"The Gospel of Jesus' Wife," Redux


Over at Mark Goodacre’s NT Blog: Gospel of Jesus’ Wife in New Testament Studies

The latest issue of New Testament Studies (if you don’t know what it is, it’s a peer-reviewed scholarly periodical dedicated to … well, New Testament and Christian origins studies) devotes a good deal of its pages to a critical discussion of the authenticity of the so-called Gospel of Jesus’ Wife.

The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife: Constructing a Context (Simon Gathercole)

If you want a recap of the whole debacle, Gathercole provides a nice summary of the issue.
And here’s the real-life Gathercole talking about it.

A Lycopolitan Forgery of John’s Gospel (Christian Askeland)
The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife: Textual Evidence of Modern Forgery (Andrew Bernhard)
Material Criteria and their Clues for Dating (Myriam Krutzsch and Ira Rabin)
The Jesus’ Wife Papyrus in the History of Forgery (Christopher Jones)
How a Papyrus Fragment Became a Sensation (Gesine Schenke Robinson)

Why am I posting this? So that people won’t forget. Just because it’s highly likely a fake doesn’t mean that we can just up and forget about it. It’s precisely because things like this are consigned into oblivion that people are duped again and again, and dubious claims are repeated by the media every Easter. :wink:


Well, that, and a heavy dose of willful ignorance on the part of the duped…

Thank you for the post ^^


I dont want to read your links because ill just get worked up again, but is it the general consensus that its a fake?

And playing devils advocate, what about the CC if its true?


Ok i read some of it. In your first link, where the blog says “New Testament Studies has now devoted its latest issue to a critical discussion of the authenticity of the fragment” , what its saying in English is that they think the frament is a fake, right?


Or if not, what does it mean, exactly?


Well, pretty much yes. At least, much of the evidence we have point to its being a modern fake rather than, say, an ancient forgery. And a sloppy fake, at that.

And playing devils advocate, what about the CC if its true?

When you say ‘true’, what exactly do you mean?

(1) It’s not a modern forgery, but an ancient forgery.
(2) The claim the fragment seems to make is historically factual: Jesus did have a wife.

Obviously, (2) is problematic, but (1) doesn’t really affect traditional Christianity any more than, say, the Gospel of Judas or the Pistis Sophia.

Ok i read some of it. In your first link, where the blog says “New Testament Studies has now devoted its latest issue to a critical discussion of the authenticity of the fragment” , what its saying in English is that they think the frament is a fake, right?

Pretty much. And they give rather good arguments IMHO to support their point, too.


I meant, what if its genuine, what will that do to the Church and her teaching?


Again, you’re kinda using a very broad term there - ‘genuine’.

As I said, on the one hand, you could still say the fragment is ‘genuine’ as in ‘genuinely ancient’ fake, not a modern one. In other words, the text is an ancient work, even if it’s really just a piece of ancient fiction. (Even Karen King is decent enough to admit the fragment, even if authentically ancient, doesn’t really tell us anything about the historical Jesus; that’s a sensationalistic claim invented by the media.)

I assume you’re meaning it the other way: what if the claim that Jesus really was married to ‘Mary’ is historically true, right? Well, other posters can answer this better than I could, but from my POV: on the one hand, it will kinda throw a wrench to the understanding of the Church as the bride of Christ, which is interpreted as being more than a metaphorical relationship. Aside from that, I don’t know of any other traditional doctrines about Jesus that might be seriously compromised by the existence of a flesh-and-blood ‘Mrs. Jesus’. Maybe other folks could help me out here.


Yes, i mean what if jesus was married?


Well, luckily for Christians, He wasn’t.

IF it could be proven that He was married, then Catholic (which includes Orthodox) Theology has been completely wrong regarding the nature of Christ (and thereby the nature of God) since the beginning.

If the Church could be wrong on THAT, then it doesn’t just throw out the idea of who the Church is (and thus due to the nature of the relationship between Christ and the Church, once AGAIN the nature of who GOD is), and what the Church’s relationship to Christians is. . .it throws out everything that the Church has taught regarding Scripture and Sacred Tradition.

Not because a 'Mrs. Jesus" would be wrong because icky old SEX is wrong for a god. Not because Jesus somehow was either ‘above’ icky old sex, or too important to have just ONE ‘sexual relationship’ in His life.

Because Christ’s very nature is that He is God-made-man to save humanity. The nature of the marriage bond would mean that God yoked His Divinity in man not to all, but to ONE. ONE human woman. That (as these ‘gospels’ usually go on to say) that He shared His Divinity among little ‘mini Jesus’ and ‘miniJerushas’ to go and mingle, as though His Divinity was just another ‘chromosome’ to slosh into the gene pool. Nothing special. Gee. most of us don’t NEED Jesus in His Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, in the Eucharist, because we’re probably related to Him BY blood. and if we aren’t now, our descendents will be. How’s that for a prize for the ‘elite’?

