Did Jesus Have a Wife? Panel Discussion with Anthony Le Donne

For those in the Stockton, CA area, Anthony Le Donne announced on his blog that will part of a public panel discussion at the University of the Pacific on the recent controversy over whether Jesus had a wife.

Le Donne is the author of Historical Jesus: What Can We Know and How Can We Know It?, The Historiographical Jesus: Memory, Typology, and the Son of David, and Jesus, Criteria, and the Demise of AuthenticityHe is also one of several biblical scholars who have in recent months been terminated from their positions for transgressing doctrinal parameters, either stated or unstated.

From the university’s website:

The controversy about Jesus’ Wife started in September. Harvard professor Karen King revealed simultaneously at a scholarly conference in Rome and in interviews with the New York Times and other news outlets that she identified a new papyrus fragment containing the earliest known statement saying that Jesus was married.  Since this discovery was announced, some scholars and religious leaders have denounced the so-called “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” as a likely modern forgery, with some claiming there are hints the handwriting reflected modern techniques not available when the words were penned. 

Schroeder said that some of the topics the panel will attempt to approach include:

  • What is the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife?
  • What does a fourth-century reference to Jesus and his wife mean about early Christianity? 
  • Is this papyrus a forgery, and if so, why would someone forge an ancient manuscript? 
  • Could Jesus have been married? 
  • Why does a text suggesting that Jesus might have had a wife cause so much controversy? 
  • What does it mean to sexualize Jesus? 

The event is sponsored by Pacific’s Department of Religious and Classical Studies, the Pacific Alumni Association, the Humanities Center, Women’s Resource Center at Pacific, Religious and Spiritual Life at Pacific, and Phi Beta Kappa.

  • http://jesusweblog.com Anthony Le Donne

    Thank you for posting this Pete. It should be a very lively discussion!

    anthony

  • Dan Hauge

    I think that bullet #5 (“Why does a text suggesting that Jesus might have had a wife cause so much controversy? “) is a perfectly legitimate question to be asking, but I have to admit that for myself it is bullet #2 (“What does a fourth-century reference to Jesus and his wife mean about early Christianity? “) that is the most interesting, and the most exasperating, because while it may say something about fourth century Christianity, I don’t know why it says much about the historical Jesus at all. I don’t have much vested in insisting the fragment is a forgery, and it wouldn’t make my faith crumble if Jesus ended up having a wife, but it’s the question of historical method that concerns me here. Why does one solitary reference in a fourth-century text somehow cast legitimate doubt on the silence of all other texts about Jesus, many of which (like the Gospels) are much earlier? I think the topic of sexuality itself is what has given the historical question any legs at all.

  • Christian

    About bullet #5: I think most who get up and arms about suggesting Jesus was married are probably married themselves. Anyone who has been married knows it’s impossible to live with another person and remain sinless. :>

  • Alan Lenzi

    “I have to admit that for myself it is bullet #2 (“What does a fourth-century reference to Jesus and his wife mean about early Christianity? “) that is the most interesting, and the most exasperating, because while it may say something about fourth century Christianity, I don’t know why it says much about the historical Jesus at all. ”

    Exactly. It may say nothing at all (which is my position, unless my colleagues convince me otherwise). The questions in the flyer were intended to get people, students and interested people from the broader community generally, thinking about what’s at issue. Those with any kind of decent historical and theological education would already be able to ID the most important issues. Students and lay people may not be at the point.

    Disclosure: I’m the OT/ANE prof. at Pacific. Schroeder is my colleague. And my dept. is co-sponsoring the event.

  • http://mikesnow.org Michael Snow

    What has been most surprising in this has not been all the media hype and worldly speculation, but the confusion among many Christians that somehow, ‘it doesn’t matter’ if Jesus had a wife.
    http://textsincontext.wordpress.com/2012/09/30/the-jesus-wife-heresy/

  • James

    The last point is interesting considering the obvious reserve of biblical writers in this regard. I wonder if it’s because sexuality may be, though rich in imagery, a transitory characteristic of the human person in light of new creation. This has implications for how we should handle various questions of sexuality and gender today.

  • Jim

    Regarding the GJW fragment reported in September, it has been noted by F. Watson that many of the words/phrases in the fragment appear to be borrowed from the Gospel of Thomas, except of course for the punch line “My wife”. Oxford’s Andrew Bernhard has looked in detail at potential grammatical errors in the GJW fragment that could raise suspicions regarding the document’s origin including an error that someone who knew Coptic probably would not have made. Bernhard’s tentative proposal (http://www.gospels.net/gjw/mighthavebeenforged.pdf) focuses on a missing key supralinear stroke (familiar in Coptic), a known typo in a particular Interlinear edition of the Copic GTh. The reported GJW fragment apparently replicates this typo. Hmmm.
    So maybe I’m jumping the gun without the results of tests on the ink being available yet, but when I do my forgery of a document from antiquity I’ll try to use the most accurate documents available (i.e. ones without typos). Just my opinion though.

    • peteenns

      Jim, I’m pretty sure from what I’ve heard that it’s been deemed a forgery. And if not, whatever. Early Christians (i.e., Syriac) told stories about Jesus. It tells us what they thought. I really never saw what all the controversy was about.

  • Juniper

    Wow. I can go to this one. I only live 30 miles south. :)

  • Joshua

    All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)


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