1:487–88Google Scholar; 2: plate 418. Choat, however, judges a letter to be more likely than a mark of punctuation (“Assessment,” 162).

24 Raman analysis also indicates a single ink (Yardley and Hagadorn, “Characterization,” 164).

25 For other instances of uneven ink flow, see, e.g., P.Ryl.Copt. 314 and 396 (images online at

26 See the comments of Choat, “Assessment,” 161.

27 See Cribiore, Raffaella, Writing, Teachers, and Students in Graeco-Roman Egypt (ASP 36; Atlanta: Scholar's Press, 1996) 102–6CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

28 See also Gardner, Iain and Choat, Malcolm, “Towards a Palaeography of Fourth-Century Documentary Coptic,” in Coptic Studies on the Threshold of a New Millennium: Proceedings of the Seventh International Congress of Coptic Studies, Leiden, August 27–September 2, 2000 (ed. Immerzeel, Mat and van der Vliet, Jacques; 2 vols.; OLA 133; Louvain: Peeters, 2004) 1:495503Google Scholar, at 497; and Choat, “Assessment,” 161.

29 Coarse and cramped writing with uneven inking and blotches can be observed, for example, on P.Kell.Copt. 19, a private letter; see Coptic Documentary Texts from Kellis: P.Kell.V (P.Kell.Copt. 10–52; O.Kell.Copt. 1–2) (ed. Iain Gardner, Anthony Alcock, and Wolf-Peter Funk; Dakhleh Oasis Project 9; Oxford: Oxbow, 1999) vol. 1:156 and plate 12.

30 My thanks to the several scholars who corrected my own initial assumption that the fragment might belong to a formal codex.

31 See examples in Kraus, Thomas J., “Manuscripts with the Lord's Prayer—They Are More Than Simply Witnesses to That Text Itself,” in New Testament Manuscripts: Their Texts and Their World (ed. Kraus, Thomas J. and Niklas, Tobias; Texts and Editions for New Testament Study 2; Leiden: Brill, 2006) 227–66Google Scholar.

32 Frankfurter, David, Religion in Roman Egypt: Assimilation and Resistance (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1998) 268Google Scholar; see also 267–72.

33 See, e.g., Wasserman, Tommy, “P78 (P.Oxy. XXXIV 2684): The Epistle of Jude on an Amulet?,” in New Testament Manuscripts: Their Texts and Their World (ed. Kraus, Thomas J. and Niklas, Tobias; Texts and Editions for New Testament Study 2; Leiden: Brill, 2006) 137–60Google Scholar.

34 Compare, e.g., P.Berol. 11710, an unprovenanced, bilingual Greek and Coptic “gospel” (amulet?) consisting of two leaves measuring 6.5 by 7.5 cm (with visible holes probably used for binding the leaves together), which contains a dialogue between Jesus and Nathaniel with strong similarities to John 1:48–49; although crude and idiosyncratic, the hand is dated solely on paleographical grounds to the 6th cent. c.e. (see Kraus, Thomas J., “P.Berol. 11710,” in Gospel Fragments [ed. Kraus, Thomas J., Kruger, Michael J., and Nicklas, Tobias; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009] 228–39Google Scholar).

35 Amulets are often, but not always, long and narrow. For a useful discussion of criteria for amulets and problems of classification of certain texts, see de Bruyn, Theodore and Dijkstra, Jitse H. F., “Greek Amulets and Formularies Containing Christian Elements: A Checklist of Papyri, Parchments, Ostraka, and Tablets,” BASP 48 (2011) 163216Google Scholar, esp. the discussion at 167–73 and the dimensions listed in the tables accompanying the article. See also de Bruyn, Theodore, “Papyri, Parchments, Ostraca, and Tablets Written with Biblical Texts in Greek and Used as Amulets: A Preliminary List,” in Early Christian Manuscripts: Examples of Applied Method and Approach (ed. Kraus, Thomas J. and Nicklas, Tobias; Texts and Editions for New Testament Study 5; Leiden: Brill, 2010) 145–90CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

36 See examples in Ancient Coptic Magic: Coptic Texts of Ritual Power (ed. Marvin Meyer and Richard Smith; San Francisco: Harper, 1994).

37 See Clackson, Sarah, “Coptic Oxyrhynchus,” in Oxyrhynchus: A City and Its Texts (ed. Bowman, Alan al.; Graeco-Roman Memoirs 93; London: Egypt Exploration Society, 2007) 332–41Google Scholar, at 336.

