I leave it to Leroy Huizenga to give a more in-depth, scholarly reaction to Harvard professor Karen King’s newly discovered “fragment.” His analysis focuses on the newly-discovered document in the context of its time period, specifically its relationship to other Gnostic documents like the “Gospel of Thomas” and the lurking question of authority beneath authenticity. Popular media has, it seems, fixated on the latter while largely ignoring the former.
Eleanor Barkhorn makes another suggestion at the Atlantic, which brings up a point you might think would be obvious but obviously needs to be made: metaphor. Christ refers to the Church numerous times in spousal language:
Christ calls himself a bridegroom throughout the New Testament. [. . .] Later, as Jesus foretells the coming of God’s kingdom, he also refers to himself as a groom: “The kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.” Again, Christ is the groom and his followers are the groom’s friends—there to celebrate the wedding with him.
In John 3, John the Baptist echoes this description of Christ as a groom . . .
And so on. As Barkhorn notes, there are later, even clearer uses of this imagery by disciples (see St. Paul’s epistles and the Book of Revelation).
Writing can, of course, be intended metaphorically and literally, which makes Huizenga’s points on authority and historical context highly pertinent. And in any event it’s worth noting, as Barkhorn admirably does, that whatever the answer, this discovery “probably doesn’t offer much help to people hoping [to] shift the debates over women in ministry or the definition of marriage.”