Jesus’ Wife

I’m kind of behind, with my surgery and all, so this has already gone around, but we must post it.  Scholars have found a small fragment in the Coptic language from ancient Egypt that has Jesus referring to “my wife.”  Now first of all, as the historian who made the translation insists, this does NOT prove the thesis of the Da Vinci Code, nor does it prove that Jesus did, in fact, have a wife, since this was written centuries after his time on earth and it has affinities to Gnostic texts.  But still, let’s look at the story:

A historian of early Christianity at Harvard Divinity School has identified a scrap of papyrus that she says was written in Coptic in the fourth century and contains a phrase never seen in any piece of Scripture: “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife …’ ”

The faded papyrus fragment is smaller than a business card, with eight lines on one side, in black ink legible under a magnifying glass. Just below the line about Jesus having a wife, the papyrus includes a second provocative clause that purportedly says, “she will be able to be my disciple.”

The finding was made public in Rome on Tuesday at the International Congress of Coptic Studies by Karen L. King, a historian who has published several books about new Gospel discoveries and is the first woman to hold the nation’s oldest endowed chair, the Hollis professor of divinity.

The provenance of the papyrus fragment is a mystery, and its owner has asked to remain anonymous. Until Tuesday, Dr. King had shown the fragment to only a small circle of experts in papyrology and Coptic linguistics, who concluded that it is most likely not a forgery. But she and her collaborators say they are eager for more scholars to weigh in and perhaps upend their conclusions.

Even with many questions unsettled, the discovery could reignite the debate over whether Jesus was married, whether Mary Magdalene was his wife and whether he had a female disciple. These debates date to the early centuries of Christianity, scholars say. But they are relevant today, when global Christianity is roiling over the place of women in ministry and the boundaries of marriage.

The discussion is particularly animated in the Roman Catholic Church, where despite calls for change, the Vatican has reiterated the teaching that the priesthood cannot be opened to women and married men because of the model set by Jesus.

Dr. King gave an interview and showed the papyrus fragment, encased in glass, to reporters from The New York Times, The Boston Globe and Harvard Magazine in her garret office in the tower at Harvard Divinity School last Thursday.

She repeatedly cautioned that this fragment should not be taken as proof that Jesus, the historical person, was actually married. The text was probably written centuries after Jesus lived, and all other early, historically reliable Christian literature is silent on the question, she said.

But the discovery is exciting, Dr. King said, because it is the first known statement from antiquity that refers to Jesus speaking of a wife. It provides further evidence that there was an active discussion among early Christians about whether Jesus was celibate or married, and which path his followers should choose.

“This fragment suggests that some early Christians had a tradition that Jesus was married,” she said. “There was, we already know, a controversy in the second century over whether Jesus was married, caught up with a debate about whether Christians should marry and have sex.”. . .

[Scholars] examined the scrap under sharp magnification. It was very small — only 4 by 8 centimeters. The lettering was splotchy and uneven, the hand of an amateur, but not unusual for the time period, when many Christians were poor and persecuted. . .

The piece is torn into a rough rectangle, so that the document is missing its adjoining text on the left, right, top and bottom — most likely the work of a dealer who divided up a larger piece to maximize his profit, Dr. Bagnall said.

Much of the context, therefore, is missing. But Dr. King was struck by phrases in the fragment like “My mother gave to me life,” and “Mary is worthy of it,” which resemble snippets from the Gospels of Thomas and Mary. Experts believe those were written in the late second century and translated into Coptic. She surmises that this fragment is also copied from a second-century Greek text.

The meaning of the words, “my wife,” is beyond question, Dr. King said. “These words can mean nothing else.” The text beyond “my wife” is cut off.

Dr. King did not have the ink dated using carbon testing. She said it would require scraping off too much, destroying the relic. She still plans to have the ink tested by spectroscopy, which could roughly determine its age by its chemical composition.

Dr. King submitted her paper to The Harvard Theological Review, which asked three scholars to review it. Two questioned its authenticity, but they had seen only low-resolution photographs of the fragment and were unaware that expert papyrologists had seen the actual item and judged it to be genuine, Dr. King said. One of the two questioned the grammar, translation and interpretation.

Ariel Shisha-Halevy, an eminent Coptic linguist at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, was consulted, and said in an e-mail in September, “I believe — on the basis of language and grammar — the text is authentic.” [That is, not a modern forgery.]

Major doubts allayed, The Review plans to publish Dr. King’s article in its January issue.

via Historian Says Piece of Papyrus Refers to Jesus’ Wife – NYTimes.com.  That site includes  a translation of the full, though fragmentary text.

Mollie Hemingway posts a compendium of evidence that points to forgery.

But here is the point:  Jesus did and does have a wife:  Her name is the CHURCH.

A previously unknown scrap of ancient papyrus written in ancient Egyptian Coptic

 

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Rob

    I studied New Testament textual criticism and manuscript studies at Harvard Divinity. I did not have and have not met Dr. King. What I can tell you is that every thrust and academic incentive at HDS in the area of texts and manuscripts is to find something that discredits traditional Biblical views.

    You have to understand the way academia works: if you are to make a name for yourself, you must do so by forwarding new and controversial ideas. A difficult proposition for a book that has been studied and published about for millennia. Thus, you have to find new “Gospels” and write about them. Thus, Bart Ehrman’s ubiquity on all topics New Testament. Affirm the text – ho-hum; discredit it – publishing deals and headlines!

    Even if the fragment is genuine, it introduces no new ideas, as Jesus’ purported marriage has already been written about in other Gnostic texts. If it is genuine, it is a genuine fragment of a Gnostic gospel, nothing more, though the press will happily claim it as many other things.