38 See Bentley Layton, A Coptic Grammar (3rd ed., revised and expanded; Porta linguarum orientalium 2/20; Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2011) 68–70 (¶¶ 85–86); 17 (¶ 16 [a]).

39 See Shisha-Halevy, Ariel, “Sahidic,” in The Coptic Encyclopedia (ed. Atiya, Aziz S.; 8 vols.; New York: Macmillan, 1991) 8:194202Google Scholar, at 195.

40 Cf. the variation of and attested in 1 Apoc. Jas. TC 15.13; 16.4; 26.18 in Codex Tchacos. Texte und Analysen (ed. Johanna Brankaer and Hans-Gebhard Bethge; TU 161; Berlin: De Gruyter, 2007).

41 Shisha-Halevy, “Sahidic,” 195.

42 Notably the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, as well as Greek fragments, are extant for two of the closest parallel texts, Gos. Mary (see Colin H. Roberts, “463. The Gospel of Mary,” in Theological and Literary Texts (Nos. 457–551) [vol. 3 of Catalogue of the Greek Papyri in the John Rylands Library; Manchester, U.K.: Manchester University Press, 1938] 18–23; and P. J. Parsons, “3525. Gospel of Mary,” in Texts (Nos. 3522–3600) [Oxyrhynchus Papyri 50; Graeco-Roman Memoirs 70; London: Egypt Exploration Society, 1983] 12–14) and Gos. Thom. (see Attridge, Harold W., “Appendix: The Greek Fragments,” in Nag Hammadi Codex II, 2–7, Together with XIII, 2*, Brit. Lib. Or. 4926(1), and P. OXY. 1, 654, 655 [ed. Layton, Bentley; 2 vols.; NHS 20–21; Leiden: Brill, 1989] 1:95128Google Scholar).

43 Layton, A Coptic Grammar, 256 (¶ 330).

44 Layton, A Coptic Grammar, 135 (¶ 173); for full discussion, see Emmel, Stephen, “Proclitic Forms of the Verb in Coptic,” in Studies Presented to Hans Jakob Polotsky (ed. Young, Dwight W.; East Gloucester, Mass.: Pirtle and Polson, 1981) 131–46Google Scholar. To be added to Emmel's study are now, inter alia, four examples without the mediating direct object marker before the definite or possessive article + noun from the Coptic documentary papyri found at Kellis: P.Kell.Copt. 22.42: (he gave me the remainder against them); P.Kell.Copt. 22.54: (they have already given me my fare); P.Kell.Copt. 43.16: (when he gave me the tunic); P.Kell.Copt. 36.18–19: ([you can give] him these 1400 talents) (Coptic Documentary Texts from Kellis [ed. Gardner, Alcock, and Funk]).

45 See n. 44 above. For an orthographic variant of this construction with before , see Gos. Thom. (NHC II) 50.1.

46 Layton, A Coptic Grammar, 302–3 (¶ 380).

47 See, e.g., Acts 4:16 and John 18:25, 27 in The Coptic Version of the New Testament in the Southern Dialect Otherwise Called Sahidic and Thebaic (ed. George William Horner; 11 vols.; Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1911–1924) 3:286 and 6:72.

48 My thanks to the third reviewer for helpfully suggesting this analysis and also for noting that if the sentence were understood “deny Mary is worthy of it” then one would expect . Alternatively, Ariel Shisha-Halevy suggests it could be a case of “pleonastic negation,” but examples would need to be identified (pers. comm., January 8, 2014).

49 See the index to the Gospel of Thomas in Nag Hammadi Codex II, 2–7 (ed. Layton) 1:270. My thanks to Wolf-Peter Funk for alerting me to examples in Kephalaia, e.g., 89.22, 24, 30–31 (without ; 89.28–29, 33 with ), inter alia, in Kephalaia. 1. Hälfte (Lieferung 1–10) (ed. Hugo Ibscher; Manichäische Handschriften der staatlichen Museen Berlin 1; Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1940) 221. Here I am not including consideration of “the intercalability of the parenthetic ” (see Shisha-Halevy, Ariel, Coptic Grammatical Categories: Structural Studies in the Syntax of Shenoutean Sahidic [AnOr 53; Rome: Pontificium Institutum Biblicum, 1986] 162–63Google Scholar) since the situation of such cases does not apply.

