Jesus’ Wife Matters a Lot — and Not at All

The recently discovered papyrus reminds us that a celibate, all-male priesthood needs reform

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Harvard Divinity School / Karen L. King / AFP / Getty Images

The papyrus fragment that quotes Jesus referring explicitly to his wife˜

The Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests — a breakaway group founded in 2002 — sent out an e-mail yesterday announcing that its bishops will ordain six new female clerics next month. (The howl you just heard was from the archconservative Catholic League.) These ladies have nothing if not good timing: their missive immediately made me think of last week’s news from Harvard Divinity School that an early Christian text asserts Jesus was married and suggests his wife was a disciple — which would indicate women were eligible for the Catholic priesthood all along. But it also reminded me of the other reaction I usually have to these Da Vinci Code–ish historical discoveries about Jesus: So what?

(MORE: Padgett: Why We’re Still Catholics)

As a Catholic, I do think Jesus scholarship is important. What experts like John Dominic Crossan and others have done to illuminate Christ the man and his ancient milieu enhances religion as well as the record — it raises questions that prod us to examine our faith and its purpose more deeply. But its value in that regard is also limited. As I’ve written on this site before, you could show me incontrovertible scientific proof that Jesus was not the product of a virgin birth or that he didn’t rise from the dead, and it wouldn’t dampen my faith one iota. Likewise, handing me hard evidence that Mary was indeed a virgin mother, or that the resurrection did occur, wouldn’t do much to reinforce it. Faith doesn’t, or shouldn’t, work that way.

Which is why the revelation by Harvard professor Karen King — that a Coptic papyrus fragment quotes Jesus as saying “my wife” as well as declaring that a woman believed to be that spouse, perhaps Mary Magdalene, is one of his apostles — makes me both turn my head and shrug my shoulders. If Jesus was a husband and did consider a woman as clerically worthy as Peter and the rest of the apostolic crew, it matters a lot, for all the reasons Tom Hanks discovers in the (very fictional) Da Vinci Code. That is, it calls into further question one of the Catholic Church’s most questionable constructs, a celibate, all-male priesthood. But in another sense, it doesn’t matter at all: we didn’t need a codex to convince us that a Messiah as human and compassionate as Jesus did not intend his priesthood to look, and in many cases behave, the way it still does today.

(MORE: Padgett: Sorry, Rome: U.S. Catholics Are More Like Melinda Gates)

To understand why the papyrus merits more than just biblical or historical curiosity, consider another religion-related event this month. On Sept. 6, Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City was convicted on a misdemeanor charge of failing to report suspected child abuse, making him the highest-ranking member of the U.S. Catholic Church hierarchy to be found guilty of shielding pedophile priests. (Earlier this year in Philadelphia, Monsignor William Lynn was convicted on a felony charge of concealing child-abuse claims in his diocese.) I’m not suggesting that allowing Catholic priests to marry or women to be priests would have stopped the abuse that’s rocked the church. Pedophiles prey regardless of gender or marital status. But I will argue that it could have helped prevent the just as pervasive and just as criminal cover-ups.

And I base that contention on the overweening clericalism that plagues so much of the Catholic priesthood — and which is, at least in part, a consequence of the required celibacy and exclusion of women. Most priests are of course good men and do godly work, and their celibacy per se is not the problem. I respect it — if it’s the priest’s choice. But as I wrote last year when Lynn was arrested, the mandatory segregation of diocesan priests and bishops from the world of wives and children has for centuries risked sending the message that those human joys would somehow sully their vocations — that those things are inferior to the priesthood, and therefore aren’t as worthy of protection as the holy fraternity is. Hence, in my view, one cause of the monstrous insensitivity of church bosses like Lynn.

That also explains why it’s welcome to hear any historical evidence that Jesus didn’t consider clerical marriage or female ordination anathema to the religion he founded. But again, such evidence isn’t, or shouldn’t be, necessary.

(MORE: Padgett: The Catholic Contraction)

The kind of belief we associate with faith doesn’t rise or fall on archeological digs or, as in The Da Vinci Code’s case, decrypted symbology. At their core, religions are stories, dramas so powerfully meaningful that they become for billions of people their cultural means of communing with God. Five years ago atheist zealots hooted and Christian fundamentalists hollered when The Lost Tomb of Jesus,a documentary produced by Titanic director James Cameron, claimed to have unearthed confirmation that Christ never left his grave. But both sides got it wrong: from Christians to Hindus to pagans, most believers don’t predicate their shared faith that light ultimately defeats darkness on the laboratory verification of ancient miracle narratives.

So just as I don’t get that worked up when a “find” purports to debunk my faith, I don’t get too excited when one appears to validate my faith. Or at least my convictions about the Catholic clergy, as King’s Jesus-was-married codex would seem to do. At a time when the Vatican, panicked by growing Catholic support for female ordination, is senselessly hounding U.S. nuns for their “radical feminism,” the latest piece of papyrus does serve as a useful reminder of how wrong Rome is in this matter. But most of us knew that long before King deciphered it.

168 comments
ksam
ksam

Quoting from Tim Parget as follows"...the mandatory segregation of diocesan priests and bishops from the world of wives and children has for centuries risked sending the message that those human joys would somehow sully their vocations — that those things are inferior to the priesthood, and therefore aren’t as worthy of protection as the holy fraternity is..."

