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Switch to Forum Live View Did Jesus Have a Wife?
2 years ago  ::  Sep 20, 2012 - 11:24PM #1
solfeggio
Posts: 9,467
Many people, whether or not they are religious, are curious about the life of Jesus.  Was he or was he not married, for instance?  And Professor Karen King, Hollis Professor of Divinity at Harvard Divinity School and an expert in the history of Christianity, has announced the existence of a previously unknown papyrus fragment, written in Coptic, which seems to provide evidence that Jesus had been married.

www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/sep/19/jes...  

www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/12...

Of course, since the papyrus dates from the 4th century, it's far too late in the day to provide a true record of events that took place hundreds of years earlier.  However, several scholars who have examined the fragment believe it could be dated as far aback as the 2nd century.  And it has been judged to be genuine.

Perhaps the idea of a married Jesus isn't all that unthinkable after all.   
  

  
 

    
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2 years ago  ::  Sep 21, 2012 - 3:15AM #2
Stardove
Posts: 15,695

I think it is entirely possible the Rabbi had a wife.  Jesus was certainly of an age to not be married would have been not the norm.  Some even believe it was his own marriage when he turned the water to wine due to Mother Mary's concern for the guests.

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2 years ago  ::  Sep 21, 2012 - 7:10AM #3
costrel
Posts: 6,226

It is possible, and probably quite likely, I think, that Jesus had a wife. The Gospels do not particularly portray Jesus as a contemplative, celibate ascetic (as Jennifer Hecht, in Doubt: A History wrote, "forty days in the desert does not a hermit make" --p. 189), nor do the Gospels portray Jesus as being concerned about the kinds of purity rules that the Qumran sectarians were concerned with. Jesus spends time with, eats with, and heals unclean people (demoniacs, a woman with a blood hemorrage, a Samaritan heretic woman, the blind, the lame, the uncircumcised, etc.), and he even enters an unclean house with a dead body in it and resurrects the corpse of the girl inside. The only contemplative behavior that I can recall Jesus doing in the canonical Gospels other than fasting for forty days in the desert and praying in the Garden of Gethsame before his Passion was his habit of praying to God on a mountain, including the night he spent in prayer before the morning that he chose the Twelve apostles from among his gathered disciples (Luke 6.12-13). 


Based on the Damascus Document and a hybrid version of the Damascus Document and the Community Rule found at Qumran and in the Cairo Genizah, the Qumran sectarians were either celibate or married (with children). Those who were celibate apparently lived at the Qumran compound, while those who were married apparently lived in towns nearby. Now, Jesus was probably not an Essene and/or a Qumran sectarian, but according to Matthew 4.13, after he left Nazareth, he lived in the town of Capernaum (the same town that according to John 2.12, Jesus, his mother, his brothers, and his disciples stayed at "for a few days" immediately after he turned water into wine at the wedding at Cana and until he went to Jerusalem for the Passover and cleansed the Temple).


Likewise, in On the Contemplative Life, when describing the contemplative, solitary Jews similar to the Essenes known as the Therapeutae (the men) and the Therapeutrides (the women), Philo of Alexandria writes that when they choose to abandon their property, "their brethren, their children, their wives, their parents, their numerous families, their affectionate bands of companions, their native lands in which they have been born and brought up," they did not move to "another city" but to "a desert place," since "every city, even that which is under the happiest laws, is full of indescribable tumults, and disorders, and calamities, which no one would submit to who had been even for a moment under the influence of wisdom." I think, using the evidence of the Damascus Document and Philo's On the Contemplative Life, that because Jesus chose to dwell in the town of Capernaum after he left Nazareth rather than out in the desert that he was most likely not a celibate, contemplative ascetic. 


That said, I don't think this little scrap of an apparent non-canonical Gospel or Gospel-like text that mentions Jesus's wife is going to change anyone's view of Jesus all that much, or change the traditional view that Jesus lived a celibate, unmarried life like that of a Christian monk. After all, the letter of Clement of Alexandria to Theodore that quotes from a so-called "Secret Gospel of Mark" makes mention of an addition apparently added by the Carpocratians -- "naked man with naked man" -- that could possibly imply that Jesus and the rich young man who wore "a linen cloth over his naked body" were doing something more than just discussing "the mystery of the Kingdom of God" after Jesus raised him from the dead. Yet this obscure and potentially homoerotic passage in the "Secret Gospel" has not led most people, scholars included, to consider Jesus to have been a non-celibate homosexual.  

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2 years ago  ::  Sep 21, 2012 - 6:46PM #4
TemplarS
Posts: 6,924

This scrap of paper is not evidence that Jesus was married; it is merely evidence that someone, perhaps 150 years after the fact, believed Jesus was married.  


