Shattering Revelation Shakes Christianity to Its Very Foundations!!!!!!

Shattering Revelation Shakes Christianity to Its Very Foundations!!!!!! September 20, 2012

…at least, according to the MSM, yet again. Turns out that a dubious scrap of paper the size of a business card–the provenance of which is uncertain, obtained from a guy hungry for cash, by a scholar hungry for publicity, and trumpeted by a media hungry to sell beer and shampoo–has a sentence fragment that reads, “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife …’ ” something something “she will be able to be my disciple.”

That’s it. That’s all. And from this we are to conclude that Jesus was married, Dan Brown was right, Christianity is a fraud, everything you know is wrong and whatever other faddish self-congratulatory thing you’d like to believe about the Latest Real Jesus.

Even by the theologically ignorant standards of the MSM, this is one of the greatest mountains on a molehill in recent memory. Jimmy Akin does the full and sober autopsy on this complete non-news story. Tom McDonald does something more like dragging the corpse of the story through the streets behind a triumphal chariot, stopping every few yards to get out and kick it in a way that I found hilarious.

At the very very best case scenario (meaning, this really is a fourth century gnostic text (which is awfully late for gnosticism)), what you’ve got here is…. a sentence fragment.

What that fragment might mean, particularly in the intensely mystical world of gnosticism, is totally up for grabs. Even in Christian mysticism, nuptial language is used about Jesus without in the slightest referring to his literally being married (Christ is the Bridegroom and his Bride is the Church). In certain gnostic circles, something similar may obtain. But with this sentence fragment we don’t even have that much to go on. What we do know is that gnosticism was often deeply *hostile* both to marriage and to women (because they produce babies (aka spiritual souls trapped in evil fleshly bodies). The 21st century’s provincial obsession with sex is never more obviously on display than in its conviction that the primary concern of ancient gnostics was with the burning question of whether Jesus was a dead rabbi with a girlfriend. Gnosticism has very little interest in Jesus as a historical figure and immense interest in turning him into a disembodied talking head enunciating abstract mystical principles that just happen to be identical with the abstract mystical principles enuniciated by that particular gnostic sect.

In this, gnostics were remarkably like modern journalists who have far more faith than Catholics do and who imagine that a scrap of paper with a couple of sentence fragments is capable of overturning 2000 years of Christianity. That’s some mystical faith right there.

We are told by our Manufacturers of Culture that the Age of Faith has been superceded by the Age of Reason. Totally false. The High Middle Ages were the Age of Reason. And it was succeeded by our age: the Age of Credulity.

Meanwhile, I can’t help but notice that nobody is addressing the *real* bombshell revelation: Jesus’ shocking obesophobic hate speech against the Jolly community in line 6: “Let wicked people swell up.”  As a member of the Lardo/Giganto/Brickhouse/Trans-Fatty community let me just say, “I AM OUTRAGED!! OOUUUUTRAAAAAGED!!!!!!  When is the Church going to learn to affirm without question whatever my appetites want to do today?  I demand a world in which I am accepted unquestioningly praised for forking what I want with whoever I want.  Or else.  Lack of tolerance will be punished with swift and merciless reprisals.

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  • JB

    Jesus said to the New York Times, “Take my wife. Please!”

  • Sherrill

    Is this insulting enough to burn down Harvard? Just asking because if your religion is insulted I think you are supposed to set something on fire.

    • Martin T

      I don’t know about you but I’m going into my backyard and throwing a large steak on the grill.

  • John

    This gives us a glimpse through a pin hole to a point in our past. Nothing more. It may be real, or unreal. But it is a glimpse. But, a glimpse is just that. I read the NYT article, and didn’t find it offensive. It seemed to leave room for me to formulate my own decision. Mark’s quote: “obtained from a guy hungry for cash, by a scholar hungry for publicity, and trumpeted by a media hungry to sell beer and shampoo.” So what? Not sure what that means to the fact of whether or not this piece of paper is real, or unreal. True, or untrue.

    With that said, as humans, I think we’d like to know more. It’s our nature. The life of Jesus is basically given to us in two parts – his virgin birth, and the last years of his life on earth. It’s only natural that we’d want to fill in the blanks, connect the dots to a time where we know very little.

    • The legitimate use of such characterization is to put the question of motivation on the table. Frankly, I don’t care enough about the whole thing to go deeply into it but Mark does have a point in that it is irresponsible to take the text as holy writ without looking for alternative explanations. Kick the tires people before you drive this jalopy to some new destination.

    • Noah D

      It may be real, or unreal. But it is a glimpse.

      If it’s unreal, the word you’re looking for is ‘hoax’.

