La notizia è di quelle bomba e potrebbero realmente rivoluzionare il modo di intendere la religione cattolica, tanto da far crollare letteralmente alcuni muri ideologici del Vaticano. Nel corso di un convegno tenutosi a Roma, una storica della Cristianità antica alla Harvard Divinity School, ha presentato un frammento di papiro in copto risalente al quarto secolo d. C. che conterrebbe una frase mai esistita nelle Sacre Scritture: “Gesù disse loro: Mia moglie….”. Si tratta di otto righe riportate da un frammento grande quanto un bigliettino da visita, leggibile solo grazie ad una lente di ingrandimento. “Lei sarà in grado di essere mia discepola”, si legge ancora nel testo, stando a quanto riportato dal New York Times.
Romanzi come il “Codice da Vinci” o il “Vangelo di Maria Maddalena”, veri e propri best seller dell’ultimo decennio, potrebbero finalmente trovare riscontri storici nelle loro tesi (entrambi facevano riferimento ad un rapporto tra Gesù e Maria Maddalena). A dare l’annuncio della scoperta è stata Karen King. King. Al momento in cui scriviamo la provenienza del papiro resta un mistero, così come non si conosce il proprietario che lo ha gentilmente agevolato all’università americana. Analizzato sin qui da alcuni papirologi e linguisti, pare che il frammento sia autentico, ma nei prossimi giorni verrà sottoposto ad ulteriori indagini da parte degli esperti.
Intervistata dal New York Times e da altri giornali americani, la King ha sottolineato che il frammento non è la prova che il Gesù storico fosse effettivamente sposato, ma che è alquanto singolare che un testo di quattro secoli dopo la morte di Cristo confermi antiche tradizioni secondo cui Gesù era stato sposato.“Ce n’era una già nel secondo secolo legata al dibattito se i cristiani dovessero sposarsi e avere rapporti sessuali”, conclude la studiosa di Harvard.
A newly-uncovered ancient papyrus shows that some early Christians believed that Jesus was married, a Harvard professor told the 10th International Congress of Coptic Studies.
Christian tradition has long held that Jesus was unmarried even though there was no reliable historical evidence to support that, Ms King said. The new gospel, she said, "tells us that the whole question only came up as part of vociferous debates about sexuality and marriage."
"From the very beginning, Christians disagreed about whether it was better not to marry," she said, "but it was over a century after Jesus's death before they began appealing to Jesus's marital status to support their positions."
Ms King presented the document at a six-day conference being held at Rome's La Sapienza University and at the Augustinianum institute of the Pontifical Lateran University.
While the Vatican newspaper and Vatican Radio frequently cover such academic conferences, there was no mention of Ms King's discovery in any Vatican media on Tuesday. That said, her paper was one of nearly 60 delivered on Tuesday at the vast conference, which drew 300 academics from around the globe.
The fragment belongs to an anonymous private collector who contacted Ms King to help translate and analyse it. Nothing is known about the circumstances of its discovery, but it had to have come from Egypt, where the dry climate allows ancient writings to survive and because it was written in a script used in ancient times there, Ms King said.
The unclear origins of the document should encourage people to be cautious, said Bible scholar Ben Witherington III, a professor and author who teaches at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. He said the document follows the pattern of Gnostic texts of the second, third and fourth centuries, using "the language of intimacy to talk about spiritual relationships."
"What we hear from the Gnostic is this practice called the sister-wife texts, where they carried around a female believer with them who cooks for them and cleans for them and does the usual domestic chores, but they have no sexual relationship whatsoever" during the strong monastic periods of the third and fourth centuries, Mr Witherington said. "In other words, this is no confirmation of the Da Vinci Code or even of the idea that the Gnostics thought Jesus was married in the normal sense of the word."
These kinds of doubts, Ms King said, should not stop scholars from continuing to examine the document.
Those who conducted initial examination of the fragment include Roger Bagnall, a papyrologist who's the director of the New York-based Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, and Annemarie Luijendijk, a scholar of the New Testament and early Christianity from Princeton University. They said their study of the papyrus, the handwriting and how the ink was chemically absorbed shows it is highly probable it's an ancient text, Ms King said.
Another scholar, Ariel Shisha-Halevy, professor of linguistics at Hebrew University and a leading expert on Coptic language, reviewed the text's language and concluded it offered no evidence of forgery.
Ms King and Ms Luijendijk said they believe the fragment is part of a newly discovered gospel they named "Gospel of Jesus's Wife" for reference purposes. King said she dated the time it was written to the second half of the second century because it shows close connections to other newly discovered gospels written at that time, especially the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Mary and the Gospel of Philip.
Video courtesy: Havard Divinity School