The authenticity of the papyrus fragment dubbed the "Gospel of Jesus' Wife" is questionable, according to several researchers.
The fragment, presented in an April 10 research paper, contains the controversial lines "Jesus said to them, 'My wife...'" and "she will be able to be my disciple.'"
The papyrus fragment was acquired by an anonymous owner in 1997, and given to Harvard Divinity School's Hollis Professor of Divinity, Dr. Karen King, in 2011. The anonymous owner supposedly purchased the scrap from late business owner Hans-Ulrich Laukamp, but Laukamp's estate told Live Science that he never owned the papyrus, and had no interest in collecting such items.
The anonymous owner also supposedly purchased from Laukamp a papyrus fragment with text from the Gospel of John. According to German researcher Christian Askeland, the Gospel of John excerpt is a forgery, and contains lines from a 1924 papyrus fragment.
On the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog, Askeland also noted that the 1924 Gospel of John fragment has a strikingly similar writing pattern as the "Gospel of Jesus' Wife"—which Dr. King dated as coming from fourth century AD. Askeland points out that the line breaks in both fragments are identical.
"Seventeen of 17 line breaks are the same. This defies coincidence," Askeland wrote.
Columbia University researchers found that the ink used in the "Gospel of Jesus' Wife" and the 1924 papyrus fragments are similar, but not identical.
In 2012, the Vatican maintained that the excerpt is the work of a forger.
"Substantial reasons would lead one to conclude that the papyrus is indeed a clumsy forgery," L'Osservatore Romano Editor Gian Maria Vian wrote.
"In any case, it's a fake."
Durham University Professor Francis Watson also questioned the fragment's authenticity, stating that the fragment is a combination of lines from the Gospel of Thomas.
Calls to Dr. King and to Harvard Divinity School by NBC and Live Science were not returned.
The Smithsonian Channel will air a documentary, "The Gospel of Jesus' Wife," May 5 at 8 p.m. ET/PT. The one-hour special will detail the fragment's history, and examine the religious significance of the idea that Jesus could have been married.