Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Let me take a moment to upend some of this before it becomes ridiculous (Hah!  As if I had that power!  Nonetheless....).

As the article points out in the middle (rather than at the breathless beginning):

 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.
And this isn't the first time in human history that anyone has suggested Jesus was married.  There was the old legend of the last temptation of Christ, where Satan returned to Christ on the cross and offered him a vision of a normal life, with a wife and kids.  Nikos Kazantzakis wrote a wonderful novel on that legend.  (Does anybody read Kazantzakis anymore?  They should....).  There was an argument I heard about in seminary, that because Jesus was called "Rabbi," it implied he was married, since rabbis were supposed to be married men. (I have no idea if that is even true, about rabbis and marriage, nor when the term "rabbi" actually became a term associated both with leadership in Jewish communities, and so with marriage as a concomitant of being a community leader.  I'd also note the only consistent reference to Jesus as "Rabbi" is in the gospel of John, which dates to the late 1st century or early 2nd century).  The article mentions a 2nd century controversy about Jesus having a wife, to settle the question of whether Christians should marry (Some of Paul's letters, almost two centuries earlier, reflect similar concerns.  The more things change....)

This fragment, then, has about as much historical veracity as the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, where Jesus the young child kills the children who irritate him.  The NYT, of course, plays this as if it were something found in the world of The DaVinci Code:

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.
Yeah, I don't see much happening on that front because of this fragment of papyrus. It is interesting, though.


  1. Apparently more of this document, with a few lacunae, has come to light, and though scholars are not entirely in agreement on certain details, their findings may shake the foundation of Christianity, at least insofar as Jesus has for all these centuries been thought of as a teacher with some amount of decorum and dignity.

    According to the majority, the full sentence can be translated as follows:

    “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife is so bowlegged, when [she sit]s around the house, she sits aroooooound the house. B[addah boom!]'”

  2. "And Jesus said:

    'But seriously, folks! Take my wife! Please!' "

  3. But seriously, folks....You're right, there is so much that's bizarre in the apocryphal and gnostic material of the second and third centuries that a suggestion that Jesus was married seems rather pedestrian.

    But I'll take another run at it.

    The world of biblical scholarship was in turmoil today with the discovery of a fuller text of an explosive fragment suggesting Jesus was married. It now appears that this world-historical figure may have spent at least part of the "hidden years" as a spokesman and advertising shill:

    “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife...I think I'll keep her!"

  4. Sherri12:29 AM

    Frankly, I don't care. I would be happier if everybody who was so gung-ho on the importance of the Bible would explain why "In Christ there is no...male or female" doesn't seem to fall into the literal and inerrant category.

  5. I agree with both of you. And would note the scholar who found this is only claiming it shows a wide diversity of opinion about Jesus and what was "Christian" in the early centuries before, basically, Constantine. Charles Pierce had a good point on that.

    This fragment isn't going to upend anything. And as Sherri says, the text we already have is challenging enough, if we'd just pay attention to it.

  6. The reaction of the media shows how much more interested they are in achieving a superficial buzz than in finding out anything. Pretty much the same way they cover politics or the latest news of the geriatric rock legends and talent deficient TV and movie stars.

    I'd much rather have some of the more obscure parables explained then I am in whether or not Jesus was happily married. Though I can't imagine what a Mrs. Jesus would have made of all that moving around, if she existed, that would have been between her and her husband.

    It will be a cold day in hell before they'll go into detail on the justice teachings. That wouldn't suit their advertisers and owners.