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

  • Karen L. King (a1)
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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) 257–78.

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).

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. lxiiilxiv.

22 See Traube Ludwig, Nomina Sacra. Versuch einer Geschichte der christlichen Kürzung (Quellen und Untersuchungen zur lateinischen Philologie des Mittelalters 2; Munich: Beck, 1907); Hurtado Larry W., “The Origin of the Nomina Sacra: A Proposal,” JBL 117 (1998) 655–73; 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) 5778; 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) 5578, at 59–60.

23 See McNamee Kathleen, Sigla and Select Marginalia in Greek Literary Papyri (Papyrologica Bruxellensia 26; Brussels: Fondation égyptologique Reine Élisabeth, 1992) 1718; 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) 1:487–88; 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) 102–6.

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) 1:495503, 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) 227–66.

32 Frankfurter David, Religion in Roman Egypt: Assimilation and Resistance (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1998) 268; 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) 137–60.

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] 228–39).

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) 163216, 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) 145–90.

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) 332–41, 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) 8:194202, at 195.

40 Cf. the variation of inline-graphic and inline-graphic 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] 1:95128).

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 inline-graphic in Coptic,” in Studies Presented to Hans Jakob Polotsky (ed. Young Dwight W.; East Gloucester, Mass.: Pirtle and Polson, 1981) 131–46. 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: inline-graphic (he gave me the remainder against them); P.Kell.Copt. 22.54: inline-graphic (they have already given me my fare); P.Kell.Copt. 43.16: inline-graphic (when he gave me the tunic); P.Kell.Copt. 36.18–19: inline-graphic ([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 inline-graphic before inline-graphic, 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 inline-graphic. 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 inline-graphic; 89.28–29, 33 with inline-graphic), 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 inline-graphic” (see Shisha-Halevy Ariel, Coptic Grammatical Categories: Structural Studies in the Syntax of Shenoutean Sahidic [AnOr 53; Rome: Pontificium Institutum Biblicum, 1986] 162–63) since the situation of such cases does not apply.

50 inline-graphic and inline-graphic are not always flexible (i.e., interchangeable) in syntactic usage. Shisha-Halevy notes that “inline-graphic is the Egyptian (ḥmt) with the prefixed (s.t), probably meaning ‘feminine human being’” (pers. comm., January 8, 2014). Dwight W. Young notes that inline-graphic 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 inline-graphic (ḥm.t) from inline-graphic (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): “inline-graphic. 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 inline-graphic with possessive article (inline-graphic) 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: “inline-graphic (sing.) deserves a separate index entry with the gloss ‘wife’ (ḥm. t) as distinct from inline-graphic ‘woman’ (or ‘wife’) (s.t- ḥm. t). Sahidic inline-graphic (sing.) occurs only in possessive constructions or in inline-graphic (‘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 183).

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

52 It is grammatically possible to understand inline-graphic for inline-graphic (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) 351–52, 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.: inline-graphic 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) 610.

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) 1051–58; 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) 3593. 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); 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) 6385; 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) 399422; 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) 6394.

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): inline-graphic (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 inline-graphic (she who [gave me birth, she destr]oyed [me]) and inline-graphic (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 inline-graphic 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) 196203, 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) 530, 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) 123–42; Shoemaker Stephen J., “Rethinking the ‘Gnostic Mary’: Mary of Nazareth and Mary of Magdala in Early Christian Tradition,” JECS 9 (2001) 555–95; 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) 3:2343–58; 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) 277; 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 (inline-graphic) 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) 565–87, 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) 83102.

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) 125.

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. 90102, 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 inline-graphic (GJW →7) might carry a sexual connotation (see Schenke, Das Philippus-Evangelium, 481), and the term inline-graphic (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) 3037, 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) 151–52.

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).

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) 456–71, 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) 3239, 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. (inline-graphic), 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 inline-graphic (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) 227–53, 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) 217–54.

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) 8:175–84; 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) 1:2249; 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) 95109; 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] 64).

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).

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) 2 [translation mine].

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