    In two words: caveat emptor.

  • Rob

    I studied New Testament textual criticism and manuscript studies at Harvard Divinity. I did not have and have not met Dr. King. What I can tell you is that every thrust and academic incentive at HDS in the area of texts and manuscripts is to find something that discredits traditional Biblical views.

    You have to understand the way academia works: if you are to make a name for yourself, you must do so by forwarding new and controversial ideas. A difficult proposition for a book that has been studied and published about for millennia. Thus, you have to find new “Gospels” and write about them. Thus, Bart Ehrman’s ubiquity on all topics New Testament. Affirm the text – ho-hum; discredit it – publishing deals and headlines!

    Even if the fragment is genuine, it introduces no new ideas, as Jesus’ purported marriage has already been written about in other Gnostic texts. If it is genuine, it is a genuine fragment of a Gnostic gospel, nothing more, though the press will happily claim it as many other things.

    In two words: caveat emptor.

  • Michael B.

    Before I studied New Testament textual criticism, the biggest misconception I had about Jesus was that he was like this 10 mile meteor that hit the earth — love him or hate him, everyone was talking about him. All his deeds and teachings were being written and talked about like a modern day celebrity.

    But here’s a pop quiz question: How many first-century pagan (non Jewish and non Christian) authors mention Jesus?

  • Michael B.

    Before I studied New Testament textual criticism, the biggest misconception I had about Jesus was that he was like this 10 mile meteor that hit the earth — love him or hate him, everyone was talking about him. All his deeds and teachings were being written and talked about like a modern day celebrity.

    But here’s a pop quiz question: How many first-century pagan (non Jewish and non Christian) authors mention Jesus?

  • trotk

    Michael, that is a terrible test of a person’s impact, particularly in the ancient world, where news traveled far more slowly than today.

    Even in the modern world, there are plenty of people who are relatively unknown in their lifetimes and yet whose legacy is monumental. How much more so in the ancient world, which lacked any means of spreading the news about a person except by word of mouth?

  • trotk

    Michael, that is a terrible test of a person’s impact, particularly in the ancient world, where news traveled far more slowly than today.

    Even in the modern world, there are plenty of people who are relatively unknown in their lifetimes and yet whose legacy is monumental. How much more so in the ancient world, which lacked any means of spreading the news about a person except by word of mouth?

  • http://www.brandywinebooks.net Lars Walker

    As a commenter mentioned over at Anthony Sacramone’s “Strange Herring,” the full context is Jesus saying, “Take my wife… please!”

  • http://www.brandywinebooks.net Lars Walker

    As a commenter mentioned over at Anthony Sacramone’s “Strange Herring,” the full context is Jesus saying, “Take my wife… please!”

  • Jon

    Not to get off topic, but has there been any more news about a purported 1century scrap of a traditional gospel?

    I mean, if we have reliable texts from 1century witnesses, why is any doubt raised by a 4century text believed to original from a heretical sect?

  • Jon

    Not to get off topic, but has there been any more news about a purported 1century scrap of a traditional gospel?

    I mean, if we have reliable texts from 1century witnesses, why is any doubt raised by a 4century text believed to original from a heretical sect?

  • http://www.cyberbrethren.com Rev. Paul T. McCain

    The real sham here is the fact that anyone who has taken even a couple college level courses on Biblical texts has long known about all the goofy stuff put out by Gnostics. The Nag Hammadi documents are very well known and documented and Jesus saying he had a wife is tame compared to the bizarre things contained in those texts, everything from Jesus making little birds out of clay, when he was a boy, clapping his hands, and they would fly away, to striking down another boy dead for making fun of him, etc. etc.

    This is all about publicity hounds seeking attention and book contracts, pseudo-scholars.

  • http://www.cyberbrethren.com Rev. Paul T. McCain

    The real sham here is the fact that anyone who has taken even a couple college level courses on Biblical texts has long known about all the goofy stuff put out by Gnostics. The Nag Hammadi documents are very well known and documented and Jesus saying he had a wife is tame compared to the bizarre things contained in those texts, everything from Jesus making little birds out of clay, when he was a boy, clapping his hands, and they would fly away, to striking down another boy dead for making fun of him, etc. etc.

    This is all about publicity hounds seeking attention and book contracts, pseudo-scholars.

  • http://www.brandywinebooks.net Lars Walker

    What’s even more frustrating is to see people who accuse the church of condemning sex as evil, turning around and trying to make heroes out of the Gnostics, who actually did teach that sex was evil. Chesterton had something to say about that.

  • http://www.brandywinebooks.net Lars Walker

    What’s even more frustrating is to see people who accuse the church of condemning sex as evil, turning around and trying to make heroes out of the Gnostics, who actually did teach that sex was evil. Chesterton had something to say about that.

  • http://www.cyberbrethren.com Rev. Paul T. McCain

    Gnosticism was a wild and wacky movement.

    Two major streams, resulting from same belief:

    “The material, the flesh, the body…is worthless…what matters is spirit.”

    That led to either:

    Ascetic Gnosticism which eschewed physicality and any of the pleasures associated with it.

    Libertine Gnosticism which indulged the flesh.

    Why, in both cases? Because the physical is worthless not important, just two different ways of responding to that belief.

    I think the Libertine Gnostics had more fun.

  • http://www.cyberbrethren.com Rev. Paul T. McCain

    Gnosticism was a wild and wacky movement.

