The following video from Harvard professor Karen L. King has received a huge amount of discussion online over the last few weeks.
Is the fragment directly relevant to the discussion of Hellenistic Greek? No. It is written in Coptic, and there is no credible evidence that it is a translation of an earlier Greek original. While Dr. King assumes the fragment to be a translation, I have found no evidence to support this assumption.
Do I think the Coptic fragment is authentic? I’m skeptical. The provenance of the fragment is unknown. This is a serious problem for any attempt to argue for authenticity.
Dr. King’s assertion that the fragment is evidence of a previously unknown Gospel is highly questionable. It rests on assumptions that I see as difficult to support. If authentic, the fragment was once part of a larger document of some kind. Was that document a Gospel? Perhaps. But it could also have been a letter or a work of religious fiction.
Dr. King has been clear that the fragment does not provide evidence that Jesus was married. If it is authentic, it provides evidence only of what a later group of Christians thought about whether he was married, not evidence of the historical reliability of their thinking. By assuming the fragment to be a translation of an earlier Greek original, though, Dr. King is able to assert that the view it represents on Jesus marital status dates to an earlier period than I believe the evidence actually supports.
While I think it is unlikely that the fragment is actually authentic, that does not mean that I reject the idea that Jesus could have been married.
The question of Jesus marital status did not arise until at least a hundred years after his death, at a time when the early church was struggling with whether Christians should marry, or at the least with whether clergy should marry. The canonical gospels are entirely silent on the issue. [O.K., so here’s the only possible tiny connection between this post and the Greek texts!] They say neither that he was or that he wasn’t married. They never mention a wife, but neither do they assert that he didn’t have one. The assertion that he was single throughout his life is based on theology, not the Greek texts.If responses appear to this post, I will try to steer them toward discussion of the relevant Greek texts and meanings of particular Greek words and phrases.