50 and are not always flexible (i.e., interchangeable) in syntactic usage. Shisha-Halevy notes that “ is the Egyptian (ḥmt) with the prefixed (s.t), probably meaning ‘feminine human being’” (pers. comm., January 8, 2014). Dwight W. Young notes that is always used “in cases with the definite article which are followed by the genitival particle n prefixed to either a proper name or a noun with a determinative prefix,” although he goes on to state incorrectly that “hime cannot be used with the possessive article, contrary to the practise [sic] in both Old Coptic and Demotic” (“The Distribution of shime and hime in Literary Sahidic,” JAOS 91 [1971] 507–9, at 507a and 508a). Francis Llewellyn Griffith had indeed offered examples in his edition of the First Tale of Khamuas 3.5, where he distinguishes (ḥm.t) from (s- ḥm-t), noting that the former “always means ‘wife’” (Stories of the High Priests of Memphis: The Sethon of Herodotus and the Demotic Tales of Khamuas [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1900] 86 [transcription], 87 [translation and note]); see also his edition of an old Coptic horoscope, where he writes (concerning v. 7): “. This word in the singular means ‘wife’ not ‘woman’ in all passages in which I can trace it in Sah[idic]” (“The Old Coptic Horoscope of the Stobart Collection,” ZÄS 38 [1900] 71–85, at 79 [text], 80 [comment]). Examples of with possessive article () have now been identified, e.g., in Exeg. Soul (NHC II,6) 129.9 and Hyp. Arch. (NHC II,4) 91.5, 14. Regarding the latter Layton writes: “ (sing.) deserves a separate index entry with the gloss ‘wife’ (ḥm. t) as distinct from ‘woman’ (or ‘wife’) (s.t- ḥm. t). Sahidic (sing.) occurs only in possessive constructions or in (‘marry’) and always with that specific meaning,” and he suggests that the examples from Griffith are therefore worth resurrecting (Layton, Bentley, “The Text and Orthography of the Coptic Hypostasis of the Archons (CG II,4),” ZPE 11 [1973] 173200, at 183Google Scholar).

51 Layton, A Coptic Grammar, 148 (¶ 184c), 141 (¶ 180b) [italics in original].

52 It is grammatically possible to understand for (negative aorist), but this reading makes little sense in context (“The wicked person shall never swell” or “generally never swells”) and imposes a non-Sahidic form into an otherwise Sahidic environment. Alin Suciu and Hugo Lundhaug read the negative aorist here but need to emend the verb to make sense of it (“A Peculiar Dialectical Feature in the Gospel of Jesus's Wife, Line 6,” Patristics, Apocrypha, Coptic Literature and Manuscripts [blog], September 27, 2012,

53 See Layton, A Coptic Grammar, 268 (¶ 340).

54 See ibid., 326–29 (¶¶ 403–7) for a fuller discussion.

55 Ariel Shisha-Halevy, pers. comm., September 7, 2012. For fuller discussion and examples, see Shisha-Halevy, Ariel, Topics in Coptic Syntax: Structural Studies in the Bohairic Dialect (OLA 160; Louvain: Peeters, 2007) 351–52Google Scholar, 489 n. 19, 597–99; and idem, “Bohairic-Late Egyptian Diaglosses: A Contribution to the Typology of Egyptian,” in Studies Presented to Hans Jakob Polotsky (ed. Dwight W. Young; East Gloucester, Mass.: Pirtle and Polson, 1981) 413–38, esp. 423.

56 Shisha-Halevy, Topics, 598. N.B.: is not a definite noun but a generic nucleus (e.g., not “the wicked man” but “wicked people”).

57 AnneMarie Luijendijk, pers. comm.; Ariel Shisha-Halevy, pers. comm., September 7, 2012.

58 See Crum, Walter E., A Coptic Dictionary (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1939) 610Google Scholar.

59 See Hartenstein, Judith, “Dialogische Evangelien,” in Evangelien und Verwandtes (vol. 1.2 of Antike christliche Apokryphen in deutscher Übersetzung; ed. Markschies, Christoph and Schröter, Jens; 2 vols; 7th ed.; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2012) 1051–58Google Scholar; eadem, Die zweite Lehre. Erscheinungen des Auferstandenen als Rahmenerzählung frühchristlicher Dialoge (TUGAL 146; Berlin: Akademie, 2000); Petersen, Silke, ‘Zerstört die Werke der Weiblichkeit!’ Maria Magdalena, Salome und andere Jüngerinnen Jesu in christlich-gnostischen Schriften (Nag Hammadi and Manichaean Studies 48; Leiden: Brill, 1999) 3593Google Scholar. Whether the dialogue in GJW is set before or after the resurrection is not clear.

