When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Jesus and a handful of rubber devices
Jesus and a handful of rubber devices
Joëlle Kuntz

-Analysis–

Karen L. King, the first woman to occupy the Hollis Chair of Divinity at Harvard, recently caused a sensation in Rome. At the International Congress for Coptic Studies, she revealed a fragment of papyrus measuring 4 cm by 8 cm (1.6 inches by 3.15 inches), dating back to the fourth century and covered with Coptic writing.

The papyrus contains a phrase attributed to Jesus, in which he refers to "my wife." Several renowned archeologists have authenticated the document, whose owner prefers to remain anonymous but who is known to King.

The theologian, familiar with the Gospels and Coptic literature, is an expert on the role of women in the early Christian church. She finds nothing surprising in the idea that in the fourth century a Coptic scribe with awkward handwriting believed that Jesus was married.

Since the Congress in Rome, the academic world has been in uproar over the papyrus, some affirming that it is impossible for it to be true, others that it could not possibly be a fake. We see this a lot in Christianity.

I have my own idea. The reason that the question is still not settled is that Jesus himself preferred not to talk about his personal life in public. Absorbed by saving humankind, he decided to avoid the gossip that systematically accompanies such suicide missions. His unexpected success after death and his posthumous celebrity naturally revived all the rumors about his private life. Anything else would have been surprising.

Personally, I admire his discretion about women, and the respect he always showed them, not condemning them to housework. Jesus never, for example, ordered his wife to hurry off to the bakery to buy multiple loaves of bread. Instead, he created them himself, and without raising any suspicion that someone behind him was washing the dishes. If there was a miracle, it is that he did not need a woman to do the job.

A frugal last supper

It is the same thing with the Last Supper. An American feminist, whose audacity I have praised here in the past, has complained that the name of the cook for the Last Supper was lost (Who Cooked the Last Supper?). But in fact, Jesus wanted it to be a frugal meal -- sandwiches, nothing fancy, so that his wife would not be overworked at such a solemn moment. Italian painters understood this well -- they put almost nothing on the table.

If he was courteous in his domestic sphere, Jesus was even more so in regard to his sexual life, which was no one else's business. As the papyrus people of those days have disappeared, we will never know if some paparazzi of the time might have come upon some interesting scene. It is true, though, that without any specific expression of interest or any stolen piece of information, the heads of the early Christian church could tranquilly fashion the image of a purely spiritual Jesus, without wife or child, then thanks to this, take for themselves his entire inheritance and all the power. It was only too easy!

The small fragment of Coptic manuscript that Karen L. King has presented will not rewrite history. She admits that it is not enough to "prove" anything. But it does sow discord among the dogmas. When you are a woman in a theological man's world, like Ms. King, that is already a small victory.

You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
Geopolitics

Patronage Or Politics? What's Driving Qatar And Egypt Grand Rapprochement

For Cairo, Qatar had been part of an “axis of evil,” with anger directed at Al Jazeera, the main Qatari outlet, and others critical of Egypt after the Muslim Brotherhood ouster. But the vitriol is now gone, with the first ever visit by Egyptian President al-Sisi to Doha.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi met with the Emir of Qatar in June 2022 in Cairo

Beesan Kassab, Daniel O'Connell, Ehsan Salah, Hazem Tharwat and Najih Dawoud

For the first time since coming to power in 2014, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi traveled to Doha last month on an official visit, a capstone in a steadily building rapprochement between the two countries in the last year.

Not long ago, however, the photo-op capturing the two heads of state smiling at one another in Doha would have seemed impossible. In the wake of the Armed Forces’ ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood government in 2013, Qatar and Egypt traded barbs.

In the lexicon of the intelligence-controlled Egyptian press landscape, Qatar had been part of an “axis of evil” working to undermine Egypt’s stability. Al Jazeera, the main Qatari outlet, was banned from Egypt, but, from its social media accounts and television broadcast, it regularly published salacious and insulting details about the Egyptian administration.

But all of that vitriol is now gone.

Keep reading...Show less

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS

Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

Watch VideoShow less
MOST READ