  • Richard Johnson

    It is a curious find, if legitimate, and that is a large “if”. And if it is shown to be a legitimate artifact it should be studied further. But at this point any conclusions drawn from it have the same weight as those early speculations made in the hours shortly after the Libyan attacks.

    But it is human nature to jump to conclusions, especially when a fragment of “evidence” supports one’s personal bias.

  • alan capasso

    I am amazed that they did not hold on to this stupendous find to release it at Christmas. Durring an election they just won’t get the milage they could have.

  • astorian

    Up front: I do NOT believe this new “find” is legitimate. But for the sake of argument, suppose Jesus DID have a wife, as at least one of his followers (Peter) did.

    So what? What changes as a result?

    I accept that Jesus COULD have been married- just as he COULD have been bald, just as he COULD have been 6 feet 8 inches tall, just as he COULD have been a spectacular singer. But we have absolutely NOTHING in Scripture or even early Church tradition to suggest that any of those things was true…. and one is inclined to wonder why, IF any of those things was true, no evangelist thought it was worth even a mention.

    Obviously, NONE of those things would be bad. NONE of those things would invalidate Jesus, his words or his mission. If I’m lucky enough to make it to Heaven, and find that Jesus was a very tall bald guy with a spouse, it won’t bother me in the least! I just don’t see any good reason to believe it.

    It matters far more to secularists than it does to me.

    • Andy, Bad Person

      It matters a little bit, at least. Jesus, according to both Scripture and Tradition, is the betrothed bridegroom to his one bride, His Church. Jesus is not a polygamist.

    • Mark Shea

      What changes is the entire nuptial dynamic of Jesus’ relationship to his bride the Church, which underlies the whole theology of John.

      Just for starters.

  • Paula

    HAHAA! Well played, sir!

  • Who cares? Even if the papyrus is authentic, it’s just a Gnostic document from centuries after the fact.

  • Richard Johnson

    That is true, Andy. However, he was also a carpenter, and for a time made a living from it. That does not take away from his role as Redeemer and Savior, or his role as Bridegroom to the Church.

    My reaction at this point is a very sincere “meh”. Jesus was married or he was not. The foundation of the faith does not hinge on the answer to the question, nor does it increase or diminish his role in human history. At best it is an interesting side note, much like the Shroud of Turin and the numerous splinters of the “true cross” that exist (which, if all put together, would yield enough wood to reconstruct the ark several times over).

    • Noah D

      the numerous splinters of the “true cross” that exist (which, if all put together, would yield enough wood to reconstruct the ark several times over).

      Or, perhaps not.

    • Mark Shea

      Don’t believe urban legends about the True Cross. Turns out the amount of wood would give you a Cross. Be aware that early Christians did, in fact, venerate relics and care about accuracy in such matters. You’re not 2000 years smarter than them.

      • Richard Johnson

        “A splinter from the True Cross, so small it requires a magnifying glass to see. Cost: $975. This item is considered first class and comes with a red papal seal (meaning it’s been vetted by the Vatican) and papers. Sixteenth-century Protestant theologian John Calvin once quipped that there were enough purported pieces of the True Cross around the world to “form a whole ship’s cargo.” One of Broomer’s clients, the Rev. Paul Halovatch, chaplain at Southern Connecticut State University, has 10 pieces of the True Cross. “I’m confident that with 10, at least one is the real deal,” he says.”

    • Hezekiah Garrett

      “Honey, I don’t know why you’re upset. My job doesn’t keep me from being a good husband to you, and neither does my other wife.”

      That’s an awfully queer perspective.

    • Andy, Bad Person

      Whether Jesus was married makes a huge difference when discussing whether he will be married to his Church at the end of time.

      I amend my previous statement. Whether or not Jesus was married doesn’t matter “a little bit.” It matters a lot.

      • KSC

        What does that even mean…? “Married to his Church…”…? Because if everyone is taking this so literally, aren’t we all polygamists? I’m married to my husband. Does that mean, as a member of Christ’s Church, I’m also married to Jesus?

        I doubt Jesus was married only because, given he knew the deal before it happened, dragging a wife and possibly children into that hotbed of ugliness and suffering would have been a really crappy thing to do. Jesus’ death was quite political, and any wife and children would most likely have been persecuted, if not jailed and/or killed. Not to mention all the DNA issues and so forth — I mean, if there are physical descendents of Christ walking around today, how does that affect the Eucharist? C’mon, people, think!

        • Andy, Bad Person

          It means what it says. Jesus is the groom. The Church is His bride. Our marriages to our wives and husbands in this life are mere foretastes of that heavenly marriage, just as all sacraments are foretastes of (and small participations in) heaven.

