New Evidence Definitively Says Jesus May or May Not Have Been Married!

Harvard Divinity School professor Karen King has announced the discovery of a 2nd century fragment of papyrus that contains the words “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife…’”

So what does this mean?

Well, it turns out, not a whole hell of a lot:

King has been quick to add this discovered text “does not, however, provide evidence that the historical Jesus was married,” she wrote in a draft of her analysis of the fragment set to appear in the January edition of Harvard Theological Review.

“This fragment, this new piece of papyrus evidence, does not prove that (Jesus) was married, nor does it prove that he was not married. The earliest reliable historical tradition is completely silent on that. So we’re in the same position we were before it was found. We don’t know if he was married or not,” King said in a conference call with reporters.

“What I’m really quick to say is to cut off people who would say this is proof that Jesus was married because historically speaking, it’s much too late to constitute historical evidence,” she continued. “I’m not saying he was, I’m not saying he wasn’t. I’m saying this doesn’t help us with that question,” she continued.

“There’s no indication we have that Jesus was married,” said Darrell Bock, a senior research professor of New Testament studies at Dallas Theological Seminary. “One could say the text is silent on Jesus’ marital status is because there was nothing to say.”

“It’s a historical curiosity but doesn’t really tell us who Jesus was,” Bock said.

To quote my coworker: “It’s enough info for a kind of interesting Tweet.”

Of course, everything we find that can help us fill in the puzzle that is human history is interesting and adds to our understanding… but let’s not get too carried away here.

We now know that maybe some people from the 2nd century might have believed that Jesus was married.

Or not.

Cool, I guess.

About Jessica Bluemke

Jessica Bluemke grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and graduated from Ball State University in 2008 with a BA in Literature. She currently works as a writer and resides on the North side of Chicago.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003130337171 Misha Krul

    Considering that Jesus often spoke in parables and metaphor, the “wife” might be referring to the Church.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Chris-Leithiser/593361421 Chris Leithiser

       Or the Apostle John.

      • Thegoodman

         In that case I believe he would have been talking about his husband. JC seemed pretty fem to me.

        • The Other Weirdo

           If by fem you mean how he expected his followers to hate their friends and family and to abandon them, then yeah. But maybe not.

  • CanadianNihilist

    What Jesus are we talking about? I hear it was a common name.

    • The Other Weirdo

       The one who cleans my pool and sleeps with my wife, and my wife’s lesbian lover. At the same time.

      Or maybe another Jesus.

      • coyotenose

         He cleans your pool WHILE sleeping with them? Man, I’m not even gay and I want him in my bed. That’s some impressive dexterity and reach.

  • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

    I think this partial text could have been possibly informative, or it may have fallen into the realm of being maybe not as informative as I possibly think it is.  

     If we know that Jesus may or may not have been real and that he may or may not have been married to a woman who may or may not have existed, is it possible for Jesus to not have been real, but his wife to have existed?    It’s a questions that inquisitive minds might possibly want answered or not.

  • Darwin’s Dagger

    No need to trade one set of uncertain facts about a 1st century Jewish peasant for another.

    • Cormacolinde

      Well, from what we know about Yeshua, he most likely was a Rabbi, or the son of one. As a man in his thirties of that social caste, it is almost certainly certain he would have been married. The surprise for me would be to learn that he wasn’t.

      • Antinomian

        If he wasn’t married, I’m sure Mary nagged the hell out of him…

  • Reason_Being

    Well said by King.  The reality is that any info from the 2nd Century is only an interesting story and can’t really add to any real historical knowledge of Jesus..you know kind of like the other gospels that were all written well after his death.  In truth, saying we know much about Jesus at all is quite fallacious.  

    • RobMcCune

      Some new testament books date from the early second century.

      • Caleb G

        The Pastoral Epistles and 2 Peter are plausibly dated to the second century. But scholars agree that the rest of the new testament books were written in the 1st century CE. If the Pastoral Epistles are indeed cited by Polycarp, then the Pastoral Epistles probably were written in the 1st century CE also.

  • Tom S

    I find this new “GosJesWife” quite interesting.  No, it does not say much of anything about the historical Jesus (about whom we can actually say a lot, contrary to a couple of the comments here – go look up Robert Funk’s work as a starting point).  But it does say something interesting about 2nd (and 4th) century Christianity: discussions about the proper or “true” narrative about him as a person included this aspect of his life.  Early Christianity was unsettled and very complex, and included a lot of views that most people, aside from scholars, don’t know about today, from Gnostic views found e.g. in the Gospels of Thomas, Mary or Judas, to strongly Jewish-Christian texts.  The more we know about those debates, the more accurately we can reconstruct the emergence of what became orthodox doctrine.  I would think that would be of great interest to both critics and believers (for different reasons, perhaps).  One does not score any points as an atheist by criticizing such excellent scholarship.   (Go read King’s essay; it really is a model of scholarship.  Just to be clear, I am an atheist.  But I hate it when partisanship makes people dismiss such excellent work for bad reasons.)   

