There was another announcement this week that an ancient scrap of papyrus which refers to “Jesus’ wife” is “not a forgery”. This document was discovered and announced 2 years ago – this is not “news”. What is new is that after 2 years, people have come to the conclusion that it is not a “modern forgery” – done by someone over the past century or so.
So the “news” is that this is not a modern forgery, but an “old” document – according to scientific test, dating between 700-800 AD.
Photos and translation of so-called “gospel”:
“The results of a carbon dating test at Harvard showed that the papyrus probably dates to 741 A.D. And separate ink testing by Columbia University researchers concludes that the ink used was consistent with ink used by ancient Egyptians.”
According to an article in the Huffington Post:
“Harvard officials said scientists both within and outside the university extensively tested the papyrus and carbon ink of the badly aged fragment, dubbed the “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife.” The document, written in Coptic, a language of ancient Egyptian Christians, is made up of eight mostly legible dark lines on the front and six barely legible faded lines on the back. The handwriting and grammar were also examined over the last year and a half to confirm its authenticity. Scientists have concluded the fragment dates back to at least the sixth to ninth centuries, and possibly as far back as the fourth century.
The document was never meant to prove Jesus was married, Harvard Divinity School professor Karen L. King emphasized Thursday. Instead, she argued, it’s meant to highlight that some early Christians may have believed Jesus was married. The distinction is significant because debates over sexuality and marriage have dominated contemporary discussions about Christianity; the Catholic Church cites Jesus’ celibacy as one reason its priests must not have sex or marry.”
First of all, there are some things to be clear concerning this announcement:
1. First of all, it is is NOT a ‘gospel’! The gospels are the four documentaries recorded by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John that are a part of the New Testament. The “gospels” are the stories about the “good news” that the Creator has sent His Son into the word to reconcile humankind unto Himself. This is a small “credit card” size scrap of papyrus, dating from between 700 – 800 AD.
2. Just because something is “old” does not mean that it is “true”. There are plenty of old papyrus manuscripts (see my article on the Gnostic ‘Gospels’) that are ancient, but false teaching and false “gospels”.
3. This document is WAY later than the New Testament documents – ie, the four gospels, and the letters of the New Testament. Most of the NT documents date to between 50 AD and 90 AD (see my article on the reliability of the Bible). They are far more ancient that this so called “gospel”, which scientists date to 700-800 AD. Six hundred years after the NT was written! One has to go with the earliest recorded documents that were recorded closest to the events that transpired, and with those that offer eye-witness testimony – not with documents dating 600 years later!. Later documents such as this are interesting, but do not hold the same level of authority as the more ancient documents. These much later documents are much more likely to contain the stuff of legend.
Who was the source of this 8th century credit card fragment? We don’t know. Was it part of larger story, a retelling based on the notion that ‘what if Jesus had a wife’, what would have happened? We don’t know. This is all speculation, since it is such a small scrap of papyrus.
We now know that what happened after the 1st century was that many phony gospel documents and letters purportedly from Apostles began to find their way into circulation in the early church. This is time when Gnosticism began to gather followers, along with other “heresies” (for example, the teachings of Arius). Legends and false teaching started to proliferate. Even Paul the Apostle remarks in one of his letters that “see, I write this with my own hand”. In another place the NT talks about many false teachers, and to beware. The church began to be very wary of “fake” documents and teachings, and to begin to identify the “authoritative” list of NT documents among the believers.
And as a matter of fact, these false teachings were a driving force for the church to finalize the “cannon” – the accepted list of 22 books that now comprise the New Testament. This started with the Muritorian Cannon in about 170 AD, as the church leaders identified the list of books that were God inspired, authoritative, and trust worthy. By the 2nd century the early church had settled on the list of books that now comprise the New Testament (for more detail, see http://evidencetobelieve.net/reliability-of-the-bible/).
1. This document is old, yes, but 600 years later than the NT documents. It is probably the stuff of legend.
2. ALL of the NT documents, plus all of the writings of the early church, in no place state that Jesus had a wife.
3. In fact, the evidence in the oldest documents supports the notion that Jesus was single and not married.
4. Yes, there were women followers of Jesus, and women disciples. They traveled with Jesus, ate with Him, learned from him. But there is no evidence that He was married to any of them – including Mary of Magdala.
So no marriage for Jesus. Sorry. For more on this, see http://evidencetobelieve.net/was-jesus-married/.