(RNS) The Harvard Theological Review is postponing publication of a major article on the papyrus fragment in which Jesus seems to refer to his wife, raising further doubts about a discovery that was set to turn Christian history on its head when it was announced last September.
The article by Harvard Divinity School professor Karen King was scheduled for the review's January edition. It was expected to provide answers to questions that had been raised about the relic's authenticity soon after King announced the discovery to select national media and at an international conference of biblical scholars in Rome.
King told CNN, which reported the latest development on Thursday (Jan. 3), that the article has been delayed because testing on the fragment is not complete.
A spokesperson for Harvard Divinity School, Kathryn Dodgson, said in an email on Friday that the owner of the papyrus -- whose identity has not been disclosed -- "has been making arrangements for further testing and analysis of the fragment, including testing by independent laboratories with the resources and specific expertise necessary to produce and interpret reliable results."
Dodgson said the Harvard Theological Review is still planning to publish King's article "after conclusion of all the testing so that the results may be incorporated."
"Until testing is complete, there is nothing more to say at this point."
King has said the fragment is from a fourth-century codex written in Coptic that may have come from an earlier, unknown gospel. The receipt-sized slip of papyrus contains just 33 words spread across 14 incomplete lines and quotes Jesus referring to "my wife" before the sentence is cut off.
It is the only extant text in which Jesus is explicitly portrayed as married, according to King, who dubbed the text "The Gospel of Jesus' Wife." King insisted that the fragment, even if authentic, would not prove that Jesus was married.
But experts said that even the possibility that he was betrothed could have upended Christian doctrine and theology and raised questions about the role of women in Christianity. And the media rollout for the discovery prompted a global wave of coverage that fostered a view that this fragment was akin to finding Jesus' marriage license.
But doubts about the fragment were raised almost immediately. Some critics said that the text's importance was blown out of proportion -- there are countless fragments of ancient papyrus writings from the centuries after Christ -- while others objected to the secrecy surrounding the owner of the fragment and the lack of any documentation about its provenance.
Other experts subsequently alleged that that papyrus may be ancient but the writing was a modern forgery and even included a typo.
The doubts led the Smithsonian Channel, which had been working with King for months on a documentary about the papyrus, to delay broadcast of the program, which had been set for October.
On the morning of Tuesday, June 29, 2010, outside the Old City of Jerusalem, we made an unprecedented archaeological discovery related to Jesus and early Christianity. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/28/jesus-discovery-jerusalem_n_1305355.html#s732483&title=Jonah_and_the" target="_hplink">Read more..</a>
Piece Of Jesus Cross Discovered?
Archaeologists working in Turkey believe they have found a<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/01/jesus-cross-found-archaeology_n_3691938.html" target="_blank"> piece of the cross</a> that Jesus was crucified on. While excavating the ancient Balatlar Church, a seventh-century building in Sinop, Turkey, on the shores of the Black Sea, they uncovered a stone chest that contained objects that may be directly connected with Jesus Christ. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/01/jesus-cross-found-archaeology_n_3691938.html" target="_blank">Read more here.. </a>
Biblical City Ruins Discovered UNDER Ruins Of Another Ancient City In Israel
An ongoing excavation in Israel has uncovered new evidence of an ancient city buried beneath the King Solomon-era metropolis of Gezer. An international group of archaeologists has been working together for several years on the dig, located between modern-day Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, according to a statement released by the Israel antiquities Authority (IAA). An important historical city in its own right, Gezer is mentioned in both the Old Testament and in Egyptian historical accounts as a stop on the highway connecting ancient Egypt and Mesopotami. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/21/ancient-city-beneath-gezer-israel_n_4297784.html?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000009" target="_blank">Read more here</a>
Dalmanutha, Biblical Town Mentioned In Gospel Of Mark, Possibly Discovered
Dalmanutha, a Biblical town described in the Gospel of Mark as the place where Jesus sailed after miraculously multiplying a few loaves and fish to feed 4,000 people, may have just been discovered by archaeologists, reports LiveScience. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/17/dalmanutha-biblical-town-gospel-of-mark-sea-of-galilee_n_3940919.html" target="_blank">Read more here</a>
The Date Of Jesus' Crucifixion?