    Two major streams, resulting from same belief:

    “The material, the flesh, the body…is worthless…what matters is spirit.”

    That led to either:

    Ascetic Gnosticism which eschewed physicality and any of the pleasures associated with it.

    Libertine Gnosticism which indulged the flesh.

    Why, in both cases? Because the physical is worthless not important, just two different ways of responding to that belief.

    I think the Libertine Gnostics had more fun.

  • Cincinnatus

    Debates about potential academic misconduct and issues of textual authenticity aside, what, exactly, would be problematic about Jesus having a wife? Obviously, “the tradition says” that he did not. But what is at stake theologically if he did?

    I can’t think of much. If someone announced today that Jesus Christ did, in fact, have a wife, I think I would shrug my shoulders. But I’m not a theologian.

  • Cincinnatus

    Debates about potential academic misconduct and issues of textual authenticity aside, what, exactly, would be problematic about Jesus having a wife? Obviously, “the tradition says” that he did not. But what is at stake theologically if he did?

    I can’t think of much. If someone announced today that Jesus Christ did, in fact, have a wife, I think I would shrug my shoulders. But I’m not a theologian.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Veith said:

    But here is the point: Jesus did and does have a wife: Her name is the CHURCH.

    I really don’t think this is the best reply to this. Sure, it’s true, that’s a teaching throughout the New Testament. So it’s possible that a reliable Gospel (that had not been previously found) might exist, in which Jesus himself explicitly refers to this teaching (as opposed to in parables, as was his wont, and as he actually did several times in this regard).

    But it ignores the much more trenchant point that we don’t need to find a way to shoehorn every extant textual fragment into orthodoxy.

    I think most non-Christians (and, sadly, not a few Christians) who are reacting to this news are simply unaware of how the Bible came to be. As if it was a group of men sitting around in the fourth century saying, “Okay, let’s see what texts we’ve collected here … okay, let’s make up a religion from those.” Were that the case, sure, I suppose it might seem newsworthy to discover that, whoops, those men missed (or, scandalously, intentionally left out) some fragment that changes everything.

    But that would ignore the teaching of Jesus himself, and the Apostles who he tought, and the people in the early church who knew those Apostles and learned from them, and compared given writings with those teachings, and so on. Random scraps of papyrus bearing sentence fragments, it hardly seems worth noting, do not carry apostolic weight.

    Also, there’s the fact that the Bible almost never refers to the Church as Jesus’ “wife” (though, admittedly, I haven’t looked into the underlying Greek here, not that I’m a scholar). I could only find one example of that word in translation, from Revelation 21:9. Far more frequently, the Church is referred to as Christ’s “bride”. And I think there’s significance to that. So yes, I would still think it odd for Jesus to be recorded saying the phrase “my wife”.

    But, again, who cares if some scrap of papyrus says he did?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Veith said:

    But here is the point: Jesus did and does have a wife: Her name is the CHURCH.

    I really don’t think this is the best reply to this. Sure, it’s true, that’s a teaching throughout the New Testament. So it’s possible that a reliable Gospel (that had not been previously found) might exist, in which Jesus himself explicitly refers to this teaching (as opposed to in parables, as was his wont, and as he actually did several times in this regard).

    But it ignores the much more trenchant point that we don’t need to find a way to shoehorn every extant textual fragment into orthodoxy.

    I think most non-Christians (and, sadly, not a few Christians) who are reacting to this news are simply unaware of how the Bible came to be. As if it was a group of men sitting around in the fourth century saying, “Okay, let’s see what texts we’ve collected here … okay, let’s make up a religion from those.” Were that the case, sure, I suppose it might seem newsworthy to discover that, whoops, those men missed (or, scandalously, intentionally left out) some fragment that changes everything.

    But that would ignore the teaching of Jesus himself, and the Apostles who he tought, and the people in the early church who knew those Apostles and learned from them, and compared given writings with those teachings, and so on. Random scraps of papyrus bearing sentence fragments, it hardly seems worth noting, do not carry apostolic weight.

    Also, there’s the fact that the Bible almost never refers to the Church as Jesus’ “wife” (though, admittedly, I haven’t looked into the underlying Greek here, not that I’m a scholar). I could only find one example of that word in translation, from Revelation 21:9. Far more frequently, the Church is referred to as Christ’s “bride”. And I think there’s significance to that. So yes, I would still think it odd for Jesus to be recorded saying the phrase “my wife”.

    But, again, who cares if some scrap of papyrus says he did?

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    Had Jesus been married, why wouldn’t the gospels have mentioned it? Obviously, we all agree that marriage is not a sin, but I think we can equally agree that such a thing would have been explicitly mentioned in Scripture somewhere.

    I call phony baloney on this text, btw.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    Had Jesus been married, why wouldn’t the gospels have mentioned it? Obviously, we all agree that marriage is not a sin, but I think we can equally agree that such a thing would have been explicitly mentioned in Scripture somewhere.

    I call phony baloney on this text, btw.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    What can we say, Christmas it seems came early.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    What can we say, Christmas it seems came early.

  • trotk

    tODD, I agree with your overall statement in regards to the papyrus. Ultimately, and I speak as someone who has studied the NT manuscripts and gnostic gospels, this scrap means nothing. There are a thousand explanations, from forgery to a legitimate quote that just sounds weird because it is out of context.

    In terms of your question about the word bride verse wife in Greek:

    There ultimately is more a difference in usage than meaning. The word bride (which in Greek is nymphe) merely refers to a newly-wed, and thus could translated wife accurately. The word wife (gyne) means both woman and wife, depending on the context. Nymphe generally is used for younger women (because they married young), and gyne for women who had been married more than a day or two, but they are relatively interchangeable, just as bride and wife are in English.

