Did Jesus Have a Wife?

Jason Micheli —  September 26, 2012 — Leave a comment

So there’s no way you didn’t hear about the 4th century document produced by a Harvard Divinity faculty member that references Jesus’s wife. If you read the paper, surfed FB, listened to NPR or glanced at the grocery store rags last week you probably heard the claim.

4th century. Wow, that’s like only a couple centuries removed from St Paul.

I really hate how the press treats stories like this with all the self-important bluster of Dan Brown’s wildly inaccurate pronouncements couched in 2nd grade-level prose.

First, it goes with out saying that simply having a document which says something in no way corroborates the content of what is written.

Second- and this is the important point for Christians to keep in mind- if Jesus had had a wife, the early Church would’ve made damn sure you knew about it. People forget that Jesus’ singleness- and the singleness of the first Christians- was odd. After all, being fruitful and mothers and fathers are 1/5 of the Ten Commandments. Try imagining Jesus as he must’ve appeared through 1st century Jewish eyes: a single guy who’s sworn off his ‘family’ hangs out with 12 other dudes all the time and has a soft-spot for eyebrow raising women.

There’s no way, if Jesus was a normal married Jewish rabbi, the early Church would’ve left that out. Jesus’ peculiarity was a stumbling block to Jewish and Roman converts.

Biblical scholarship has a general principle in assessing the historical veracity of a passage. Basically the gist is that which would be embarrassing to the faithful is most likely true; otherwise, the faithful would have no motivation to make it up and put it in scripture and every reason to redact it out. For example, Peter’s thrice betrayal of Jesus. Doesn’t paint a very flattering picture of the lead apostle, does it? Thus, it’s probably historically reliable. The disciples all turning tail and abandoning Jesus when it matters most. Doesn’t say much about Jesus’ persuasive teaching, does it? Thus, it’s probably reliable. Paul, formerly stoner of Christians, becomes the chief evangelist of the faith. An unsavory character and one that would’ve been hard for plenty of Christians to swallow. Thus, you can trust it. Supposed Savior and Promised King dies a death reserved for criminals, a death so shameful the word cross (crux) was the first century equivalent of the F-Bomb? Trust it. It’s true because NO ONE would want a crucified Lord.

Jesus’ wife? Maybe he had one. I don’t know; I don’t care, and I don’t think it changes anything we confess about him. But if it was true why on earth didn’t the evangelists make sure we knew. A messiah who was just a bit less odd would surely have rendered a more palatable message to win hearts and minds: ‘See, he’s just like you.’

Jason Micheli

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