I thought the issue of whether or not Jesus was married was settled when Dan Brown’s fiction book, The Da Vince Code, often taken as non-fiction, was debunked by one conservative biblical scholar after another. Yet the conjecture Jesus had a wife does not seem to ever want to go away.
In The Da Vince Code the author relied heavy on third and fourth century Gnostic texts to concoct his unprovable premise that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married, and together brought a child into the world, Jesus Jr. According to Brown and Michael Baigent’s Holy Blood, Holy Grail (the true literary source for Brown’s plagiarised work), Mary Magdalene took the “Jesus child” out of Israel to protect her treasured progeny and made off to France. The child grew up, married and fathered a child whose descendants married into the French royal line and, after several generations, engendering the Merovingian dynasty.
Dan Brown’s hypothesis bears no biblical evidence and lacks historical proof as many biblical researchers exposed during the “Da Vince Code” mania that grabbed the attention of the biblically illiterate who would rather believe a Hollywood film over the historical veracity of the Bible. Yet somehow Tom Hanks, who starred in the film production is more credible than Matthew, Mark, Luke and John!
The “Wife of Jesus” Papyrus Revealed
Recently Harvard Divinity School historian of early Christianity Karen L. King announced she has come across an ancient papyrus fragment from the fourth century that, when translated, appears to indicate that Jesus was married.
Coptic papyrus fragment claims Jesus was married
An article in the Huffington Post on this discovery states:
The text is being dubbed “The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife.” The part of it that’s drawing attention says, “Jesus said to them, ‘my wife'” in the Coptic language. The text, which is printed on papyrus the size of a business card, has not been scientifically tested to verify its dating, but King and other scholars have said they are confident it is a genuine artifact.
The quote about Jesus’ wife is part of a description of a conversation between Jesus and his disciples. In the conversation, Jesus talks about his mother twice and speaks once about his wife. One of them is identified as “Mary.” His disciples discuss whether Mary is worthy of being part of their community, to which Jesus replies, “she will able to be my disciple.”
In her presentation about the Coptic fragment King admits the papyrus does not prove Jesus was married. What it does prove, according to King, is that the debate about Jesus’ marital status was present in the early formation of Christianity. In fact, in order to give credence for those who advocated celibacy as the highest state of purity, many Christians appealed to Jesus’ unmarried status.
The Description of the Coptic Fragment
The fragment only has eight incomplete lines of text on one side and additional barely legible lines on the other side showing only three faded words. The text is written in the Coptic language rather than Koine Greek, so it is a copy of an earlier version or an original penned in the fourth century. King claims it is from a second century Greek text but offers no proof.
Along with Karen King, Princeton University professor Anne Marie Luijendijk and Roger Bagnall, director of the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, claim they have confirmed the document is valid.
So what should Christians make of this most recent discovery of a papyrus fragment from the fourth century that claims Jesus was married? Was Jesus married? If so, and this fact was deliberately or inadvertently left out of the New Testament records of the life of Jesus, does this then cast doubt on the accuracy of the four gospels and their writers?
The Debunking of the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife
First, the document is from the fourth century. Four hundred years after Christ lived on earth. How can writers in four hundred years later know more than the eyewitnesses who lived with Jesus three years and knew His life on a daily basis?
Second, the dating is not verified yet, but give or take a fifty or one hundred years we are dealing with a document 300-400 years removed from Jesus’ historical appearance on earth. I find the historical method used by King to be highly unusual.
When asked where did the papyrus come from. King answered, “We don’t know. . . nothing is known about the circumstances of its discovery,” an admission that has raised red flags for other scholars. King speculates the fragment may have been tossed in an ancient garbage heap by someone who objected to the idea of Jesus being married. As a student of biblical history, I am somewhat taken back by King’s unfounded speculation about an historical document about which he is clueless regarding its origins. Instead, this Harvard scholar offers her conjectured opinion based on absolutely nothing.