    That said, without going to an exhaustive concordance, I believe that Rev. 21:9 is the only place to use gyne to refer to the church, but this makes sense, because the marriage hasn’t happened yet and so the idea of bride (to be, because all this is in the future) makes more sense than wife, which is necessarily pointing to a marriage that happened in the past.

  • trotk

    tODD, I agree with your overall statement in regards to the papyrus. Ultimately, and I speak as someone who has studied the NT manuscripts and gnostic gospels, this scrap means nothing. There are a thousand explanations, from forgery to a legitimate quote that just sounds weird because it is out of context.

    In terms of your question about the word bride verse wife in Greek:

    There ultimately is more a difference in usage than meaning. The word bride (which in Greek is nymphe) merely refers to a newly-wed, and thus could translated wife accurately. The word wife (gyne) means both woman and wife, depending on the context. Nymphe generally is used for younger women (because they married young), and gyne for women who had been married more than a day or two, but they are relatively interchangeable, just as bride and wife are in English.

    That said, without going to an exhaustive concordance, I believe that Rev. 21:9 is the only place to use gyne to refer to the church, but this makes sense, because the marriage hasn’t happened yet and so the idea of bride (to be, because all this is in the future) makes more sense than wife, which is necessarily pointing to a marriage that happened in the past.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Trotk (@13), my point exactly. It would seem odd that Jesus would refer to his “wife” to other people if he were referring to the Church. Sure, one could fashion some awkward context to wrap around the known sentence fragment, but it wouldn’t seem consistent with the rest of Scripture. Thus, it doesn’t seem worth it to try to harmonize this fragment with the canon. And it seems all too easy to dismiss it as insignificant for any number of reasons.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Trotk (@13), my point exactly. It would seem odd that Jesus would refer to his “wife” to other people if he were referring to the Church. Sure, one could fashion some awkward context to wrap around the known sentence fragment, but it wouldn’t seem consistent with the rest of Scripture. Thus, it doesn’t seem worth it to try to harmonize this fragment with the canon. And it seems all too easy to dismiss it as insignificant for any number of reasons.

  • Joe

    I’ve been thinking about Cincy @ 9. And, I can’t think of a single doctrine that would have to change if we one day learned that Christ was married. What am I missing? (I am completely willing to admit that I might not be thinking this through properly).

    I say this only because I think the focus is on the wrong part of the fragment. The Harvard scholar has been trying to point out the relevance of this fragment is about the role of women in the Church. The other parts say things like, “she may be my disciple.” That is what really seems to be the biggest potential threat to historic Christian doctrine. This is what the Church needs to respond to.

  • Joe

    I’ve been thinking about Cincy @ 9. And, I can’t think of a single doctrine that would have to change if we one day learned that Christ was married. What am I missing? (I am completely willing to admit that I might not be thinking this through properly).

    I say this only because I think the focus is on the wrong part of the fragment. The Harvard scholar has been trying to point out the relevance of this fragment is about the role of women in the Church. The other parts say things like, “she may be my disciple.” That is what really seems to be the biggest potential threat to historic Christian doctrine. This is what the Church needs to respond to.

  • Grace

    As Dr. Veith posted his blog: “A historian of early Christianity at Harvard Divinity School has identified a scrap of papyrus that she says was written in Coptic in the fourth century and contains a phrase never seen in any piece of Scripture: “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife …’ ”

    Whoever wrote this, was not an Apostle of Christ. Fourth century, is long after Christ was on earth, and then died on the cross for our sins. The time frame and the fact the writer was NOT an Apostle, makes clear it’s false.

    Rob @1 – I agree with you.

  • Grace

    As Dr. Veith posted his blog: “A historian of early Christianity at Harvard Divinity School has identified a scrap of papyrus that she says was written in Coptic in the fourth century and contains a phrase never seen in any piece of Scripture: “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife …’ ”

    Whoever wrote this, was not an Apostle of Christ. Fourth century, is long after Christ was on earth, and then died on the cross for our sins. The time frame and the fact the writer was NOT an Apostle, makes clear it’s false.

    Rob @1 – I agree with you.

  • Jim_777

    When I became a confessional Lutheran ( I was raised barely Episcopalian), I was very afraid that historical evidence would surface that would discredit Christianity. This was just about the time that the Jesus Tomb affair was being widely hyped by the media. I was quite upset and frightened by this “revelation.” In the years since, God has increased and strengthened my faith to the point where these sort of stories no longer disturb me in the least. However, the sadistic glee that unbelievers take in these “Christianity debunked” fables does a marvelous job of reinforcing the Biblical truth that, without God’s grace, human beings are totally dead in their sins and have nothing but hatred for God and His Gospel.

  • Jim_777

    When I became a confessional Lutheran ( I was raised barely Episcopalian), I was very afraid that historical evidence would surface that would discredit Christianity. This was just about the time that the Jesus Tomb affair was being widely hyped by the media. I was quite upset and frightened by this “revelation.” In the years since, God has increased and strengthened my faith to the point where these sort of stories no longer disturb me in the least. However, the sadistic glee that unbelievers take in these “Christianity debunked” fables does a marvelous job of reinforcing the Biblical truth that, without God’s grace, human beings are totally dead in their sins and have nothing but hatred for God and His Gospel.

  • Grace

    Jim_777

    There are all too many false prophets and false claims, trying desperately to unhinge Believers, especially those who are not gounded in the Word of God.