This notion is quite misleading to religion as we Catholic see it. Having wives and husbands is not a human joy and not inferior in anyway to priesthood. Rather it is as Jesus Himself said no one can serve two masters and went on to add '...give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's...' This infact alludes to the Divinity and Humanity of Jesus Himself. It also affirms that we are more human than divine and as such are incapable of handling priethood and fatherhood or motherhood at the same time.

Khai Sam 

smbarry
smbarry

Padget ought not write on subjects about which he is profoundly ignorant.

xLocke
xLocke

You know what is funny? This little fragment was found to be a total fraud. hahaha, terrible reporting Tim.

Chibz
Chibz

May I volunteer that all those who mindlessly campaign for married clergy actually demean marriage. In catholic teaching, marriage is a SACRAMENT every bit as worthy as Holy Orders. Celibacy per se is not, religious may practice it without any orders conferred. However,this ceaseless campaign that unmarried clergy (who btw. became thus entirely by choice) be "allowed" to marry to take care of their creature comforts, reduce marriage to just that! On the contrary, marriage is a demanding (probably much more so than any orders) and very venerable VOCATION of its own right, and the marriage bed is indeed an ALTAR! Married people deserve the right to be left alone to fully concentrate on their primary vocation, the very demanding work of raising and taking good care of their families, without having to cater to others spiritual needs on the side.

A slight change in perspective can do a whole lot of clarifying, can't it!

Rajinder Nijjhar
Rajinder Nijjhar

 

Hi Brethren,

Please pass this article to others that you may find looking for Gospel Truth. Blessed are the SOLITARY VIRGINS OF CHRIST JESUS AND CHRIST = SATGURU NANAK DEV JI.

Jesus has Virgin Twice-born Solitary Wives but hardly anyone can envisage this because they are dead in the Letters of the Bible that they happily bury their dead in discussions and seminars.

What is written is RIGHT but the men of Letters like the Jerusalem theologians cannot understand the spiritual language. Samaritans were spiritual people and that is why the Samaritan Woman at well in John4 recognised Christ Jesus to be a Prophet and told Him of the nature of Christ that will appear. She was St.Photina but these men of Letters still call her a bad woman marrying one Husband after the other. After that She became the Wife of Christ Jesus and so the people of her whole village. I am the Virgin Solitary Wife of Christ Jesus as I Preach Gospel by understanding what came out of the mouth of Jesus called Eating the Flesh of Jesus and when I Preach what Christ Jesus did, I Drink the Blood of Christ. How many of you know that not a single Jew died during the holocaust because a Jew is a Spiritual self and not the physical tribal self?  Holocausts were as the result of the Blind Guides, Rabbis, leading the blind into the Pit. So, you cannot blame Hitler for the deaths of the people of Judah, Levi, Benjamin, etc. tribes but the Chosen People themselves for rejecting Christ Jesus who came especially for them and not for the Gentile who were already sons of God. It is the same spirit that not a single Sikh, Hindu, Muslim, Christian, etc. died during the world wide riots but the tribal people. In fact, every Plant, person, that my heavenly father, Yahweh, the creator of Nature, did not plant, forgot his tribal identity, shall be uprooted by the roots, supporters as in the religious fanaticism or other non-tribal political parties such as Communists, Labour, Conservative, etc.

I have put up a Playlist on Youtube channel nijjhar1. Look for the wives of Jesus or if this link is allowed:-

http://www.youtube.com/playlis...

Finally, Christ Jesus had Labourers that He employed in the Vineyard of our Father where the True Vine Christ Jesus, The Foreman, is Planted by our Father. You enter into this Vineyard through the Narrow Gate that a Few find it by the grace of our Father. At Pentecost, the Labourers were paid their Wage of Holy Spirit when the only Once-Born Labourer Simon nick-named Peter was extremely Happy and started Preaching Gospel.

Disciple is from discipline and the moral teachers Rabbis, John, the Baptist, etc. had Disciples but not Christ Jesus. Messianic Jews corrupted the New Testament as well and became the cruel masters of the once-born devotees. You know how the Pope killed those who raised their voices. As in Jesus, everyone is to give his own account to God, so anyone who stands between people and God in any form is an ANTI CHRIST.

You wouldn’t like my views if you are a Judas Iscariot in sheep’s clothing. Judas Iscariot was a Thief stealing from the Purse. Those who work for God give to the Church of God and not take out of it as Christ Paul stressed. These Dog-Collared Priests in Churches are the Judas Iscariots. They work for Mammon and not for God. This is called turning stones, the once-born members of congregations, into bread AND THEY ARE THE GREATEST HYPOCRITES.

UNLESS A FEMALE BECOMES A MALE, SHE CANNOT BE FISHED INTO THE ROYAL KINGDOM OF GOD. That is why; Christ Jesus made His Wives Fishers of Men and not of the Women.

My Seminars are FREE and you can speak to me on 00441189666345. PLEASE FORWARD THIS E-MAIL ON TO THE INTERESTED PEOPLE.

 

Rajinder Nijjhar, M.Sc.Retired Lecturer in Metallurgy.Holy spirit, common sense, shatters the fetters of the Letters, Holy Books.Holy spirit = spirit of men = Dunyavi Surti = common senseHoly Spirit = Spirit of God = Roohani Surti = Extra Ordinary Sense.The Wage paid to the Twelve Labourers at Pentecost was Holy Spirit.All the Twelve Labourers became the Twin Brethren of our anointed Elder Brother Christ Jesus.Paul became the Twin Brother in Faith through Grace and not the Works under Moral LawsIn Christ Jesus, we are no more Slaves to sins or the Moral laws but to the Righteousness in God.