In any case, there is no reason that, at the time, a married Jesus would have been scandalous in any way.  Which is probably the best evidence that he was not married.  The Gospels and Paul make no attempt to hide the fact that Peter was married.  It is clear from Paul that Bishops in those days could marry.  The whole celibate clergy requirement belongs to a later age.  If Jesus had been married, nothing in the first century would have been reason for any of his followers to hide or deny the fact.  As to why he would not have married- well, the life of an itinerant social revolutionary, which is what he was, would not have been particularly conducive to the married  life.


However, one would think that Evangelicals, who seem obsessed with "family values" which were really not much in evidence at all in the Gospels, would be overjoyed with the possibility of a married Jesus.

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2 years ago  ::  Sep 21, 2012 - 7:02PM #5
solfeggio
Posts: 9,467

Well, when you consider that a nice Jewish boy in his thirties who wasn't married would have been most unusual then (and now, for that matter), it would seem at least probable that Jesus would have had a wife at one time or another.


He was a rabbi, and there is no rabbinic tradition of celibacy.


And, it would have been entirely possible that said wife could have died and made her husband a widower.  In which case nobody would have had any particular reason to remark upon the fact later.


Then, there is the idea that Jesus might have been a gay man.  The Bishop of Birmingham, Hugh Montefiore, dared to suggest this based on Jesus' relationship with John, the beloved disciple.


Or, what about the controversy concerning what Jesus might have looked like?  A few years ago British scientists made a recreation of what they thought could be an accurate image:


www.popularmechanics.com/science/health/...

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2 years ago  ::  Sep 21, 2012 - 8:58PM #6
TemplarS
Posts: 6,924

The idea that Jesus was a widower is at least plausible, since he did not begin his ministry until a rather late age for that time.  But it is speculation in any case.  There's no hard evidence one way or the other.  And, to my mind, it really doesn't matter much one way or the other.  His importance lies in what he said and what he did.  Not his marital or sexual status.


As to the reconstructed image: it is based on a typical Palestinian of the day, so Jesus could have looked something like that.   Certainly closer than the European-looking man on many Sunday School walls. But even in ethnically homogeneous settings, appearances can vary a lot, so I wouldn't take it as much more than an educated guess.


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2 years ago  ::  Sep 21, 2012 - 9:38PM #7
mountain_man
Posts: 40,208

Sep 20, 2012 -- 11:24PM, solfeggio wrote:

...Of course, since the papyrus dates from the 4th century, it's far too late in the day to provide a true record of events that took place hundreds of years earlier....


Of course the thing is authentic. That doesn't mean what is said in it is true. Two hundred or four hundred years makes no difference. It's too far after the fact to be of any use other than speculation. Don't forget, how many guys were around at that time that were named Jesus? Are they sure this is mentioning the right one?

Dave - Just a Man in the Mountains.

I am a Humanist. I believe in a rational philosophy of life, informed by science, inspired by art, and motivated by a desire to do good for its own sake and not by an expectation of a reward or fear of punishment in an afterlife.
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2 years ago  ::  Sep 22, 2012 - 1:45AM #8
solfeggio
Posts: 9,467

And then there is the fact that his name wasn't actually 'Jesus,' but rather 'Yeshu'a,' which is Hebrew/Aramaic.  The name 'Jesus' is a translation of the original Greek 'Iesous.'


 


 

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2 years ago  ::  Sep 22, 2012 - 1:51AM #9
CharikIeia
Posts: 8,301

Sep 20, 2012 -- 11:24PM, solfeggio wrote:

Many people, whether or not they are religious, are curious about the life of Jesus.



As mainstream Christians, we ought not to be so much.


What Jesus was according to the flesh is by Christian teaching irrelevant.


And luckily, if I may add that.


The separation of faith from history is an important one. Too often, people confuse their belief system with factual knowledge, with really bad consequences in both realms.

tl;dr
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2 years ago  ::  Sep 22, 2012 - 7:03AM #10
costrel
Posts: 6,226

Sep 21, 2012 -- 7:02PM, solfeggio wrote:

Well, when you consider that a nice Jewish boy in his thirties who wasn't married would have been most unusual then (and now, for that matter), it would seem at least probable that Jesus would have had a wife at one time or another.


He was a rabbi, and there is no rabbinic tradition of celibacy.


There may not have been a rabbinic tradition of celibacy, and Jesus may have been called a rabbi in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and John (though not in Luke), but there were Jewish groups that were celibate during the Second Temple Period. Even though I think it is possible that an historical Jesus could have been married, I also think it possible that he could have been a celibate sectarian teacher akin to the Moreh ha-Tsedek ("Teacher of Righteousness") of the Qumran sectarians. I'm not suggesting that he was an Essene or a Qumran sectarian (and most certainly am not suggesting that he was the Teacher of Righteousness at Qumran), just that he could have been a celibate sectarian teacher who was not connected to the Pharisees and their traditions. 

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