The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife and Sacred History from Judaism to Islam

The Harvard Magazine gives a full account of the deciphering by Professor Karen L. King of a fragmentary Coptic fragment on papyrus from the otherwise lost “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife.” It was likely translated into Coptic in upper Egypt from a Greek text of the mid-second century, and is part of a corpus of Gnostic writings that survive in Coptic, the ancient language of the Christians of Egypt (which is written in an alphabet, but descends from the ancient Pharaonic language written in hieroglyphics).

All the fragment proves is that Christians a little over a century after the death of Jesus of Nazareth were arguing about whether he had been married. Texts just as old as this newly-surfaced fragment assert that he was celibate. The letters of Paul, the earliest texts about Jesus, and the canonical Gospels, are silent about whether he was married.

[pdf] Professor King, Hollis Professor of Divinity at Harvard, has posted her paper, presented in Rome at the Association for Coptic Studies conference, on the web.

I don’t agree with those who say that the discovery is unimportant because it is inconclusive. Admittedly, the text is late, and the Gnostic corpus in Coptic makes a lot of unlikely assertions, so it doesn’t prove anything. But the very fact that such an early Christian community believed that Jesus was married is significant. It means that there was an oral tradition to that effect, which may have gone back to the historical Jesus. It means that the second generation of Christians found the assertion entirely plausible.

Jews of Jesus’ time were typically ever-married if they weren’t members of ascetic sectarian groups. So one would expect him to have married. Moreover, the narratives about him were formed in the context of Jewish sacred history.

The mythical figure Adam, of course, was said to married (otherwise the myth couldn’t have accounted for our existence). Adam’s married state is actually relevant, since some early Christians saw Jesus as a second Adam, so that it would be natural for the sake of parallelism to hold that he had had an Eve.

Abraham famously had three wives.

Moses was not only married, but his non-Jewish wife, Zipporah, saved him from being attacked by God by abruptly circumcising their son. The idea of the Messiah as a ‘second Moses’ also shows up in early Christianity, and, again, it could have been part of this belief that Jesus had his own Zipporah. (The “Gospel of the Wife of Jesus” seems to envisage her becoming his disciple and so spiritual helper).

David had at the very least seven wives. Many of his unions were for the purpose of binding the clan of his wife to him politically. Jesus is alleged to the descendant of David through one of these marriages.

Given his antecedents in Judaic sacred narrative, it actually would be strange if Jesus had not been married or believed to be so.

It could be argued that the strain of early Christianity that argued for Jesus’ celibacy ended up being privileged by the Roman Catholic church when it began demanding celibacy of its priests. The idea of Jesus as married will be hardest on the Roman Catholic branch of Christianity, if it comes to be taken seriously.

This discussion reinforces the ways in which the Prophet Muhammad can be seen as not very different from his predecessors in Judaism and Christianity (the Qur’an sees him as in the same line of prophets). Like David, he became the ruler of a city-state, and conducted many marriages for essentially political purposes, ensuring the loyalty to him of his new in-laws. There is a theme in anti-Muslim polemics that depicts the Prophet Muhammad as lascivious because of his marriages. But it is hard to see how he differs from Abraham and David in that regard. As for the allegation that Muhammad married A’isha as a child, the marriage age for girls in the Talmud is 12, and if Jesus was married he could well have married a girl of that age. (The biblical king Ahaz married at 10, if one takes the 2 Kings seriously.) Projecting back our late marriage ages of today (and in some states early marriage was allowed until fairly recently) and accusing ancient figures of being pedophiles is just a narrow-minded anachronism.

Looking at the Prophet Muhammad in the context of Jewish and Christian sacred history allows him to be seen as very much like the biblical figures. Jewish and Christian polemicists who attack him for being much-married or marrying A’isha are being hypocritical.

