God Meets Culture, the writing home of Michael J. Klassen

September 21, 2012

Was Jesus Married? Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code, And Harvard Divinity School

“Unfortunately for the early editors, one particularly troubling earthly theme kept recurring in the gospels. Mary Magdalene.” He paused. “More specifically, her marriage to Jesus Christ.”

“I beg your pardon?” Sophie’s eyes moved to Langdon and then back to Teabing.

“It’s a matter of historical record,” Teabing said, “and Da Vinci was certainly aware of that fact” (Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code, 244).

A little less than a decade ago, Dan Brown’s controversial book The Da Vinci Code rocked western culture. Seemingly everywhere I went, people were carrying the book, sneaking a peek whenever they could. Churches warned their congregants against reading it, which made me want to read it all the more.

Finally, I decided to indulge in the forbidden fruit and I LOVED IT!—despite its many flaws and shortcomings. Within the first few pages, I could tell Brown had an ax to grind with the Catholic Church and the Christian faith. Having studied Gnosticism in graduate school, I was surprised by the extent Brown sought to deliberately twist the facts.

The plot of the Da Vinci Code (if you were one of the few who didn’t read it) surrounds the existence of a modern-day descendent of Jesus, who was allegedly married to Mary Magdalene.

The book, which was categorized fiction in library bookshelves, undermined the faith of many Christians. People struggled with the idea of placing their trust in a man who was married and possibly wasn’t even God.

Finally, the hullaballoo died down and life returned to (ab)normal…until this week.

Was Dan Brown Right??

This week, I read on CNN.com that an extremely old Coptic fragment from Egypt was discovered that included the words “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife …”

Since then, news sites have once again stirred the pot, proposing the idea that Jesus was married.

(I do want to point out that no buildings were burned and no people were killed after the news sites aired the story. Just sayin’.)

Harvard Divinity School Professor Karen King announced the findings of the fragment on Tuesday in Rome at the International Association for Coptic Studies. Despite the fact that she calls the fragment  “The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife”, she also explained that the fragment “does not, however, provide evidence that the historical Jesus was married.”

Nevertheless, media outlets trumpeted the report, manipulating the facts about as loosely as well as…well, Dan Brown did a decade ago.

So, does the fragment offer any proof that Jesus was married? It does say “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife …” doesn’t it?

The Facts About The Fragment

Let’s look at the facts:

It just isn’t old enough. Papyrologists speculate that the fragment was written in the fourth century AD. That’s old, but not quite old enough in my opinion. Amidst the thousands of early documents referring to Jesus, one surfaces three hundred years after his time on earth, and we’re supposed to believe that one over the many others?

Fiction Novels About Jesus Were Common. At the same time, fictional depictions of Jesus’ life were legion in the centuries following Jesus’ ministry on earth. How do we know that someone wasn’t writing a very fictional account of Jesus?

We don’t know the context. If you take a close look at the fragment above, you’ll notice that periods, commas, quotation marks, even spacing between words, are non-existent. Usually, the words appear in ALL CAPS. So really, the translation of the fragment should be literally translated JESUSSAIDTOTHEMMYWIFE. This could have been the transcription of a sermon, and the context of the words could have been something like this:

We must not live like the Pharisees in Jesus’ time. “You are white-washed tombs,” Jesus said to them. My wife says the Pharisees were dead before they ever lived.

Without punctuation and context, we really aren’t sure what the writer is saying.

All wives are women but not all women are wives. Finally, the comments of Dr. Craig Blomberg, distinguished professor of New Testament at Denver Seminary, made me nearly laugh out loud. In an interview with yesterday’s Denver Post, Blomberg explained, “The Coptic word for ‘wife’ is the same word for ‘woman’…[Jesus] could have been talking about [his] mother.”

Did you read that? In all likelihood, Jesus was talking about his dear old mom!

Every so often, books, blogs or news reports announce “startling” evidence that undermines the faith of well-meaning people. But a faith built on a fiction novel or a news headline is shaky at best. Before jumping to conclusions, let’s wait for the truth to emerge and remember that our foundation is much sturdier.

 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 3:11

Michael J. Klassen is a freelance writer and co-pastor of The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado. 

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3 Comments »

  1. I agree with all of the above,…

    And I just happened to think of this somewhat “unusual” concept: If Scripture assures us that He was perfect and WITHOUT SIN — although tempted in the flesh as any human — what would we really care if He actually had been married?,… He would have been without sin in that relationship also, n’est-ce pas?,… it couldn’t have changed anything significant about Who He was,… marriage as a blessed relationship isn’t necessarily inherently sinful, is it?,…

    Hebrews 4:14,15 [Our Compassionate High Priest]
    14 “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, YET WITHOUT SIN.”

