A faded fragment of papyrus known as the "Gospel of Jesus's Wife," which caused an uproar when unveiled by a Harvard Divinity School historian in 2012, has been tested by scientists who conclude in a journal published Thursday that the ink and papyrus are very likely ancient, and not a modern forgery.
Skepticism about the tiny scrap has been fierce because it contained a phrase never seen in any Scripture: "Jesus said to them, 'My wife...' " It also contained the words "she will be able to be my disciple," which inflamed debate over whether women should be allowed to be priests.
The papyrus fragment has now been analyzed by electrical engineers, chemists and biologists at Columbia University, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who reported that it resembles other papyri of the 4th to 8th centuries.
Karen L. King, historian at Harvard Divinity School, presented the fragment at a September 2012 conference in Rome, but was besieged by critics because the content was controversial, the lettering splotchy, the grammar poor, its provenance uncertain, its owner insisted on anonymity and its ink had not been tested.
She said it should not be regarded as evidence that Jesus married, only that early Christians actively discussed celibacy, marriage and discipleship.
New Testament scholars claimed the text referred to the "bride of Christ," which is the church, an interpretation Ms. King said was entirely possible.