60 See, e.g., the collection in Antike christliche Apokryphen (ed. Markschies and Schröter).

61 The suggestion that this fragment belongs to a gospel genre is not meant to imply either that it fits specific theological criteria or that it narrates a full life of Jesus. For the contours of the debate over what constitutes a gospel, see Koester, Helmut, Ancient Christian Gospels: Their History and Development (Philadelphia: Trinity, 1990)Google Scholar; Wright, N. T., “When is a Gospel not a Gospel?,” in Judas and the Gospel of Jesus: Have We Missed the Truth about Christianity? (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 2006) 6385Google Scholar; Kelhoffer, James A., “‘Gospel’ as a Literary Title in Early Christianity and the Question of What Is (and Is Not) a ‘Gospel’ in Canons of Scholarly Literature,” in Jesus in apokryphen Evangelienüberlieferung. Beiträge zu ausserkanonischen Jesusüberlieferungen aus verschiedenen Sprach- und Kulturtraditionen (ed. Frey, Jörg and Schröter, Jens; WUNT 254; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2010) 399422Google Scholar; Joost Hagen, “Ein anderer Kontext für die Berliner und Straßburger ‘Evangelienfragmente’: Das ‘Evangelium des Erlösers’ und andere ‘Apostelevangelien’ in der koptischen Literatur,” in ibid., 339–71; Heil, Christoph, “Evangelium als Gattung,” in Historiographie und Biographie im Neuen Testament und seiner Umwelt (ed. Schmeller, Thomas; NTOA/SUNT 69; Berlin: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2009) 6394Google Scholar.

62 All citations of New Testament literature in Coptic are from Coptic Version (ed. Horner), with modifications of the English translation by me. Unless otherwise noted, citations and English translations of the Coptic text of Gos. Thom. are from Nag Hammadi Codex II, 2–7 (ed. Layton), 1:52–92.

63 Gos. Thom. 101 (NHC II,2 49.32–50.1): (Whoever does not hate his fat[her] and his mother in my way will not be able to become my d[iscip]le, and whoever does [not] love his [father a]nd his mother in my way will not be able to become [my] dis[ciple]. For my mother is she who []. But my true [moth]er gave me life).

64 See Luke 14:26; Matt 10:1–42, esp. 35–39; Gos. Thom. 55.

65 Versions of this saying are also found in Matt 12:46–50; Luke 8:19–21; Gos. Thom. 99 (NHC II,2 49:21–26); and Gos. Eb. 5 (Epiphanius, Haer. 30.14.5), indicating it was relatively widespread.

66 Suggestions for restoration of the lacuna at 49:36–50:1 include (she who [gave me birth, she destr]oyed [me]) and (she [dec]eived [me]); see Synopsis quattuor Evangeliorum (ed. Kurt Aland; 15th ed., 3rd corrected and expanded printing; Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2001) 543 nn. 143, 145. These restorations suggest either a connection between physical birth and destruction (death), thereby contrasting physical birth with spiritual life, or a contrast between falsehood and truth. While both are possible, in my opinion, the former reading conveys a better sense in the context of Gos. Thom.

67 refer here to classes of persons, not individuals.

68 Compare John 1:12–13; Gos. Phil. 55:23–26.

69 For examples of family tensions in the context of 2nd- and 3rd-cent. martyrdom, see Mart. Perpetua 3, 5–6; Origen, Mart. 37.

70 See the discussion of Clark, Elizabeth A., Reading Renunciation: Asceticism and Scripture in Early Christianity (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1999) 196203Google Scholar, esp. examples on p. 198. Writers appealed especially to Luke 14:26–27, given its rejection of wives (see, e.g., Clement of Alexandria, Strom. 3.15.97; he appears to have in mind Julius Cassianus's book Concerning Continence and Celibacy mentioned at Strom. 3.13.91; for a modern edition, see Stromata Buch I–VI [ed. Otto Stählin; vol. 2 of Clemens Alexandrinus; GCS 15; Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1906]).

71 See a similar problem in John 19:25; Mark 15:40.

72 I.e., the mother of Jesus, Mary of Magdala, Mary of Bethany, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, Mary of Clopas, and the “other” Mary. A survey by Tal Ilan documents the popularity of the name, concluding that almost a quarter of all recorded names of Jewish women in Palestine between 330 b.c.e. and 200 c.e. are Mary (“Notes on the Distribution of Jewish Women's Names in Palestine in the Second Temple and Mishnaic Periods,” JJS 40 [1989] 186–200). For discussion of the spelling of names for Mary (e.g., Maria, Mariam, Mariamme), see Antti Marjanen, The Woman Jesus Loved: Mary Magdalene in the Nag Hammadi Library and Related Documents (Nag Hammadi and Manichaean Studies 40; Leiden: Brill, 1996) 64 nn. 34, 35; and Petersen, ‘Zerstört die Werke der Weiblichkeit!’, 251–52.