          Does that mean, as a member of Christ’s Church, I’m also married to Jesus?

          Not yet. The Wedding Feast of the Lamb is yet to come.

  • B.E. Ward

    Jesus called people wicked??

    But I thought he was our friend and just wants us to indulge every whim and appetite in the name of ‘love’!

  • Crfields

    Great stuff. This crap totally deserves a beat down.
    BTW, The Jimmy Akin link is missing an “H” in “http”, so it doesn’t work quite right.

  • Mary

    If Jesus had a wife I’m certain He would have mentioned it! At no time anywhere in the New Testament is there any mention of Jesus having a wife. This certainly would have been very important information.

    • Chris M

      Oh, we all know the evil Patriarchy edited out the Truth in order to oppress women and consolidate their power. Haven’t you ever been taught by a nun in a pantsuit? Jeez.

  • Some media, at least, had a fairly measured reaction. All the interviews I heard over NPR brought us the scholar in question, saying:
    1 -This still hasn’t been verified by tests such as dating techniques.
    2 – It says nothing about the historical Jesus, but rather about the issues important to the people who wrote centuries later.
    3 – …if it says that much; she also points out the possibility of metaphorical and symbolic language.

    • Exactly. I would advise going over to Harvard University’s web site, where there is a page devoted to this manuscript fragment

      and reading what Prof. King actually wrote in her forthcoming article. Yes, the beginning will be dry and technical to some, with its details about the manuscript and ink and all that, but it will become clear that she is talking about it in a scholarly and professional way, without sensationalism. She studies the fragment in relation to other late second century Gnostic texts and makes the point that the nuptial language in the fragment almost certainly does not refer to anything in Jesus’ earthly life, but rather is a teaching about spiritual initiation for his (Gnostic) followers.

      I was amused, though, that she chose the title “Gospel of Jesus’ wife” rather than say “The Gospel of Jesus’ Mother,” since his mother is the first person mentioned. Of course I know why it was done; even sane scholars can get carried away, and King has been criticized for this in the past.

      On the other hand, the evidence that it’s a forgery seems to be mounting. Following this part in the links Mark provided is fascinating to me, since I have a bit of experience with paleography and manuscripts — though in my case, medieval, not ancient ones — and to me the critics seemed to make some good points. I myself thought the handwriting on the papyrus looked very odd at first. I am not any kind of expert in the ancient hands, but the heaviness of the script was unlike anything I’d ever seen. It just didn’t look anything like the practice of ancient copyists, who used different kinds of thick and thin strokes (through different angles on the stylus) and you can see clear direction in the strokes and their beginning and ending. How the letters are made in this fashion is one of the primary methods used to date scripts. Since all this seems lacking here, it would make it difficult to date, I think. The author says this is because a dull stylus was used. Maybe. I was interested to learn, though, that competent experts think the script, because of its heaviness and lack of the usual details, didn’t look authentic.

      My first thought was that the manuscript sort of looked like a little fourth-century Gnostic kid’s first attempt to write using a big fat crayon. But since a) crayons didn’t exist back then and b) because of their beliefs, Gnostics are unlikely to have kids, there must be some other explanation, like forgery. . .

      I wrote my own first take with links over here:

  • Sandy

    James Martin SJ says on this in the Times today that Jesus “most likely” was celibate???? “Probably” was not married? And people wonder why the Jesuits’ reputation is a shadow of what it once was.

    To clear up any confusion, Father Martin, Jesus was perfectly celibate, and never married. He was like us in all things but sin. As an unmarried Jew, extramarital sex would have been a sin. He was also God. Jesus was also never sick, as Fulton Sheen once correctly pointed out.

  • Michael Dutton

    Jesus did not have a wife as we would consider someone “a wife”. But He does have a Bride… That is His body.
    Not “a wife” as we would consider one. Her actions sound more like a friend who serves him and takes care of his needs. It is also a Coptic document from Egypt in their language. The new gospel, she said, “tells us that the whole question only came up as part of vociferous debates about sexuality and marriage.” The unclear origins of the document should encourage people to be cautious, said Bible scholar Ben Witherington III, a professor and author who teaches at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Ky. He said the document follows the pattern of Gnostic texts of the second, third and fourth centuries, using “the language of intimacy to talk about spiritual relationships.”

    “What we hear from the Gnostic is this practice called the sister-wife texts, where they carried around a female believer with them who cooks for them and cleans for them and does the usual domestic chores, but they have no sexual relationship whatsoever” during the strong monastic periods of the third and fourth centuries, Witherington said. “In other words, this is no confirmation of the Da Vinci Code or even of the idea that the Gnostics thought Jesus was married in the normal sense of the word.”