Third, the Coptic papyrus fragment does not prove Jesus was married. Even King admits the historical artifact is not old enough to prove Jesus was married. The only thing the document proves is that early Christians may have discussed whether Jesus was married.
The Harvard historian is quick to admit that the reference to Jesus’ wife may have been figurative:
King also acknowledged that Jesus might have been speaking figuratively when he referred to “my wife.” After all, the fragment is just 33 words long, with incomplete sentences and very little context.
Fourth, in the fourth century Gnosticism was at its peak in influencing unsuspecting Christians. This is when all those weird gospels made their appearance such as the Gospel of Judas made their contested appearance in Christianity. Gnosticism was always looking for “secret knowledge” and seeks to reveal hidden truth about Jesus previously unknown, hence the entire gnostic influenced premise of the Da Vince Code which has been disproved over and over.
When asked by Huffington Post about what other ancient texts say about Jesus being married, King answered,
The Bible, of course, says nothing about Jesus marrying, though New Testament writers occasionally used the metaphor of the church and God’s people as the “bride of Christ.” Some of the Gnostic gospels — ancient texts unearthed in the 20th century that are not included in the Christian canon — suggest that Jesus had an intimate relationship with Mary Magdalene. The apocryphal Gospel of Philip, for example, says that Jesus kissed Mary, and loved her more than the apostles.
Again, these are unfounded speculations based on documents that came later than the original gospels written by men who knew Jesus.
Fifth, Gnosticism made its appearance in the first century in an elementary form and was refuted by the New Testament writers. They claimed Jesus was pure spirit and did not have a human body. To the Gnostic flesh is evil. I John deal with the fact that to be a believer one must confess Jesus came in the flesh in order to be a true believer.
I John 4:1-3 refutes early gnosticism:
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God.
Sixth, this is a fragment the size of a business card. Are you going to trust the four books of four eyewitnesses who lived with Jesus or a fragment from a papyrus?
Seventh, Harvard professor Karen King is a specialist in Gnosticism, “King, who focuses on Coptic literature, Gnosticism and women in the Bible, has published on the Gospel of Judas and the Gospel of Mary of Magdala.” Is it any wonder that these extra-canonical books which contradict the New Testament make their appearance in order to cast doubt on the validity of the New Testament canon. A lot of the teachings in these text contradict the theology and teachings of Jesus and the writers of the gospels and the epistles.
Eighth, if Jesus was married, then when He was on the cross, why did he tell John to only take care of His mother and not His “wife”? Also, the NT lists Jesus’ brothers and sisters, mother and father, his cousin John the Baptizer, and his aunt and uncle Elizabeth and Zacharias. Why wouldn’t his wife be mentioned?
Ninth, the issue raised by the appearance of this Coptic text, despite what King claims, is not celibacy as viewed by early Christians or whether or not Jesus remained chaste. The significance of this “discovery” is whether a Gnostic papyrus fragment the size of a business card written 400 years after Jesus has more authority than the four books of the New Testament by men who knew Him intimately.
James Cameron is best known for his films Titanic and the Terminator series. Cameron is somewhat of an entrepreneur. He seems to always find himself in the middle of some edgy project beyond his movie making. Camerons’ latest endeavor is launching a meteor mining company with Ross Perot and Google Founder Larry Page. Sometimes I wonder if Cameron really believes what he said when he received the Oscar for Titanic, “I’m the King of the World.”
Perhaps his greatest accomplishment was putting together a documentary in March 2007 intended to disprove the resurrection of Jesus. According to the Discovery Channel description of the show we learn,
Since the 1970s, hundreds of tombs and thousands of ossuaries (limestone bone boxes) have been discovered in the Jerusalem area. These ossuaries served as coffins in first-century Jerusalem. One of these tombs was found to contain ten ossuaries. Six of the ossuaries in this tomb have inscriptions on them. As it turns out, every inscription in this particular tomb relates to the Gospels. In the feature documentary The Lost Tomb of Jesus a case is made that the 2,000-year-old “Tomb of the Ten Ossuaries” belonged to the family of Jesus of Nazareth.
