Was Jesus Married?

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Ben Cohen
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Jesus of Nazareth (miniseries)

This isn't a new topic by any means as the marital status of the historical Jesus of Nazareth has long come under historical scrutiny, but this piece of evidence seems to underscore the notion that it was pretty likely that Jesus was married. From the Guardian:

A Harvard University professor has unveiled a fourth-century fragment of papyrus she said is the only existing ancient text quoting Jesus explicitly referring to having a wife.

Karen King, an expert in the history of Christianity, said the text contains a dialogue in which Jesus refers to "my wife," whom he identifies as Mary. King says the fragment of Coptic script is a copy of a gospel, probably written in Greek in the second century.

King helped translate and unveiled the tiny fragment at a conference of Coptic experts in Rome. She said it doesn't prove Jesus was married but speaks to issues of family and marriage that faced Christians.

Four words in the 1.5 x 3in (3.8 x 7.6cm) fragment provide the first evidence that some early Christians believed Jesus had been married, King said. Those words, written in a language of ancient Egyptian Christians, translate to "Jesus said to them, my wife," King said in a statement.

He added that in the dialogue the disciples discuss whether Mary is worthy and Jesus says: "She can be my disciple."

It is always difficult to accurately assess the validity of historical documents, but scientists seem to think it is not a forgery:

Those who conducted an initial examination of the fragment include Roger Bagnall, a papyrologist who is director of the New York-based Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, and AnneMarie Luijendijk, a scholar of the New Testament and early Christianity from Princeton University. They said their study of the papyrus, the handwriting and how the ink was chemically absorbed shows it is highly probable it is an ancient text, King said.

Another scholar, Ariel Shisha-Halevy, professor of linguistics at Hebrew University and a leading expert on Coptic language, reviewed the text's language and concluded it offered no evidence of forgery.

The notion that Jesus was married has not gone down well with much of the Christian community, but given Jesus was a practicing Jew and a Rabbi, it would make sense that he would have been married given the culture and the times. Personally, I don't see how his marriage status detracts from his teachings, but then Christianity seems to be split in regards to what his life actually means to the religion. There are those who believe that the historical details of his life should define the religion he spawned (born of a virgin, died for our sins, the resurrection etc), and those who believe that what he said counts most.

Either way, it's a pretty interesting development in the historical understanding of perhaps the most written about human being ever.

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