An ancient scrap of papyrus makes explicit reference to Jesus having a wife, according to a renowned expert in christian history.
Harvard divinity professor Karen King unveiled the 4th century coptic script at a conference in Rome.
She said researchers had identified the words "Jesus said to them, 'my wife'", which might refer to Mary Magdalene.
Christian tradition holds that Jesus did not marry - but Ms King said in early years it was subject to debate.
The provocative find could spark debate over celibacy and the role of women within christianity, she added.