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Sep 26, 2012

Jesus has a wife: it's official


Controversy-watchers out there will probably have been aware of the hoo-ha during the last week or so over a 4th century manuscript which appears to suggest that Jesus had a wife...

Category:General 
Posted by: DavidW

Controversy-watchers out there will probably have been aware of the hoo-ha during the last week or so over a 4th century manuscript which appears to suggest that Jesus had a wife - have a look at the video here if you want to know more.

An interesting feature of the discussion which surrounds this (not, by the way, from the scholar in question Helen King who is pretty responsible and cautious in what she concludes) is that it shows up the whole conpiracy-theory way of thinking about Jesus made so popular a few years ago by the Da Vinci Code - the idea that what we have in the Bible is somehow not trustworthy because they (the institutional church) like to use it to keep people down and therefore any alternative source is going to be more reliable, even an unlear fragment containing a few words written much later and much further away.

John Dickson does a great job of summarising the relevant stuff here, and he makes this observation:

"The result is that an unsuspecting public comes away from a news cycle like this with a vague and entirely inaccurate impression that the Jesus of history is entirely up for grabs, that little can be known about his life and ministry."

The facts are that the earliest and (by far) most reliable sources make no mention of Jesus having been married. None of the Coptic records seriously undermine this. Would it matter if he was? Not really. No major Christian teaching would be at all affected. But the point is it seems that he wasn't married. That's simply the historical fact of it. Is that because Jesus or Christians are anti-women? Not a bit of it. The important role which women played among Jesus' friends and followers was thoroughly exceptional for first century Judaism. It's interesting that in our time when people have such a low view of marriage the idea of Jesus being married is seen as a way to bring him down - to knock him of the perch of divinity and leave him (only) in the real world.

Except that, of course, the earliest and most reliable sources - Jesus' own apostles - do speak of Jesus having a wife: the church, his people. And for Jesus, getting married did involve coming down a long way into the gritty reality of life. But it didn't end there. As the Apostle Paul put it: "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy." Here's a picture of marriage really worth imitating - full on self-sacrifice for the sake of the one you love. And Jesus marriage to his church, instead of simply knocking him off his perch, results in him taking us to be with him, ultimately as rich and perfect as he is. What good news that Jesus has a wife. Or at least a wife to be...

Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: "Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear."  Revelation 19:6-8