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Christianity/Yeshua/Jesus

The Coptic papyrus that mention's Yeshua's wife:
Part 2: Reactions to the papyrus fragment.

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This topic is a continuation from Part 1

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Reactions to the papyrus:

  • Michael D’Antonio, author of the book "Mortal Sins, Sex, Crime, and the Era of Catholic Scandal" said:

    "The implications of professor King’s discovery are profound. If Jesus was married, the main spiritual argument for male-only clergy and the celibacy of Roman Catholic priests falls into question. But more importantly, if Jesus was a family man, then the claim to special status made by Catholic clergy, who regard themselves as supernaturally closer to God, loses much of its power." 1

  • Alin Suciu, a papyrologist at the University of Hamburg commented:

    "I would say it’s a forgery. The script doesn’t look authentic." 1

  • April DeConick is a biblical scholar at Rice University. She is the author of the book "Holy Misogyny" which discusses sex and gender during early Christianity. She said that:

    "... In the ancient world, the female body was considered weak, pitiful and wretched. We have so many hundreds of years of an understanding of sexuality that in some way sex is not divine, it’s not sacred. It’s going to be a long hard road for people to see a figure that they think is god as being engaged in a sexual activity – even with a wife." 2

  • Tommy O'Brien made the following posting to the forum at: Politics.ie:

    "Professor King has had the tiny fragment of papyrus examined by renowned experts both in the papyrology and Coptic Linguistics and they concluded it is not a forgery. Unfortunately carbon dating is not an option - carbon dating necessitates the destruction of a tiny fragment of something and with this fragment itself so small carbon dating it would effectively involve destroying it. Future scientific discoveries may enable a non-destructive dating to be done. The associate professor of religion at Princeton has suggested the particular fragment would be impossible to forge - because of how the ink on the papyrus has seeped into the papyrus as both decayed. Nor is there believed to be any motivation to forge it. The piece of parchment had existed in obscurity as part of a larger collection for many years. There is no financial gain to be benefited from its forgery as the collector offering his collection for sale already has a collection valuable in its own right and would not need a forgery to boost its value and those who have assessed it are the top experts who would be likely to spot a forgery a mile off. It would need someone with extraordinary knowledge of second century Coptic and an extraordinary skill in forgery. A forger would also not have left so much of the meaning of the whole document ambiguous. ..."

    "Overall, the ancient papyrus raises fascinating questions about the early origins of Christianity and its founder. It is too fragmented to say definitively that Christ was married, but is the only known fragmentary evidence found which directly quotes Christ referring to having a wife to date - through fragments of ancient texts are being unearthed periodically so other texts may emerge to confirm it. As such it is intriguing academics and experts on early Christianity, all the more so because the people associated with its discovery and translation are all widely respected academics with a serious reputation.

    If later discoveries in other documents in the future confirm what this one appears to suggest, that Jesus was married and his wife was accepted by him as a disciple, it would fundamentally challenge the presumptions of many Christian faiths, but particularly Roman Catholicism, in its belief that Christ only ever ordained men and was himself an unmarried male. It would also confirm what many social historians of the period have suggested, that the nature of contemporary lives in Palestine two thousand one hundred years ago would make it unlikely that a man in his thirties would still be unmarried in a society where marriage was almost universal and where women married often in their low teens." 3

  • Elizabeth Drescher teaches both an undergraduate program and graduate program in religion at Santa Clara University. She wrote:

    "It is not likely ... that we will ever definitively answer the question of Jesus’ marital status and the specific ministry status of women in his circle as he and his followers understood it. But there is abundant evidence, both in contradictions within the Bible as it was canonized in the late fourth century and from extra-biblical artifacts that show that women did have leadership roles from the earliest days of the Church, as both priests and deacons. The 'Gospel of Jesus’ Wife' fragment adds to a bounty of evidence that women did hold both lay and ordained ministry leadership roles in the earliest Church and their status as such, as the with the nuptial status of priests, has been a matter of ongoing debate and divergent practice throughout the history of the Church, however firmly Rome has believed it has spoken.

    In this light, the questions that will stir again among my graduate students, and I suspect among many churchgoers generally, will likely not have much to do with the authenticity of the fragment and what it may or may not, in itself, say about the marital status of Jesus or the leadership status of women. Rather, they will be asking again to what exactly -- if the Church continues to disregard the evidence of history and the voices of the faithful in engaging the world as it is and as it can be -- are its current leaders listening?" 4

  • Stephen Prothero, is the author of many religous bestsellers such as:
    • "God is not one: The eight rival religions that run the world"
    • "Religious Literacy: What every American needs to know -- and doesn't"
    • "The American Bible: how our words divide and define a nation"
    • etc.

He wrote:

"Our Jesus has been black and white, gay and straight, a socialist and a capitalist, a pacifist and a warrior, a civil rights activist and a Ku Klux Klansman. Over the American centuries, he has stood not on some unchanging rock of ages but on the shifting sands of economic circumstances, political calculations and cultural trends. ... Now, in an era in which Americans are debating who can marry and have sex with whom, we are given a Jesus who has given his body and soul in marriage, at least if we are to believe the scrap of ancient papyrus soon coming, via Harvard Divinity School professor Karen King and the Smithsonian Channel, to a television set near you." 5

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  • Sarah Morice-Brubaker, associate editor at Religion Dispatches, wrote:
  • "... it seems worth mentioning that a married first-century Palestinian Jewish Jesus would still be very, very, very different from, say, a married 21st-century Christian guy living in the U.S. 