Over 2700 Youtube Videos on all aspects of religion.Youtube Videos: http://uk.youtube.com/profile?...

Ali Mahjoub
Ali Mahjoub

Hello everyone! I see , this article about the ancient piece of  papyrus that claimed Jesus had a wife, had started a great deal of conversation on Jesus and christianity in general. To those who are curious enough on this subject, I would encourage you to check on Rev. Moon's teaching in the Divine Principle, in the Mission of the Messiah Chapter. There is enough thought-provocking concepts there, that could satisfy your curiosities. To name just a few, (1) Jesus' death was a tragic death and against God's desired Will, this is why God had prepared the so called"Chosen People" (2) also He sent a so called great Saint, John the Baptist, that wasn't a great saint, but a dismal failure after all! (3) Jesus was sent as a Second Adam and was meant to mary a Second Eve, have a true family and live a long life. (4) though, it is not stated in the Divine Principle, Rev. Moon had revealed it in his speeches numerous times, that Jesus had a biological father, his father was Zachariah the priest, the father of John the Baptist! Read my book, Honor Thy God, it had all this stuff and much more. 

Abigail Leigh Earle
Abigail Leigh Earle

When Jesus referred to his "wife," he meant the Church.  I do not believe women should have the position of cleric because men are to be leaders, and women the support.  The roles of men and women are completely different.  I am a woman, by the way.  Letting men do the leading is not degrading to women, because, after all, we are the ones who bear the children, run the household, and manage the expenses.  We have enough on our hands.  Besides, women, being the emotional creatures we are, are bound to go by our feelings in matters of policy and leadership more so than men, thus possibly leading to disaster, because humans are a fallen race.  

William Meinen
William Meinen

To the moderator:

If I spoke wrongly in regards to the comment that is being delayed-feel free

to comment as to what.

Thank you.

William Meinen
William Meinen

That is why I post Acts 8:26-40.

It shows how the Ethiopian eunuch was searching the scriptures even though'

he did not understand all he was reading.

He needed help from God and the Holy Spirit to come to the right answer.

He was given that help.

We believe God will also help you if you sincerely want it.

We also believe that if you are wicked, you can't expect God to help you.

And if that is so, you can flounder around and assert all the lies you want and

some might even believe you.

It just won't be true Christians.

You will just have to take it somewhere else. 

William Meinen
William Meinen

dougT:

In response to your comment below:

If taken from your merely human standpoint you would be right.

The reasoning is:

The Bible is the oldest book and still today the most widely distributed book in

existence that:

Explains where we came from, why we are in this imperfect state and how we

can expect to rise above it and have a family relationship with God.

The  prophesies contained in it were fulfilled in detail some two hundred of these

were in regard to Jesus birth, His ministry and miracles, His death, and His

resurrection which was witnessed by at least 500 people.

It successfully explains how to lead a meaningful life that God approves of.

Further prophecies in this book explain what to expect in the near and distant

future.

Why can Christians today still rely on both the Hebrew (Old Testament) and the

Greek (New Testament)?

1. Jesus himself quoted from the Hebrew scriptures and pointed out the prophesies

that related to His life and ministry, His death and resurrection and what His

role and work is right now and into the future.

Tell me how a person can predict the manner, place and circumstances of their

own birth in advance by hundreds of years.

2. Jesus Apostles and disciples did likewise.

3. Your assertions about who, what and how the Bible was written would need to

be taken one at a time and considered carefully.

 

What you don't seem to grasp is that, whether you choose to believe in the Bible

as God's (creator) communication to man or not- is completely your responsibility,

not mine.

If you chose not to believe in what the Bible says, right now you have the right to do

so.  This period of time is almost over.

What Christians are asserting is this:

We believe we have very good reasons to believe it and we choose to follow what

it says to the best of our ability.

From what we learned from the Bible, the time for developing a prayerful relationship

with the King of the Heavenly Kingdom by Christ resurrected is coming to a close.

A time of judgement by our God is fast approaching and each person on this

earth will be judged based on:

How did this person use the life given to them?

How well did this person use the time given to develop a good relationship with me?

What kind of heart (inner self) motivates this person.

Christians try to appeal to you to act to save your own future life.

What you do in this regard is up to you and the results again, are yours to

win or lose.

 

how do you explain that the main tales of jesus existed hundreds and

thousands of years before he was born. How do you reconcile that

certain scripture was cannonized by men to be included in the bible and

other was thrown out? I don't care whether you are christian or not.

Common sense can be attributed or lacking to all people, religious or

nonreligious. What I say is that you should do what 99.9% of religous

people don't bother doing, look into the history and origin of your

faith, including your sacred texts. You may be very suprised.Read more: http://ideas.time.com/2012/09/...

 

JD King
JD King

It is unfortunate that a “breakaway” group is needed for women to hold clerical positions in (for the sake of this article) the Roman Catholic Church. Too many members of Bible based faiths use scripture as a means to not only justify but perpetuate inequality—consequentially missing out on the true heart of God’s message. 

