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Friday, September 21, 2012

The hooking (up) of Jesus

What is it with folks always trying to hook up Jesus? This week brought us yet another discussion on the matrimonial status of the man widely believed to also have been the Son of God and Savior of the world. [See statistics compiled by the Pew Forum]

Itty bitty ancient Post-it note?

This is not the first time that purported evidence has been put forth to marry off The Christ. Most famously - outside of academia anyway - is Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code. I recall when Brown's book first appeared on the scene (2003) and have enjoyed watching the resultant film several times. I also have a book that dismantles the fictional foundation of The Da Vinci Code. Can people really hold up a work of fiction as proof that Jesus was married?

What is bloviatingly referred to as The Gospel of Jesus' Wife is an ancient fragment of papyrus containing text that has been translated to read:

"'... not [to] me. My mother gave to me li[fe] ...'"
"The disciples said to Jesus, '..."
"deny. Mary is worthy of it" (Or: "deny. Mary is n[ot] worthy of it")
"...' Jesus said to them, 'My wife...'"
"... she will be able to be my disciple ..."
"Let wicked people swell up ..."
"As for me, I dwell with her in order to ..."
"an image"
"my moth[er]"
"forth which ..."

Not much to go on there. And certainly nowhere near enough to say, "See, Jesus was married!"

Christianity is based on some pretty fundamental principles. One of those is why Jesus was here. What was Jesus' mission statement? Luke 19:10 quotes Jesus:

"For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost."

By all accounts, that includes Mary Magdalene. Which, in fact, could be another possible meaning of the papyrus' translated phrase, "deny. Mary is worthy of it" (Or: "deny. Mary is n[ot] worthy of it"), speaking of whether Mary - or by extension any of us - was worthy of salvation.

Jesus was also pretty clear in some statements he made about family - both through is actions and his words.

Earlier in the Gospel of Luke, a twelve-year-old Jesus ditched his parents, not to experience all the fun the big city (Jerusalem) had to offer, but to dialog with scholars at the Temple. Not finding Jesus in their caravan, Mary and Joseph returned to Jerusalem and confronted young Jesus about this seemingly disrespectful act, "And he said to them, "Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?""

Definitely not your ordinary boy...

In another example that seems to minimize the importance of earthly relationships, Jesus is talking to a crowd of people and someone interrupts to say that His mother and brothers are outside [Mark 3:32-35] and wish to see him. Jesus' reply?

And he answered them, "Who are my mother and my brothers?" And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothersFor whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother."

At the root of the issue, why is it important that Jesus be married, or not? Back in the day, it was pretty much unheard of for a young Jewish man to not be married. But that doesn't mean it was completely unheard of; the Essenes and others were well known to be celibate.

Following this link will take you to an interesting article that delves into some of the previous extra-biblical assertions of Jesus' wedlock.

The fact is, we don't know for sure that Jesus was - or wasn't - married. Biblical scholarship supports Jesus' bachelorhood. He was here for much more important things than marriage and, I believe, to continually chip away at the subject lessens the importance of what we should be studying regarding His time on earth.

Still, have at it folks. If spirited, scholarly discussion regarding our Savior's marital status floats your boat, no one is going to stop you. And on the other side of the fence are all those who think Jesus and the whole Savior thing are an unnecessary myth and will eventually be proved wrong.

For their sake, I hope that Christ includes them in the ultimate wedding party.


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