In other words, the “King of the World” has found the tomb of the King of Kings – Jesus of Nazareth, thus proving the resurrection never took place. Now that the invincible James Cameron has successfully destroyed Christianity he can get back to making inane anti-U.S. military films like Avatar.
When I first watched The Lost Tomb of Jesus I was surprised at how naive viewers were in even considering the validity of the documentary. In response, I started to do my own research about the Talpiot Tomb, where the alleged bones of Jesus have been hidden for 2000 years just waiting for Cameron and his camera crew to come along and expose Christianity to be founded on a lie.
In 2007 I wrote a short booklet in which I examined the “proofs” offered by James Cameron and writer Simcha Jacobovici, an Israeli-born filmmaker. To give you an example of the content of my book entitled, “Burying the Jesus Family Tomb Controversy,” here is the opening chapter:
The Lost Tomb of Jesus, a documentary recently aired on the Discovery Channel, claims an ancient tomb discovered in Jerusalem may have held the bones of Jesus. The project’s producer, James Cameron, commented that the implications of such a find could drastically change the sacred faith of Christianity.
If Jesus’ bones really are among those found in the tomb’s ossuaries ¾ limestone bone boxes ¾ believers around the world have a major problem with their faith. His resurrection would be proven false, and Christians could no longer attest to the fact that they have been born again through the power of the Holy Spirit. As the apostle Paul said in I Corinthians 15:7: “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” (Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are from the New International Version).
TV host Ted Koppel interviewed several religious scholars immediately after the feature ended. He asked a priest on the panel, “What if Jesus’ bones are in the box?” The priest responded that it would not affect his faith. “My faith would go on,” he said.
While watching the panel discussions, I asked myself, “What is my faith in? If there is no resurrection, am I going to continue in the faith? Faith in what, assuming the resurrection — the foundation of our faith — has been ripped away?”
As I considered my own questions in the days that followed, a member of my church admitted to me, “Well, if Jesus’ bones are in the box, we have to close down this congregation.” This believer grasped the implications of the claims made by Cameron and his team.
If Jesus had an ossuary, it would contradict the major tenet of the New Testament faith: that Jesus was resurrected and ascended to heaven. “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (I Corinthians 15:3-4). “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (I Peter 1:3).
The New Testament is built on the veracity of the resurrection of Yeshua. It is neither an option nor a hypothesis; it is the bedrock of our beliefs. In answer to my own questions, if Jesus has not been raised from the dead, my life and faith are in ruins!
Unfortunately, many spirit-filled and active believers have chosen to ignore the documentary, feeling they do not want to increase the ratings of the show or to lend credibility to the program. However, this attitude robs us of an opportunity to share the reliability of our faith with others. Since the show aired, I have encountered many secular individuals who watched the program and had serious questions about what it all means.
After prayerfully pondering the Discovery Channel documentary, I wrote this brief booklet “Burying the Jesus Family Tomb Controversy” to equip my fellow Christians and interested seekers with a response to Cameron’s fictitious documentary . This booklet addresses the fallacy of Cameron’s documentary — and others like it — that dispute the life, death, and resurrection of Yeshua, our Lord Jesus the Messiah. I trust that my words will strengthen your faith, and give you the confidence to talk to any who may have questions about this controversial documentary.
I want to give you a copy of this booklet – for free. All I ask is that you become a subscriber to the ScriptureSolutions blog and I will send you the booklet. For the first fifty people who sign up as subscribers to ScriptureSolutions, the booklet is yours. No strings attached. ScriptureSolutions is not a non-profit organization so I can’t even accept a donation even if you wanted to offer one. I’d rather you give the gift to your congregation.
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Rich Stearns, president of Christian relief organization World Vision had spent a memorable meal with Palestinian Christians and 30 American pastors and church leaders in a cave west of Bethlehem. After the half mile hike to reach his destination at the top of a hillside, he was greeted by a sign that read, “We refuse to be enemies.”
