A piece of papyrus dating back to the fourth century mention a Biblical character that can't be found in scripture: the wife of Jesus Christ.
Identified by Karen L. King, a historian at Harvard Divinity school, the scroll has the following passage written in Coptic, as reported by the New York Times: "Jesus said to them, 'My wife… she will be able to be my disciple."
King cautioned that the fragment is not proof that Jesus was married, but is reflective of the debates early Christians had in the infancy of the church. After all, this wouldn't be the first time early Christian artifacts have contradicted history as written in the Bible..
As reported by Discovery News' Jennifer Viegas in March 2011, Oxford scholar Francesca Stavrakopoulou believes she found evidence that God had a wife based on an analysis of ancient texts, figurines and other artifacts.
God's wife, Asherah, was a powerful fertility goddess, and worshiped alongside Yahweh, as God is known in Hebrew. Strict monotheism, however, gradually diminished Asherah's importance in the religion of the ancient Israelites.
Changes to scripture itself can not only include omissions, but also additions as they're copied and translated from generation to generation. A project led by New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary catalogues hundreds of versions of the New Testament written in early Christendom to document changes that crept in over the years.
Although many of the alterations they discover are trivial, some changes can be much more significant, as reported by the Times-Picayune.
One example of an editorial change includes the addition of the story of Jesus saving an adulterous woman from public stoning by challenging the crowd with: Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. That tale was added to the gospel of John some 300 years after the book first appeared, according to the report.
Not only have passages been added and subtracted to the Bible over time; entire books have also been left out of the canon.
The first four books of the New Testament are the gospels, the story of Jesus according to the apostles who followed him — Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The Gospel of Mary, as in Mary Magdalene, dates back to the second century, later than any of the other gospels. The gnostic text paints Mary as a singular disciple among Jesus' followers who had privileged access to his teachings.
Similarly, the Gospel of Judas, the earliest copies of which date to the second century, was another gnostic book that failed to break into the Biblical canon. This gospel directly contradicts the accounts of the four apostles by painting a picture of Judas, the apostle who betrayed Jesus, as merely following through with his wishes.
Changes are made to the Bible for a number of different reasons. Some are just errors in copying from one version to another. Others might be one author or early Christian sect putting their stamp on scripture. In fact, Vatican scholars are to this day working on rewrites and updates to the Bible. Given that the Bible is thousands of years old, it should come as no surprise that it might need a facelift every now and again.
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