My dad once told me to look at the Bible as a diary that provides insight into the heart of the God, rather than a book of rules outlining all of the “thou shalt nots.” Is it more important to abstain from marriage and sex because perhaps Jesus did not have a wife, or were those details omitted because we are meant to grasp the significance of Jesus’ life and purpose? I am willing to bet He is more concerned with significance. 

Do I have a problem with evidence that possibly proves Jesus had a wife despite the Bible not mentioning it? No, I have a problem with the fact that some church leaders have taken it upon themselves to misconstrue missing details to validate disallowing women to hold leadership positions in the church

Brian Durocher
Brian Durocher

Well, I actually read that the fragment was a fake,  and I read an analysis from a fellow from Durham University stating it was so. Also, the Harvard review has stated planly they will not publish King's work because they believe the fragment to be fake. Probably a modern forgery. Here are some references:  http://www.dailymail.co.uk/new... amp; http://markgoodacre.org/Watson...

dkj92590
dkj92590

Jesus wife is the church. When Jesus returns to earth to execute swift judgement those who are saved that day will be his wife. in the gospel of matt. it states: and I will seperate them one from the other as a sheperd divides his flock and the lambs will be on my rigtht hand and the goats my left. those on my right will go into life eternal and those on my left to everlasting contempt.

dkj92590
dkj92590

Jesus wife is the church and those that are saved when he returns to gather his lambs on his right and the goats on his left. the lambs will go into life eternal and the goats into everlasting contempt. His wife is the church.

kylc
kylc

Tim,

Quit playing games.  You're not Catholic, you're Anglican!  The faster you realize that every single want you hunger for in a religion is found on the steps of Canterbury the happier you'll be. 

Married priests [check] 

Female priestesses [check] 

Gay marriage [check] 

Contraception and abortion [check, check] 

Jesus is just one among equals in a list that includes: Mohamed, Buddha and fill in the blank [check, check, check] 

The Anglican/Episcopalian communion is bleeding members, you're Anglican my brotha!  Welcome to the fold.

kylc
kylc

Tim,

Quit playing games.  You're not Catholic, you're Anglican!  The faster you realize that every single want you hunger for in a religion is found on the steps of Canterbury the happier you'll be. 

Married priests [check] 

Female priestesses [check] 

Gay marriage [check] 

Contraception and abortion [check, check] 

Jesus is just one among equals in a list that includes: Mohamed, Buddha and fill in the blank [check, check, check] 

The Anglican/Episcopalian communion is bleeding members, you're Anglican my brotha!  Welcome to the fold.

owl905
owl905

"Anyone claiming to be a Christian in the 3rd century could write on a papyrus

claiming Jesus..."

The 3rd century scripture quote isn't a first edition any more than copies of the core gospels written in the 3rd century were first edition.   The oldest surviving fragment of gospel is from John, dated about 125AD.  The movement to transfer the oral traditions of the movement to a written codex was mid-3rd century.

Controversy surrounding marriage, sex, and disciples wasn't rare in the early Christian movement, and the Coptic fragment's context suggest an original data mid-point of 250AD (probably not a co-incidence) - when the Christian movement was fragmenting on a wide variety of missing answers.

Dave Turson
Dave Turson

 Basic Christianity: Adam sinned before having children and he

passed to his children death through their inherited sinful nature. Jesus did

not inherit this sin/death

 because he came direct from heaven and was born to a virgin. Jesus could

not die by natural causes since he was born perfect -- if he ever sinned while

alive in this world  he would begin to die, just like everyone else. Jesus

came into the word to die for our sins as a still perfect man -- a sacrifice. 

Anyone claiming to be a Christian in the 3rd century could write on a papyrus

claiming Jesus had said this or that. I could write

a book called the Book of Dave -- care to read it? Bottom line: Jesus would not

take a wife because marriage entails having

children -- all the people saved from our world are

his children in the new world to come.

JohnParish
JohnParish

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R Rodriguez
R Rodriguez

First of all, remember that the nature of Jesus is both human AND devine...not just human.  That fact makes Him uniquely suited for His special mission of redeeming the human race, not populating it.  Also, Jesus called His church which is made up of the people, His mystical body and His BRIDE (read wife)and He the head and SPOUSE.

George McDowell
George McDowell

What can you feel but pity for anyone who cares whether or not someone 2000 years ago was screwing his wife or having sex with her out of wedlock? Grow up people! There is no god.

And don't forget that this Jesus character was dark skinned. He wasn't from Europe, you know!

arvay
arvay

"As I’ve written on this site before, you could show me incontrovertible scientific proof that Jesus was not the product of a virgin birth or that he didn’t rise from the dead, and it wouldn’t dampen my faith one iota. Likewise, handing me hard evidence that Mary was indeed a virgin mother, or that the resurrection did occur, wouldn’t do much to reinforce it. Faith doesn’t, or shouldn’t, work that way."

This is the core problem with religion. It trains people to base their ideas on unprovable assertions rather than facts. Believing in the virgin birth or resurrection is relativel harmless -- but the same "thought" process can and does apply to racism and birthism. 

shimmanni
shimmanni

I know and many others will know that Tim Padgett's Christian religion is as firm as a rock which can't be changed by an archeological discovery or two, but he doesn't know and won't acknowledge, either, that the bottom line of the ancient papyrus thing is somewhere else. The point is that of power, that is, the ecclesiastical power, which has long talked its clerics and lay believers into believing that Jesus had been the son of the Virgin Mary, and he had lived the life of celibacy, by which the huge power structure of Roman Catholics has been established. My initial theory is that the Roman Catholic clerics had from the earliest times known the stark truth, that is, the real identity of Jesus, but they had covered it up for their own selfish ends.

