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Christ’s Wife September 21, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient , trackback

***Thanks to Larry, Amanda, Southern Man and PJ***

The news came in yesterday afternoon courtesy of three or four emails sent in by readers. The email line: ‘Breaking News Alert: Ancient papyrus suggests Jesus was married’.

Wth! Beach spilt his Bacardi and Rum all over his keyboard and walked around the room in a stupor. So then it was all a lie! He had his suspicions, of course, ever since reading Dan Brown. Now the world would change… Christianity would founder on the granite teeth of this simple fact and the pope would publicly resign his bishopric and put the mother church gently in its coffin. Then there was Beach’s uber catholic wife. She would be thrown into heart rendering turmoil as she realized that the religion she had dedicated most of her life to was a sorry fiction: Beach often tells her this but she never listens.

Then Beach opened the email… Well, of course, it was never going to be that good. A fragment of papyrus with some Coptic words came, in late 2011, to the attention of a Harvard researcher, Karen King, ‘who is neither a papyrologist nor a Coptic linguist’; KK, in fact, was lent the fragment  thanks to the generosity of an owner who wishes to remain anonymous.

Its lack of a modern history – never a good sign with controversial finds – and some concerns about the Coptic grammar and the quality or rather the lack of the quality of the writing has already led to suggestions that this is a forgery. Let’s play ball though and say, for the sake of argument, that this little fragment, no larger than a cell phone or a business card is genuine, as King herself believes. Just what will it change?

The text is incomplete but leaves little room for ambiguity: perhaps a suspicious fact in itself. Consider the following words.

1 ] “not [to] me. My mother gave to me li[fe…”

2 ] The disciples said to Jesus, “.

3 ] deny. Mary is worthy of it

4 ]……” Jesus said to them, “My wife . .

5 ]… she will be able to be my disciple . .

6] Let wicked people swell up …

7] As for me, I dwell with her in order to Jesus said to them

‘My wife…’ is the key line. But Jesus may describe himself as dwelling with this mysterious woman and the word ‘Mary’ also crops up: Mary Magdalene? However, the text – and almost all the news reports have rushed over this – is late. The form of the writing suggests a fourth-century date that means that it was copied out some four centuries after Christ’s death.

KK goes further and claims that it was based on a second century Greek text, but really there is little proof for this, just some speculative parallels with second-century works.  ‘Gospels’ were written from the first century onwards and continued to be written after Nicaea. Then even if the text was written in the second century there is not the slightest reason for thinking that it contained truths about Christ’s life. In fact, the one thing that is clear from second-century gospels is the way that Christ is no longer a subject of biography (if he ever had been) but a floating symbol for the various gurus of the East Mediterranean.

At best what we have here, as KK herself is the first to admit, is the evidence for a pro-marital branch of Christianity: in a period when some Christians were starting to attack the very idea of marriage. But what self respecting journalist would let that little detail stop him or her from taking a hatchet to the Mother Church?:

The discovery, if it is validated, could have major implications for the Christian faith. The belief that Jesus was not married is one reason priests in the Catholic Church must remain celibate and are not allowed to marry. It could also have implications for women’s roles in the church, as it would mean Jesus had a female disciple. Etc etc etc.

Any other thoughts on Christ’s sex life? drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com

***

25 Sept 2012: Kate starts with some full frontal skepticism: Alas! Christ’s wife has been in the news here in the Boston area for a few days now. I doubt its authenticity. And, frankly, even if Christ were married, I don’t see what difference it would make. The Roman Catholic church might have to re-think certain policies, but the essential Christian teachings are the same. IIRC, the celibacy of the priesthood came about during the late Middle Ages and was more about hereditary and property rights than holiness. Speculate all you want about Jesus and Mary Magdalene, I’ll dream about  the Papacy being a hereditary sinecure and how that might have changed the face of Europe and the greater world. Then comes KHM ‘There may be a simple explanation for this papyrus fragment. Christ was never married while on earth, but he was destined to be married later in heaven. This will be occurring at the “marriage supper  of the lamb,”  mentioned in Rev. 19:7-9 and alluded to elsewhere The marriage will equalize the spiritual status of women with men which isn’t true in Christianity now. The ability of women to become disciples of Christ was a question raised also in The Gospel of St. Thomas. The last word, number 114, is as follows: 114)     Simon Peter said to them: Let Mary go out from among us, because women are  not worthy of the Life. Jesus said: See, I shall lead her, so that I will make her male, that she too may become a living spirit, resembling you males. For every woman who makes herself male will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Whoever Mary was, to make a woman  male obviously refers to a spiritual transformation, not a physical one. In the papyrus, Christ would be speaking spiritually, not physically, as He was known to do on other occasions. Wade writes: An argument I was struck by in Holy Blood, Holy Grail: Jesus should have been married, and that it was a cultural imperative in that time and place for Jewish men. The fact this isn’t mentioned one way or the other in the Gospels is very odd. If he hadn’t married it should have been remarked on by someone, ergo he was probably married. As I say I was struck by the argument, but I don’t know if it is valid, or if there were many exceptions then. Wade also sent in a follow up article on Jesus and his wife. Thanks KMH, Wade and Kate!