    You commented: “In the years since, God has increased and strengthened my faith to the point where these sort of stories no longer disturb me in the least.”

    Thank God for your faith in HIM.

  • Grace

    Jim_777

    There are all too many false prophets and false claims, trying desperately to unhinge Believers, especially those who are not gounded in the Word of God.

    You commented: “In the years since, God has increased and strengthened my faith to the point where these sort of stories no longer disturb me in the least.”

    Thank God for your faith in HIM.

  • Cincinnatus

    J. Dean: If Jesus liked cheese pizza, why didn’t the Gospels mention it? Look, the Gospels are, relatively speaking, remarkably sparse if biography is your interest, and they certainly aren’t an account–exhaustive or otherwise–of Christ’s personal life. They’re an account of his public life of ministry.

    Again, I’m unclear on what the stakes are here theologically. My gut instinct is that the stakes are very low. Of course, for reasons others have noted, I’m absolutely not convinced by the evidence (so-called?) presented here. But I’m not inclined to reject the evidence on “theological” grounds either.

  • Cincinnatus

    J. Dean: If Jesus liked cheese pizza, why didn’t the Gospels mention it? Look, the Gospels are, relatively speaking, remarkably sparse if biography is your interest, and they certainly aren’t an account–exhaustive or otherwise–of Christ’s personal life. They’re an account of his public life of ministry.

    Again, I’m unclear on what the stakes are here theologically. My gut instinct is that the stakes are very low. Of course, for reasons others have noted, I’m absolutely not convinced by the evidence (so-called?) presented here. But I’m not inclined to reject the evidence on “theological” grounds either.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Cincinnatus (@19), I’ll admit I found myself wondering the same thing. Certainly, as a Lutheran, I can’t really say that Jesus’ being married would, as such be troubling, namely because it wouldn’t appear to constitute sin.

    One could argue that Jesus’ advice to the disciples in Matthew 19 doesn’t really gibe with a married Jesus. Upon hearing Jesus’ explanation of divorce, the disciples exclaim, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry,” to which Jesus replies, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. … Others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.” It would be odd, wouldn’t it, for Jesus to seem not to have “accepted this word”?

    Also, there’s the whole “bride” of Christ language. The, singular, unique. Were Jesus married, would the Church constitute Jesus’ other wife? That seems awkward. Really awkward.

    And, finally, I feel a “reveal” like this would be felt mainly in appearing to strike a blow against the Church’s authority. “These people claim to have been telling us about Jesus, but they had assumed all along he wasn’t married! They were wrong about that; what else have they misled us on?” And so on. This isn’t a particularly strong point to me, as such, but I think it could have rather deleterious effects on Christianity, all the same.

    Were it true. But, you know, I’m not worried about that.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Cincinnatus (@19), I’ll admit I found myself wondering the same thing. Certainly, as a Lutheran, I can’t really say that Jesus’ being married would, as such be troubling, namely because it wouldn’t appear to constitute sin.

    One could argue that Jesus’ advice to the disciples in Matthew 19 doesn’t really gibe with a married Jesus. Upon hearing Jesus’ explanation of divorce, the disciples exclaim, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry,” to which Jesus replies, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. … Others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.” It would be odd, wouldn’t it, for Jesus to seem not to have “accepted this word”?

    Also, there’s the whole “bride” of Christ language. The, singular, unique. Were Jesus married, would the Church constitute Jesus’ other wife? That seems awkward. Really awkward.

    And, finally, I feel a “reveal” like this would be felt mainly in appearing to strike a blow against the Church’s authority. “These people claim to have been telling us about Jesus, but they had assumed all along he wasn’t married! They were wrong about that; what else have they misled us on?” And so on. This isn’t a particularly strong point to me, as such, but I think it could have rather deleterious effects on Christianity, all the same.

    Were it true. But, you know, I’m not worried about that.

  • Cincinnatus

    tODD@20:

    The first point is fairly convincing. The second point is only convincing depending upon what your views on marriage as an ontological institution are: i.e., is marriage a sacramental state with some bearing on eternity? Or is it merely an earthly vocation? If the latter, then I don’t know if there’s much of a logical problem with the hypothesis that Jesus had a wife (after all, the Church isn’t a reality till after his death).

    The third point, as you note, is probably only a point if you’re a certain kind of Christian.

    Anyway, even if the first point is somewhat damning, are there any serious theological, ecclesiological, or practical concerns at stake? I’m still not sure, especially since your Point #1 is a somewhat speculative interpretation.

  • Cincinnatus

    tODD@20:

    The first point is fairly convincing. The second point is only convincing depending upon what your views on marriage as an ontological institution are: i.e., is marriage a sacramental state with some bearing on eternity? Or is it merely an earthly vocation? If the latter, then I don’t know if there’s much of a logical problem with the hypothesis that Jesus had a wife (after all, the Church isn’t a reality till after his death).

    The third point, as you note, is probably only a point if you’re a certain kind of Christian.

    Anyway, even if the first point is somewhat damning, are there any serious theological, ecclesiological, or practical concerns at stake? I’m still not sure, especially since your Point #1 is a somewhat speculative interpretation.

  • SKPeterson

    And now, some evidence that the whole thing may be a forgery.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/sep/21/gospel-jesus-wife-forgery?newsfeed=true

    I love the last paragraph.

  • SKPeterson

    And now, some evidence that the whole thing may be a forgery.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/sep/21/gospel-jesus-wife-forgery?newsfeed=true

    I love the last paragraph.

  • Michael B.