As for the Gnostic tradition of Christianity, it is interesting that it should preserve the assertion that Jesus was married. Many Gnostics were ascetics and abhorred the things of the flesh and so would presumably have preferred a celibate Jesus. (Incidentally, the Prophet Muhammad clearly encountered Christianity in its Gnostic form, since the Qur’an upbraids Christians for asserting that Jesus and Mary did not eat food — i.e. that they were altogether above the things of the flesh.) Although the Qur’an talks of God having given the prophets wives, it does not say anything about Jesus being married one way or another. A later Muslim folk tradition about Jesus as a wandering ascetic probably assumed that he was celibate, and it may actually have been influential on medieval Christians).

Jesus as married opens many lines of theological inquiry, not least with regard to the spirituality of relations between husband and wife. I’ve known committed Christians who were guilty about sex even inside the bounds of marriage, but never known any Muslims like that, and have long thought Muslim attitudes to married life on the whole healthier than in a lot of Christianity, because the spiritual exemplar, Muhammad, was married. Maybe Christians can now start learning something from Muslims in this regard. And those who thought Jesus’ celibacy made him more spiritual than Muhammad may have to rethink.

Posted in Uncategorized | 38 Responses | Print |

38 Responses

  1. Dear Professor Cole

    Wouldn’t the concept of a wife also imply children?

    These are a no show except in the novels of people like Dan Brown. (note I only read one once to see how bad it was!)

    • Well, Abraham initially couldn’t have a child with Sarah. In ancient times infertility and high infant mortality meant that a lot of married people didn’t have children, or children who survived them. The Prophet Muhammad’s only son died in childhood.

  2. Long ago, I learned that it was the groom’s responsibility to arrange for the wine for the marriage back in those days thereabouts. The “arrangement” (“kiddush”) included the groom bringing a skin of wine with which the deal was sealed. Note that the Nazarene attends one wedding (only one in the whole bunch of books?) at Cana, at which he changes water to wine. (John 2:1-11) Now, of all those at the wedding, WHY would it be the Nazarene’s obligation to provide the libation UNLESS it was his wedding? His mother (one of the Marys) was in charge of the arrangements as well; WHY if not for some personal stake in the wedding?
    All this stuff about the Nazarene not being married smacks of modern-day idol worship that makes a single male “star” more alluring if he remains available (for some young bobby-soxer’s romantic dreams). To reveal and to remove all doubt that the Nazarene was a taken man does what to the religion? Make Southern France the next very holy site? Explaining the aversion to Cathars in a different light?
    Interesting that more modern societies have for two thousand years puzzled over such questions while not being able to “get” the basic tenets of the “religion.” We have to wonder about any religion that increases in popularity given Matthew 9:12-13, “But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.””

  3. It is unlikely that there ever was a King David. The totality of archiological evidence for the existence of King David is one stone tablet dating from, I believe about the 8th century BCE, with the word ‘David’ on it, which some scholars believe is a forgery. There is not a shred of archaeological evidence of a United Kingdom or a great city of Jerusalem dating form the early 1st mellinium BCE, the time of the supposed reign of David and Solomon.Rather, Jerusalem appears to have been an abandoned village at theat time surrounded by a small agrarian population.

    • I don’t believe any scholar still believes the Tel Dan Stele is a forgery. As for the existence of a United Kingdom, it’s a controversial issue in scholarship and many experts would strongly disagree with the comment that there “is not a shred of archeological evidence” for its existence. This is a view somewhat popularized by Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman’s bestselling book. An expert rebuttal worth reading are two essay available on-line by Amihai Mazar entitled “The Search for David and Solomon: An Archeological Perspective” and “The Divided Monarchy: Comments on Some Archeological Issues.”

    • There is not good attestation to David himself. But there are a few inscriptions that refer to the House of David which certainly strongly implies that there was someone who founded the house.
      link to
      Of course, you are right that we cannot extrapolate from that the existence of a unified kingdom or the kind of near empire that is described in the Bible. I would image that that, at the least, is rather exaggerated.

  4. Accepting the possibility of a married Jesus would undercut the misogyny that Christian fundamentalists appear to embrace.

    Incomparable damage has been done through the apparently logical progression from “celibacy is best” to “women encourage sinfulness” to “women represent evil and temptation” and ultimately “the evil sexuality of women must be controlled and contained”. It has led to cutting off half of humanity from full participation in society, and discounting its insights and point of view.

