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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Jesus's Wife

None other than Smithsonian Magazine is running the story of Professor Karen King who unveiled "an ancient papyrus fragment" that "is sure to send shock waves through the Christian world." The claim? Jesus was married.

The hubbub is over a papyrus. Or, rather, a fragment of one. 33 words. 14 incomplete lines. And the papyrus is -- get this -- 1600 years old. That's right. Ancient. Certainly older than I'd ever care to be.

Oh, wait. That's not as old as we thought, was it? I mean, the texts of the New Testament are all more than 1900 years old. All were written within 100 years of Jesus's life. All others were rejected as unreliable. And, look, it's not just the Church that says this. According to the article, "King makes no claim for its usefulness as biography." Get that?

Still, Professor King is taking the "high road". It's a conspiracy, you see. "Why is it that only the literature that said he was celibate survived? And all of the texts that showed he had an intimate relationship with Magdalene or is married didn’t survive? Is that 100% happenstance? Or is it because of the fact that celibacy becomes the ideal for Christianity?"

Now, concluding that "celibacy becomes the ideal for Christianity" from biblical texts like "Let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband" (1 Cor 7:2) or the affirmations that Jesus gave of marriage in His attendance at the wedding of Cana (John 2:1-11) and His affirmation of marriage for life in Matthew 19:1-12 takes more "thinking" than I can muster. I mean, look, Karen, maybe there was some grand conspiracy where all texts were eliminated for an ideal that Christianity does not hold or maybe the only text that "survived" that said Jesus was married was because He wasn't. Maybe all the writers who wrote when Jesus was alive and all the readers who were alive when Jesus was and could critique those texts were liars or maybe the one document written long after all the rest without possible corroboration is less reliable? Maybe?

King is quite sure that the New Testament documents, written within "35 years after Jesus' death", were "heretics hornswoggled by the devil." (That's what the article said. I wouldn't think to use "hornswoggled" on my own.) Christianity for 2000 years has suffered from the "myth of origins". Luckily the Gnostics, a group soundly marked as heretics by Paul (the purpose of the Epistle to the Colossians), had the true story centuries later. Judas was no turncoat. Jesus did not rise from the dead. Paul was sorely mistaken on that point. Basic humanity included the Holy Spirit already, not requiring some obscure "faith" to receive salvation. Good thing we got that all sorted out, eh?

Does the papyrus she found say that Jesus was married? Well, maybe. Does this prove a conspiracy? Not really. Does it bring into question the Gospels? Not for me. Is it going to "send shock waves through the Christian world"? No. Not the Christian world. Like Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code, it might stir up some, but people of genuine faith won't be too disturbed about ambiguous texts written hundreds of years after the fact about, in all honesty, a topic that really doesn't much matter in the scheme of things.

Now here's a side question, connected to this and to current affairs. Given that the King and the Smithsonian believe that this will "send shock waves through the Christian world", that this will reveal Christianity as a religion designed by "heretics hornswoggled by the devil", does anyone really think that Christians are going to rise up, storm Harvard and the Smithsonian, and demand an apology or burn the places down? Does anyone actually fear that Christians around the country are going to start fiery protests outside schools of higher learning? And, on the other hand, does anyone believe that there will be a public outcry to "Stop attacking Christianity and just be tolerant"? Yeah ... I didn't think so.

Update:
One more good piece on the subject is here.

15 comments:

Dan said...

What da ya say we go blow something up?

Seriously, this is like those evolution "just-so" stories. You conclude whatever you like, then you find the "evidence" you need to support it, make up the rest, then call anyone evil or stupid that doesn't agree with your conclusion. It gets so old and tired.

Jeremy D. Troxler said...

Stan,

I laughed out loud this morning reading the article reported by the Associated Press. Especially about two quotes in general:

"Another participant at the congress, Alin Suciu, a papyrologist at the University of Hamburg, was more blunt. 'I would say it's a forgery. The script doesn't look authentic...'"

"'We still have some work to do, testing the ink and so on and so forth, but what is exciting about this fragment is that it's the first case we have of Christians claiming that Jesus had a wife,' she said."

Is this supposed to pass as even reportable news?

Determination of authenticity of the document - well we have some more testing of ink, paper, so on and so forth...make sure it wasn't forged sometime in the last 20 years, blah, blah, blah...at best it is more than 300 years past other already authenticated, verified and connonized Scripture, never mind that for now...BUT WHAT'S REALLY EXCITING IS THAT SOMEONE, SOMETIME, MADE AN ASSERTION THAT JESUS WAS MARRIED!!!

What is really sad is that when stuff like this is reported, it propogates the idea that the entirety of Scripture is just like this. We have this Bible that was written long after the events took place where we have pieces of documents here and there making assertions that were just thrown together to come up with a whole book where the missing parts were filled in by a bunch of biased Christians on some advisory board - which explains all the mistakes and contradictions. It really is a shame. I suppose I feel the same about this as many other things today - disappointed but not surprised.

Stan said...

Dan,
What's really odd to me is that anyone cares if Jesus was married. He wasn't, but who cares? If they wanted to make something up, why that? Sigh. Stupid. Just stupid.

Stan said...

