Some early Christians believed Jesus was married, a Harvard professor told the 10th International Congress of Coptic Studies, according to the Harvard Gazette.

Professor Karen King, who teaches at Harvard Divinity School, announced the existence of an ancient Coptic text on papyrus including the words: "Jesus said to them, my wife."

"Christian tradition has long held that Jesus was not married, even though no reliable historical evidence exists to support that claim," she told the congress in Rome.

"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.

"From the very beginning, Christians disagreed about whether it was better not to marry, but it was over a century after Jesus' death before they began appealing to Jesus' marital status to support their positions," she added.

The reference to an earthly partner for Christ is definitely not in line with what many Christians believe, but those common beliefs are undocumented, King stressed.

"The four words that appear on the fragment translate to 'Jesus said to them, my wife,'" the report went on.

The words, written in Coptic, a language of Egyptian Christians, are on a papyrus fragment of about one and a half inches by three inches (3.8 centimeters to 7.6 centimeters), it said.

While several experts agree the yellowish brown papyrus is authentic, "final judgment on the fragment depends on further examination by colleagues and further testing, especially of the chemical composition of the ink," according to King.