A fourth century scrap of papyrus written in Coptic has received headlines and mass attention in the media. What is all the fuss about? It contains a line that says, “Jesus said to them, ‘my wife…’” along with some other incomplete sentences. Does this mean that He did have a wife? How should Christians respond to such a finding and media fuss?
Firstly, it is interesting that the media ignores the content of second and third century findings that affirm the reliability and teaching of the New Testament, but place great attention on this fourth century portion of papyrus. Apologist, James White observes in a recent blog post, “Funny how the media makes so much of tiny scraps from the fourth century but never tell anyone about the tiny scraps from the second century that substantiate the canonical, biblical testimony of Jesus, isn’t it?”
Secondly, it is amazing how many conclusions and speculations begin based on an incomplete sentence of a portion of papyrus. Why not write about ancient finding that carry overwhelming support of other numerous manuscripts and ancient translations?
Unlike this portion of papyrus, the New Testament is a reflection of an extraordinary preservation of ancient documents. There are over 5,300 manuscripts containing parts of the New Testament (small and large portions) and it is estimated that almost an entire translation of the New Testament could be formed based on the writings of the early church fathers alone. Dated from around AD 100-150 is a small papyrus containing a few verses from the Gospel of John confirmed by other documents and writings years and centuries later. However, many ignore an overwhelming amount of evidence pointing to consistency in place of hype in the media.
Such a statement found in this fourth century portion of papyrus ignores the teaching of the New Testament and is in no way to be viewed as a document carrying Divine authority.
“This is sensationalism masquerading as scholarship. Nevertheless, do not miss what all this really represents — an effort to replace biblical Christianity with an entirely new faith.1“
A Note to the Secular World: Do Your History By the faithful Dr James White (blog post)
Reasons We Believe by Nathan Busenitz (especially pages 113-152)