The West Bank section of land where this Christian gathering took place is a mere 100 acres. However, its Palestinian residents, the Nassars have turned their property into an touch point for demonstrating to evangelical American Christians how unfairly Palestinian Christians are being treated by Israelis.
The Nassars claim they have owned the land since 1916, and according to international law, the territory does not belong to Israel, but to the Nassar family. Currently, according to World Vision President Stearns, the parcel of land is surrounded by 50,000 Israeli settlers, “living on similar land confiscated from other Palestinian families.”
Today’s blog is a reposting of an article I wrote in 2008 regarding the alleged ossuary of Jesus as purported by famous director/producer James Cameron (Terminator, Avatar and Titanic). Since the bone box of James, the brother of Jesus as not been proven to be a fake by the Israeli Antiquities Authority, it is of no surprise that the creators of the Lost Tomb of Jesus Discovery Channel documentary would attempt to bring back the Jesus Family Tomb controversy. Here is a reposting of my blog composed four years ago.
In Spring ’07 the Discovery Channel aired a TV documentary, The Lost Tomb of Jesus, made by Hollywood director James Cameron and Canadian investigative journalist Simcha Jacobovici.
According to an article in Time magazine, the documentary “re-examines an archaeological find from 1980 in which a crypt [the Talpiot tomb] was found containing what were said to be the ossuaries of Joseph, Mary, Jesus, the son of Joseph, Mariamne (possibly Mary Magdalene, say the film-makers) and Judah, son of Jesus.”
The controversy of whether or not the Talpiot tomb once contained the remains of Jesus and His family stayed on the media circuit for a few months in Spring ’07 prior to the airing of the documentary and for a few weeks afterwards. Soon after several TV appearances by the filmmakers and a flurry of Christian articles refuting the claims of The Lost Tomb of Jesus, the controversy fizzled.
In 2008 according to Time magazine the controversy was opened once again. “Still, even after the furor over the film faded, the questions it raised about the tomb unearthed in 1980 continued to make waves among archaeologists and Biblical scholars,” says the Time magazine piece.
Little did I know that when I wrote a 30 page booklet entitled Burying the Jesus Family Tomb Controversy that The Lost Tomb of Jesus would make a re-appearance. At the time I composed the booklet, I felt the issues raised by Cameron and Jacobovici were so important that the errors and false conclusions made in the documentary had to be addressed. In fact, the Time magazine article admits the “debate over Jesus’ supposed tomb will probably rage for years to come.” (more…)
Mar 19, 2012
Posted by Scripture Solutions on Mar 19, 2012 | Comments Off on The Burial Box of Jesus’ Brother James – Fact or Fake?
After seven years of trial, testimonies from a lineup of archaeological experts and a 475 page verdict, presiding Judge Aharon Farkash of the Jerusalem District Court court not reach a decision supporting the fact the ossuary [a limestone burial box] of James, brother of Jesus, was a forgery. As a result the Jerusalem judge could not charge Israeli collector Oded Golan, the owner of the bones box of James, with forgery regarding the ossuary.
A Huffpost Religion article summed up the seven year controversy and what the final verdict implies:
Golan said the ruling put an end to what he portrayed as a 10-year smear campaign against him. Hershel Shanks, editor of the Washington-based Biblical Archaeology Review, said he was delighted, insisting the burial box, or ossuary, is authentic and a “prized artifact to the world of Christianity.”
The Israel Antiquities Authority, which believes Golan’s most high-profile items are forged, said the case shows the limits of science in proving forgeries, but it also prompted museums and universities around the world to be more suspicious of finds of uncertain origin.
In light of the ruling students of the Bible are left with the conclusion the ossuary may be authentic after all and that science could not debunk the veracity of the claim that the box once housed the bones of James, the brother of Jesus of Nazareth.