Today (Tuesday, September 18, 2012) an announce was made. A new fragment from a previously unknown Gospel has been “discovered.” I put discovered in quotes because with this sort of thing it is usually the case that a fragment or such will be discovered decades earlier but won’t be translated or get attention until later. The Sea Scrolls were discovered in the 30s and published in their full form in the 90s because of legal and governmental issues. It is claimed that this fragment lends support to idea of Jesus having been married.
I am unaware of the location the fragment was discovered but because it is Written in Coptic (the language of the native people of Egypt during the later half of the Roman period, spoken by the lower social class of people like Athanasius of Alexandria) we will assume it was located in Egypt where documents have a greater chance of surviving because of the humid climate. Though the scholar making the claims Karen King admits in her presentation today at the Vatican conference for Coptic studies, “nothing is known about the circumstances of its original discovery or early ownership.” It is possible that this document may turn out to be a forgery, one remembers the James ossuary controversy of 2004 where a Jewish coffin supposedly belonging to James the Just (Brother of the Lord) was uncovered and was later exposed as a forgery. Putting aside any doubts about authenticity for a moment let us consider what the reality is.
The fragment only contains 8 lines on one side and 6 on the other. The only quotation anyone is talking about from the document is “Jesus said to them ‘my wife’…” and then the rest of the text is cut off. And another quotation “she can be a disciple.” That’s it that’s all that’s being said. So what we have here is a document written under a fake name like the rest of the non-conical gospels (IE, Thomas, Philip, Mary, proto-James, proto-Matthew etc. none of which written by any disciples). This forgery was dated to the fourth century, 300 years after the life of Jesus written in a foreign language to the events and times it describes, though King supposes the document like Thomas was written in Greek originally and what was found is a later Coptic translation, we have yet to see evidence for this claim. Given the short length of the document, and a lack of context, what can we really say about it? I don’t speak Greek but I’m told ‘wife’ can also mean simply ‘woman’ in some cases. This reminds me of Gabriel’s vision where it is said that there was prophecy about the messiah being resurrected, when in fact the line being translated by anti-christian scholars could also read as just “get up.” I submit to you that it is possible that Ms. King is simply letting a post Da Vinci Code perspective color her translation of the text.
In a quote made by the Washington Post King says “Christian tradition has long held that Jesus was not married, even though no reliable historical evidence exists to support that claim,” this quote would seem to spell out a biased against the Gospels as being reliable history about the life of Jesus. The fact is that the 4 canonical Gospels are our best sources of information about the life of Jesus as even noted by the radically liberal and anti-Christian Bart Ehrman in his 2006 debate with William Lane Craig. Folks our best sources are totally silent on Jesus having a wife.
In the earliest years of the Church it is James the Just (the brother of the Lord) who takes over as leader of the movement after Jesus and after James is put to death, Simeon another of their relatives takes over. You never hear of a wife or son taking the family business and continuing the message of Jesus. There was no wife and no children. The fact of the matter is that there is NO good source that says that Jesus did have a wife. The definitive argument against this is in 1 Cor 9:3-6 aswhen Paul is speaking about taking his wife with him on missionary journeys. Paul in effects says “Peter brings his wife along and so does James the brother of the Lord, why can’t I do it.” Would it have not been better for Paul to say “Jesus took his wife” if Jesus was in fact married? NO ONE AT ALL SAYS JESUS HAD A WIFE! We don’t get these kind of crazy claims until long after the death of Jesus in far off lands and you can find every crazy theory under the sun from it was actually Simon of Cyrene who was crucified on the cross like Islam teaches from the Gnostic documents to Jesus had a secret twin brother named Thomas AKA “the Twin.” Trying to put these stories back into the real life of Jesus is like saying Abraham Lincoln was actually a vampire hunter based on the recent movie by the title Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.
What we actually have here is more of the media in an anti-Christian world seeing a new way to cash in on the old and already refuted lies of people like Dan Brown and the Da Vinci Code and Michael Baigent and the Jesus Papers. The first page of Da Vinci Code straight up tells you that there is little historical fact in the book at all and in fact it is all fiction if not straight up lies! But people take it as undercutting the truth of the Gospel and latch on to it like it is itself gospel because they don’t want to look at the facts.
The conclusion simple, it wouldn’t matter if Jesus was married it would not have been a big deal or even a sin the fact is that people think it is a way of undercutting the Christian worldview so they latch on to straws to try to support the claims of fringe scholars and this fragment is no more proof than that there were crazy people 1600 years ago just like there are today. There is no evidence anywhere in history that Jesus had a wife and that’s a fact.