Reactions to Jesus papyrus only scratch surface of its meaning

In regard to “Vatican: Jesus papyrus is fake” (Page A1, Sept. 29), it is important to understand that in 2012, unlike 1412, the Vatican has no authority to determine the authenticity of ancient manuscripts. Harvard professor Karen King should be commended both for the transparency of her research and for the conservatism of her theory about the reference to Jesus’s “wife.”

Far from a claim about the historical Jesus, King explains that the fragment would pertain to the many interpretations of Jesus and disciples flourishing more than a century later. Most scholars still believe the historical Jesus practiced some kind of celibacy.

Newspapers would clearly like to elide this discovery with Dan Brown’s novel “The Da Vinci Code.” But this is quite unfair. Closer attention to what King actually says will reward anyone interested in this strange Coptic fragment.

David Frankfurter


The writer is professor of religion and the appreciation of scripture at Boston University.