For those of you who have heard about the papyrus fragment that includes the phrase, “Jesus said to them, My wife…she is able to be my disciple…” (see the link below to the National Geographic article), watch this two-minute video showing why this provides zero important information about Jesus.
Dr. Habermas’s main points as to why this MS doesn’t tell us anything about Jesus being married.
- The most important point is that the text is written way too late to contain historically-reliable information. Therefore it can’t contribute anything to our knowledge about the historical Jesus, who lived and died in the first 1/3 of the first century, and all of his companions were dead by 100. [In fact, the latest reports show that this fragment dates from the eighth or ninth century, at least 700 years after the last apostle, John, died!] Even the scholar who analyzed the fragment says it provides no information about the historical Jesus.
- The text says “my wife” but it doesn’t say anything either before or after to contribute any information. (Well, it says a little more than that, but still doesn’t provide any historical information, except that Jesus might have had progressive views about whether women could be disciples. Which is not news at all, for those familiar with the progressive views of women he already demonstrated in historically reliable documents—the gospels.)
- The fragment is written in Coptic, most likely the language of gnostics (various heretical groups who believed and taught untrue things about Jesus) in the centuries following Jesus’ death, who were not interested in the historical evidence about Jesus.
Finally, my friend and New Testament expert Dr. Tim McGrew notes: “The fragment itself is quite late by the standards of Jesus scholarship — many centuries later than the era of the New Testament. For it to be billed as “ancient” is downright misleading, and the press should be ashamed of stooping to such tricks. I don’t believe there are any serious scholars who think it sheds any light on the historical Jesus. At most, it reflects the beliefs of some second century gnostics.”
So the long and the short of it is…The fragment is written too late to be of any historical value to understanding the Jesus who lived in the first century, especially compared with the extraordinary number and consistency of early manuscripts and eyewitness accounts regarding Jesus and first-century Christians. It is simply an interesting bit of papyrus written several hundred years after Jesus and his disciples died. Fuel for skeptics’ speculations, and little besides.
National Geographic Article: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/04/140410-papyrus-jesus-wife-evidence-archaeology-science/