A new study suggests that the Biblical date of Jesus' crucifixion is, in fact, possible to confirm. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/25/jesus-crucifixion-date-possible_n_1546351.html" target="_hplink">Read more.. </a>
Ancient Bethlehem Seal Unearthed In Jerusalem
Israeli archaeologists have discovered a 2,700-year-old seal that bears the inscription "Bethlehem," the Israel Antiquities Authority announced Wednesday, in what experts believe to be the oldest artifact with the name of Jesus' traditional birthplace. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/23/ancient-bethlehem-seal_n_1538605.html" target="_hplink">Ancient Bethlehem Seal Unearthed In Jerusalem</a> <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/23/dig-proves-bethlehem_n_1538665.html" target="_hplink">Archaeologists Discover Evidence That Bethlehem Existed Centuries Before Jesus </a>
Khirbet Qeiyafa Excavations Find Evidence Of Solomon's Temple, Archaeologists Say
JERUSALEM (RNS) Archaeologists have unearthed a trove of artifacts dating back to the time of the biblical King David that they say closely correspond to the description of Solomon's Temple found in the Book of Kings. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/10/khirbet-qeiyafa-archaeology_n_1504722.html" target="_hplink">Khirbet Qeiyafa Excavations Find Evidence of Soloman's Temple, Archaeologists Say</a>
Jerusalem Markings From Ancient Past Stump Archeologists
JERUSALEM -- Mysterious stone carvings made thousands of years ago and recently uncovered in an excavation underneath Jerusalem have archaeologists stumped. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/07/jerusalem-markings_n_1133613.html" target="_hplink">Jerusalem Markings From Ancient Past Stump Archeologists</a>
A colorful <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/05/samson-mosaic-discovered-huqoq-israel_n_1652525.html" target="_hplink">mosaic depicting the biblical figure Samson has been discovered</a> in the Galilee region of Israel, according to the Israeli Antiquities Authority. The artwork was found in a synagogue in Huqoq and is well preserved even though it dates back to the late Roman period, or around the fourth or fifth century.
Shroud of Turin
A series of experiments conducted by Italian researchers indicate the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/20/shroud-of-turin-jesus-burial-cloth-authentic_n_1161363.html" target="_hplink">Shroud of Turin</a> is likely authentic, but the team has not yet reached a definite conclusion.
Early Christian Text Indicates That Jesus May Have Been Married
More information <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/18/the-gospel-of-jesus-wife_n_1891325.html?utm_hp_ref=religion">here</a>.
The Gabriel Stone
The so-called Gabriel Stone, a meter (three-foot)-tall tablet said to have been found 13 years ago on the banks of the Dead Sea, features 87 lines of an unknown prophetic text dated as early as the first century BC, at the time of the Second Jewish Temple. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/30/gabriel-stone-jerusalem-unveils-mysterious-hebrew-tablet_n_3184953.html?utm_hp_ref=religion" target="_hplink">Read more here...</a>
Tel Shiloh Archaeological Dig Pitcher
A pitcher found during an Israeli archaeological dig may shed light on a biblical mystery that has gone unsolved for thousands of years. The broken clay pitcher, discovered in a bed of ashes in the Tel Shiloh dig site in the West Bank, suggests that the ancient city -- once the de facto capital city and spiritual center of ancient Israel -- was burned to the ground, the Tazpit News Agency reports. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/15/tel-shiloh-archaeological-dig-pitcher-city-israel-burned_n_2479718.html" target="_blank">Read more</a>
'Ancient Treasure Trove" Found Near Temple Mount
An Israeli archaeologist says she has uncovered a rare trove of ancient coins and medallions near Jerusalem's Temple Mount. Eilat Mazar of Jerusalem's Hebrew University says among the finds are jewelry and a gold medallion with the Jewish menorah symbol etched into it. Other findings include items with additional Jewish symbols such as a ram's horn and a Torah scroll. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/09/temple-mount-ancient-treasure_n_3893761.html" target="_blank">Read more</a>