    “Had Jesus been married, why wouldn’t the gospels have mentioned it? Obviously, we all agree that marriage is not a sin, but I think we can equally agree that such a thing would have been explicitly mentioned in Scripture somewhere. ”

    Well, the author of Mark left out the virgin birth — why do you suppose he didn’t mention that?

    Also, if all the information we have about Jesus is in the canonical gospels, then logically almost all but a few of his deeds are unknown to us. If you disagree, try writing everything you’ve done in 5 years in the amount of space given in the gospels.

  • Michael B.

    “Had Jesus been married, why wouldn’t the gospels have mentioned it? Obviously, we all agree that marriage is not a sin, but I think we can equally agree that such a thing would have been explicitly mentioned in Scripture somewhere. ”

    Well, the author of Mark left out the virgin birth — why do you suppose he didn’t mention that?

    Also, if all the information we have about Jesus is in the canonical gospels, then logically almost all but a few of his deeds are unknown to us. If you disagree, try writing everything you’ve done in 5 years in the amount of space given in the gospels.

  • Grace

    Michael @23

    “Well, the author of Mark left out the virgin birth — why do you suppose he didn’t mention that?”

    It’s mentioned elsewhere. The HOLY Sprit guided each of those who wrote the Gospels, I don’t question the reason.

    And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.

    John 21:25

  • Grace

    Michael @23

    “Well, the author of Mark left out the virgin birth — why do you suppose he didn’t mention that?”

    It’s mentioned elsewhere. The HOLY Sprit guided each of those who wrote the Gospels, I don’t question the reason.

    And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.

    John 21:25

  • Grace

    Michael,

    The passage I quoted @24 is in response to your comment @23: “Also, if all the information we have about Jesus is in the canonical gospels, then logically almost all but a few of his deeds are unknown to us. If you disagree, try writing everything you’ve done in 5 years in the amount of space given in the gospels.”

    And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.

    John 21:25

  • Grace

    Michael,

    The passage I quoted @24 is in response to your comment @23: “Also, if all the information we have about Jesus is in the canonical gospels, then logically almost all but a few of his deeds are unknown to us. If you disagree, try writing everything you’ve done in 5 years in the amount of space given in the gospels.”

    And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.

    John 21:25

  • Grace

    Jesus performed many miracles and healed the sick. I doubt we have any clue as to how many.

  • Grace

    Jesus performed many miracles and healed the sick. I doubt we have any clue as to how many.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Cincinnatus said (@21):

    …after all, the Church isn’t a reality till after his death.

    Um, what? That’s not true. Clearly I’m misreading you.

    Anyhow, Jesus several times refers to himself as the “bridegroom” while he’s alive. Again, this would have been confusing or awkward, had he actually been married.

    SK (@22), yeah, that’s some Grade-A journalism there. “There has long been” = “I read this pulp-fiction novel a few years back”.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Cincinnatus said (@21):

    …after all, the Church isn’t a reality till after his death.

    Um, what? That’s not true. Clearly I’m misreading you.

    Anyhow, Jesus several times refers to himself as the “bridegroom” while he’s alive. Again, this would have been confusing or awkward, had he actually been married.

    SK (@22), yeah, that’s some Grade-A journalism there. “There has long been” = “I read this pulp-fiction novel a few years back”.

  • Michael B.

    @Grace

    “Jesus performed many miracles and healed the sick. I doubt we have any clue as to how many.”

    The Gospel of Thomas says that Jesus healed a person who had been bitten by a poisonous snake. If this is true, I don’t think we lose a lot by it being left out. What does one more miracle really give us? Where we really lose are the sayings and teachings of Jesus that are left out. Given how short the Gospels are, most of these are simply lost.

  • Michael B.

    @Grace

    “Jesus performed many miracles and healed the sick. I doubt we have any clue as to how many.”

    The Gospel of Thomas says that Jesus healed a person who had been bitten by a poisonous snake. If this is true, I don’t think we lose a lot by it being left out. What does one more miracle really give us? Where we really lose are the sayings and teachings of Jesus that are left out. Given how short the Gospels are, most of these are simply lost.

  • Grace

    Michael,

    The Gospel of Thomas was written in the 2nd century. All of Christs Apostles had died, it is not a first hand witness account. It disagrees with 1st century New Testament context. The manuscripts that were discovered in 1945 at Nag Hammoadi are dated about 340 A.D.

  • Grace

    Michael,

    The Gospel of Thomas was written in the 2nd century. All of Christs Apostles had died, it is not a first hand witness account. It disagrees with 1st century New Testament context. The manuscripts that were discovered in 1945 at Nag Hammoadi are dated about 340 A.D.

  • Tom Hering

    I did a Google search for reactions to the papyrus fragment, and the consensus seems to be that a married Jesus makes no difference to orthodox christology. But something still bothered me, so I searched the Scriptures. I think the problem with a married Jesus can be found in the difference between what Paul says about marriage and what Jesus says about Himself – about the way His singular focus testifies to His divinity.

    Here is what Paul says about marriage:

    One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and his interests are divided. (1st Corinthians 7:32-34)

    Compare this with what Jesus says about himself:

    Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work.” (John 4:34)

    “I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” (John 5:30)

    “But the testimony which I have is greater than the testimony of John; for the works which the Father has given Me to accomplish – the very works that I do – testify about Me, that the Father has sent Me.” (John 5:36)

    “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” (John 6:38)

    “And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.” (John 8:29)

    “Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves.” (John 14:10-11)

  • Tom Hering

    I did a Google search for reactions to the papyrus fragment, and the consensus seems to be that a married Jesus makes no difference to orthodox christology. But something still bothered me, so I searched the Scriptures. I think the problem with a married Jesus can be found in the difference between what Paul says about marriage and what Jesus says about Himself – about the way His singular focus testifies to His divinity.