Jeremy,
I love the quote about "... we have of Christians claiming ...". Nice. Another problem of definitions. "Christians" defined as "those who deny His death, His resurrection, His deity, and the rest that makes Him 'the Christ'". You know, "Christians" who deny "Christ".

With that definition, what can't they say? "We have Christians claiming ..." just about anything at all. Fortunately, we've redefined "married" to mean something different, something meaningless, so if Jesus was married, it wasn't "married" in any sense that you or I or anyone else would understand, you see. Stupid. Just plain stupid.

Malcolm Foley said...

Heh heh in divinity school, I hear a lot about these people doing these studies into heretical thought for the sake of "human flourishing". It's about time that people stopped being fascinated by the falsehood of heretical "christianities" in order to legitimize them, but instead that they, like the early church fathers, used heretical thought to solidify the importance and intricacies of orthodox belief. True "human flourishing" is the abundant life that Christ promises, and that only takes place when we have been gifted with faith in the Truth.

Stan said...

It's interesting to me to see how many "special interest groups" pursue these heresies as their own. You'll find "womanist theology" and "gay theology" and "feminist theology". There is "Gnostic theology" premised on "special knowledge that you other folk don't get" and King's brand that likes to suggest that all along women were the predominant force in the Church, not men, and the ever-so-popular heterodoxy concept. You know. "Christianity is actually a whole lot of differing, even contradicting beliefs that are all good." Never mind that the view is literally insane. Whatever they can do to grab what it is they want and get it "approved by God" is what they'll do. And providing a hodgepodge of conflicting, contradictory doctrines for "human flourishing" is a rather foolish thing to do.

David said...

You keep suggesting that whether or not Jesus was married is immaterial, but anyone that suggests He was married is saying it happened AFTER the timeline we have in Scripture. Surely, Him being married before His crucifixion would not change anything, but that's not the claim, the claim is that He went on to live a normal human life with wife and children. And THAT would cause problems for Christianity if He did. Even Paul affirms that if He was never crucified and resurrected, then our faith is to be pitied.

Marshall Art said...

In the first article I saw of this story, it mentioned that we going to have to rethink out notions of marriage and gender. Why? Because of this scrap? If we concede Christ was married, how does that alter anything the Church has believed and taught regarding marriage and gender?

On a side note, one commenter following that first article made a great comment about how much study and research has gone into the Shroud of Turin without anyone willing to state one way or the other about its authenticity, but with this scrap, it seems some are all ready to accept it as the real deal with massive implications for the faith. Not too flip a suggestion, I'm afraid.

Stan said...

Well, certainly, David, the claims far outweigh the evidence. The evidence is a papyrus written 400 years after the fact consisting of 33 words in broken sentences. From this fantastic "proof" comes the claim that Jesus didn't die, that He didn't resurrect, that He lived on beyond the crucifixion, that Christianity itself is bunk, that the Church engaged in a massive, sexist cover up, that ... well, a lot of stuff that no evidence supports.

All I mean is if Jesus was married before His death and resurrection, it wouldn't make any difference to the narrative. Oh, and He didn't have any offspring.

But, of course, it is not the goal to discover the truth, but to attack Christianity. And still we're not burning anything down. What's up with that?

Stan said...

To me, in all, it's a non-story. I suppose that makes mine a "non-post".

Dan Trabue said...

Stan, may I ask you all a question?

Where you say...

What's really odd to me is that anyone cares if Jesus was married. He wasn't, but who cares?

That has been my question that I've been trying to get answered elsewhere. I've heard some folk calling this an attack on Christianity and suggesting how heretical this is, etc, etc.

Does anyone think this is relevant in ANY WAY at all to Christianity?

That is, EVEN IF Jesus were married, it wouldn't be contradicting anything biblically, it wouldn't be contradicting any Christian tenets. The Bible doesn't say that Jesus was married, but neither does it say he wasn't married. In fact, it doesn't mention the marital status of most of the players in the NT.

So what? What if Jesus were married? Beyond being something we haven't traditionally thought, it wouldn't be a violation of any serious Christian ideas, would it?

Why pay any serious attention to this at all?

Why not say, "Oh, a scrap of ancient paper makes this suggestion as a possibility. Okay. Whatever..."?

Stan said...

That, Dan T, is my point. Who cares? If it turned out that Jesus was married prior to His crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension, who cares? The Bible doesn't say.

The problem, as David pointed out, comes in elsewhere. They will try to say that Jesus didn't die, that this marriage was after the Gospel accounts, that He went on to live (I've read that He lived in France), had children, all that. That would be problematic. No, not problematic; terminal to Christianity.

Nothing in any of the papyrus would support such an assertion, so I'm saying, "Who cares?"

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Daniel Wallace has a great article about this issue:
http://danielbwallace.com/2012/09/21/reality-check-the-jesus-wife-coptic-fragment/

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

You might also want to look at Albert Mohler's commentary, demonstrating the bias behind these claims:
http://www.albertmohler.com/2012/09/20/the-gospel-of-jesuss-wife-when-sensationalism-masquerades-as-scholarship/

Stan said...

Other good resources on the topic:
Tyndale House

A good piece with more links here.