Saturday, September 20, 2014

What if Jesus did have a wife?

Scholars say strip of papyrus may hold untold truth of Jesus’ romance

Jesus has been placed in the spotlight recently, thanks to more controversy surrounding a strip of papyrus that alleges he had a wife. Studies were done on the papyrus that contained the text in question, and scholars determined that the writing is similar to the styles found in the fourth and eighth century, according to a Christianity Today article by Kevin Emmert.

The Harvard Theology Review released the studies Thursday, April 10.

ANCIENT — Authenticity of papyrus called into question by scholars and theologians. Google Images

ANCIENT — Authenticity of papyrus called into question by scholars and theologians. Google Images

Before anyone gets unnecessarily distressed, I must say that I doubt these studies are meant to be a smear campaign against Christianity and Jesus. From what I read, none of the scholars seem outright hostile toward the Bible.

That being said, I think it could easily be interpreted as an attempt to undermine the Christian faith. If believers are wrong about Jesus, then they could be wrong about their whole religion.

“The more you can find stuff out of left field that doesn’t fit our picture of Jesus as we know it, the more you can make a case that today Christians have got it wrong,” Nicholas Perrin, a professor of Biblical Studies at Wheaton College, said in an interview with Christianity Today.

The controversial text says, “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife … she is able to be my disciple,’” according to a National Geographic article by Dan Vergano.

Not surprisingly, when the papyrus was first released in 2012, many people called it a forgery. Then the recent study was completed, and experts concluded that the ink and papyrus are ancient. People are still skeptical, and scientists said the study does not prove the words are not forged, according to Vergano’s article.

Some scholars believe the text is forged from the Gospel of Thomas, Vergano wrote. Perrin said he believes it bears greater resemblance to the Gospel of Philip.

Neither of these gospels fit with the standard Bible that most Christians read. So the papyrus, regardless of its age, should be of no concern to believers. Rather, they must adhere to the Bible’s infallibility and not be deceived by controversy.

The Bible does not say Jesus was not married, which could tempt people into thinking that he was. But it seems very unlikely to me that the gospels — Matthew, Mark, Luke or John — would simply exclude any romantic relationships that Jesus had.

In his interview, Perrin said the Bible would mention something as significant as Jesus’ wife.

“Ancient biographies, just like modern ones, will mention the spouse of a subject, whether it’s Alexander the Great or Julius Caesar,” Perrin said. “The gospels are types of biographies. I assume that if Jesus was married, they would’ve mentioned it.”

The whole issue boils down to this: even if the papyrus is ancient and genuine, it does not parallel the Bible’s teaching. If anything, it associates only with the Gospels of Thomas or Philip, which are not legitimate scripture.

“The Wife of Jesus fragment should not be at all unsettling for the Christian faith,” Perrin concluded. “It reflects the belief of someone who was writing between the fifth and ninth century. That belief might go earlier, but when we know that there were all kinds of heretical beliefs cropping up around the end of the first century, so we also know this is nothing new.”

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