Gospel / Spiritual

Had Jesus a wife? Professor Karen L. King publish or perish: “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife”


There has been a bit of noise about a dubious a “business card size” piece of papyrus which purportedly provides evidence that Jesus had a wife. That Jesus was married, many hope, is somehow undermining  the core doctrines of Christianity.  Apart from the fact that it the tiny scrap is currently dated a few hundred years after Jesus life and during primetime for Gnostics inventing facts about Jesus to support their own theological (heretical) texts, many seem to think this is somehow evidence against celibacy and calls for a larger women’s role in the church (hierarchy).

No wonder, that rumor has it, Harvard Theological Review is now declining to publish Karen King’s paper on this Coptic fragment she calls the “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife.”  When I first read about it, I discarded the headline conclusion immediately. I took also the liberty to the read the paper “Jesus’ Wife”. King_JesusSaidToThem_draft_0920. It has a lot of If’s and assumptions.  New Testament scholar Craig Evans writes:  Is the Coptic papyrus, in which Jesus speaks of his “wife,” a fake? Probably. We are far from a “consensus,” but one scholar after another and one Coptologist after another has weighed in pointing out serious problems with the paleography, the syntax, and the very troubling fact that almost all of the text has been extracted from the Gospel of Thomas (principally from logia 30, 101, and 114). I suspect the papyrus itself is probably quite old, perhaps fourth or fifth century, but the oddly written (or painted) letters on the recto side are probably modern and probably reflect recent interest in Jesus and Mary Magdalene. The decision of the editors of Harvard Theological Review not to publish Karen King’s paper is very wise. Perhaps we will eventually learn more about who actually produced this text.

The academic world became quickly  skeptical about the ancient provenance of this fragment despite the typical professional hysteria in the media and amateur hysteria in the blogosphere. To be fair BBC brought with a lot of trivia and political motivated statement also the facts.
Anybody who reads a bit about the history and language of the gospel might react similar. A papyrus fragment in Egyptian Coptic most likely of the fourth century, isn’t a proof of any historical value of Jesus’ life.  It’s indeed most likely nothing more than one of many gnostic heresies. By the way, Prof Karen Leigh King is foremost an expert in Gnostic writings; she could tell the – sorry for my language – uninformed press, but of course publish or perish.. This sort of debate that should be carried carefully, so scholarship can get it right.

Before we get start rewriting Christ’s history it is worth examining the source of the document and the institution at which the discovery was made.Besides some call it a straight forward hoax, currently most experts assumed, that the so-called “gospel” was written in 4th Century AD in Egypt and is written in Coptic, the language spoken by the Egyptians of the time. The professor who discovered it,Karen L. King, and other scholars have solemnly proclaimed it to be genuine. Some doubt even that. Egypt of the 4th Century has long been known as a rich source of gnostic fabricated accounts of the lives of Jesus and his disciples. A similarly strange find –dubbed the Gospel of Judas[Iscariot] – was unveiled also by Karen L. King. This “gospel” has since dropped off the academic radar. There is so much similar stuff floating around – all utterly discredited, so it is difficult to see what a mere eight lines without any context of its finding should tell. A key to understanding the wholly over-blown nature of the controversy lies in the discoverer’s academic speciality.The focus of Professor King’s studies has been Coptic literature, Gnosticism and women in the Bible’

King writes: “This new gospel doesn’t prove that Jesus was married, but it tells us that the whole question only came up as part of vociferous debates about sexuality and marriage.“. Is that a scholar statement or a feminist statement? Indeed, a bonus in unveiling the controversial scrap of papyrus in Rome was probably a hit on Pope Benedict XVI and the Roman Catholic Church which requires its priests to be celibate. The Huffington Post. “Beyond internal Catholic Church politics, a married Jesus invites are consideration of orthodox teachings about gender and sex,”.Professor King argues without any proof the document is a translation of an earlier one that was written in Greek. This seems a stretch. In fact, it is possible that this “gospel” fragment is associated with such writings found at Nag Hammadi, just after World War II. These writings, all originating centuries after the Apostolicera, were widely published in the 1950s and  inspired C.G. Jung. Jung was instrumental in calling attention to the Nag Hammadi library of Gnostic writings in the 1950’s because he perceived the outstanding psychological relevance of Gnostic insights. Most mythologems found in Gnostic scriptures possess psychological relevance and applicability.  Less to Christanity I would add. Gnosticism flourished in Egypt long after it had ceased to be a major headache to Christianity elsewhere. Egypt had a multi-millennia history of mysticism and so  Egyptian Coptic Christians added to Christianity. It seem we are living again in a climate of decay prone to Gnosticism and superstition.

From Christianity’s beginnings, the Church has been attacked by those introducing false teachings, or heresies – it seems some Christian churches are too weak now to fight this fungus off. Thanks god, I am Catholic. Having said that, if ones read the Luke Gospel, one will found importance and high status Jesus assigned to women. No need to need to give him a wife.

Sources:

Wikipedia on Karen_Leigh_King

Reality Check: The “Jesus’ Wife” Coptic Fragment

 “Jesus had a wife” manuscript fragment a forgery

So What if Jesus did Have a Wife?

Reading_Judas. by Karen L. King

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