Golly gee whillikers, it turns out that Jesus may not have been married after all.
Despite the hoopla from some of the usual credulous suspects, a papyrus fragment that's supposed to be from around the year 400, containing a text in which Jesus is supposed to allude to having a wife, may not be authentic.
Now, if you're of a thinking bent, you may be wondering what kind of authenticity I'm talking about here, and which part of the papyrus find is actually being questioned. Do I mean that the papyrus doesn't date from 400 AD? Do I mean that the Coptic text written on the fragment doesn't date from 400 AD? Do I mean that the text in question isn't an independent attestation to Jesus' marital status but is instead a compilation or copying of an already existing "Jesus was married" narrative?
You're way ahead of the folks at, say, The New York Times, who slugged their original story "The Gospel of Jesus' Wife" and waited until the eighth paragraph to let the scholar presenting the fragment -- Dr. Karen King of Harvard -- caution against speculation (before speculating for the next twenty). In fairness to the Times, Dr. King herself apparently called the fragment "The Gospel of Jesus' Wife." Which, so much for not speculating.
The cautionary piece linked first says that Dr. King's paper about the fragment will be published pending analysis and testing of the papyrus and ink to determine if those things do indeed date from around 400. Which is the normal fashion for these sorts of things, even though the Times seems to have overlooked questioning its sources about that little step of the process.
If there's a journalistic malpractice in the coverage of this matter, either from the Times or others, it's not so much in interviewing Dr. King and reporting on her claims. It's in accepting them before scientific testing is done and without making a call or two to a scholar who represents a different school of thought about the supposedly early documents on which Dr. King has focused during her career. It almost seems like they were seduced by the trappings -- Dr. King holding the oldest endowed university chair in the nation, having a "garret office in the tower of the Harvard Divinity School," that wonderfully mysterious secret and ancient-y sounding word "Coptic," and so on -- and thus felt no need to check out whether or not these were the droids they were looking for.
To borrow a phrase, I learned in journalism school to take almost everything everybody said with a grain of salt until I checked it out for myself. The wilder the claim, the bigger the grain. It would seem that writers and editors at The New York Times have, in this instance, bought into Mayor Michael Bloomberg's healthy eating crusade and have been on a sodium-free diet, and that a number of others have joined them.