Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Jesus' Wife (and other such things)

You might consider yourself disconnected from the world if you haven't heard that Karen King, professor at Harvard, has found a fragment of Coptic papyrus that she has sensationally called The Gospel of Jesus' Wife.

In case you're a little unclear on the facts, here are some of the most pertinent.

1.  The fragment is the size of a business card and is written in Sahidic Coptic, an ancient language from the 3rd century A.D.

2.  Jesus states in the fragment, "My wife."  Also, "My mother gave life to Me," and, "She will be able to be my disciple" (though the identity of "she" is unclear).

3.  Karen King presented a paper identifying the fragment and arguing it claims that Jesus had a wife.

4.  There are guesses by really smart people that, if it is authentic, the fragment came from the 4th century A.D.

Now, onto the analysis of the issue.  I'll spare you and me the scholarship here and simply make two points.  Links to scholarly articles are at the bottom.

First, there is a significant difference between something being authentic and it being accurate.  I can write down the numeral sequence:  2+2=5.  It can be authenticated that it was my handwriting.  It can be authenticated that it was written during the time period in which I was alive.  It can be authenticated that I used paper that was normally used during the early 21st century.  But it's not accurate.  Authentic?  Sure.  Accurate?  No.

In this case, Karen King is flying in the face of all biblical scholarship and is taking some heat for it.  Dan Brown sold millions of books on this issue, but King is a history professor and not a fictional author.  If the fragment turns out to be authentic, the best we can say about it is that it records some sayings of people who were outside the mainstream of Christianity and Christian thought during a time period that was well after the four canonical Gospels were written.

Second, it appears that all of the sayings are collected from the Gospel of Thomas, a gnostic writing that used an apostolic name but had no apostolic connection from the 2nd century A.D.  In fact, sayings 114 and 101 from Thomas are almost parallel to the writings on the fragment.  Believing that Thomas is an accurate picture of Jesus' life is like thinking that The DaVinci Code was actual history.  Was there enough to make it interesting to read?  Yep.  But not the kind of document you would call reliable.

So the bottom line is this:  a professor presented a paper to get some notoriety and publicity, which she did.  They said if it were true it would change everything.  But the claims and headlines simply don't stack up to the facts.  If Jesus would've had a wife, I'm sure God would've told us in the Gospels.  What He did tell us is that Jesus lived perfectly, died sacrificially, and rose victoriously.

And that changes everything.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

If you're looking to read more on this, here are some worthwhile links.

Daniel Wallace

 Gary Manning Jr.

Darrell Bock

Christian Askeland

Michael Kruger 

Peter Williams and Simon Gathercole

Dirk Jongkind,

Francis Watson - probably the most in depth to date 

1 comment:

  1. And I always thought Jesus did indeed have a "bride"...the church. So, she is right, sorta. lol Of course, sorta right is the cause of a great many divisions within said church and essentially the same thing as "completely wrong."