Friday, September 21, 2012

Was Jesus Mary-ed?

I guess it's because people get confused and tend to have misplaced trust in people in labcoats (or with PHd's), but the need for the apologetic community to loudly dismiss this text fragment suggesting Jesus might have had a wife feels a little desperate to me. Even if it is a genuinely ancient text, I struggle to see how it has any bearing on the witness of the NT. At the same time, the attempts of its finders and analyzers to make something out of it seems equally desperate, and a worst a cheap ploy for publicity. Why can't we just all be comfortable with saying, "Hey, someone found an old piece of paper with something written on it. Probably doesn't mean much historically, except in that it reflects the fact that someone wrote these words on this piece of paper a long time ago." It's a little absurd to treat every scrap recovered from antiquity as a reliable transmitter of "what really happened".

If you're not sure what I'm talking about, let me google that for you.


Dubhglas Henning said...

What it does do is put an older approximate timestamp on the (to most heretical) idea of Jesus being married, previously not known until the Cathars reputedly held the belief. Tracking heretical strains of Christian thought is one of the more difficult tasks of religious intellectual historians, given their regular suppression or assimilation into orthodoxy.

Mike Radcliffe said...

Yeah, and that I'm totally fine with. Not that making claims about the import of ancient texts isn't an intellectually thorny and fundamental issue for the Christian faith, but this particular fragment is no shocking discovery if you're at all familiar with the other "Christian" or "lost Christian" texts of late antiquity.

As for myself (not being a Catholic helps on this point, I think), I have no particular investment in whether or not Jesus was married except for regarding its absence from the canonical text(s). I think the theological relevance and significance of Christ's singleness is surely a ripe subject for theological investigation, but as an heir to the Reformed Protestant tradition (at least a version of it) I don't see his taking or not taking a wife of significant import to the central Christological questions.