LightningBolt
LightningBolt

As a Catholic, I am personally glad Jesus had the comfort and companionship - not to mention, love of a wife.

BettyinColumbia
BettyinColumbia

C'mon, Tim...just admit that you're not a true Catholic, just Catholic in name only. You can't pick and choose the parts of the Faith to believe in.  Your faith is not very strong. How dare you say that Rome is wrong when it has protected our Faith for over 2000 years.

libertyislife
libertyislife

A person only has to go through a horrible illness where the neurosurgeons and all the doctors believe there is no chance of survival; family fly across the country to see their love one for the last time; the chances of survival are less than winning the biggest lottery in the nation.  Then after coming home after months in intensive care, one gets another crisis which means another hospital stay.  Then months and months of therapy; then another hospital visit for reconstruction surgery.  Then recovery!!!  When first driving after all of this, I looked out at the beautiful California sky, the lovely trees and flowers and everything around me and thought:  who in the world would not believe in God!!!   It just takes faith.  There is no way no how God is not out there, who but He could create such impossible things as a baby in the womb, ten toes, ten fingers, the brain, etc. and this lovely world we live in.

May God bless all of you and you non-believers, may He show you in some way that He is.

rahatakhan
rahatakhan

Although I follow a different faith. There is one additional point I would like to add to the observations above, As I understand God wants his religions to flourish with expand being the keyword here. If you agree then there is also the fact that all religions actually expand by example.

Then what I don't understand is why Christianity promotes monogamy and life-long devotion to one's spouse, and having children (to expand God's kingdom), there are even laws against adultery. It is all given to the masses in the form of doctrine, never by example. My point is shouldn't the hierarchy at the top also be practicing whatever they preach. After all we all subconsciously do follow by example.

frankblank
frankblank

Meh.  As shown by the current state of America, where the "we are a Christian nation" people completely ignore the teachings of Jesus year in year out, faith is more a matter of convenience than anything else.

Danny Ballard
Danny Ballard

The children of the Deceiver (The Devil), will do anything to discredit the life of Jesus Christ. By the way, I would not trust any scientific facts that is not conclusive. When the time comes, everyone will know the truth of our existence and the false sway of man and knowledge. In other words, all the truth will be known soon and all lies will be brought to light.

dudester4
dudester4

I can't understand how writers for such a popular and well-known publication such as Time can make such specious and already debunked arguments about the priesthood.

Quit taking the priest scandal out of context and drawing illogical conclusions!  By this same logic, shrinks should also be prevented client contact, mothers prevented access to their children, and children  separated from teachers!  Research your "Catholic" faith as to why Dan Brown's fictional account of Jesus' life is, in fact fiction, and if you have issues with fundamental doctrines of the Church, find one that pleases you instead.  Don't try to hug "your church" while you pee on its shoes.

Danyz
Danyz

For crying out loud, this is not news! Anyone familair with theology knows there are countless largely unpublished versions of the Gospels. The Gospel of Thomas has Jesus kissing his female disciples - and not in a formal way. The Gospel of Peter has talking animals in it. It goes without saying then that the task of scholars at that time was to ferret out the fakes and find the historically valid writings. Even a few books in today's New Testement were, at the time of their introduction into church cannon, controversial in nature, e.g., the Book of  Revelation, Second Peter, etc.

One poster here points out that Jesus, as a rabbi, would naturally have to be married and that celibacy goes against Jewish tradition. But he ignores the fact that the Essenes, who gave us the Dead Sea Scrolls, practiced strict celibacy.

Simple logic too dictates Jesus' marital status. If you knew you were on a special mission and were going to die at 33, would marriage be an option for you? And where are the descendants of a supposed marriage? Again, simple logic tells us that such offspring would have been major figures in the early church, as Mohammed's descendants were in Islam. And yet they are simply not there in any hisorical record. 

 

As for those breakaway nuns, unfortunately this kind of nonsense has been part and parcel of the Christian experience from day one. The benefit here is that the bogus makes the truthful all the more salient.

Speedy1485
Speedy1485

One of the purpose of getting married is to have offsprings. Jesus is God in human flesh. God creates everything. I do not see there is any purpose for Jesus to get married. He has created everything and everything belongs to Him. What God wants is just to have relationship with His creation.

marianknight
marianknight

Q     Why Assume Jesus Wasnt Married

Timothy Paul Jones

“It is an embarrassing insight into human nature that the more fantastic the scenario, the more sensational is the promotion it receives and the more intense the faddish interest it attracts,” Roman Catholic scholar Raymond Brown wrote nearly three decades ago. “People who would never bother reading a responsible analysis of the traditions about how Jesus was crucified, died, was buried, and rose from the dead are fascinated by the report of some ‘new insight’ to the effect he was not crucified or did not die, especially if his subsequent career involved running off with Mary Magdalene to India.”

This week, this embarrassing aspect of human nature has been on full display once again on television screens and news headlines. A scholar from Harvard University has presented a fragment of papyrus, allegedly copied about three centuries after the days when Jesus walked on the earth, that includes this clause: “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife.’” The news media reacted as if the five Coptic words underlying this clause had suddenly reset the entire field of biblical studies.

