My Gulay Papaya!! Jesus Had a Wife!?

On April 13, 2014, in Apologetics, by july

Pop quiz!

Have you seen this picture before?

papyrus-jesus-wife-01_78560_990x742

Unless one has been living under a rock for the last couple of weeks, if one would simply flip open the news channel, social networks, or even secular websites, one would’ve ran into this fragment which Karen King claims to be the “Gospel of Jesus Wife.”

Now I don’t need to detail what has already been said in most websites out there about the fragment.  Though to be very honest, this story has been shared so many times in social networks with the headline “No forgery evidence seen” [example here] and so on and so forth, upon which any unsuspecting person would quickly think that this fragment is a reliable source that talks about the historical Jesus.

What is a Gospel

A Gospel is an account of the Birth, Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus.  The early church was very careful about canonizing books as reliable resource that talks about Jesus.  The criteria used to judge these are

  1. Was the author an apostle or did he have the endorsement of an apostle?
  2. Was the book accepted by the church at large?
  3. Did the book give internal evidence of inspiration, of being God breathed?
  4. Was it of proper spiritual character?
  5. Did it edify the church?
  6. Was it doctrinally accurate?

Certainly, at least to a minimalist, that a Gospel has to be a full account of Jesus written by an apostle or at least, a contemporary of an apostle.  So what’s wrong here?

No Gospel in the Gospel

The mere fact that Karen King called it a ‘Gospel’ is in itself a misuse of the word.  Irenaeus, a church father who lived in the 2nd century AD for instance, wrote profusely against these materials.  In his works, he dismissed a ‘false’ gospel known as the Gospel of Judas.  He would also state in the same account, Against Heresies, that there are only four legitimate Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  Karen King’s claim that the fragment is a Gospel appears to be inaccurate as it has almost nothing to say about Jesus.

Dating of the Fragment

Study shows that the fragment is written somewhere around 659 to 859 AD.  Now why is this important? Read on.

The New Testament was collectively written within at most 70 years after Jesus’ death.   Historians will tell you that the closer a document is to the events, the more reliable they are.  The farther they are from the events, the more possibility of myths creeping in.  This is true in almost any case.  Why? Because if someone is to write a false account about a certain person within the lifetime of his peers, it would not be difficult to find evidences of people making efforts to correct them!

Michael Licona, a well known Historian and New Testament Scholar once claimed that he knows no scholar who would use the Qur’an as a reliable source to tell them about Jesus.  Why? Because the Qur’an was written 600 years after Jesus’ death.  To use the Qur’an in place of first and second century documents is to turn a blind eye on the best evidences and caving into a preconceived bias to paint a picture of Jesus not found in the earliest texts.

Now why is this relevant? Because the earliest and most popular text that talks about Jesus being married came from the Gospel of Philip, which is a 3rd century forgery.  Now work with me for a moment here.  It’s the third century.  The supposed author is dead for two hundred years.  Are we to believe that this is a reliable source about the historical Jesus?

The supposed ‘Gospel’ of Jesus’ Wife is written in the 7th century at least.  If the Gospel of Philip, a document written four hundred years earlier has been dismissed by the majority of scholars as a forgery, are we to believe that a seventh century document portrays an accurate depiction that responsible Christians were still debating between themselves about the marriage of Jesus?

Karen King was quick to agree.  She says that this is not an evidence that Jesus was married.  Though she quickly added a postscript: “But early Christians were extremely interested in questions about whether they should be married or be celibate.”

I think she’s jumping into conclusion and here’s why.

First, let’s look at the translation of the fragment [1]

1) … not [to] me, my mother gave to me li[fe] …

2) The disciples said to Jesus, “…

3) … deny. Mary is worthy of it … (or, alternatively, Mary is not worth of it …)

4) …” Jesus said to them, “My wife …

5) … she will be able to be my disciple …

6) Let wicked people swell up …

7) As for me, I dwell with her in order to …

8) … an image …n

Does it in any way trigger a discussion on celibacy? Unlikely. For one, even the Bible confirms that Peter and some of the apostles have a wife (1 Corinthians 9:5).  So to conclude that this ‘authentic’ scrap would trigger such a discussion, is I think, misleading. Unless one can piece together the missing parts of this fragment, the best and most responsible thing a historian can do is to say that such a manuscript exist and efforts have to be made to find the rest for us to construct a better view of Jesus from the said manuscript.  To jump into conclusions is a big no-no.

There’s Big Money in the Jesus Racket

That’s for sure.  No wonder why once in awhile, someone who claim to be a scholar would rise up and claim something totally absurd to gain media attention and with it, money.  In the last decade we had Dan Brown.  Recently we had Reza Aslan.  Now here we have Karen King making another audacious claim without amassing evidences to back her claim.  Craig Blomberg from Denver Seminary sums it up pretty accurately, “Now if you really want to test your creativity, try something I have never seen attempted.  See if you can turn Jesus into a Sadducee!” [2]

[1] http://www.livescience.com/34229-what-does-the-gospel-of-jesus-s-wife-say.html Retrieved 4/13/2014

[2] http://www.denverseminary.edu/article/zealot-the-life-and-times-of-jesus-of-nazareth/ Retrieved 4/13/2014

 

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