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Jesus was married? Really?

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If you read the headlines trumpeted on Fox News, CNN, and a variety of other sites, than the answer is a definite maybe.  However, when one actually reads the stories, and when one does a little research, this “new discovery” is nothing more than media sensationalism.  Why is that you ask?

First, the discoverer herself, Dr. Karen King, is very quick to admit that this is not evidence at all.  From the CNN story: “What I’m really quick to say is to cut off people who would say this is proof that Jesus was married because historically speaking, it’s much too late to constitute historical evidence,” she continued. “I’m not saying he was, I’m not saying he wasn’t. I’m saying this doesn’t help us with that question,” she continued.”

Yet the headlines say “Harvard scholar’s discovery suggests Jesus had a wife.” This is enormously misleading, and simply isn’t fair to either her or the text itself.  Thankfully, both the Fox and CNN articles reference Dr. Ben Witherington III and Dr. Darrell Bock respectively, who together demonstrate what is really going on.

The text is “4th century Coptic,” meaning it is from the 300’s in the local Egyptian language (it is claimed it might be from an earlier copy, but that is an assumption with no evidence).  This is 200 years or more later than the actual time of Christ, whereas the actual New Testament dates within the first century (and some parts within the first few decades, i.e. eye-witness testimony).  The manuscript itself is a tiny fragment, 1.5 inches by 3 inches (3.8 x 7.6 cm for my metric friends).  In other words, the surrounding context of the original might make the whole discussion moot in the first place, since it is a tiny isolated part of text.

Also, the articles do (at the bottom of course) make it clear that the text bears resemblances to other gnostic “gospels,” such as Thomas, Phillip, Mary, etc…Texts that have long been asserted by modern chauvinists as catalysts that supposedly cause us to question the teachings of Scripture and the Church.  Like this new discovery, the vast majority date much later than the N.T., are filled with gnostic notions completely alien to both Jewish and Christian thought (one says that all females must become male to enter heaven for example, and that the creation is an abortion), and are based on a extremely minimal manuscript tradition (consider this one fragment as opposed to 5-6,000 Greek N.T. manuscripts, and over 10,000 early translations).

The media continues to do both Christians and non-Christians alike a grave disservice by engaging in this sort of sensationalism.  While sometimes certain scholarly figures (such as Bart Ehrman or Elaine Paigles) are complicit in this, and this requires a response, there is a reason why the early church so universally and vociferously condemned gnosticism in all its forms (until the 1940’s, historians knew very little about gnosticism, save for what we found in the church fathers).   As far as the marriage issue, there is no evidence for it, and as Dr. Darrell Bock says, “One could say the text is silent on Jesus’ marital status is because there was nothing to say.”  This lines up with the historical evidence, Scripture,  and the received teachings of the Church.

For further reading: The Missing Gospels: Unearthing the Truth Behind Alternative Christianities, by Dr. Darrell Bock. 
My brother pointed out that another possible response to this can be found in this article on The Atlantic


  1. Scholiast says:

    I, too, was impressed by Dr King’s caution and unsurprised by the sensationalism. Ever onward goes the madness of the mob…

  2. […] Apologia and the Occident: https://hayesworldview.wordpress.com/2012/09/19/jesus-was-married-really/ […]

  3. Good response. Not surprised that the media blew it out of proportion!

  4. Doug Hayes says:

    well done Aaron!


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