The "Jesus Wife" papyrus, a fragment of Coptic script containing a suggestion that Jesus may have been married, is a "clumsy forgery," the Vatican said.
"At any rate, a fake," Giovanni Maria Vian, the editor of the Vatican's newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, wrote in an editorial that accompanied an article by leading Coptic scholar Alberto Camplani.
The brownish-yellow, tattered fragment, about one and a half inches by three inches, was unveiled last week by Harvard Professor Karen L. King at an international congress of Coptic Studies, held every four years and hosted this year by the Vatican's Institutum Patristicum Augustinianum in Rome.
Featuring just eight lines of text on the front and six lines on the back, the fragment was dated from a fourth-century dialogue, written in Coptic, a language of ancient Egyptian Christians, between Jesus and his disciples.
The center of the fragment contained the bombshell phrase "Jesus said to them, my wife," suggesting that some early Christians believed Jesus had been married.