    Because the two settings are very, very different. Sure, both contain a powerful empire, debt slavery, and rampant economic inequality. But measured by other criteria—life expectancy, social institutions and arrangements, explanations for natural phenomena, ways of imagining the body, and ways of being what we late moderns would call “selves”—the worlds are just very different. A married Jesus would not really resemble a 21st-century nuclear family man than would an unmarried Jesus.  

    Luckily, Jesus, and the history of ideas about Jesus, are worth learning about quite apart from whether our discoveries make him seem more or less like us. Because learning more about important things means you understand them better, and have more informed things to say about them… and darn it all, I think those things pretty much unqualified goods. Or, failing that, there are always the show tune possibilities. 5

  • Stanley E. Porter, President of McMaster Divinity College, wrote:

    "The canonical Gospels do not explicitly tell us whether Jesus was married or not. They certainly do not say that he was married, and I suspect that he was not—although they do not say that either (to be honest, it is unlikely that they would, unless there was a good reason to say so), and this papyrus does nothing to clarify that situation. The text of this papyrus may have been written earlier than the fourth century manuscript on which it is now recorded (perhaps around the time of the Gospel of Thomas, if it is not plagiarizing from it), but that is also up for debate. It still does not give us any firm evidence either way, only one scribe’s statement.

    At the end of the day, this papyrus looks like it is heading in the same direction as many other similar, previous finds—a lot of hoopla over nothing (remember the Gospel of Judas?). If it is authentic, it probably shows, at best, that some individuals and possibly offbeat groups within early Christianity in the second to the fourth or later centuries had great creativity and ingenuity. But we already knew that, and we don’t need a television special to tell us." 6

  • The Vatican's reaction:

    L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican City newspaper, has run an article by Alberto Camplani, a leading scholar on ancient Coptic documents. He believes that the papyrus is a fake. He wrote:

    "In spite of the drift in the media marked by tones which are quick to shock, unlike so many other items presented at the conference, the papyrus was not discovered in the process of excavation but came from an antiquarian market. Such an object demands that numerous precautions be taken to establish its reliability and exclude the possibility of forgery."

    He argued that even if the papyrus turns out to be legitimate, Jesus' reference to "my wife" might be to the Christian Church as his bride. 7

  • R. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary wrote:

    "This is sensationalism masquerading as scholarship ... One British newspaper notes that the claims about a married Jesus seem more worthy of fans of Dan Brown's fictional work, The Da Vinci Code, than real-life Harvard professors. If the fragment is authenticated, the existence of this little document will be of interest to historians of the era, but it is insanity to make the claims now running through the media." 8

  • Sean McDonough, professor of New Testament at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, referred to the papyrus as:

    "... simply the latest in a seemingly endless parade of sensationalist headlines obscuring sober historical thinking about the Bible.

    At best, we have a scrap of papyrus that perhaps -- the fragmentary nature of the piece makes it impossible to have any clear idea what it is actually about -- one person in the ancient world, who wrote about Jesus centuries after the fact suggested he had a wife. As King herself says, it tells us nothing about the actual facts as to whether Jesus had a wife. Yet headlines continue to state that a 'historical document' says Jesus had a wife. ... The only historical documents about Jesus that can be reliably dated to the first century – namely the four canonical gospels – make no mention of Jesus having a wife. They fully support the traditional view that Jesus had no wife. The recent papyrus find does nothing to change this. ... The energy behind all this is directed to the replacement of orthodox Christianity, its truth claims, its doctrines, its moral convictions, and its vision of both history and eternity with a secularized -– indeed, Gnositicized -– new version,. ... Just look at the attention this tiny fragment of papyrus has garnered. Its few words and broken phrases are supposed to cast doubt on the New Testament and the doctrines of orthodox Christianity. A tiny little fragment which, even if authentically from the fourth century, is placed over against the four New Testament Gospels, all written within [eight] decades of Jesus' earthy ministry." 8

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Joe Kovacs, " Jesus wife papyrus blasted as 'forgery'," WND Faith, 2012-SEP-19, at: at: http://www.wnd.com/
  2. Becky Bratu, " 'Too holy' for sex? The problem of a married Jesus," NBC News, 2012-SEP-24, at: http://usnews.nbcnews.com/
  3. Tommy O'brien, "Was Jesus Married? New evidence on ancient papyrus suggests he may have been," Politics.ie, 2012-SEP-18, at: http://www.politics.ie/
  4. Elizabeth Drescher, "Who would Jesus Marry?, Religion Dispatches, 2012-SEP-23, at: http://www.religiondispatches.org/
  5. Sarah Morice-Brubaker, "Jesus Christ! Married Guy!," Religion Dispatches, 2012-SEP-21, at: http://www.religiondispatches.org/
  6. Stanley E. Porter, "Was Jesus Married? The Latest Coptic Papyrus Won’t Tell Us," 2012-SEP-24, at: https://stanleyeporter.wordpress.com/
  7. Michael Gryboski, "Vatican Newspaper: 'Jesus Wife' Document a Fake," Christian Post, 2012-SEP-28, at: http://www.christianpost.com/
  8. Lillian Kwon, "Christian Scholars Not Fazed by 'Gospel of Jesus' Wife'," Christian Post, 2012-SEP-20. at: http://www.christianpost.com/

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Copyright © 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2012-SEP-29
Author: B.A. Robinson

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