73 See Shoemaker, Stephen J., “A Case of Mistaken Identity? Naming the Gnostic Mary,” in Which Mary? The Marys of Early Christian Tradition (ed. Jones, F. Stanley; SBLSymS 20; Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2002) 530Google Scholar, at 9–17; François Bovon, “Mary Magdalene in the Acts of Philip,” in Which Mary? (ed. Jones), 75–80.

74 For example, Mary Magdalene's role as apostle to the apostles (John 20:11–17) is ascribed to the mother. For this and other examples of how to identify Marys, see Brock, Ann Graham, Mary Magdalene, The First Apostle: The Struggle for Authority (HTS 51; Cambridge: Harvard Divinity School, 2003) 123–42Google Scholar; Shoemaker, Stephen J., “Rethinking the ‘Gnostic Mary’: Mary of Nazareth and Mary of Magdala in Early Christian Tradition,” JECS 9 (2001) 555–95Google Scholar; and in Which Mary? The Marys of Early Christian Tradition (ed. F. Stanley Jones; SBLSymS 20; Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2002), see Stephen J. Shoemaker, “Case of Mistaken Identity?,” 5–30; Antti Marjanen, “The Mother of Jesus or the Magdalene? The Identity of Mary in the So-Called Gnostic Christian Texts,” 31–41; and Ann Graham Brock, “Setting the Record Straight—The Politics of Identification: Mary Magdalene and Mary the Mother in the Pistis Sophia,” 43–52.

75 See Bovon, “Mary Magdalene,” 88.

76 See Klauck, Hans-Josef, “Die dreifache Maria. Zur Rezeption von John 19,25 in EvPhil 32,” in The Four Gospels 1992: Festschrift Frans Neirynck (ed. van Segbroeck, Frans; 3 vols.; BETL 100; Louvain: Louvain University Press, 1992) 3:2343–58Google Scholar; Marjanen, The Woman Jesus Loved, 160–62; Hans-Martin Schenke, Das Philippus-Evangelium (Nag-Hammadi-Codex II,3). Neu herausgegeben, übersetzt und erklärt (TUGAL 143; Berlin: Akademie, 1997) 269–72; and Hugo Lundhaug, Images of Rebirth: Cognitive Poetics and Transformational Soteriology in the “Gospel of Philip” and “Exegesis on the Soul” (Nag Hammadi and Manichaean Studies 73; Leiden: Brill, 2010) 396–97. Schenke also notes Epiphanius's report that Jesus had a sister named Mary (Pan. 78.8.1; Schenke, Das Philippus-Evangelium, 269–70).

77 See Schenke, Das Philippus-Evangelium. Unless otherwise noted, the English translations of Gos. Phil. are mine based on Schenke's text, with reference also to Bentley Layton and Wesley W. Isenberg, “The Gospel of Philip,” in Nag Hammadi Codex II,2–7 (ed. Layton), 1:145–215.

78 See Athanasius, First Letter to Virgins 11 (see also 9–18); translation in Brakke, David, Athanasius and Asceticism (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995) 277Google Scholar; Coptic text in L.-Théoplile Lefort, S. Athanase. Lettres festales et pastorales en copte (2 vols.; CSCO 150–151; Scriptores Coptici 19–20; Louvain: Durbecq, 1955) 1:77, lines 29–34. Mary and other virgins are also referred to as an image () for others (ibid, 78, line 6), the same term found in GJW →8.

79 See Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lecture 14.12.

80 See the discussion of Gos. Phil. 63:30–64:5 in King, Karen L., “The Place of the Gospel of Philip in the Context of Early Christian Claims about Jesus’ Marital Status,” NTS 59 (2013) 565–87CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at 578–79.

