Was Jesus Married? Does The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife Help Answer This Question?

Was Jesus Married? Does The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife Help Answer This Question? May 5, 2014

Ever since Dan Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code raised the intriguing possibility that Jesus was actually married to Mary Magdalene, pop culture has been fascinated by this question. And, even though historical evidence for the actual marriage of Jesus was extremely slim at best, and the evidence to the contrary was weighty, millions of people have been convinced that Jesus was, indeed, married. I know this because lots of them have emailed me about things I have written on the marriage (or non-marriage, if you will) of Jesus. You can find my writings here: Was Jesus Married? A Careful Look at the Real Evidence.

In 2012, an announcement by an influential Harvard professor added fuel to the fire of the “Was Jesus Married?” debate. Karen King announced that she had a fragment of an ancient gospel, which she called The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife. In this little fragment, a character named “Jesus” refers to someone named “Mary” as “My wife.” Talk about fuel for the fire!

King cautioned us against thinking that this fragment had anything to do with the actual Jesus of Nazareth. But her warning didn’t stop the press from hyping King’s find as if it were conclusive proof of the marriage of Jesus.

In September 2012, I wrote a series of blog posts about The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife. In this series, not collected here, I agreed with King that nothing in her fragment has any relevance for the question: Was Jesus married? If the fragment is authentic – and I left that question open for lack of evidence – then at most it tells us what some gnostic Christians living several hundreds years after Jesus thought.

In April 2014, King and her Harvard colleagues released more information about the disputed fragment, including their conclusion that it is authentic. A dissenting voice was included. Since the release of the additional information, many other experts have been able to weigh in on the question authenticity question. It now seems that there is a loud and growing chorus of academic voices concluding that the fragment is a forgery. I have summarized some of the main arguments in my article: Does The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife Show That Jesus Was Married? Of course, King and her colleagues will respond to this chorus, either by acknowledging their error or by defending their believe in the authenticity of the fragment. The conversation is not over yet, though the evidence for the forgery seems to me strong, even irrefutable. But I am not an expert in ancient manuscripts and the Coptic language. So we’ll have to see where all of this ends up.

No matter what is concluded about the so-called Gospel of Jesus’ Wife, I would continue to underscore that which Karen King has said all along: This fragment does not contribute in any way to the discussion about the marriage (or lack thereof) of the real Jesus of Nazareth.

Links to my longer articles:

Does The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife Show That Jesus Was Married?

Was Jesus Married? A Careful Look at the Real Evidence

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  • Nathaniel

    I find this whole hullabaloo and what its really talking about hilarious. Because when someone asks, “Was Jesus married,” they aren’t saying they deeply care about whether he said wedding vows. They’re asking “Did Jesus ever do the nasty,” in an politely euphemistic fashion.

    That such an idea bothers so many Christians really puts the lie to the notion that y’all aren’t anti-sex.

  • markdroberts

    Interesting comment. You might be right about some folks. Others, though, think of marriage and the possibility of Jesus’ marriage quite differently, without the focus on sex.

  • Taking a single fragment and using it to support for any historical fact is not the academic approach; this one fragment isn’t complete enough to support anything. That being said, the question of Jesus being married or not has very little to do with the essence of who he is. He is fully God, fully Human, and that would certainly infer that Jesus felt every human aspect. Wherever we look in the human experience, we find him there. So whenever we experience a human trait (even sexuality), we know there can be both a Godly and un-Godly way to experience it. We are told very clearly that Jesus was tempted in the desert when he encountered Satan. He instead chose the Godly option and refused Satan’s taunts. That means we can too. God created us in his image, and frankly, sexual attraction is part of the human design.

  • markdroberts

    Amen. Thanks.