A miniscule piece of parchment is causing a big stir among historians by raising the question “was Jesus married?” At a conference this Tuesday, Harvard professor Karen L. King presented a Coptic text dating around 300 A.D. that references Jesus’ wife. According to her translation, line 4 of the parchment says, “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife…’. ” It continues to line 5 with “…she will be able to be my disciple.” Line 7 says, “As for me, I dwell with her in order to…”
Dr. King emphasizes that this in no way answers the question “was Jesus married?” The authenticity of the paper needs further testing and it’s date (already hundreds of years after Jesus’ death) means that it is hardly evidence. Rather, professor King brought the paper to the conference to discuss the ways in which early Christians debated the role of marriage.
So what if Jesus was married? It certainly wouldn’t have been unusual. In the traditional Jewish society that he lived in marriage was an expected part of adulthood that created a bond with man, woman and God, and fulfilled the commandment to have children. Jesus often discusses marriage, the relationships between men and women, and women’s role in society in the Gospels. Would the discovery that he himself had been married really change how Christians view marriage?
Personally, I think this finding would have had more impact during historical times when the role of religious officials (priests and nuns) right to marry was being hotly debated. I’m thinking of Martin Luther and the 1500s. For them, proof that the holiest prophet himself had been married might have been a game changer. And it might still be today for the world’s clergy.
But what about everyday Christians? I’m really interested to hear from you, my readers. I know that religion plays a big role in many of our subscribers’ marriages. How do you interpret this finding and what do you think of the controversy around it? If you are Christian, how does Jesus’ life and words effect your marriage? All views are welcome.