Is Jesus’ Wife Turning Into Thomas?

Discussion of the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife continues full speed ahead on scholarly blogs, and on list-servs such as that dedicated to the Gospel of Thomas. All of this is fantastic to see.  There have been ongoing discussions about open access to scholarly publications. But I think it is also wonderful when not merely the fruits of scholarship, but the entire scholarly enterprise, takes place in public view so that people can (hopefully) gain a greater understanding how scholarship works.

Mark Goodacre has found a possible source in the Gospel of Thomas for the last line of the front side of the papyrus fragment. One one letter is changed, to make the object feminine rather than masculine.

Andrew Bernhard has added a section on the “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” to his Gospels.net website. It includes two draft articles by Bernhard, one asking whether the papyrus fragment could have been created entirely from words and phrases in the Gospel of Thomas, the other presenting the parallels in a synopsis.

There have also been several interesting comments from scholars and other interested individuals on scholarly blogs where this is being discussed. A commenter on Mark’s blog showed that most of the mysterious line 6 could have been formed from snippets of Thomas, linking to this image:

A commenter on my blog noted the reference to Jesus as “my lord” by Mary Magdalene in John 20. That phrase, it then struck me, is synonymous to ba’ali, which even in modern Hebrew means “my husband.”

Mike Kok looks for indications in the New Testament Gospels about Jesus’ marital status. See also Martin Marty’s thoughts on the text, and the media discussion of it.

UPDATE: Deirdre Good shared a medieval image of Mary Magdalene, apparently referred to as spouse of Jesus.

And finally, Scott Bailey shared the image below, decrying the selective skepticism one often encounters:

  • Andrew

    Note, however, that the word used in John 20:16 is רבון, which is simply “master, lord;” the word usually used for “husband” is בעל.

    • Susan Burns

      I don’t understand. Rabon is not simply master; it is also teacher. Baal is not the word a Greek speaker would use for husband.

      • Andrew

        Hopefully this helps: if רבון means “teacher,” this is the only attested instance that I’m aware of. More likely, the NT parenthetical statement which translates the word into the Greek διδασκαλος “teacher” is more to make some kind of point or is misinformed. As to your second sentence, just as a Greek-only speaker wouldn’t use בעל for “husband,” neither would they use רבון for “lord, master.” What we have here is someone not speaking Greek! I was just pointing out that if Mary were intending to use a word that meant “husband,” she would have used בעל rather than רבון.

        • Susan Burns

          The Greek word used ‘by Mary’ is of Aramaic origin. The Aramaic word is Teacher or Master as a show of respect. Jesus could have been the teacher of Mary as well as her husband. When my children were very young, I called my husband ‘Daddy’ but he is not my father. Since no one has any idea what language Mary spoke we cannot say what she would have called Jesus if, indeed, they were married.

  • Gordon Raynal

    Love the title of this post… which these days just might work to suggest to some that Mary/Thomas was the first case of sexual re-assignment surgery;)! Related to that, and on a more serious note, the publication and the extremely rapid fire set of responses to this tiny fragment are surely one more piece of “a sign of the times.” Since we live in an era where there is very little consensus about theological interpretations, we are faced with outpourings of anthropological concerns… and sexual and relational ones are again at the top of the list. Oh well, with firm views already established by “scholarship,” we’ll await the next thing that arouses a reaction.


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