81 E.g., the anti-Christian philosopher Celsus (see Origen, Cels. 1.32–39).

82 Early interest was shown in Mary as the virgin mother of Jesus and as a kind of anti-type to Eve (see, for example, Prot. Jas.; Justin Martyr, 1 Apol. 1.12, 33; Dial. 100; Melito of Sardis, On Easter 123; Irenaeus, Haer. 3.22; 5.19; Epid. 33; Tertullian, Carn. Chr., esp. 17.1–5; Clement of Alexandria, Strom. 6.15 and 7.16; Paed. 1.6; Origen, Comm. Jo. 32.16; Comm. Rom. 3.10; Hippolytus, Noet. 17). For discussion of the cult of Mary, see Origins of the Cult of the Virgin Mary (ed. Chris Maunder; London: Burns & Oates, 2008).

83 See Irenaeus, Haer. 1.7.2.

84 See, e.g., Tertullian, Carn. Chr.

85 For a somewhat fuller discussion of this question, see King, “Place of the Gospel of Philip,” 566–69, 576–87.

86 See, e.g., 2 Cor 11:4–5; Eph 5:18–33; Rev 21:2, 9.

87 Clement of Alexandria, Strom. 3.6.49; the translation is that of Henry Chadwick in Alexandrian Christianity: Selected Translations of Clement and Origen with Introductions and Notes (ed. John Ernest Leonard Oulton and Henry Chadwick; LCC 2; Philadelphia: Westminster, 1954) 62–63. Although Clement himself opposes this stark rejection of marriage, he does not directly contradict the claim that Jesus did not marry. Clement may very well be referring here to the 2nd-cent. figure Tatian (see Strom. 3.6.81–82), whom Irenaeus (Haer. 1.27.1) and Eusebius (Hist. eccl. 4.29) regard as the founder of the Encratites, a designation for certain (heretical) persons or groups who rejected marriage. For examples of Christian rejection of sex, marriage, and reproduction, see Brown, Peter, The Body and Society: Men, Women, and Sexual Renunciation in Early Christianity (Lectures on the History of Religions 2/13; New York: Columbia University Press, 1988) 83102Google Scholar.

88 See Tertullian, Mon. 5.5–7 (Le Mariage unique [ed. and trans. Paul Mattei; SC 343; Paris: Cerf, 1988] 150–53).

89 See, e.g., John Chrysostom, Virginit. 11.1; 13.4.

90 See Clark, Elizabeth, “The Celibate Bridegroom and His Virginal Brides: Metaphor and the Marriage of Jesus in Early Christian Ascetic Literature,” CH 7 (2008) 125Google Scholar.

91 See esp. Gos. Phil. 59.6–11; 63.30–64.5. For the full argument, see King, “Place of the Gospel of Philip,” 570–83. My argument there builds inter alia particularly on the work of Schenke, Das Philippus-Evangelium, and Thomassen, Einar, The Spiritual Seed: The Church of the “Valentinians” (Nag Hammadi and Manichaean Studies 60; Leiden: Brill, 2006) esp. 90102Google Scholar, 272, 341–50.

92 The Gospel of Philip is widely regarded as belonging to Valentinian Christianity, which allowed marriage (see King, “Place of the Gospel of Philip,” 581). Although speculative, minor semantic connections between Gos. Phil. and GJW also point toward a possible Valentinian theological context: Gos. Phil. 78.21 (GJW →7) might carry a sexual connotation (see Schenke, Das Philippus-Evangelium, 481), and the term (GJW →8) is important for Gos. Phil.'s notion of Jesus's marriage as a symbolic paradigm (see King, “Place of the Gospel of Philip,” 571–76).

93 The identification of Mary of Magdala with three other figures—Mary of Bethany (John 11:1–2; 12:1–3), the woman caught in adultery (John 8:3–11), and the sinner woman (Luke 7:37–38)—resulted in the erroneous portrait of Mary Magdalene as a repentant prostitute. See Schaberg, Jane, “How Mary Magdalene Became A Whore,” BRev 8 (1992) 3037Google Scholar, 51–52; eadem, “Thinking Back through the Magdalene,” Cont 1 (1991) 71–90; King, Karen L., The Gospel of Mary of Magdala: Jesus and the First Woman Apostle (Santa Rosa, Calif.: Polebridge, 2003) 151–52Google Scholar.

94 The Magdalene's role as a prominent disciple is emphasized in 2nd- and 3rd-cent. literature (see Marjanen, The Woman Jesus Loved). For a fuller discussion of portraits of Mary of Magdala in the New Testament, see Schaberg, Jane, The Resurrection of Mary Magdalene: Legends, Apocrypha, and the Christian Testament (New York: Continuum, 2002)Google Scholar.