Public Radio International suggested that this fragment might “challenge hundreds of years of religious belief” by re-igniting “a centuries-old debate about the role of women in the Christian faith.” (Never mind that the fragment tells us little, if anything, about the role of women in Christian faith or that this debate isn’t exactly in need of re-ignition—it’s remained fairly well-ignited for a long time.) According to Bloomberg Business Week, “evidence pointing to whether Jesus was married or had a female disciple could have ripple effects in current debates over the role of women.” (Never mind that the New Testament is filled with examples of female disciples and that their existence has never been in question.) The Washington Post claimed the papyrus had renewed debates “about scholarship focused on Jesus’s marital status and the veracity of early church documents.” (What the text has to do with the truthfulness of early Christian texts, I am not sure; what it has to do with the marital status of the historical Jesus is, as it turns out, practically nothing.)

Dr. Karen King—the scholar presenting this fragment at International Congress on Coptic Studies—did admit, to her credit, that the fragment “does not … provide evidence that the historical Jesus was married.” At the same time, her decision to name the fragment “The Gospel of Jesus’s Wife” didn’t exactly lend itself to reasonable discussion and consideration.

Other scholars have already raised valid questions about the fragment’s authenticity as well as pointing out the irregularities in how the research was publicized. All of this kerfuffle will soon die down, quite possibly with the revelation that the fragment was a forgery in the first place.

And yet, the publicity may have raised a legitimate question or two in the minds of Christians and others—questions such as, “Why do Christians assume that Jesus wasn’t married? And would it matter if he was?” With that in mind, let’s take a quick look at the earliest historical traditions about the Messiah’s marital status.

What Early Christians Had to Say About the Singleness of Jesus 

Dr. King has presented the so-called “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife” as evidence that arguments over the singleness of Jesus were a pressing issue among second-century Christians. The fragment provides “direct evidence,” according to King, “that claims about Jesus’s marital status first arose over a century after the death of Jesus in the context of intra-Christian controversies over sexuality, marriage, and discipleship.” In other words, second-century Christians were arguing about issues related to sex and marriage. In the midst of these arguments, some Christians claimed Jesus was married while others said he wasn’t.

Looking at the second- and third-century sources, I’m not so sure. In the first place, while certainly possible, it’s far from certain whether the fourth-century fragment known as The Gospel of Jesus’s Wife was translated from any second-century text. Furthermore, Coptic texts of this sort did not emerge in the context of “intra-Christian controversies” but from breakaway Gnostic sects, groups that had rejected the witness of the apostolic eyewitnesses. The primary concern of the Gnostics would not have been whether Jesus was actually married but how they might portray Jesus in a way that would illustrate their own myths and rituals.

Yet what of the earliest Christian mentions of Jesus and marriage? Do they suggest intense “intra-Christian controversies” that resulted in competing “claims about Jesus’s marital status”?

Not really.

In fact, in the first Christian references to Jesus’s marital status, I find no hint of competing claims about whether Jesus was married or single.

The earliest Christian writer to refer explicitly to the singleness of Jesus seems to have been Clement of Alexandria. Clement was a theologian who began teaching in Alexandria around A.D. 180. In the closing years of the second century, Clement wrote against false teachers who had declared marriage taboo; these false teachers had claimed that “marriage is the same as sexual immorality.” While arguing against these heretics, Clement commented that Jesus “did not marry” (Stromata 3:6:49).

About the time that Clement was writing against false teachers who regarded marriage as immoral, a lawyer named Tertullian became a Christian and quickly turned his rhetorical skills toward defending the Christian faith. In a treatise urging monogamy, Tertullian of Carthage mentioned that Jesus, a lifelong celibate, had made God’s kingdom accessible to those who—like Jesus—never engaged in sexual relations (“… ipso domino spadonibus aperiente regna caelorum ut, et ipso spadone, quem spectans et apostolus…,” De Monogamia 3). Later in the same treatise, Tertullian termed Jesus “entirely unmarried” and “voluntarily celibate in flesh” (“innuptus in totum…spado occurrit in carne,” 5).

What is noteworthy in all of these references is the fact that neither author feels compelled to defend the singleness of Jesus. Both Clement and Tertullian, in treatises focused on other subjects, mention this status in an offhanded manner, as if both they and their readers assume the singleness of Jesus.

What About Jesus and Mary? The only potential evidences of alternative perspectives on Jesus’ marital status turn out to provide little, if any, real evidence at all. The Gospel of Mary—a text that probably originated in a Gnostic context around the time of Tertullian, long after every eyewitness of Jesus had passed away—merely mentions that Jesus “loved [Mary] more” than he loved other women (10).

The Gospel of Philip seems to have been written a little later, in the first half of the third century. The Gospel of Philip describes a secret “bridal chamber” initiation ritual by which spiritual mysteries were passed from one person to another in a Gnostic sect known as the Valentinians (The Gospel of Philip 67). As such, much of the language in the book is symbolic in the first place. According to this text, Jesus “was kissing” Mary Magdalene (63-64). A small hole appears in the manuscript after the word translated “kissing.” As such, it’s impossible to know where or how Jesus supposedly kissed Mary. In a culture where kissing served as a common greeting (Acts 20:37; Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:26; 1 Peter 5:14), kissing would have suggested close friendship—not necessarily or even primarily a marital connection. The Gospel of Philip also calls Mary Magdalene the “companion” with whom Jesus was “joined” (59). The term translated “companion” is a Coptic derivative of the Greek word koinonos. In Greek, this word denoted a fellow participant in a shared goal, but not necessarily a spouse or sexual partner. Paul had koinonos connections with Titus, Philemon, and the entire church at Corinth (2 Corinthians 1:7; 8:23; Philemon 1:17), and Simon Peter called himself a koinonos in God’s glory (1 Peter 5:1). (For further examples of the functions of koinonos in the New Testament, see Matthew 23:30; Luke 5:10; 1 Corinthians 10:18, 20; Hebrews 10:33; and, 2 Peter 1:4.)