    These days, nothing says “third world” like discrimination against women. Unfortunately, many in the US still long for that dystopic past.

  5. Oh, please. I grew up being told that Jesus married Mary M.
    And I never read “The Da Vinci Code.”

  6. Thank you Professor Cole for bringing this to our attention.

    You are thank God so helpful.

    Sorry for the long post, but I hope you will find this post with useful information.

    According to the Bible in First Kings 11:1-3 indicates that King Solomon had 700 hundred wives and 300 hundred concubines….although he is described in the Bible to be righteous at least before later period of his life.

    The theme in Anti-Islam polemics of attributing Prophet Muhammad with lasciviousness does not hold up with any thoughtful consideration.

    This theme is unfortunate for it prevents many from learning about the Prophet.

    The natural impulse to have relations with the opposite gender occurs early in life…after puberty rather than after 50 yrs of age.

    Islam considers this impulse to be healthy and natural as long as the relationship is made under God in the institution of marriage.

    Psychologists will point out that virtually all character traits and especially any possible lasciviousness will show up early in life like in the late teens or early twenties.

    I don’t know of any person who suddenly developed new character traits in their early 50’s (when the Prophet first had more than 1 wife).

    The Prophet’s first marriage was later than the age I assume most men at his time would marry. He married at 25 and he married someone aged 40 which is again is a trait inconsistent with the type of allegation thrown at the Prophet. Age 40 is substantial back then when people would age faster in terms of their appearance.

    Those who try to do character assassination on the Prophet conveniently leave out that he stayed monogamous for the 10 yrs or so until his wife Khadija died.

    And then after his really favorite wife, Khadija (as) died, then the Prophet (s) did not marry for I think around two years….and therefore was abstinent for a substantial time.

    Since he was a Prophet with hundreds of followers in Makkah, he probably could have had multiple wives early on but he only entered into multiple marriages (mostly with widows) in Madina to forge ties with different tribes and thus helped in many ways…bringing peace and kinship with other tribes…etc.

    Another very key thing is that the Prophet lived very humbly in some very small mud dwelling from my understanding for reach wife.

    The Prophet could have arranged better housing…and if he was into womanizing, he would try to make the homes as attractive as possible (instead of the small number of dates and little food they had every day since he gave everything to the poor)….

    It is hard to be in ideal mood for conjugal relations when the husband and wife are going to sleep hungry…..sorry for being so descriptive….but I wanted to convey my thoughts….

    The Qur’an also shows in Chapter 33 that the wives were displeased with their living conditions…but God tells the Prophet to not compromise…and to be ready to let go of his wives in a cordial way if they could not be patient with his mission to be an example to the community.”

    He certainly was able to live like a king if he wanted to for he was a leader of a city-state and had eventually become leader of much of the whole Arabian peninsula.

    The Qur’an even states within Chapter 33, verse 52…”Not lawful to you, [O Muhammad], are [any additional] women after [this], nor [is it] for you to exchange them for [other] wives,….”

    Again, if the Prophet was not really a prophet and if he wanted to be lascivious, why would he have such a verse inserted in the Qur’an?

    As far as the age of Aisha, this is not in the Qur’an which Muslims holds to be above doubt but according to one tradition collected into compilation hundreds of years after the Prophet. Even that tradition makes clear that Aisha’s menstrual cycles had begun before consummation of her marriage and back then, the start of cycles was considered the time when marriage was not only allowed by recommended since life expectancy was low…commonly leading to deaths early on before one can have a family.

    And as former nun and convert to Islam, and author of over 40 books on Islam, Ruqaiyyah Waris Maqsood says there are many other traditions that indicate the Aisha was between 14-19 years when her marriage was consummated.

    Please see was link to

    Thanks much!

    • Muhammad,
      You make some excellent points. I would especially like to emphasize your point that Quran, the ultimate source of faith for all muslims, is silent about the age of Aisha when she was married. The traditions that many muslims and detractors of Islam (with different motives of course–one can easily guess what these motives might be) were written more than 200 years after the death of prophet Muhammad. This is roughly 6 generations of *oral* (yes, oral) transmission.

