CAIRO - A newly-revealed centuries-old papyrus challenges the belief among Christians that Jesus was not married, a discovery that is likely to raise a fierce debate in the Christian world about his marriage.
"Christian tradition has long held that Jesus was not married, even though no reliable historical evidence exists to support that claim," Karen King, Hollis Professor of Divinity at Harvard Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, said in a conference call with reporters cited by Reuters.
A scrap of an ancient papyrus written in ancient Egyptian Coptic reads that Jesus said to them, my wife.
The scrap, which is smaller than a business card, also includes a saying that she will be able to be my disciple.
"This new gospel doesn't prove that Jesus was married, but it tells us that the whole question only came up as part of vociferous debates about sexuality and marriage," King said.
The Harvard professor said that the papyrus will fuel debate about whether Jesus was married or not.
The earliest reliable historical tradition is completely silent on that, she said.
So we're in the same position we were before it was found. We don't know if he was married or not.
Most Christians and the Catholic Church have long maintained that Jesus was not married.
But some Christians have believed otherwise, with the idea of Jesus marriage surfacing on a regular basis.
In 2003, Dan Brown's best-seller The Da Vinci Code triggered uproar among Christians after claiming that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and had children.
The Bible does not mention a world about the marital status of Jesus.
The four Gospels do not tell anything about Jesus marriage, only speaking about his birth, early childhood and then skip to his short, three-year ministry before detailing his death and resurrection.
Prof. King said the fragment provided the first evidence that some early Christians believed Jesus had been married.
"This fragment suggests that other Christians of that period were claiming that he was married" but does not provide actual evidence of a marriage, she said.
"Christian tradition preserved only those voices that claimed Jesus never married. The 'Gospel of Jesus's Wife' now shows that some Christians thought otherwise."
Some theologians believe that the scrap about Jesus marriage is authentic.
"I believe - on the basis of language and grammar - the text is authentic," Ariel Shisha-Halevy, an eminent Coptic linguist at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, said in a statement cited by The New York Times.
But other theologians maintain a different opinion.
There's no indication we have that Jesus was married, Darrell Bock, a senior research professor of New Testament studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, told CNN.
One could say the text is silent on Jesus' marital status is because there was nothing to say.
Muslims believe in Jesus as one of the great Prophets of God and that he is the son of Mary but not the Son of God. He was conceived and born miraculously.
In the Noble Qur'an, Jesus is called "Isa". He is also known as Al-Masih (the Christ) and Ibn Maryam (Son of Mary).
As for his crucifixion, Muslims believe that Jesus was not crucified but was lifted up to heaven.
Muslims believe that Jesus will come back to earth before the end of time to restore peace and order, fight the Anti-Christ (Al-Masih Al-Dajjal) and bring victory for truth and righteousness.
The true followers of Jesus will prevail over those who deny him, misrepresent him and reject him.