    • Rds

      Thoroughly discredited. There is not on shred of evidence for the existance of Jesus.

      • Cormacolinde

        There is evidence. I don’t think it’s conclusive, but enough to say a real human being probably existed as the source of the myths. I don’t think this person has much to do with the modern myth, I’d say the existence hypothesis is still more likely than the non-existence one.

        • Rds

          There is not only no real evidence there is a mountain of circumstantial evidence that he’s made up. The earliest artefacts dug up in Bethlehem point to it not existing until 200 years after his supposed death. Also, the Romans kept meticulous tax records and that time and no Mary or Joseph entered that area at that time. Too, the story arc for Mithras and Horus matches the Jesus myth exactly. There’s lots more but you get the idea.

  • Gwen

    How do they know the fragment is even talking about the same ‘Jesus’? Jesus was NOT by any means an unusual name.

    • Tom S

      Go read King’s paper.  She explains it.  

  • Caleb G

    You need to read that article a little more carefully. This fragment is dated as a 4th century CE fragment, not a 2nd century CE fragment.

  • Jezier

     Strange. Polish media say that this text dates back only to the fourth century.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=597605006 Mary Driftwood

    As an historian, I’ll remain skeptical about the fragment’s authenticity until some pretty exhaustive research has been done. I’d say it would be nearly impossible to link such a document to the historical Jesus of Nazareth. We’ll probably see it debunked as a forgery, whether ancient or modern, in a few years, just like a number of similar recent finds.

  • jdm8

    Even with a later date for the Gospels, I don’t understand why this even newer parchment would tell us this when the Gospels didn’t think was even worth mentioning.  You’d think that your central figure being married would be a detail worth mentioning in passing at least.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/FDGYHBEWVNGUG763L5X4TON3JQ Nazani14

    I think we already knew that there were plenty of people before 400 who thought that Jesus was not divine (Arianism) and/or that he was married.  I think it was actually the custom for rabbis to be married.  Read a bit more about this text fragment, and it does sound as if a flesh and blood woman is referred to, not some  mystical “bride.”
    3 ] deny.  Mary is worthy of it354 ]……” Jesus said to them, “My wife . .[   [ 5 ]… she will be able to be my disciple . . [ 6 ] Let wicked people swell up … [ 7] As for me, I dwell with her in order to . [

  • lsomers

    Guess what? It doesn’t make any difference anyway. What little is known about Jesus, the historical person (yes I think there was one) has nothing to do with Christianity which was an invention of Paul of Tarsus who made up out of whole cloth the “Christ” figure which appeared to him in an hallucination – and which he tried to match with the Jesus; a person he never even met, talked to. So anything Paul says has nothing to do with the real Jesus, nothing at all. I can hallucinate and know as much about Jesus and Paul as Paul knew about Jesus. 

    • ZenDruid

      My opinion is that Paul lied about his conversion and worked to destroy the early Xian movement from within. There is much cognitive dissonance between the ideas of the synoptic gospels and that of the epistles. For example, the Messiah bit and the promised return strike me as pure fabrication.

      • A Reader

        That’s actually a really interesting idea. Do you have any links?

        • ZenDruid

           No, sorry, that’s my favorite conspiracy theory….

  • http://twitter.com/TychaBrahe TychaBrahe

    Considering this fragment was written well after the four currently accepted gospels (although others were accepted at the time) and that Jesus’s wife was not mentioned in any of the other gospels or in any of the apocrypha I’ve read, I wonder what the point is in all of this.

    There’s not enough information here to say anything about what people thought during this time period.  The fragment isn’t thought to have originally been included in any of the other gospels.  It may be the belief of a small cult of people, the WBC of its day, or it may have been the ravings of one person, or even the equivalent of Jesus/Mary Magdalene fan fiction.  I think it’s comparable to thinking Pride and Prejudice and Zombies contributes new information about the literature of Jane Austen.

