Did Jesus have a wife? That would be really hot news about the most famous individual in history!
The debate was ignited by the Harvard professor Karen King, who recently published a Coptic fragment with a text, which probably is about Jesus. Unfortunately she has called it “The Gospel of Jesus’s Wife”. A great way to get famous, and a title which makes the day for any newspaper editor or blogger.
However, there is no evidence for such a description, and King also says that the fragment has nothing to say about the historical Jesus.
Here is a sound scholarly evaluation by a renowned and competent scholar.
Just a few points about the fragment:
- It has no value for our knowledge about the historical Jesus. The document is at the earliest dated to the second half of the second century, that is, after 150. It is similar to the large literature from that period in Coptic language which loves to speculate about the more intimate history of Jesus and his family. Many of these texts are included in the Nag Hammadi library with Gnostic content, all written in Coptic.
- It is not even clear that the author of the fragment thought that Jesus had a wife. The fragment is short, difficult to interpret and does not contain any complete sentences. It may or may not try to say that Jesus had a wife.
- Some scholars even question that the fragment is authentic. Important information for evaluating the fragment is lacking: where was the document found, when, by whom and how? Such questions of provenance and how it was acquired are key for the evaluation. Especially in a time when amazingly advanced forgeries of ancient artifacts suddenly appear in the market.
Thus, for the moment it is safe to assume that Jesus did not have a wife. But personally I believe that Jesus is looking forward to the wedding day!
What is your take on this question and the larger one of the role of old fragments like this for our understanding of the history of Jesus? I like to hear your comments!
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