  • Fr. Tom S.

    It would be nice if the world would be excited about this not because it is – as Mark mentions – “the lastest Jesus,” but because it is stuff we can use and is therefore worth funding good scholarship and good archeology and good research and good biblical knowledge.

  • Realist

    Mark, you joke about Obesophobia, but go type in “fat acceptance movement” on Google. They actually use the term “fatphobics”. Yes, I’m afraid reality is ahead of your satire on this one.

  • Thomas R

    Does it make me weird as a Catholic that I’m not especially Medievalist? I mean the High Middle Ages had lots of great advances, but there are many ways I prefer the modern world. Even in Catholic terms the modern age produced Elizabeth Anscombe, George Bernanos, Katharine Drexel, Cardinal Avery Dulles, Peter Geach, Georges Lemaitre, Gabriel Marcel, Jacques Maritain, Irena Sendler, Edith Stein, Evelyn Waugh, and Gene Wolfe. Among others.

    • Irenist

      I think your question was rhetorical, but I can’t resist, since this is one of my (many?) hobbyhorses.
      “Does it make me weird as a Catholic that I’m not especially Medievalist?”
      No. Catholicism has a rich history outside Europe, in the Middle East (e.g., the Maronites), in India (e.g., the St. Thomas Christians), in the Far East (Matteo Ricci in China and the 26 Martyrs of Japan, e.g.), in Sub-Saharan Africa (Bl. Cyprian Michael Iwene Tansi, e.g.) and here in the Americas (St. Juan Diego, Bl. Kateri Tekakwitha, e.g.). All of these are just as authentically culturally Catholic as a taste for the chivalry of the Crusaders.
      Even in Europe, the Middle Ages are only part of the Catholic story; to stick with only European Christendom we can borrow Christopher Dawson’s “Six Ages of the [European] Church” (the attempted names for the six ages are mine, not Dawson’s):
      I. The First Age of the Church (30-330 AD) — The Apostolic Age
      II. The Second Age of the Church (330-650 AD) – The Patristic Age
      III. The Third Age of the Church (650-1000 AD) – The Monastic Age
      IV. The Fourth Age of the Church (1000-1450 AD) – The Scholastic Age
      V. The Fifth Age of the Church )1450-1789) – The Tridentine Age
      VI. The Sixth Age of the Church (1789-Present) – The Modern Age
      It would be entirely “Catholic” to find that the history and culture of any of these ages (even our own) resonates strongly with you.

      • Irenist

        Think I may have misnamed a couple ages at the beginning there! Patristic and then Monastic and then Gregorian, perhaps. Pressed for time, so I’ll just say “mea culpa” and leave it at that.

      • Thomas R

        Thanks. Mostly rhetorical, but not entirely as there seems to be a really strong vein of Medievalism in a lot of Catholics I admire and yet I never really had that. The Scholastic Age has lots of cool stuff, but I do like how we mostly get along better with Jews now than back then and that a person with my condition can survive to adulthood.

  • Jeremy

    I heard that Jewish men at the time of Jesus were required to be married and at least 30 years old before they could preach in that capacity of a rabbi. Marriage and family are central to God’s plan of happiness… why would Jesus not have a wife?

    • Mark Shea

      Approaching matters of history with, “I think this should have happened, therefore it must have happened, and why would anybody think otherwise?” is an inadvisable way to proceed. Instead, you look at the data. The data are unanimous: Jesus did not marry. *Now* you ask, “Why might that be?” To answer that, I recommend this book:

    • Thomas R

      As I recall Rabbinic Judaism of the second century onward does generally discourage celibacy. But Jesus wasn’t from the diasporic Rabbinic period. The Prophet Jeremiah is said, by the Jewish Encyclopedia, to have been celibate as were some of the Essenes. Although the JE does seem to treat celibacy as a Christian invention, it (like the Catholic Encyclopedia Online) is like a hundred years old so at least somewhat concerned in pressing on how other faiths are wrong. (I like many things in the old Catholic Encyclopedia, but some of its treatment of other faiths is a tad more hostile than I’m used to)

  • kenneth

    I wish if the publicity hounds and forgers of antiquities persist in coming up with these sudden dubious finds, they’d at least put out some interesting stuff. Like evidence that Jesus invented Mississippi detla blues and slide guitar. Or that he hit on the fundamental theorem of calculus way before Liebniz and Newton and that lot. Or a promissory note for $20 to the 13th Apostle Rufus. Something! Change it up once in a while!

  • pratcrat

    Shea, you can be an arrogant, clueless idiot, and you know crap about economics, but that bit about the chariot is priceless. Coffee nearly came out my nose.