  • MargueriteF

    What is fascinating about this is that it’s just another reminder that there were all sorts of traditions about Jesus, hardly any of which mesh well with the others. (Even the four “official” gospels don’t actually match up well.) The Gnostics appear to have had a whole different set of stories, and even a totally different viewpoint on why Jesus mattered, but they lost out in the end. There may have been numerous other traditions we don’t know about because there are no original texts left. And what this tells us is that even when there’s a grain of truth in a story (and we don’t even know that much– Jesus might just be a composite myth, for all we know), people will embroider the story to make it more interesting, or to make it suit their viewpoint and religious beliefs, or just because embroidering stories is what storytellers do. It’s no surprise that there might have been conflicting stories about whether Jesus was married or not. The real surprise would be if there weren’t. 

    And of course, the BIG surprise is that some people insist on believing that four contradictory stories about Jesus are Absolute God-Given Truth, while all the other stories about Jesus are just myths.

  • DoctorDJ

    His “wife?”  Why, John, the “disciple whom he loved.”
    Jesus was in a gay marriage, of course.

    • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

      [Insert rightwing talking point about all gay men having daddy issues]

  • http://www.facebook.com/todd.stiefel Todd Stiefel

    My favorite line from the BBC article on this (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-19645273) is, “Jim West, a professor and Baptist pastor in Tennessee, said: “A statement on a papyrus fragment isn’t proof of anything. It’s nothing more than a statement ‘in thin air’, without substantial context.””   I love the delicious irony given that his statement applies equally to pretty much the entire Bible.

  • coyotenose

    I am so glad that the world is ending in a couple of months so I won’t have to see this History Channel Derpumentary fodder being the topic of serious discussion anymore.

    • coyotenose

       Addendum: Not intended as a slight on the author, but… this is the sort of thing that channel goes after, taking mildly interesting tidbits of information and blowing them up into UFO stories and OMG PROPHECY FULFILLED.

      • LesterBallard

        Jesus did spend time on a UFO. Or at least Brian did.

      • TiltedHorizon

         THANK YOU!

        This is why I no longer watch the ‘History’ channel, actual history has been replaced with “Did Aliens build the pyramids” crap. 

        • Cormacolinde

          Asking “Did Aliens build the pyramids” is fine. You examine what scant evidence there might be, conclude clearly that the answer is NO, and you have a decent 45minute show. The problem is doing it again, and again, and then making a series out of it, and over and over.

          But asking questions to which we think we have obvious answers is science, however silly the question may seem, as long as the scientific method is followed and the evidence (or lack thereof) is carefully examined. You don’t want to waste your time examining every fanciful theory out there, but looking at the most popular ones with a skeptical eye is a good thing. Look at Mythbusters: they’ve been examining tall tales and urban legends for almost ten years, and it’s still fun to watch.

          • TiltedHorizon

            It’s not fine. It’s the “History” channel, not “Discovery” or “Science”. I have no problem exploring these topics as long as they are held to the scientific method. Asking if aliens build the pyramids without first establishing evidence for the existence of aliens is not scientific and certainly not related to history.

  • GeraardSpergen

    I’ve read this story in a dozen different places – yours is the best headline yet.  Chapeau.

  • Zomgjesuswasgay

    zomg jesus was gay he had 12 boyfriends ffs mkay?

  • LesterBallard

    Other than that if it were true it would piss off the fundies, I don’t care if some first century Palestinian Jew was married or not. 

  • Graham Martin-Royle

    Non of which proves that any stories about a bloke called Jesus being god are true.

  • Richard Wigton

    Cue the Religious Right outrage in 5-4-3-2…..

  • TiltedHorizon

    Personally, debating if a person who may or may not have existed was or was not married may or may not be a complete waste of time. Definitely maybe. 

  • Revyloution

    Gads… Jesus’ wife.
    Can you imagine how nervous she must have felt when the inlaw was coming over for dinner?  Especially when you consider some of the smells he considers ‘pleasing’.

  • http://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/ PsiCop

    I see only two problems coming from this:

    1. The predictable whine from Christian fundies that wicked secularist academics are trying to “dis” their Jesus. Even if they haven’t actually done anything of the sort.

    2. Dan Brown fans will use this to proclaim, “See? Dan’s books aren’t based on a hoax after all!” and Brown himself will likely milk this for all it’s worth. Even if his books truly are predicated on a hoax.

  • C Peterson

    More to the point, it provides no additional evidence that Jesus was even a historical character at all. It does suggest that those who were inventing his supposed physical life were still working on getting their stories straight.

  • Guest

    FWIW, is it dated the middle of the second century, or the middle of the fourth century? I’ve read reports and heard interviews that have said both.  I suppose finding even that little bit out for sure would mean something.  I’m personally always fascinated by such finds.  

  • TheKevinBates

    Wait, did I miss something?  Since when was there proof of a “historical Jesus?”

  • PietPuk

    I hear Harry Potter is also married.


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