95 See King, The Gospel of Mary, 83–90; Marjanen, The Woman Jesus Loved.

96 See Brock, Mary Magdalene, esp. 73–104.

97 Compare the Greek of P.Ryl. 463, 22–25: ει ο σωτη[ρ] αξιαν αυτην ηγησατο συ τις ει εξουθενων αυτην παντως γαρ εκεινος ειδως αυτην ασφ[αλ]ω[ς] ηγαπησεν. Coptic and Greek texts of Gos. Mary are cited from Wilson, R. McL. and MacRae, George, “The Gospel of Mary” in Nag Hammadi Codices V, 2–5 and VI, with Papyrus Berolinensis 8502, 1 and 4 (ed. Brashler, James and Parrott, Douglas; NHS 11; Leiden: Brill, 1979) 456–71Google Scholar, at 468.

98 Tradition speaks of Jesus's loving male disciples as well, e.g., John 15:12, employing the same verb (ἀγαπάω) that is used in the Greek fragment of Gos. Mary (P.Ryl. 463, 25), without any suggestion of a sexual relationship. For further discussion, see King, The Gospel of Mary, 145–46; eadem, “Why All the Controversy? Mary in the Gospel of Mary” in Which Mary? The Marys of Early Christian Tradition (ed. F. Stanley Jones; SBLSymS 20; Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2002) 53–74; and Pearson, Birger A., “Did Jesus Marry?,” BRev 21 (2005) 3239Google Scholar, 47, esp. 37–39.

99 See Crum, Coptic Dictionary, 179.

100 Gos. Thom. 51:18–20.

101 Several commentators have noted the similarity here to GJW →3. It is not clear of what she is (or is not) worthy. It cannot be “life” because the antecedent is grammatically fem. sg. (), while “life” in Coptic is masc. sg. Nor does it parallel Matt 10:37 where Jesus speaks of being “worthy of me,” because “me” again would require a masc. sg. personal suffix.

102 Apart from the question to whom “Mary” refers, the reference to Jesus's wife as a disciple might, however, indicate that the “wife” is regarded as a “sister-wife.” Christians frequently referred to each other as brothers and sisters in Christ, such that some Christian men referred to their wives in this sense as also sisters (1 Cor 9:5). On the other hand, the female partner in “celibate marriage,” in which a male and a female Christian lived together but without sexual intercourse, could be called a “sister-wife” (see 1 Cor 9:5; Clement of Alexandria, Strom. 6.12). These cases make it possible to speculate tentatively on restoring the end of line →4 with (and [my sister]), but other possibilities remain.

103 See Leach, Bridget and Tait, John, “Papyrus,” in Ancient Egyptian Materials and Technology (ed. Nicholson, Paul T. and Shaw, Ian; Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2000) 227–53Google Scholar, at 241. Clackson writes that in contrast to the Oxyrhynchus papyri, “most surviving Coptic texts are unprovenanced and undated” (“Coptic Oxyrhynchus,” 340).

104 See Luijendijk, AnneMarie, “Sacred Scriptures as Trash: Biblical Papyri from Oxyrhynchus,” VC 64 (2010) 217–54Google Scholar.

105 The amount of the price paid was whited out on the copy I was sent.

106 “Professor Fecht glaubt, daß der kleine ca. 8 cm große Papyrus das einzige Beispiel für einen Text ist, in dem Jesus die direkte Rede in Bezug auf eine Ehefrau benutzt. Fecht meint, daß dies ein Beweis für eine mögliche Ehe sein könnte.” The named Professor Fecht might be Gerhard Fecht (1922–2006), professor of Egyptology at the Free University, Berlin.

107 The second document is a photocopy of a typed and signed letter addressed to H. U. Laukamp dated July 15, 1982, from Prof. Dr. Peter Munro (Freie Universität, Ägyptologisches Seminar, Berlin), stating that a colleague, Professor Fecht, has identified one of Mr. Laukamp's papyri as having nine lines of writing, measuring approximately 110 by 80 mm, and containing text from the Gospel of John. Fecht is said to have suggested a probable date from the 2nd to 5th cents. c.e. Munro declines to give Laukamp an appraisal of its value but advises that this fragment be preserved between glass plates in order to protect it from further damage. The letter makes no mention of the GJW fragment. The collection of the GJW's owner does contain a fragment of the Gospel of John fitting this description, which was subsequently received on loan by Harvard University for examination and publication (November 13, 2012).

108 Technically “forgery” implies a false claim to authorship and is not relevant here given the lack of any ascription (ancient or modern) to GJW.