    But then He probably would have had to marry a (nearly) perfect person too,… (I would also imagine that He was exceptionally wise, and also not a glutton for punishment in matters of ordinary living!),… so where would He find such a perfect and suitable bride?,… and He already had His very special mother,…

    But I personally think that He very well knew His future and the largeness of His destiny and calling,… and His “true life” and spiritual essence/character/make-up did not come from this world,… He was a gift to us from the Father, here with us in the flesh, for a limited time only, with a special assignment,… and He was a gift to ALL of us,… WE are called “the BRIDE of Christ” collectively, as Christ-followers/Christians,… WE are His bride, redeemed from ignominy, washed and purified in His sacrificial blood,…

    Revelation 22:17 “The [Holy] Spirit and the BRIDE (the church, the true Christians) say, ‘Come!’ And let him who is listening say, ‘Come!’ And let everyone come who is thirsty [who is painfully conscious of his need of those things by which the soul is refreshed, supported, and strengthened]; and whoever [earnestly] desires to do it, let him come, take, appropriate, and drink the water of Life without cost.”

    Luke 5:33-35
    33 “Then they said to Him, ‘The disciples of John practice fasting often and offer up prayers of [special] petition, and so do [the disciples] of the Pharisees also, but Yours eat and drink.’
    34 “And Jesus said to them, ‘Can you make the wedding guests fast as long as the BRIDEGROOM is with them?
    35 “‘But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; and then they will fast in those days.'”

    Jesus was and is OUR Bridegroom,… WE are the Bride,… maybe He was purposefully leaving an open spot for each one of us, by His side,…

    In those times, there were well-established, serious religious/spiritual traditions, in which marriage was foregone for the purpose of more fully dedicating oneself to God,… Paul speaks of the path of singleness and dedication to God in 1 Corinthians 7:

    1 Corinthians 7:1-40 (excerpted)
    1 “Now as to the matters of which you wrote me. It is well [and by that I mean advantageous, expedient, profitable, and wholesome] for a man not to touch a woman [to cohabit with her] but to remain unmarried.

    2 “But because of the temptation to impurity and to avoid immorality, let each [man] have his own wife and let each [woman] have her own husband. …

    6 “But I am saying this more as a matter of permission and concession, not as a command or regulation.

    7 “I wish that all men were like I myself am [in this matter of self-control]. But each has his own special gift from God, one of this kind and one of another.

    8 “But to the unmarried people and to the widows, I declare that it is well (good, advantageous, expedient, and wholesome) for them to remain [single] even as I do. …

    28 “But if you do marry, you do not sin [in doing so], and if a virgin marries, she does not sin [in doing so]. Yet those who marry will have physical and earthly troubles, and I would like to spare you that. …

    32 “My desire is to have you free from all anxiety and distressing care. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord—how he may please the Lord;

    33 “But the married man is anxious about worldly matters—how he may please his wife—

    34 “And he is drawn in diverging directions [his interests are divided and he is distracted from his devotion to God]. And the unmarried woman or girl is concerned and anxious about the matters of the Lord, how to be wholly separated and set apart in body and spirit; but the married woman has her cares [centered] in earthly affairs—how she may please her husband.

    35 “Now I say this for your own welfare and profit, not to put [a halter of] restraint upon you, but to promote what is seemly and in good order and to secure your undistracted and undivided devotion to the Lord. …

    37 “But whoever is firmly established in his heart [strong in mind and purpose], not being forced by necessity but having control over his own will and desire, and has resolved this in his heart to keep his own virginity, he is doing well. …

    40 “But in my opinion [a widow] is happier (more blessed and to be envied) if she does not remarry. And also I think I have the Spirit of God.”

    I find it actually easier to believe that Jesus followed the path of singleness, much as Paul describes, for the purpose of remaining very much “spiritually in touch” with His Father on an ongoing basis,… I wasn’t there,… so I don’t know,… the available trusted historical accounts “of the day” do not make mention of a marriage,… Early Church Fathers have sifted and selected documents and refused others,… I’m not knowledgeable in such matters, and find uninformed speculation to be a very risky (and stupid) business,… how He got tied into a supposed marriage with Mary Magdalene seems to be more of a Hollywood “dream concoction” of supposedly unavoidable romantic inclinations mixed with Gnostic distortions of Truth,…

    Why wouldn’t ALL the people love this Jesus that they followed — Who was a blessing to them in so many ways?,… Why wouldn’t He love them back?,… Love is what the Kingdom of God is all about,… and it certainly can be pure and beautiful, generous and kind, healing and virtuous,… yes, Jesus was married in His heart,… to us,… (-:

    whaddayathink?

    Comment by Georgie-ann — September 21, 2012 @ 9:51 am | Reply

  2. The prospect that there may be a descendent of Jesus walking the earth seems to give hit to an agenda behind a baseless assertion that Jesus took himself a bride… of he physical kind. Jesus does have a bride btw. He calls her the Church.

    Might i suggest that. if someone today or in the future, comes onto the scene with claims of being the direct descendent of Jesus that we all should agree now to avoid him…. like a plague. Just saying…

    Comment by ellen — November 20, 2014 @ 8:36 am | Reply

    • (-:

      Comment by Georgie-ann — November 20, 2014 @ 11:32 am | Reply


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