Did Jesus have a wife?
|The Web is by now awash with stories of an ancient text in which Jesus says ‘my wife’. The story which broke yesterday in the New York Times and some other sources, is being carried today by outlets too numerous to list. Some of the reporting is responsible, but not all. Consider this extract from The Daily Mail:|
“If genuine, the document casts doubt on a centuries old official representation of Magdalene as a repentant whore and overturns the Christian ideal of sexual abstinence.”
We are of course in a context where there is so much ignorance of basic facts about Christianity that even when the media properly relay facts they get completely distorted and misunderstood in popular perception. This can be seen in the way derivative media put spin on the story and in the online comments below the news items.
Here we try to establish a few facts.
The scholarly article upon which almost all knowledge of the fragment is based is here.
What do we know from this?
|What’s in a name?|
First, let’s start with the name. The scholar involved, Professor Karen King of Harvard, has decided to call thisThe Gospel of Jesus’s Wife. However, it might more appropriately be named The Fragment about Jesus’s Relations, since there’s no evidence that it was called a gospel and the text mentions at least two family members. Of course, such a name would not generate the same publicity. Despite this unfortunate choice of name, Professor King is to be commended for publishing a good photograph and detailed scholarly analysis of the fragment simultaneously with the press release. Usually in the case of controversial text the media hype comes long before the availability of the text.