109 A more concise view: “Authentication should then really be viewed as 1) failure to uncover evidence of forgery, and 2) placement of results within a known historical context” (Joseph G. Barabe et al., “Examination of the Gospel of Judas using an Integrated Approach to Ink Characterization,” Microscopy Today 14.4 [2006] 6–15, at 6).

110 Pers. comm., December 14, 2013.

111 See Layton, Catalogue, xxiv; idem, “Towards a New Coptic Palaeography,” in Acts of the Second International Congress of Coptic Studies, Roma, 22–26 September 1980 (ed. Tito Orlandi and Frederik Wisse; Rome: Centro Italiano Microfiches, 1985) 149–58; Kasser, Rudolphe, “Paleography,” in The Coptic Encyclopedia (ed. Atiya, Aziz S.; 8 vols.; New York: Macmillan, 1991) 8:175–84Google Scholar; Emmel, Stephen, “Recent Progress in Coptic Codicology and Paleography (1988–1992),” in Acts of the Fifth International Congress of Coptic Studies, Washington, 12–15 August, 1992 (ed. Orlandi, Tito and Johnson, David W.; 2 vols.; Rome: Centro Italiano Microfiches, 1993) 1:2249Google Scholar; idem, “Recent Progress in Coptic Codicology and Paleography (1992–1996),” in Ägypten und Nubien in spätantiker und christlicher Zeit. Akten des 6. Internationalen Koptologenkongresses, Münster, 20.–26. Juli 1996 (ed. Stephen Emmel et al.; 2 vols.; Sprachen und Kulturen des christlichen Orients 6; Wiesbaden: Reichert, 1999) 2:65–78; Boud’hors, Anne, “Paléographie et codicologie coptes. Progrès et perspectives (1996–2004),” in Huitième Congrès international d’Études coptes, Paris, 28 juin–3 juillet 2004. Bilans et perspectives 2000–2004 (ed. Boud’hors, Anne and Vaillancourt, Denyse; Cahiers de la bibliothèque copte 15; Paris: De Boccard, 2006) 95109Google Scholar; and the recent bibliography by Sofía Torallas Tovar, “Coptic Codicology and Palaeography (2004–2012): Provisional Bibliography,” accessed September 20, 2013, For 4th-cent. Coptic documentary texts, see also Gardner and Choat, “Towards a Palaeography.” Clackson notes an “irregular and inexperienced hand that is hard to date from palaeographical criteria” (“Coptic Oxyrhynchus,” 335 and n. 10).

112 See Michael W. Grondin, “Did a Forger Use My Interlinear?,” November 14, 2012, The suggestion came from Andrew Bernhard (see Le Donne, Anthony, The Wife of Jesus: Ancient Texts and Modern Scandals [London: Oneworld Publications, 2013] 64Google Scholar).

113 So, too, Ariel Shisha-Halevy: “I believe—on the basis of language and grammar—the text is authentic. That is to say, all its grammatical ‘noteworthy’ features, separately or conjointly do not warrant condemning it as forgery” (pers. comm., September 7, 2012).

114 See esp. Francis Watson, “The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife: How a Fake Gospel-Fragment Was Composed; Introduction and Summary”; “The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife: How a Fake Gospel-Fragment Was Composed”; and “Addendum: The End of the Line?”; all three pieces are dated September 2012 and are available at My sincere thanks to Prof. Watson for collegially sending me copies of these essays.

115 See also below my response to Leo Depuydt, 190–93.

116 See Watson, “Fake Gospel-Fragment: Introduction and Summary,” “Fake Gospel-Fragment,” and “Addendum”; Suciu and Lundhaug, “A Peculiar Dialectical Feature.”

117 Michael Peppard, “Is the ‘Jesus’ Wife’ Papyrus a Forgery? And Other Queries,” September 25, 2012,; Timo S. Paananen, “Another ‘Fake’ or Just a Problem of Method: What Francis Watson's Analysis Does to Papyrus Köln 255?” ( Fake Or Just a Problem of Method by Timo S. Paananen.pdf).

118 See, e.g., Small, Jocelyn Penny, Wax Tablets of the Mind: Cognitive Studies of Memory and Literacy in Classical Antiquity (London: Routledge, 1997)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

119 See, e.g., Le Donne, Wife of Jesus.

120 Till, Walter C. and Schenke, Hans-Martin, Die gnostischen Schriften des koptischen Papyrus Berolinensis 8502 (2nd ed.; TU 60. Berlin: Akademie, 1972) 2Google Scholar [translation mine].