Friday, April 11, 2014

The Gospel of Jesus' Wife

Holy Da Vinci Code! What a fury of media attention about not much of anything. Recently it was confirmed that a fragment of papyrus is very old. Normally this wouldn't cause a stir, but a reference to the wife of Jesus has made this moderately newsworthy. One article describes the circumstances clearly:
A faded fragment of papyrus known as the “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife,” which caused an uproar when unveiled by a Harvard Divinity School historian in 2012, has been tested by scientists who conclude in a journal published on Thursday that the ink and papyrus are very likely ancient, and not a modern forgery.

Skepticism about the tiny scrap of papyrus has been fierce because it contained a phrase never before seen in any piece of Scripture: “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife...’ ” Too convenient for some, it also contained the words “she will be able to be my disciple,” a clause that inflamed the debate in some churches over whether women should be allowed to be priests.
The papyrus fragment has now been analyzed by professors of electrical engineering, chemistry and biology at Columbia University, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who reported that it resembles other ancient papyri from the fourth to the eighth centuries. (Scientists at the University of Arizona, who dated the fragment to centuries before the birth of Jesus, concluded that their results were unreliable.)

The test results do not prove that Jesus had a wife or disciples who were women, only that the fragment is more likely a snippet from an ancient manuscript than a fake, the scholars agree. Karen L. King, the historian at Harvard Divinity School who gave the papyrus its name and fame, has said all along that it should not be regarded as evidence that Jesus married, only that early Christians were actively discussing celibacy, sex, marriage and discipleship.

The only aspect of this which I appreciate is that it is a nudge for all of us to consider the humanity of Jesus, which includes his sexuality and the possibility of entering into a committed relationship with another person. Did he? I sure don't think so. Could we consider Jesus as the Christ if he had married and had a family? Well, Peter was married, since the gospels mention a mother-in-law.. Perhaps Paul was as well? It was expected that rabbis of that day would have a spouse. Our sexuality is not a liability. It is a gift.

What are your thoughts?

1 comment:

Laura said...

Our older teen group went to see Noah on its opening weekend and although I understand some of the concerns around these bible epics, we have had some wonderful discussions around the things we liked,disliked, surprised etc as we watched the film. One of the (spoiler alert) discrepancies from scripture was the fact that all Noah's sons didn't take a wife along on the "cruise". Lots of questioning around propagation of humanity were asked by the kids but what struck me about this were comments that Noah made about why he hadn't helped Ham get his new found female friend onto the ark. Lust was included in Noah's tirade against son, Ham and although the movie veers off scripture, Noah is depicted as a struggling human with family and faith challenges kinda like the rest of us. It got me thinking in ways I never had before about a well known scripture so the thought of Jesus with a spouse does the same, each time it surfaces.