Jesus’ Wife? Scholars Weigh In (Updated 10/3)

(UPDATED 10/3/12 – See new links at bottom.)  If you’ve been reading the news lately, there’s no way you can miss the latest media craze about “Jesus’ Wife.” It’s based on the wording of a papyrus fragment that was found in Egypt that is thought to date to about 400 AD, if it is not a forgery. I’m sure Dan Brown is already working this into his next sequel to the DaVinci Code.

In the blogs that I read, some good scholars have weighed in. Rather than summarizing their words, I thought I’d point you to some links to learn more:

– At Jerusalem Perspective, scholar David Bivin has a very good article “Was Jesus a Confirmed Bachelor?” He points out that even though Jewish men typically married around 20, rabbinic disciples often put it off until later because of their intensive religious study. Jesus’ singleness actually fits in well with what is known of first-century Jewish rabbis.

– John Dickson, a religion reporter for ABC, explains here how scholars determine whether texts are historically useful or not. And how the media re-spins whatever they say for the sake of a headline.

– New Testament scholar Ben Witherington points out how the wording of the papyrus fragment smells a lot the fantastic tales that Gnostics in Egypt used to weave about Jesus. Their desire to “re-imagine” Jesus actually came from their rejection of his earthly (Jewish) reality. Here’s a quote from his article:

…”The Gnostics were not really interested in the Jesus of history, the pre-Easter Jesus. Their writings again and again focus on the exalted Jesus, the post-Easter Jesus and his esoteric teachings post-mortem. …Gnosticism arose out of a Gentile ethos, not a Jewish one and indeed many Gnostic texts are profoundly anti-Semitic, not to mention anti the God of the OT and the whole theology of creation found in the OT.”

– But a growing number of scholars are becoming convinced that the fragment is a forgery based on texts lifted from The Gospel of Thomas, another Egyptian Gnostic text full of the speculations that Ben Witherington talks about. ** Here’s the latest report (10/2) from Mark Goodacre. He notes a very good overview of the latest research by Alin Suciu as well as this video by Christian Askeland about how the writing in the fragment looks as if it’s a forgery. I thought it was very informative.


7 Responses to “Jesus’ Wife? Scholars Weigh In (Updated 10/3)”

  1. 1
    Sandra King|September 28, 2012

    Jesus will have only one wife — His Bride/Body. If He had another, He would be an adulterer and the husband of more than one wife. Hence, a sinner!

  2. 2
    Michelle|October 3, 2012

    Thank you for the update! I enjoy your website. I find it to be very informative, inspirational & even motivating. I have purchased two of your books and plan to read them soon!

    God’s continued blessings upon your family & ministry!

    Love ya!

  3. 3
    Alex Renko|October 3, 2012

    Thanks for sharing Lois. Christian knows his stuff.

  4. 4
    Tom Brennan|October 3, 2012

    Today’s anti-Bible media bias will pounce on anything that supports their agenda. Clever and slick media presentations such as The Discovery Channel and National Geographic present programs that a poorly Biblically-educated public too often accept as accurate. Unlike the “Jesus Family Tomb” event, scholars and teachers pre-empted a popularity stampede with quick responses and proven documentation. Well done, truth tellers! But the task of fully educating believers and questioners in what is in and within the Bible is still ahead.

  5. 5
    Len Fulmer|October 3, 2012

    Again, it smells of as the article hints Gnosticism.

    I hope Christians don’t riot, burn embassies, slaughter ambassadors and their security Guards. Perhaps this can be blamed on some U-Tube video specially to insult Christianity and our Government will disavow and think it reprehensible.

  6. 6
    Michael Snow|October 12, 2012

    Sandra put it well as did an article in The Atlantic: “The Bible Refers to Jesus’ Wife, Too”

    The textual scholars have done fine work. Where are the theologians? Whether fraud or fourth century, this is simply heresy. And a dumbfounding number of Christians have said, ‘It does not matter’ if Jesus was married.

  7. 7
    Lois Tverberg|October 12, 2012

    Thanks for all of your comments. But I do want to point out something to Michael and Sandra.

    I have no doubt that Jesus was not married and the fragment won’t provide any persuasive evidence to the contrary. But theology cannot determine historical truth about something like whether Jesus was married or not. The only thing that can tell us is the biblical and historical witness. Not theology. Theology is itself derived from that witness. It’s backwards to think it can determine history.

    Here’s an example of what I mean. Catholic theology has decided that Mary must have been a perpetual virgin, so it ignores the texts that say that Jesus had sisters and brothers, like Mark 6:3 and Gal 1:19. But the Bible must have the last word. If Jesus had siblings, he had siblings! It’s Catholic theology needs to change in response.

    Theology is a systematic summary of the facts we find in the Bible. It derives entirely from what those facts are, it can’t determine them.

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