      You didn’t make this point–and you may well disagree with me–but I would actually take a broader lesson from this and draw a clear boundary between the Quran (compiled within a few years after the death of the prophet and multiple witnesses verifying each verse), and the oral traditions, such as coming from Bukhari, which were documented by one person well after all methods of validity of these stories have expired.

      I am sure, most of the people are familiar with the game of Chinese whispers, except for this is not a game. Millions of people are modeling their lives based on many of these whispers, and kill and/or be killed believing these are divine whispers.

  7. Sorry to add but I noticed that the link does not go to the exact article but to her website as a whole.

    To find the exact article, one needs to go to

    main section-articles and then under the Prophet (pbuh) and his family section and the article itself is entitled

    “The Age of Aishah on her marriage to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)”

    Also, i accidently placed word adjacent to the link… it is

    link to

  8. I rather like the part I read in one history of the Old Testament (didn’t know they “expired” – I digress) which asserted that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, based on individual tribal myths, were later literally placed into a lineage to give the tribe out of the South of the Sinai more credibility.

    Or, as Jesus said (in the Gospel of Thomas), “Render unto God what is God’s, unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto yourself what is yours.” That actually make sense.

  9. It is unlikely that there ever was a King David.

    Sounds like you read the minimalists: Baruch Halpern’s “David’s Secret Demons” would beg to differ. And AFAIK the archeological evidence on Jerusalem does not contradict the idea it was set up as Israel’s capital in the 8th century; you may be thinking of Jericho?

  10. The fragmentary gospel is most likely a hoax according to a number of scholars who suspect the language is not authentically period. And if it is authentic and Gnostic it is more likely that the reference to a wife is a symbolic reference to ‘Sophia’ or some other gnostic abstraction. Our knowledge of the historical Jesus is extremely limited but the authentic letters of Paul, the synoptic Gospels and the few references in Josephus are all that we have. The Gospels of Mathew and Luke present a Jesus who is not only unmarried but who places an extraordinary value on celibacy. In Mathew 19: 3-11, Jesus contradicts the teaching of Moses allowing divorce and in response to the comment that it is better that men not marry at all he replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”

    As Prof. Cole state, this is culturally very off but not unprecedented. Jesus’s elder contemporary, Philo, wrote in the ‘Life of Moses’ of a tradition that Moses gave up sexual relations “to hold himself always in readiness to receive the oracular messages.” A similar tradition is recorded in rabbinic literature (Sifre on Number 12:1). In other words, celibacy made a person a better recipient for divine communication. For the earliest followers of Jesus to develop a culturally idiosyncratic tradition of celibacy strikes me as surprising. It’s possible, for all we know, but it strikes me as more likely that Jesus adhered to a minority Jewish tradition reflected in Philo and reflected in Mathew and Luke.

  11. Considering the age of consent was raised to 16 years of age only after 1895 legislatively in the U.S., Muhammad bashing for supposedly marrying a child as young as 9 back in the 6th Century seems out of line. People were different back then as they were here 100 years ago. Regarding Jesus having a wife is intriguing, but not new as whispered about in the Gospel of Mary.

  12. It’s not news that some Christians taught that Jesus was married, going back to the early days of the church.

    Thinking through the implications if he was married, the big question is why there wasn’t a fight over his legacy through his descendants or those claiming direct descent, as with Muhammed. Aside from Holy Blood, Holy Grail type conspiracy theories of relatively recent vintage and dubious historicity, you don’t see this much at all. So I would conclude that either he was not married, was married but had no children, or (and this is what my gut tells me) that he is not a historical figure but a literary character created by early Christians that were synthesizing a new religion from Jewish and surrounding pagan influences.

  13. Dr. Cole,

    Thank you for the very thought-provoking post. Thank you for emphasizing that we need to learn from one another and for highlighting that falsely sanctifying our own religious figures is really a way of avoiding this humbling educational process.

    Your post correctly implies that this 2nd cent document further confirms the existence of a historical ‘Jesus’, and also confirms that early communities considered the details of Jesus’ life to be of incredible significance.