Most important of all, texts such as The Gospel of Mary and The Gospel of Philip—and most likely The Gospel of Jesus’s Wife, if the fragment happens not to be a forgery—originated among Gnostic sects that were far more concerned with describing arcane myths and rituals than with preserving any historical information about Jesus.

“The Lord…Already Had a Bride” Despite multiple media melees over the past few years that have implied otherwise, there is simply no reliable historical evidence to support the supposition that Jesus was married. The earliest references to Jesus’s marital status assume his singleness, and the writers seem unaware that anyone might think otherwise. Implications that Jesus was married originate in historically-suspect sources, written more than a century after Jesus walked the earth.

There is, I would add, one more historical hint that Jesus was single. This evidence dates even earlier than the writings of Clement and Tertullian. The evidence simply this: The consistent testimony from the first century forward was that the church was to be considered the bride of Christ. The apostle Paul made this point in the mid-first century (Ephesians 5:24-33). In his description of the end of the age, the apostle John likewise depicted the church as the bride of Christ (Revelation 21:2). In the earliest surviving Christian sermon—preached in the early-to-mid-second century—the pastor proclaimed, “‘God made man male and female.’ The male is Christ, and the female is the church” (2 Clement). Clement of Alexandria himself gave this as the primary reason for Jesus’s lifelong virginity: “The Lord…already had a bride, the church”—and these are only a few of many such references from the first centuries of Christian faith.

So what do all these metaphors have to do with the marital status of the historical Jesus?

I suggest that, if Jesus had been married, these references to the church as his bride would have—at the very least—required some further explanation. Perhaps a reference to his “spiritual bride” and his “earthly bride,” or some other shade of distinction offered to distinguish the church’s relationship to Jesus. Yet these statements, some of which can be traced back to eyewitnesses of the life of Jesus, seem to be made with the assumption that the church is Christ’s bride and he has no other, whether spiritual or terrestrial. This is admittedly a suggestion from silence, but—given the consistent metaphorical references to the bride of Christ—the silence regarding any earthly marriage seems significant.

Why the Singleness of Jesus Makes the Most Sense 

Several years ago, The Da Vinci Codebreaker—a book I cowrote with my friend Jim Garlow—hit the bestseller lists about the same time that Sony Pictures released the movie The Da Vinci Code. As a result, dozens of television and radio stations interviewed one or both of us in the space of a few weeks. At some point during that flurry of interviews, one interviewer asked me, “Why are you so against the idea that Jesus was married?”

“I’m not,” I replied after a second or two of reflection. “If I woke up tomorrow morning and saw that archaeologists had exhumed incontrovertible evidence that Jesus was married, it wouldn’t destroy my faith. Jesus would still be the risen Lord. But, as I examine the historical evidence, I find absolutely no substantial evidence to suggest that Jesus was married. And I find even less evidence of some sort of church-wide cover-up. I’m not against the idea that Jesus was married. What I’m against is the weak historical basis of such a supposition.”

The idea of a married Messiah wasn’t rejected among the earliest Christians because such a revelation would cause the Christian faith to fall apart—it might cause theologians to rethink the way they frame some doctrines, but no essential belief in the Christian faith is dependent on the singleness of Jesus. A married Jesus wasn’t rejected because early Christians wanted to downgrade human sexuality—with few exceptions, they didn’t. The marriage of Jesus didn’t become part of the church’s story of Jesus for a single reason: In all the eyewitness testimonies to the life of Jesus and later reflections on his life, no reliable proof exists for such a marriage. The announcement of a so-called “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife” has done nothing to change that fact.

Timothy Paul Jones serves as professor of leadership and associate vice president for online learning at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Jones has been widely recognized as a leading writer and researcher in the fields of apologetics, Christian education, and family ministry. He has authored or contributed to more than a dozen books, including Misquoting Truth, Trained in the Fear of God, and the CBA bestseller The Da Vinci Codebreaker. Dr. Jones blogs at http://www.timothypauljones.co.... Follow him on Twitter @timothywashere.

dougt
dougt

Many orthodox people speak as though it were the business of sceptics to disprove received dogmas rather than of dogmatists to prove them. This is, of course, a mistake. If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time-Bertrand Russell

JonEberle
JonEberle

I always come to post something useful and enligtening, then read Dan Bruce's post, and realize he has already taken care of it. Thanks Dan.

msmischief
msmischief

Why stop there?  Why not point out that the schools are even more likely to shelter pedophiles than the church -- a study conducted as part of No Child Left Behind concluded that children are a hundred times more likely to be molested at school than at church, and that' s not a percentage -- and demand that they give up the all male celibate teacher practice?

