Controversies over Sexuality and Marriage among Early Christians: What a New Papyrus Fragment Can (or Can’t) Tell Us
Carleton University’s Religion Program in the College of the Humanities announces the 2012 edition of the Edgar and Dorothy Davidson Lecture. This year’s Davidson Lecture features Karen L. King the Hollis Professor of Divinity at the Harvard Divinity School.
King’s appearance at Carleton is a timely one. In recent weeks, she has been at the centre of a fervent international discussion about a piece of papyrus that she was the first to identify. The papyrus is written in fourth century Coptic and contains the words: “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife…”
Though King insists that the papyrus does not prove that Jesus was married, she does draw attention to the fact that Jesus’ marital status was a point of debate just a century after his death.
Predictably, the implication that the historical figure of Jesus Christ may have been married has generated a great deal of attention.
The finding was featured on page A1 of the New York Times on September 19, 2012 under the headline A Faded Piece of Papyrus Refers to Jesus’ Wife. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/19/us/historian-says-piece-of-papyrus-refers-to-jesus-wife.html?_r=2&pagewanted=all
King made the fragment of papyrus public on Sept. 18, 2012 at the International Congress of Coptic Studies. The provenance of the finding is unknown, and its owner has asked to remain anonymous.
The mysterious origin of the papyrus has added to a debate that is already partly focused on authenticity. The heart of the debate lies in trying to decode what this finding could mean for Christianity and the role of women within the religion.
When: Thursday, Oct. 25 at 7:30 p.m.
Where: Robertson Hall’s Senate Room, Carleton University.
Karen L. King was appointed to Harvard’s Divinity School in 1998 and from 2003 to 2009 served as the Winn Professor of Ecclesiastical History. In October 2009, she became the first woman appointed as the Hollis Professor of Divinity, the oldest endowed chair in the United States (1721). Trained in comparative religions and historical studies, she pursues teaching and research specialties in the history of Christianity. Her books include The Secret Revelation of John; The Gospel of Mary of Magdala: Jesus and the First Woman Apostle; What Is Gnosticism? ; Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity (with Elaine Pagels); and Revelation of the Unknowable God. Other publications include Images of the Feminine in Gnosticism (ed.) and Women and Goddess Traditions in Antiquity and Today (ed.). Her particular theoretical interests are in discourses of normativity (orthodoxy and heresy), gender studies and religion and violence. She has received research grants and awards for excellence in teaching and research; among them are grants from the Luce Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, Deutsche Akademische Austauschdienst and the Graves Foundation. King is a member of the American Academy of Religion, the Society of Biblical Literature, the International Association for Coptic Studies and Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas.
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