People just don’t stop to think beyond their emotions and what seems like ‘no big deal’, or an ‘awwww’ moment, and above all, that humanity didn’t really need Jesus to DIE for us, what we needed was this great moral teacher to come, be just like us, have a wife and kids, and ‘spread himself around’. That’s the real miracle, right? That God thinks so HIGHLY of us and our reproductive organs that He just couldn’t WAIT until He could have the fun of ‘doing it’. :rolleyes: And that makes Him, again, so much like US. Why should we even TRY to be like HIM, when obviously His wanting to be like US makes US so much more important? Look how much better we are than God. . .so much more compassionate, just, enlightened. . . :shrug:


In light of the Gospel of Jesus Wife, how do we know He wasnt married?


What does the Scripture say?

I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; but the married man is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. (1 Corinthians 7:32-34)

Christ’s interest was not divided. He wanted to please the Father only.



ChristianityToday.com says in it article titled 5 Reasons the Gospel of Jesus Wife is a Fake, dated july13, 2015, about this that its found “beyond a reasonable doubt” that jesus was not married.


If you’re trying to bring in a fragment of a document with those words, and the document itself has been determined to be a forgery, why would you think He WAS married?

It’s like saying that if an archeologist 500 years from now found an old Inquirer with “Bigfoot found”, he could claim, “Well, gee, here’s a paper from AD 2015 that says ‘Bigfoot found,’ how do you KNOW Bigfoot wasn’t really found and didn’t really exist?”


Ok. You have “Christianity Today”, you have Scripture, you have Sacred Tradition, you have the Catholic Church set up by Jesus Christ, the Early Church Fathers, and 2000 years’ worth of united Christian teaching under the guidance of the Holy Spirit all saying Jesus was not married.

Why on earth would you let a FORGED document sway you into even considering otherwise?

I enjoy a good ‘what-if’ argument. I love Sci-Fi. Alternate universes? Bring em on. Fantasy? Tons of fun.

But this kind of “'in light of this document, how do we know that some teaching of the Catholic Church isn’t totally wrong, and instead, something else totally different happened” is none of the above. It’s just arguing for the sake of arguing, and since it’s a negative, and logically speaking one can’t prove a negative, it’s futile. Worse, it confuses people into thinking that it IS one of the above --a real ‘this could be’–when it’s not.


Well, the possibility that He wasn’t has more evidence for it than evidence that He was. I could name two:

  • There is no mention of anything about Jesus being married and/or having children in any early Christian writing, ‘orthodox’ or ‘heretical’. The apocryphal Gospel of Philip’s mention of Mary kissing Jesus (“on his…” - the text was conveniently broken at this point :D) doesn’t count here. Nor do the ancient of critics of Christianity mention anything about it.

If anything, you’ll find the opposite trend: during the 2nd-3rd century, there were Christians who were using Jesus’ (assumed) celibate status as ‘proof’ that celibacy was a higher road or even, at an extreme, that marriage was actually evil. If there was anything about the idea of ‘marriage’ being connected to Jesus it is His metaphysical marriage to the Church.

  • The very first bishops and prominent leaders of the Church in Jerusalem were mostly or all relatives of Jesus: as you might know, the very first bishop of Jerusalem is Jesus’ ‘brother’ James. (In fact, some scholars think that the position of ‘bishop’ or leader in the Jerusalem Church was at first a hereditary one. Unlike in other churches where bishops were elected into the position, they think the leadership position in the Jerusalem Church - at least, during the time when it was still Jewish - was passed within the family, among Jesus’ surviving family members.) Now, if Jesus did have a wife or a child to succeed Him, don’t you think the position should have passed to them? Shouldn’t ‘Mrs. Jesus’ or ‘Jesus Jr.’ have occupied important roles within the Jerusalem Church - or in Christianity in general?

To put things in context, GoJW is really the only purported early Christian document that explicitly states that Jesus had a wife. (A few people might add the Gospel of Philip here, but to be honest, that work isn’t very explicit.) And even then, serious scholars who thought it was an authentic ancient piece of writing did not believe that this meant that the historical Jesus really did have a wife, only that a few people from a later era imagined He had one. (And of course, not everything early Christians - orthodox or otherwise - imagined Jesus to be is necessarily historically true, unless of course you really do think Jesus had weird habits like miraculously killing His playmates when He was young.)


Of course, that’s assuming that Jesus had kids from this supposed marriage. One might still imagine that Jesus did marry someone, but He never had any children. Y’know, celibate marriage.

If you’ll ask me, the degrees of probability in this case would be (judging from what I know about early Christianity):

(1) Jesus wasn’t married, nor did He have any children. (Probability: high)
(2) Jesus could have married, but for some reason or another, He never had any children. (Probability: low)
(3) Jesus married and had children. (Probability: very low)




Good link. You might notice that this article was written by Simon Gathercole. :wink:


Is he reputable? I don’t know anything about him.

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