A Married Jesus? Update

There continues to be a lot of interest in the small papyrus fragment that Karen King and others have now made public that is purported to have a reference to the wife of Jesus. I expect to see seminars about this at the November meetings of the venerableEvangelical Theological Society and the Society of Biblical Literature. This mini-doc is now being called the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife or GJW. I’m sure it will be a Hollywood blockbuster next year, starring Russell Crowe or Tom Hanks as Jesus, maybe with Angelina Jolie or Jennifer Aniston as the wife.

My friend, Dr. Jeff Miller of Milligan College, posted a comment on this blog that contained a link to a scholarly analysis of this by Francis Watson that some of you may have missed, so I want to bring this to your attention. It is on Mark Goodacre’s site:

http://markgoodacre.org/Watson.pdf

There was also a more popular article in Time magazine this week that case doubts on the authenticity of the GJW, “Did Jesus Have a Wife?” Unfortunately, this is available only in print or online to subscribers. Most of the major newspapers have articles on this written by someone who is conversant with the current scholarly discussions, so a google search can yield many resources.

I have done a lot of reflection on how we got to where we are in this sort of debate concerning a married Jesus. The Gospels that made the “canonical cut” are silent about the marital status of Jesus, and this is most plausibly interpreted to conclude he had no wife. The New Testament also contains some additional historical detail about Jesus in Acts, the writings of Paul, the book of Hebrews, 2 Peter, and perhaps in Revelation and other books. This information is meager compared to the Gospels, but agrees with them in being silent about Jesus’ marital status. I thought it might be helpful to diagram the historical possibilities as I see them:

Hope this helps a little.

Mark Krause
Nebraska Christian College

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5 thoughts on “A Married Jesus? Update

  1. Great breakdown. The whole idea is just absurd, I wrote on my blog the other day that the bride of Christ is none other than the Church.

    • I heard Darrell Bock on NPR talking about this, and he raised that possibility, that this was just a reference to the church as the bride/wife of Christ. Without more context, we have not way to know.

      MK

  2. Thanks, Mark, for your clear thinking on this. your readers might choose to see also http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bibleandculture/2012/09/21/bw3-on-jesus-wife/. It’s Ben Witherington III explaining a few central features of the scrap in question, including: 1. That it is, as you mentioned earlier, unprovenanced (don’t know where it was found). 2. A quick summary of Gnosticism as pertains to why Gnostics might mention such a wife.

    Witherington affirms its authenticity, but I have to wonder what he thinks after seeing Francis Watson’s article (linked above), for that article is at most one day older than Witherington’s video.

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