Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Proof That Jesus Was Married?

In another effort to continue the debate on whether Jesus was married, another scholar has "discovered" some writings that state he was. Before I discuss the veracity of such arguments, here is what the article said (emphasis added):
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — A historian of early Christianity at Harvard Divinity School has identified a scrap of papyrus that she says was written in Coptic in the fourth century and contains a phrase never seen in any piece of Scripture: “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife …'”

The faded papyrus fragment is smaller than a business card, with eight lines on one side, in black ink legible under a magnifying glass. Just below the line about Jesus having a wife, the papyrus includes a second provocative clause that purportedly says, “she will be able to be my disciple.”

The finding is being made public in Rome on Tuesday at an international meeting of Coptic scholars by the historian Karen L. King, who has published several books about new Gospel discoveries and is the first woman to hold the nation’s oldest endowed chair, the Hollis professor of divinity.

The provenance of the papyrus fragment is a mystery, and its owner has asked to remain anonymous. Until Tuesday, Dr. King had shown the fragment to only a small circle of experts in papyrology and Coptic linguistics, who concluded that it is most likely not a forgery. But she and her collaborators say they are eager for more scholars to weigh in and perhaps upend their conclusions.

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.

Dr. King gave an interview and showed the papyrus fragment, encased in glass, to reporters from The New York Times, The Boston Globe and Harvard Magazine in her garret office in the tower at Harvard Divinity School last Thursday. She left the next day for Rome to deliver her paper on the find on Tuesday at the International Congress of Coptic Studies.

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.

But the discovery is exciting, Dr. King said, because it is the first known statement from antiquity that refers to Jesus speaking of a wife. It provides further evidence that there was an active discussion among early Christians about whether Jesus was celibate or married, and which path his followers should choose.

“This fragment suggests that some early Christians had a tradition that Jesus was married,” Dr. King said. “There was, we already know, a controversy in the second century over whether Jesus was married, caught up with a debate about whether Christians should marry and have sex.”

Dr. King first learned about what she calls “The Gospel of Jesus’s Wife” when she received an e-mail in 2010 from a private collector who asked her to translate it. Dr. King, 58, specializes in Coptic literature, and has written books on the Gospel of Judas, the Gospel of Mary of Magdala, Gnosticism and women in antiquity.
 Continue Reading.
I want to point out that Dr. King is a scholar on gnosticism, not early Christianity. She has no expertise on the Christian understanding of Jesus, Christian doctrine, or the historical evidence of Jesus.

Gnosticism is an early heresy which had it's height in popularity in the 2nd and 3rd century, many generations after Jesus died. They created a "secret knowledge" about Jesus and re-wrote many stories about His life. They are mythical and fictional.

Yet, modern scholars, basing their research off of these Gnostic writings, have tried to re-write history. Some say they expose the Church for putting down the hidden “gospels”, which really are not true gospels at all. Nor are they accurate reflections of what we know about Jesus. This doesn't even get into the fact that the Da Vinci Code helped to popularize these myths.

In other words, there is nothing to see here.

What we do know is that Jesus wasn't married.

The most historically accurate documents (starting with the Biblical writings and then non-Christian historical sources) tell us he was never married. The only documents that tell us he was married are these later Gnostic writings that are not historically accurate - they are later innovations and distortions of history.

On the other hand, we could say Christ was married, but not to a woman, but to His Church, which the Bible describes as the Bride of Christ. Jesus himself said that:
Now John's disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came and asked Jesus, "How is it that John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?"
"Jesus answered, "How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast." – Matt 2:18-20
He then goes on to teach that celibacy is a great calling:
"For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it." -Matthew 19:12
Christ wanted to show the radical love He had for us by giving Himself completely to us, His Church. Part of his plan of salvation included this radical sign of love for us in renouncing marriage for "the sake of the kingdom". So, what would change about the faith if Jesus was in fact married to a woman?
  1. Our understanding of marriage, and sex.
  2. Our understanding of the goodness of celibacy and virginity.
  3. Our understanding of the mission of Christ.
  4. Our understanding of the purpose of the Church.
  5. Our understanding of the nature of heaven as "the marriage feast of the lamb".
In other words, an attack on the historical evidence that Jesus wasn't married is an attack on the basic doctrines of the Catholic Church and orthodox Christianity. Many scholars know this and are going right to the heart of the matter to try and place doubt in many believers minds.

Don't buy the distortions and historical inaccuracies that are wrapped up into propaganda.

Did I mention a lot of books on this topic become big sellers and make the scholars lots of money, because they elicit headlines from the media, such as the following one for the NY Times article linked above - "A Faded Piece of Papyrus Refers to Jesus' Wife".

No comments: