— The Erimtan Angle —

In the esteemed Harvard Gazette B. D. Colen writes: “Four words on a previously unknown papyrus fragment provide the first evidence that some early Christians believed Jesus had been married, Harvard Professor Karen King told the 10th International Congress of Coptic Studies” on Tuesday, 18 September 2012.[1]  Colen elaborates that Karen “King, the Hollis Professor of Divinity at Harvard Divinity School, announced the existence of the ancient text at the congress’ meeting, held every four years and hosted this year by the Vatican’s Institutum Patristicum Augustinianum in Rome. The four words that appear on the fragment translate to “Jesus said to them, my wife.” The words, written in Coptic, a language of Egyptian Christians, are on a papyrus fragment of about one and a half inches by three inches”.[2]

Professor King elucidates that “Christian tradition has long held that Jesus was not married, even though no reliable historical evidence exists to support that claim. This new gospel doesn’t prove that Jesus was married, but it tells us that the whole question only came up as part of vociferous debates about sexuality and marriage. From the very beginning, Christians disagreed about whether it was better not to marry, but it was over a century after Jesus’ death before they began appealing to Jesus’ marital status to support their positions”.[3]  Christianity, as the conceptual edifice built by the overtly misogynistic Saint Paul, has always had ambivalent feelings about issues relating to love and marriage, celibacy, the role of women and the meaning of life. Does man live solely to enter the next life in the heavenly kingdom or should he consider his sojourn on this mortal coil as equally valid and meaningful???  Celibacy, as a life style, clearly favours the former view. And there have been examples of excesses in early Christian history. The case of Origen of Alexandria springs to mind. It seems that the saintly figure had been inspired by Matthew 19:12 to castrate himself: “For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it”.[4]  The King James translation seems to make it quite plain that celibacy could be considered a safe way to enter the heavenly kingdom. In the end, however, the pragmatic view that life on this mortal coil also deserves human sacrifice and hardship, as possibly symbolised in the institution of marriage necessarily leading to human reproduction, prevailed. As a result, the continuation of the human race was guaranteed and the figure of God in heaven remained unassailable. This then left Jesus as the ultimate example to be followed by those Christians deemed extremely pious and other-worldly, such as monks and nuns.

Now the whole debate in connection with the meaning of Christian life, as condensed in the issue of marriage or celibacy, has been reduced to squibbles about Jesus’ marital status . . . In conclusion, Professor King states that the “discovery of this new gospel offers an occasion to rethink what we thought we knew by asking what role claims about Jesus’ marital status played historically in early Christian controversies over marriage, celibacy, and family. Christian tradition preserved only those voices that claimed Jesus never married. The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife now shows that some Christians thought otherwise”.[5]


[1] B. D. Colen, “Suggestion of a married Jesus” Harvard Gazette (18 September 2012).  http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2012/09/suggestion-of-a-married-jesus/.

[2] B. D. Colen, “Suggestion of a married Jesus”.

[3] B. D. Colen, “Suggestion of a married Jesus”.

[4] “Matthew 19:12” Biblos. http://bible.cc/matthew/19-12.htm.

[5] B. D. Colen, “Suggestion of a married Jesus”.

Comments on: "A Married Jesus and the Meaning of Christian Life: Coptic Claims" (2)

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