In response to the announcement of the Coptic papyri fragment being called The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife there are a lot of people asking whether or not it would matter if we discovered that Jesus had been married.
For many people the answer is “yes,” especially for those whose traditions (like the Roman Catholic priesthood) that seek to model Jesus as they understand him.
Several people have attempted to answer this question and I will some of those responses:
- In “So What If Jesus Had a Wife?” John Byron reminds us that this is not the first time this question has been asked:
“This was a big question a few years back when the Da Vinci Code was popular and Dan Brown was raking in millions by suggesting that Jesus had married Mary Magdalene and ran off to France to live a life as a family man. I remember people got all exercised over whether Jesus was married and perhaps had children. The real historical and theological problem with Brown’s plot, however, was whether or not Jesus had died and rose from the dead. That is the problem with Brown’s novel and for Christian theology.”
He doesn’t see this text as having any impact on Christian orthodoxy one way or another writing:
“So while the fragment is interesting and, if it is ultimately proven to be authentic, it has no real bearing on the Christian faith. It doesn’t “prove” Jesus was married and it doesn’t undermine Christian theology. What it does tell us is that people have been saying all sorts of things about Jesus for hundreds of years. We are not the first to encounter these claims. We just happen to have the technology to broadcast these claims more widely.”
- In “Did Jesus Have a Wife?” April DeConick says, “Was Jesus married? I like to think so. But this has more to do with my own view of the blessedness of marriage than it does with any historical argument I might make.” She thinks that this gospel presents Jesus as married because of the views of marriage held by Valentinian Gnostics. She writes:
“The new gospel fragment supports this Valentinian picture. If it turns out to be an authentic gospel fragment from antiquity, it likely came from a page of yet another Valentinian gospel that contained sayings of Jesus. Valentinian Christians were very prolific and they preserved an entire sayings tradition of counter-memories that supported their creative metaphysical outlook and Gnostic spirituality.
“But does this mean that Jesus had a wife? It depends on who you ask. If you asked a Valentinian Christian, the answer would have been a definitive “yes”. If you asked an early Catholic Christian, the answer would have been “no”. If you ask a scholar today, depending on the methods they use to reconstruct the historical Jesus, you will get “yeses” and “noes’.”
- In “Did Paul Believe That Jesus Was Married?” Tim Henderson writes:
“If we limit our historical sources to those from the first century, which are undoubtedly the best candidates for any reliable information, then we will find that there is no explicit statement in either direction. No author states that Jesus was married, nor does any claim that he was single. This means that any argument about the matter will be an argument from silence.”
He decides to approach the question from 1 Corinthians 7 where Paul addresses concerns around marriage. He finds it curious that Paul did not appeal to Jesus when discussing single if Paul knew Jesus was never married.
- In “Quick Thoughts on the New Jesus Wife Text” Darrell L. Bock interprets the silence a little differently than Karen King and some others. He writes:
“Dr. King is careful also to say this text likely tells us nothing about the real Jesus.
“Her claim the NT is silent about Jesus’ marital status is technically correct, but it may well be because there was nothing to say. Everyone knew he was single. The fact there is no wife present at his death may speak volumes. If Jesus had been married, there would be no need to hide the fact. Nothing in the earliest church tradition points to his being married.”
Most people who are writing on this topic seem to agree that (1) it doesn’t matter if Jesus was married; (2) there is no way we can know if he was married though one could give good reasons to believe either way; (3) this text tells us nothing of the historical Jesus, only that some Christians believed Jesus was married, something we knew already.
Thoughts? Does it matter to you if Jesus was married?