BALTIMORE (WJZ)– A 1,600-year-old document translated for the first time has a message that could shake up Christianity: Jesus may have had a wife. Now, a local expert weighs in on the debate.

Mary Bubala has the story.

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It’s no bigger than a business card but the tattered piece of papyrus written in the fourth century contains some intriguing phrases.

“And then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘My wife.’ And in the next sentence, he says, ‘She is able to be my disciple,'” Professor Karen King at the Divinity School at Harvard University said.

King told WJZ that those phrases and the idea Jesus may have had a female disciple have not appeared before in historical writing.

King was given the fragment by an anonymous collector. And while she is convinced the translation is accurate, she’s not about to rewrite the story of Jesus.

“We conclude from this that we still don’t know if Jesus was married or not,” King said. “This is not evidence in one direction or the other direction.”

But if it’s true, it will add fire to old debates– whether married men can be priests and the role of women in the church.

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Dr. Stephen Fowl is a theology professor at Loyola University Maryland. He doesn’t think the document will persuade the Catholic Church to change anything.

“The church is like a super tanker. It changes direction very slowly and I don’t see big changes happening in my lifetime,” he said.

Catholic doctrine holds that only single men can be priests, in part, because of the model Jesus set.

And if Jesus had a female disciple, that too could change conventional thinking.

Experts say the document is authentic but whether the content is real or not remains unknown.

“It may reflect arguments that Christians at that time in Egypt were having about whether or not Jesus was married. In that way, not that different from some arguments that get raised today,” Fowl said.

As for reaction from the Vatican, the church stands by its doctrine that Jesus was not married.

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The notion that Jesus had a wife was the central theme of the book and movie, “The Da Vinci Code.”