The whole world changed on Tuesday. At least, that is what many would have us to believe. Smithsonian magazine, published by no less than the Smithsonian Institution, declared that the news released Tuesday was “apt to send jolts through the world of biblical scholarship–and beyond.” Really?
What was this news? Professor Karen King of the Harvard Divinity School announced at a conference in Rome that she had identified an ancient papyrus fragment that includes the phrase, “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife.’” Within hours, headlines around the world advertised the announcement with headlines like “Ancient Papyrus Could Be Evidence that Jesus Had a Wife” (The Telegraph).
The Smithsonian article stated that “the announcement at an academic conference in Rome is sure to send shock waves through the Christian world.” The magazine’s breathless enthusiasm for the news about the papyrus probably has more to do with advertising its upcoming television documentary than anything else, but the nation’s most prestigious museum can only injure its reputation with this kind of sensationalism.