Jesus Had a Wife?

by: Mormon Heretic

October 1, 2012

Karen L. King / Harvard

I’ve enjoyed reading about a recently discovered document scholars have dubbed “The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife.”  It’s just a scrap of papyrus that dates to around 150-200 AD, but it is causing a bit of a stir.  Dr. Karen King of Harvard University has recently translated the document and it contains the line, “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife…’”, but we have absolutely no context about what he was saying because it is just a scrap.  The papyrus is written in Coptic, the same language that the Gospel of Judas was written in.

Now King cautions that a century after the death of Christ, this document gives no proof that Jesus was married, only that there were groups that may have supported the idea that Jesus was married.  NBC News  has noted that Mormons would have no problem with the idea that Jesus was married.

The Unification Church, however, does believe that Jesus was supposed to get married, and some of the early teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints stated Jesus was married and even fathered children, although that belief is not widespread today.

The Mormon and the Unification Church’s beliefs, however, have more to do with their own theology of marriage rather than with scripture, Ben Witherington III, a New Testament professor at the Asbury Theological Seminary, told NBC News.

However, other Christian groups would have a big problem with that.  The title of the article is “‘Too holy’ for sex? The problem of a married Jesus.”

“If Jesus is a normal human being and he’s sexual, that’s the real fear,” James Tabor, a biblical scholar at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and the co-author of books about Jesus and his family, told NBC News. “You can’t think of Jesus like that because he’s too holy.”

“I would say that the more conservative groups might be more inclined to be bothered by the idea of a married Jesus, and especially that he might have had a child, god forbid, since that would really raise questions about his ‘divinity,’ since they see him as fully human and fully God,” Tabor subsequently explained in an email.

“Can God sleep with a woman and have a child? It just doesn’t fit the concept they want for Jesus,” he said.

The Catholic Church has come out with a statement that the fragment a fake:

Substantial reasons would lead one to conclude that the papyrus is indeed a clumsy forgery,” the Vatican’s newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, said in an editorial by its editor, Gian Maria Vian. “In any case, it’s a fake.”

The NBC News article goes on to state some reasons why scholars are skeptical.

“It’s really pretty unlikely that it’s authentic,” University of Durham Professor Francis Watson told Reuters after he published a paper arguing the words on the fragment were a rearrangement of phrases from a well known Coptic text.

Watson, who has previously worked on identifying forged gospels, said it was likely to be an ancient blank fragment that was written over in the 20th or 21st century by a forger seeking to make money.

Watson argues that the words on the fragment do not fit grammatically into a larger text.

“It’s possible to get hold of an old bit of unwritten-on papyrus and write some new stuff on it,” Watson said. “There is a market for fake antiquities throughout the Middle East … I would guess that in this case the motivation might have been a financial one.”

But not everyone questions the authenticity.

AnneMarie Luijendijk, associate professor of religion at Princeton University, said she concluded that the fragment was indeed an authentic, ancient text, written by a scribe in antiquity.

“We can see that by the way the ink is preserved on the papyrus and also the way the papyrus has faded and also the way the papyrus has become very fragmentary, which is actually in line with a lot of other papyri we have also from the New Testament,” Luijendijk told Reuters during the conference.

I’ve also talked about speculation that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene.  What are your feelings regarding a possible marriage of Jesus?

What is your opinion on the papyrus found?

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10 Responses to Jesus Had a Wife?

  1. Hedgehog on October 1, 2012 at 2:42 AM

    One of the few GA books my parents did have at home growing up was a copy of Talmage’s ‘Jesus the Christ’, which I borrowed and read when I was 18. It discussed a number of interesting and unusual ideas (as I remember it), including the suggestion that Jesus had been married to Mary Magdalene, though whether this was in the main body of the text or the footnotes I don’t recall (perhaps I should take a look if they still have that particular copy), but I think it was all part and parcel with a discussion on was the wedding in Cana Jesus own wedding.

    I was disappointed to find these ideas had been expunged from the ‘missionary’ edition I bought some years later.

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  2. Jenn on October 1, 2012 at 6:37 AM

    IF Jesus were a Rabbi in that time period, it is highly likely he did have a wife. And if he needed to be baptized to “fulfill all righteousness” (get the ordinances necessary for salvation), it would make sense he would also need to be sealed.
    That said, I have no clue if the papyrus is legit enough, and even if it were real, I don’t think it would clear anything up.

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  3. hawkgrrrl on October 1, 2012 at 6:37 AM

    Just the fact that it puts more conservative religious groups in a tizzy is enough to make me want to believe it’s real. Of course, it’s not like Jesus himself wrote it and left fingerprints on it. But I do think Jesus was married. His actual teachings are very similar to Buddha, but I find it unsavory that Buddha would ditch his wife and child in pusuit of enlightenment. I would like a god who has washed a dish or two in his life.

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  4. Mormon Heretic on October 1, 2012 at 8:38 AM

    Hawk, like you I’d like to see “conservative religious groups in a tizzy”, but I will say that just like the Catholics, we Mormons do have a theological dog in the fight too.

    As for your comment that you wuold ” like a god who has washed a dish or two in his life” , did you see the recent Norweigian study that divorce rates are higher for men that help more with housework? (The link is in the sidebar.)

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  5. Will on October 1, 2012 at 11:28 AM

    If we have to put up with a wife, I don’t see why he wouldn’t :)

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  6. Douglas on October 1, 2012 at 12:45 PM

    D&C 19:16 – “For behold, I, God, have SUFFERED these things for all…” No man who was a lifelong bachelor could say that with a straight face.
    HawkChick – methinks you owe our Savior an apology. What makes you think that He saddled His wife with drudgery ala Alice Kramden? (Or Wilma Slaghoople-Flintstone?). After all, when asked what he did with spare time, one of His servants, the late Harmon Killebrew, replied, “wash the dishes, I guess”

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  7. Bob on October 1, 2012 at 2:24 PM

    I hear humor, passion, on both sides of this. Put me down as a “I don’t know”.

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  8. Bishop Rick on October 1, 2012 at 11:51 PM

    I want it to be authentic.
    It’s time for conservative christian sects to enter the 21st century.

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  9. FireTag on October 5, 2012 at 5:13 PM

    I think it likely that IF it is real, it does reflect second century theological disputes parallel to what we’re having here.

    If I recall correctly, Crossan’s “Historical Jesus” does argue that “sisters” who traveled with disciples might actually be married to them but concealing the relationship for social convention’s sake. Of course, since Jesus was a Cynic who didn’t advocate for his disciples to accrue things like homes, dish washing and other household chores were unlikely to have had much relevance.

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  10. Michael Snow on October 12, 2012 at 8:34 AM

    By now, it has become obvious that this is a fraud. The key point that many Christians missed, is that whether fraud or fourth century fragment [not second century, but does not matter], the idea that Jesus had a wife besides his Bride is simply heresy.

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