Today, there was a delicious article on the front page of the New York Times.
“Jesus Got Hitched!”
A fourth century papyrus (written in Coptic and surmised to be copied from second century Greek) was found in a private collection that purports the idea that Jesus was married. Harvard historian, Karen L. King, calls it “The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife.” Initial inspection validates its authenticity. Move over Dan Brown, looks like you plagiarized.
I’m going to give you three reasons why this papyrus says more about the author than it does history and theology.
1. IMAGE OF GOD
The idea that Jesus was married only works if he was merely human and completely non-Divine (a perspective I whole-heartedly and whole-mindedly reject). In Genesis 1:27, The creator made man and woman (mankind) in his image.
God created humanity
in God’s own image,
in the divine image God created them,
male and female God created them. via
Humanity was imbued with divine nature, inwardly and outwardly. I think that first and foremost, this is a relational commentary, how we are to exist perfectly in relationship with God. So if women are made in the image of God, can God be sexually attracted to God? Does God find himself sexy? While Freud may differ, I would submit to you that the answer is NO.
Listen to the prophet Isaiah: “My plans aren’t your plans, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD. Just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my plans than your plans. [Is 55:8-9]
Our motivations do not align with God’s, nor his ours. While the god’s of Greece and Rome made sport of intercourse with humans, God does not. The writer of Hebrews wrote, “because we don’t have a high priest who can’t sympathize with our weaknesses but instead one who was tempted in every way that we are, except without sin. [4:15]” Jesus was tempted with loneliness, lust, emptiness, self-doubt, self-loathing, desire, so that there would be nothing between us and him, except sin. He felt the full spectrum of human emotion (or the author of Hebrews would not have been able to make such a claim), so we have no place to claim exception. That’s not to say that marriage and sex are sinful in themselves, but you have to admit…Jesus + anyone = gross out.
Jesus is the God about whom David sang, “You are the one who created my innermost parts; you knit me together while I was still in my mother’s womb. [Ps 139:13]”
Think this through…Christ is God who knit you together in the womb. He is Creator. He is the God that a man and woman trust with procreation. For God to desire his own image in light of these statements, is as weird as it is unlikely and disgusting.
2. THERE WAS NO WEDDING
For a community that was really asking questions about sexuality and marriage, such as the early Christians were, an event like the Wedding of the Messiah, would have made the front page of all four Gospels (at least John). This would have been one of the most helpful, instructive and prescriptive events in all of the New Testament, certainly the Gospels. Imagine what it would have meant for the early church. Imagine what it would mean for the church in our contemporary setting.
While teaching about divorce, we find this exchange in Matthew:
His disciples said to him, “If that’s the way things are between a man and his wife, then it’s better not to marry.” He replied, “Not everybody can accept this teaching, but only those who have received the ability to accept it. For there are eunuchs who have been eunuchs from birth. And there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by other people. And there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs because of the kingdom of heaven. Those who can accept it should accept it.” [Mt 19:10-12]
Would Jesus have made that statement if he was married? Would you say something like that if you were married? It’s like stuffing your mouth with a pound of bacon, then lecturing on the virtues of veganism. What you say may be truth, but you, my friend, no longer have credibility or authority on the subject!
As if I needed to keep going…Let’s pretend that the Gospels forgot this most important celebration in the Hebrew culture (and in cosmic history in this case). Let’s just say on his death bed Luke’s last words were, “OOOOOH, You know what I forgot????”
Paul would have not glossed over it.
The dude talked about everything. And anything.
1 Corinthians 7 would be an immensely more robust chapter. Romans 1 would be a Polaroid, not an argument. The Timothys and Titus would have preserved the Jesus Nuptual liturgy. Two Thousand Years later, I would have used the vows that Jesus had.
And if Paul had forgot to include it, John would have based all three letters on it (and maybe more). The Early Church Fathers would have written about ad nauseum. Ignatius would have written, “Dost thou remember when Junia caught the divine bouquet?” Although, I doubt he spoke Elizabethan English.
All this to say, this papyrus and Dan Brown wouldn’t be the only ones to mention it.
3. CHRIST’S BRIDE
He did have a bride.
In Revelation, we find, “Let us rejoice and celebrate, and give him the glory, for the wedding day of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. [19:7]” Christ is the Lamb and the church is the Bride.
Paul explains it like this:
As for husbands, love your wives just like Christ loved the church and gave himself for her.26 He did this to make her holy by washing her in a bath of water with the word. 27 He did this to present himself with a splendid church, one without any sort of stain or wrinkle on her clothes, but rather one that is holy and blameless. 28 That’s how husbands ought to love their wives—in the same way as they do their own bodies. Anyone who loves his wife loves himself. 29 No one ever hates his own body, but feeds it and takes care of it just like Christ does for the church 30 because we are parts of his body. 31 This is why a man will leave his father and mother and be united with his wife, and the two of them will be one body. 32 Marriage is a significant allegory, and I’m applying it to Christ and the church. [Eph 5:26-32]
For Jesus to say something like, “My wife…she will be able to be my disciple,” isn’t far afield from who the church is and our relationship to the bridegroom, Jesus. Ever hear of metaphor?
Remember, this is a fragment. It’s incomplete. It’s like half a thought. If I said to you, “Listen, I’m about to tell you something really important. At precisely three o’clock twelve camels will enter the…”
It’s kind of like that. The gaps are yours to fill…have fun!
This should not rock your faith. While there will be those who use this to prove a point, the only thing it proves is that A) Someone wrote it at some point, and B) We can assume it communicates their message. We don’t know who wrote it, we don’t know why, nor do we know the full reason for their writing it. However, we can freely and safely accept that they more than likely agreed with what is represented in this fragment of papyrus.
It does not undermine history.
To be honest, it’s exciting to live in a time where Biblical artifacts are appearing at such a rapid pace. We are learning so much about the early communities that were wrestling with a brand new way of life for the first time. Keep in mind, we are largely re-interpreting the theological struggling of others at this point. There was a time, though, where the Resurrection was brand new. With no Google, no New Testament, No study notes, what would you have done?
It does not undermine the Bible.
We have to accept the fact that other people have written about Jesus. He isn’t a subject limited to Biblical authors. I’ve written quite a bit on him myself.
It does not undermine Jesus.
People through all times have held a variety of perspectives on Jesus. This is just one more and that’s why it makes the news.
Sometimes news is just that…news.