It’s déjà Vinci time. There’s been lots of hype recently, but here’s my summary of the publicly known facts:
- A few centuries after Jesus was around, various people had various ideas about various things.
- Some people living at some point up to 300 years after Jesus lived possibly claimed that Jesus had a wife.
- Some of these people wrote their ideas down in story-form.
- A small bit of the thing they wrote seems to have been found recently by somebody somewhere, and has been purchased by an anonymous collector.
The important question is not, of course, whether these facts prove anything about Jesus’ actual marital status (obviously, when you think about it, they don’t). The important question is why “Jesus’ wife” has turned into such a big story in the media. In other words: Despite such flimsy evidence, why do so many people want Jesus to be married?
Maybe it’s because many of us are deeply suspicious of the organised, institutional “church”, so we’re predisposed to believe anyone who casts doubt on the writings of the New Testament and the Christian message, without properly checking it out.
Maybe it’s because we assume sex makes us human. Sexuality and sexual relationships are so often seen today as keys to our self-definition and our identity. If Jesus were married, he’d be a powerful pin-up boy for the quest to put sexual expression at the core of our own humanness.
Maybe there’s other reasons too. But if the possibilities I listed do happen to ring true to you or to your friends, here are some suggestions.
Firstly: If you want to check out the Christian text with the most ancient public manuscript evidence, read John’s Gospel. The earliest manuscript fragment, from the early 2nd century, is in Manchester UK, and it’s free to the viewing public (I viewed it last year).1
Secondly: Please realise that the New Testament (as well as the church’s historical teaching) strongly affirms Jesus’ humanity. But Jesus’ humanity is not defined primarily in terms of sexual expression. Personally, I reckon that’s great news! For one thing, it’s a powerful affirmation of the value of singleness. It also helps us to avoid running after sex and marriage–which so often disappoint–to fulfil our deepest desires. Most importantly, it helps us to see that there is something far greater to life, something which Jesus himself gives: a union with God as our loving heavenly Father.
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