Kate McMahon Leonard
Kate McMahon Leonard

The Catholic Church does not teach that marriage is intrinsically wrong for priests. In fact, many different rites of the Church (all in union with Rome) have married priests. Ukrainian rites for example and many Eastern Rites. A man can be married before he is ordained. Likewise, occasionally when married priests of certain other religions convert to Catholicism, they are able to remain priests. Roman Catholics are the most common rite, and in most cases they are not allowed to. That priests cannot marry is a law of the Church that could be changed, such as mandatory mass attendance on Sunday under pain of sin. This falls under obedience, not that it is wrong in and of its self. Ex. If a child is told to pick up their room and they don't, it is a sin. Not because it is wrong to have clothes on the floor, but because it was disobedience. The Church decided that for the good of the Church and its members, that priests are more effective and better able to fulfill their mission, if they are not responsible for a biological family, who they would have to put first and provide for in the best way possible.  The author of the article should learn his own faith before writing these articles. The Church teaches the Virgin Birth as doctrine, the same with contraception, abortion, sexually active homosexuality, fornication and adultery and many many more theological doctrines. They do not teach married priests, abstaining from meat on Fridays in lent, mass on Sunday are doctrines that have to be believed, but rather obeyed. Catholics beleive that the Church has authority on earth. In these cases, she teaches these things because she believes they are for the good of her members. That making sacifices and enduring small hardships help strengthen our spiritual life. 

breindrein
breindrein

In 20 years they discover more of the same scrolls where Jesus mentions his other 4 wives and the one who screwed him over at the end was called Judy. 

18235
18235

how come muslims arent rioting over this?

Les Moore
Les Moore

Jesus is often referred to as the 'bride groom' - when He refers to 'her' or His 'wife,' I believe He is probably referring to the church.

William Meinen
William Meinen

 dudester4:

People are upset at the Catholic church because the church failed it's own flock

in three very fundamental ways:

First, it failed to follow Jesus directive that His work was to be done two

person teams. Thus protecting the preacher/counselor and the one being

counseled.

Second: The Church allowed the "wolves" to freely prey upon it's own flock.

High church officials failed to stop sex abuse even when they knew about

it-they just moved these offending priests around to prey on other

flocks.

Third: High Church officials failed to report the criminal activity to authorities

and instead tried to cover it up.

Again I ask: What motivates a person to be Catholic?

Why on earth do you support the Catholic church?

 

Chibz
Chibz

@Danyz Can't be better said! Never seen any other topic generate so much quasi-intellectualism like Christian doctrine in general and the Catholic Church in particular. Its refreshing to have all the (il)logic exposes every once in a while. 

Cheers.

Reason_With_Me
Reason_With_Me

That argument assumes belief in something that can never be shown to exist.  Romans 1:18-21.

fisherex
fisherex

 Well put Kate. I put together a very similar post to Dan's earlier comment about church teaching, before I had read yours. Yours is much more thorough and articulate.  Likewise the article's author is incorrect in stating that Jesus having a wife/disciple would have put to rest any argument for woman priesthood. He has, as I've noticed in all of his columns I've read having to do with Catholicism, a very shallow understanding of his religion/faith. Jesus had many women disciples. Mary Magdalene likely one of them. But there is a large theological gulf between disciple and the chosen 12 apostles.  They and their followers consistently held to the all male Priesthood. 

ksam
ksam

@William Meinen 

But we all can explore our relationship with God by fulfilling certain spiritual conditions and we do not necessarily need to rely on established religions like the Catholic Church. However established religions are there to elaborate on what we should do to discern these spiritual conditions not to do what the religious Leadership do. On the other hand Jesus' teachings are clear that when man confesses their sin they are absolved (the role of the Priest) of it to start a new life. Vengeance is not of man but of God

Palladia
Palladia

The problem with that is that it was written by men with an axe to grind. 

So far, no god has been shown to exist.

It isn't like, (for example) quantum physics, in which all sorts of things we cannot see are posited to exist, and then perhaps eventually demonstrated: there have been no wars fought over quarks or mesons.

frankblank
frankblank

The most bizarre thing in this sort of argument is that people assume that some kind of omnipotent creature, capable of creating the universe, stars going super nova, walruses, fleas, ticks, viruses, etc., would reveal itself to a bunch of goat-herders a couple thousand years ago, and then go away, as if to Cabo.  Although, even weirder I guess, is the notion that such a creature would care about them.

Of course, most people who say they believe are merely paying lip service so they look good while doing whatever it takes to buy low and sell high.  After all, this aforesaid creature wants them to score a touchdown but not the other guy.

Palladia
Palladia

Read my first sentence again.

Of course anyone writing a bible, or bible equivalent (for example, the Book of Mormon) would declare that it is "inspired by God."

This is supposed to give whatever the person writes an authority beyond his own: a divine authority.  That only means that he has claimed it, not that he actually hasit.

Again, it wouldn't matter in the slightest who said what, if humanity didn't fight wars over these things.

Nobody's fighting over, say, whether leprechauns button their clothes left to right, or right to left, are they?    It could just as well be claimed that the Romans citation refers to that.   Many of the things said in the Bible are like that.  Particularly Leviticus.  (g)

Reason_With_Me
Reason_With_Me

Of course no god has been shown to exist by science. Science is a creation of man, to explain the world around us, based on all kinds of assumptions, a main one being that there is no god. And even so, it does a great job most of the time! But, as has been shown time and again, science gets it wrong too.

Also, the Bible was written down by men, inspired by God. Just to be clear on that. 2 Timothy 3:16.