CHARLOTTE – A small scrap of papyrus, estimated to be from the 4th century, has reignited a debate about the Christian faith. The document contains several broken lines of text written in Coptic that references Jesus' wife.
"Anything from the ancient world is significant,” said James Howell, the senior pastor at Myers Park United Methodist Church. “We're delighted to find it and learn about it."
But the document, which a Harvard professor unveiled Wednesday, sparked debate among ministers, historians and Christians.
"This finding is not surprising and it actually fits well with some of the other details we know about the world in which Jesus lived," said Rodney Sadler, who teaches courses about the Bible at Union Presbyterian Seminary. "Whether or not we can ever come up with a definitive answer, it's useful to talk about whether or not Jesus was married."
But Forest Hill Church Pastor David Chadwick disagrees.
"We know the gospel texts have no narrative at all about Jesus being married,” he said. “We see him as a single man."
Chadwick said the writings are part of a false text that the early church called heresy.
"I hope most people say I'm not going to draw in depth theological conclusions from a small piece of papyrus," said Chadwick.
Some pastors said whatever conclusion people draw, the foundation of Christianity will remain the same.
"The Bible doesn't say Jesus wasn't married, so it doesn't falsify the Bible or anything that we believe about Jesus if they prove that he was married,” said Howell. “But this isn't the kind of proof we'd need."
Despite the debate about that proof, ministers agree talking about religion and faith is a good thing.
"I think doubt is the ants in the pants of faith,” Chadwick said. “So anytime doubt leads people to question and seek right answers, I think that's a good thing."