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'Jesus wife' documentary broadcast delayed amid doubts

A previously unknown scrap of ancient papyrus written in ancient Egyptian Coptic
Image caption The fragment, written in ancient Egyptian Coptic, is no bigger than a business card

A TV documentary about a 4th-Century papyrus fragment that makes reference to Jesus having a wife has been delayed amid doubts over its authenticity.

The Smithsonian Channel has pushed backed the broadcast to an unspecified date, while further tests on the Coptic script are carried out.

Scholars have questioned the fragment's authenticity on grammar and lack of known archaeological provenance.

Christian tradition has long held that Jesus was unmarried.

Karen King, the Harvard professor who published the research, has said the fragment only shows some early Christians believed Jesus was wed.

The Smithsonian Channel had billed the papyrus as "one of the most significant discoveries of all time".

The documentary was originally due to air on 30 September until scholars began raising questions about the fragment.

Tom Hayden, the Smithsonian Channel's general manager, said the show would "take into account the upcoming tests as well as the academic response to the initial announcement".

"This will enable us to present a richer and more complete story," he said, adding that a new broadcast date would be announced in the upcoming weeks.

The text contains a dialogue in which Jesus refers to "my wife". According to Prof King's research team, the text also quotes Jesus as telling his followers that she is worthy of being his disciple.

The fragment identifies the wife as Mary, prompting speculation the reference was to Mary Magdalene.

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