    Here is what Paul says about marriage:

    One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and his interests are divided. (1st Corinthians 7:32-34)

    Compare this with what Jesus says about himself:

    Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work.” (John 4:34)

    “I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” (John 5:30)

    “But the testimony which I have is greater than the testimony of John; for the works which the Father has given Me to accomplish – the very works that I do – testify about Me, that the Father has sent Me.” (John 5:36)

    “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” (John 6:38)

    “And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.” (John 8:29)

    “Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves.” (John 14:10-11)

  • Tom Hering

    So, Jesus’ interests weren’t divided. He wasn’t concerned with the things of this world – with pleasing a wife. He wasn’t even concerned with pleasing Himself, but only and always His Father. He says that His total focus is evidence that He and the Father are One. The Gnostic claim that Jesus was married undermines Christ’s own testimony about His Sonship.

  • Tom Hering

    So, Jesus’ interests weren’t divided. He wasn’t concerned with the things of this world – with pleasing a wife. He wasn’t even concerned with pleasing Himself, but only and always His Father. He says that His total focus is evidence that He and the Father are One. The Gnostic claim that Jesus was married undermines Christ’s own testimony about His Sonship.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com tODD

    Tom (@30,31), good points as well.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com tODD

    Tom (@30,31), good points as well.

  • Joanne

    Oh this is terrible. I’ve wanted to name drop and posture about this for 30 years, and now that I’ve forgotten almost all of it, you all talk about it. For what it’s worth, here’s what I can remember:

    It was the mid-1980s, in Coral Gables, Florida. I was working at the University of Miami Law School in the financial aid office. The Law School had it’s own financial aid office because the regular financial aid office couldn’t count as high as we could (I regularly put law school students into $60,000 worth of debt and often more within 3 years of attendance.

    But, I enjoyed the University atmosphere and one could take up to 2 classes free each semester if you job allowed you the time. I took several classes over the years. We were most busy during the summer in order to get the applications prepared for the Fall term loans and grants.

    Anyway, the seasons were 2 down there, wet (summer) and dry (winter). So I really don’t remember the time of year she came, but the UofM History and Religion departments turned out in full to meet and greet the famous author and resercher of the Nag Hammadi Texts, none other than Elaine Pagels herself. They had advertised the chat and invited interested parties. I asked my boss and she looked at her watch and said sure as long a I was back by something. It was midday.

    The chat was in a provost’s office where the University President and other top officials offices were. I’d never been in there and after walking into a few closets found the Provost’s office. It was actually a workroom in his area, as we all sat down at a long wooden table.

    As it happened, my getting lost made me almost the last one to sit down at the table, so I rush in and sat near the middle, which turned out to be the seat exactly next to Dr. Pagel’s chair. She charmingly said hello and we chatted a bit about how nicely President’s Foote’s beautification program was going. He was covering the whole campus in Royal Palms then.

    Then various department (history, religion, etc.) stood and introduced themselves and their faculties, and the senior fellow introduced Dr. Pagels who had just flown in that afternoon and would be speaking to an assymbly of students that evening. It was all so academically charming. I smiled and tried to look bookish, as I breathed in and out slowly realizing that this really wasn’t the part I should have been at, and certainly shouldn’t be sitting next to the guest of honor.

    At the time, it had been 40 years since the discovery of the Nag Hammadi Texts, but they were just beginning to be puzzeled together enought to make sense of them, and Elaine was determined to make her academic career out of them. She spoke for about 30 minutes, giving a synopsis of her later talk and then she took questions. I had not read her book, I think it was only one then, but I quickly learned that these were Gnostic, Jewish, and some Christian texts, found in the Egyptian desert in jars inside of jar, I think I remember. There was close questioning about provenance and about the translation process.

    I got the distinct impression that these texts were a hodge-podge of fragments, mostly pagan Gnostism, but a healthy bit of Jewish Gnostism, and smidgens of Christian Gnostism. Again, as noticed so well above, this was all likely to be fourth century in origin and looked to have been hurriedly hidden away. I suspected that the 4th century being when the government got into the Christian (sometimes Athanasian, sometimes Arian) orthodoxy policing business, that some Gnostic group had this collection and buried it in the sand to keep from getting caught with materials not on the Imperial list of approved documents.

    Interestingly, the conversation turned in that direction, mainly, what was the Christian Roman Empire up to with the Gnostics in Egypt at that time. I cannot remember how this happened but a professor way down the table to my left and Elaine was on my left, asked a question that was a tad out of context. He said to all and sundry, wasn’t there some Greek term put on all the mileage posts that led to Constantinople being call Istanbul.

    I was a little slow in the up take, as most of this was several stories above my head, and when no one else popped up and gave him the well known and popular answer, I said, the term on the posts was “eis ton polin.” Which means, to the city. In medieval times, with the death of the cities even in the east, Constantinople was the only city in the Mediterranean world. So it was simply called “the city” by everyone.

    The problem was in the Greek pronunciation, I’ve actually learned 4 different ways to pronounce Greek. I used one that the professor did not recognize, so he said he thought it must be something else and I got one short, down very long noses and piped moustaches. look and I faded immediately back into the rosewood varnished wall paneling. I was afterall the only other woman in the room and they had no idea who I was.

    As soon as they stood, I said something hopeful about her success in the evenings presentation, saw by the wall clock I was 30 minutes late already in getting back to the Law School, and I almost ran out of the room. I was so happy to get back to my little desk and be away from all that intellectual hauteur.

