Did Jesus Have a Wife?

By Rod Hemphill

Some of yesterday's news is that a postage stamp-size piece of an ancient manuscript has been found which contains a few words (out of the context of the rest of the MSS) in which Jesus supposedly refers to "my wife." Here are some of the articles:

Of course, even though I know that the disparagers of our faith never have anything substantial to stand upon, I always accept what they say as a legitimate argument. Then I proceed to critique their arguments and conclusions with a view to validating or invalidating the evidence they present. All I have to do is follow the evidence with objectivity . . . and then watch them fall.

It's not a biased critique. It's a search for the truth, whether or not the truth I find agrees with what I believe. Jesus criticized the Pharisees for their attempting to adjust the truth to fit their belief instead of adjusting their belief to fit the truth. I don't want to fall into that illogical pitfall. So I give them their best shot, because that's what I would want them to do with me. So what's the story here?

The fragment appears to date to about the 3rd/4th century and may be part of a reference to a copy from the 2nd century. It is part of the pseudepigraphic writings that were so false they didn't even make into the Apocrypha. It is of the Gospel of Thomas genre which is the basis for Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code.

All it really represents is that just as there are different ideas of who Jesus was floating around today , so there were similar ideas being floated in the 1st to 4th centuries, which then awaited periodic "discovery" by later generations.

These other ideas are frequently offered as "proof" that early Christianity was very divided, with the suggestion that Christianity as it has come down to us was simply the view that won (with emperor Constantine's help), and may not have been the actual correct view of Jesus or his teaching.

The fact of the matter is that while the book of Acts indicates that while the apostles had some differences that needed to be resolved, the issue of the resurrection of Christ and his divinity, the details of his earthly life and the essence of his teaching (which although fragmentary, which fragments needed to be collected and formed into the four gospels) was never in dispute during the apostolic age.

So what we had from the beginning was not competing views within early Christianity, but only the apostolic view (the view of the apostles of Christ themselves) and miscellaneous views of outsiders to the faith who wanted to represent Christ according to the speculative ideas of Gnosticism in particular and the Hellenistic culture in general.

While remnants of those Gnostic-influenced ideas have survived to the present day and are pervasive in New Age thought, their shallowness is seen in that their foundation is purely speculative as opposed to Christian teachings which are rooted in the actual events of reality. And their ineffectiveness is seen in that while some people toy with New Age teachings, such ideas do nothing more than serve one's self-indulgence and curiosity about the future. They offer no deliverances, no forgiveness or assuaging of guilt, no ethical teachings to guide one's values and to enable one to avoid the pitfalls of life, no calling higher than looking out for one's own desires, and no fellowship with God or expectation of a next life in heaven.

As a result, when Gnosticism as the world view of the Hellenistic culture fell out of favor and was replaced by whatever people felt was more "down to earth" and better served their needs or desires, all supposed "Christian" movements based upon those Gnostic ideas also disappeared. And all this happened while the Church with its apostolic/orthodox teaching was flourishing . . . and during the 1st to the early 4th centuries was even being persecuted. From the 4th century onward, missionaries and churches of believers continued to be martyred in outlying pagan areas, but no-one so far as I have ever heard was ever martyred for teaching Gnostic/New Age speculations. It speaks to the reality of the intensity of new life (or salvation) that God gives to those who have given their lives back to Him in Jesus Christ.

It is inconceivable that Jesus would have been married or otherwise involved in a male/female relationship even if celibate, and no mention made of it in the Christian scriptures, especially since nothing such is indicated at the crucifixion. The women at the crucifixion are identified as Jesus' mother, his aunt Mary the wife of Clopas, Mary the mother of James the younger, Joses and Salome; the mother of Zebedee's sons, and Mary Magdalene (or Mary of [the town] Magdala). Note how these women are identified. Note that Mary Magdalene (the one usually suggested to be Jesus' consort) is here and always identified by her home town, when if she had been his consort, that would have been the stronger and more unique relationship, and she would necessarily have been identified by that relationship.

This alone warrants the belief that Jesus was unmarried. But even if Jesus were married, the only concern to us would have been the unwarranted tendency of people to elevate Mary Magdalene to the status of Queen of Heaven, and their descendants as a more spiritual or semi-divine race of people than all other people. But it is clear from the scriptures that (1) there is no such special race of people (that is, all believers have the same opportunity to grow in spirituality), (2) deity is reserved (totally) to God alone,  (3) Jesus stands alone and supreme over all, (4) Jesus is the incarnation of God himself, and unlike the pagan gods, the true God is whole within himself, needing no consort, and of such an infinite nature that no such relationship would be possible, because (5) God inhabits eternity, in which --Jesus points out-- there are no sexual liaisons, for such is peculiar to earth and not relevant or possible in a spiritual existence (Matthew 22.23-30).

Not only so, but if Jesus had been married, this would still have no implications regarding his deity and position in the trinity, nor the effectiveness of his crucifixion as his atoning sacrifice for all mankind, nor the fact of his resurrection and ascension, nor the certainty of his soon coming again in power, judgment and majesty.

Since our Christian faith is rooted not in speculative ideas nor in the ideas of apostles supposedly pushing their own agendas, but in historical events performed by the God who acts, we are secure in our faith against claims that Jesus may have been married, or that the body of Jesus has been found in some tomb, or whatever else. Take all such claims as erroneous and then entertain yourself by examining the "evidence" for such claims, knowing full well that all such evidence will be found wanting, and the claim invalid.

Without reference to scholars who allow possibilities but withhold drawing conclusions where such are not warranted, I think about those who do jump to conclusions, and to media hype that seeks to exaggerate and exploit such findings and speculations. That apparently intelligent people actually make such claims amazes me, except that doing so reveals them to be unbelievers at best or disbelievers with an anti-Christian agenda.

Peace and blessings upon you all.