    A few weeks later, I did make an effort to read Dr. Pagels book, “The Nag Hammadi Texts,” but I found it utterly shallow, as if one were trying to see just how far one could get their chewing gum to stretch before it broke. I’ve never been interested in any of the Gnostic materials (pagan, Jewish, or Christian) since then. They are a complete waste of time.
    I might refer to them, the Gnostics, as the higher-criticism folks of their day, who suddenly got into legal troubles with the Roman Imperial Compliance Bureau.

  • Joanne

    Oh this is terrible. I’ve wanted to name drop and posture about this for 30 years, and now that I’ve forgotten almost all of it, you all talk about it. For what it’s worth, here’s what I can remember:

    It was the mid-1980s, in Coral Gables, Florida. I was working at the University of Miami Law School in the financial aid office. The Law School had it’s own financial aid office because the regular financial aid office couldn’t count as high as we could (I regularly put law school students into $60,000 worth of debt and often more within 3 years of attendance.

    But, I enjoyed the University atmosphere and one could take up to 2 classes free each semester if you job allowed you the time. I took several classes over the years. We were most busy during the summer in order to get the applications prepared for the Fall term loans and grants.

    Anyway, the seasons were 2 down there, wet (summer) and dry (winter). So I really don’t remember the time of year she came, but the UofM History and Religion departments turned out in full to meet and greet the famous author and resercher of the Nag Hammadi Texts, none other than Elaine Pagels herself. They had advertised the chat and invited interested parties. I asked my boss and she looked at her watch and said sure as long a I was back by something. It was midday.

    The chat was in a provost’s office where the University President and other top officials offices were. I’d never been in there and after walking into a few closets found the Provost’s office. It was actually a workroom in his area, as we all sat down at a long wooden table.

    As it happened, my getting lost made me almost the last one to sit down at the table, so I rush in and sat near the middle, which turned out to be the seat exactly next to Dr. Pagel’s chair. She charmingly said hello and we chatted a bit about how nicely President’s Foote’s beautification program was going. He was covering the whole campus in Royal Palms then.

    Then various department (history, religion, etc.) stood and introduced themselves and their faculties, and the senior fellow introduced Dr. Pagels who had just flown in that afternoon and would be speaking to an assymbly of students that evening. It was all so academically charming. I smiled and tried to look bookish, as I breathed in and out slowly realizing that this really wasn’t the part I should have been at, and certainly shouldn’t be sitting next to the guest of honor.

    At the time, it had been 40 years since the discovery of the Nag Hammadi Texts, but they were just beginning to be puzzeled together enought to make sense of them, and Elaine was determined to make her academic career out of them. She spoke for about 30 minutes, giving a synopsis of her later talk and then she took questions. I had not read her book, I think it was only one then, but I quickly learned that these were Gnostic, Jewish, and some Christian texts, found in the Egyptian desert in jars inside of jar, I think I remember. There was close questioning about provenance and about the translation process.

    I got the distinct impression that these texts were a hodge-podge of fragments, mostly pagan Gnostism, but a healthy bit of Jewish Gnostism, and smidgens of Christian Gnostism. Again, as noticed so well above, this was all likely to be fourth century in origin and looked to have been hurriedly hidden away. I suspected that the 4th century being when the government got into the Christian (sometimes Athanasian, sometimes Arian) orthodoxy policing business, that some Gnostic group had this collection and buried it in the sand to keep from getting caught with materials not on the Imperial list of approved documents.

    Interestingly, the conversation turned in that direction, mainly, what was the Christian Roman Empire up to with the Gnostics in Egypt at that time. I cannot remember how this happened but a professor way down the table to my left and Elaine was on my left, asked a question that was a tad out of context. He said to all and sundry, wasn’t there some Greek term put on all the mileage posts that led to Constantinople being call Istanbul.

    I was a little slow in the up take, as most of this was several stories above my head, and when no one else popped up and gave him the well known and popular answer, I said, the term on the posts was “eis ton polin.” Which means, to the city. In medieval times, with the death of the cities even in the east, Constantinople was the only city in the Mediterranean world. So it was simply called “the city” by everyone.

    The problem was in the Greek pronunciation, I’ve actually learned 4 different ways to pronounce Greek. I used one that the professor did not recognize, so he said he thought it must be something else and I got one short, down very long noses and piped moustaches. look and I faded immediately back into the rosewood varnished wall paneling. I was afterall the only other woman in the room and they had no idea who I was.

    As soon as they stood, I said something hopeful about her success in the evenings presentation, saw by the wall clock I was 30 minutes late already in getting back to the Law School, and I almost ran out of the room. I was so happy to get back to my little desk and be away from all that intellectual hauteur.

    A few weeks later, I did make an effort to read Dr. Pagels book, “The Nag Hammadi Texts,” but I found it utterly shallow, as if one were trying to see just how far one could get their chewing gum to stretch before it broke. I’ve never been interested in any of the Gnostic materials (pagan, Jewish, or Christian) since then. They are a complete waste of time.
    I might refer to them, the Gnostics, as the higher-criticism folks of their day, who suddenly got into legal troubles with the Roman Imperial Compliance Bureau.

  • Jon

    Good story, Joanne.

  • Jon

    Good story, Joanne.

  • Joanne

    Es verdad!

  • Joanne

    Es verdad!

  • Joanne

    Eis ten polin, she suggested sheepishly.

  • Joanne

    Eis ten polin, she suggested sheepishly.