    I’m curious if you are aware of the long-standing interpretation (restated by John Paul II among dozens of others) of ‘adam’ in Genesis 2 as pre-sexed humanity? This reading implies that the significance of ‘2nd adam’ was not maleness (and therefore marriagability) but some mysterious ability to ‘represent’ both male and female.

    You drew a very interesting connection between David and Muhammad, one that helped throw into relief the claim that early Christians made about ‘old testament saints’: they were not holy but rather unholy people called into a covenant in order to be ‘types’ for later covenant members. The ot saints’ lives were thus thought to display ‘covenant reality’ – including the feature that in covenant, marital/sexual relations were answerable to God and therefore under judgement. The claim would therefore be that Muhammad differed only in that he was not under this same covenant accountability and judgement.

    Much thanks for your work,

  14. Some people think that there was no historical Jesus at all; that the figure of Jesus was possibly a mish-mash of reports of various people, or made up by midrash on the Hebrew Bible, or made up from the many various murdered-and-resurrected savior/god figures from the ancient world, or some combination of these. For example,

    link to
    link to

    In this context, a web acquaintance of mine pointed out that if the present King of France can be bald, certainly Jesus can have a wife.

    • Bill, to clear-up an important point: current scholarly consensus is that there indeed was a historical figure named Jesus upon whose life all of these writings under discussion are based. This point is considered beyond argumentation among historians (Dawkins et al obviously don’t quality as ‘historians’ in any real sense). In fact, there is not one ‘historian’ whose work is respected in the academy today that is claiming otherwise. The ‘possibilities’ you mentioned are logical possibilities – but literally nobody doing serious work in this field considers them interesting according to the currently available historical data. Joining the current conversation means investigating who Jesus was according to the data, not whether he was. -Andrew

  15. I always thought the Roman Church didn’t care much about his celibacy as an aspect of his alleged divinity — they don’t believe that malarky either. What probably scared the hell out of them was the idea of sons and daughters of Jesus running around who could lay claim to the organization and its loot.

  16. more interesting than whether jesus was married is how, and this goes for muhammad too, these people became what we think of them today … why these mystics, and not others?

  17. Eastern Orthodoxy dates as far back as Roman Catholicism, or further if you understand the power of the Bishop of Rome did not become assumed by Rome as in any meaningful way superior until 500 at the earliest. And Orthodoxy has always had married priests, and the RC Church did not emphasize celibacy until circa 900. So not sure how that bolsters your history or not, as Orthodoxy has always assumed Christ’s celibacy as well.

  18. Podro, Robert Graves and Joshua. The Nazarene Gospel Restored. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1954. presents the married argument also.

  19. Apparently there is some doubt as to Ayesha’s age at marriage (and consummation of the marriage):

    link to

    Denise Spellberg is apparently the source of the suggestion that this hadith tradition (that Ayesha was six at marriage, and nine at consummation) was crafted to reinforce the belief that she had been a virgin, in order to bolster Sunni claims to the succession against Shi’i ones.

  20. One thing is sure- texts and traditions were edited to form an orthodoxy, and it certainly is surprising to dig around what we can actually get our hands on of non-canonical traditions and see the complex variety of thought, far more interesting than any Sunday school.
    Asceticism certainly was practiced voluntarily by some, or even promoted by sects. Check the Essenes, the Ebionites. James the Just was said to have been a lifelong virgin and vegetarian. Robert Eisenman, the Dead Sea scroll scholar of Cali State, Long Beach, reads that the Jewish Christians were a Palestinaian messianic sect that practiced Jewish law and were obsessed with purity and later were marginalized by the Hellenistic Paul.
    The ascetics chose their status within a context of a struggle with outside forces with alien practices, much like some of us could have a brother or sister who is a vegan in large part to protest aspects of global capitalism.
    So, James could have been ‘fully’ righteous, and his brother could have had a wife. But of course, asceticism could have been projected onto any particular figure, as a feature of hero-creation (or even vilification[?]). Eisenman is good at pointing out that we actually know loads about the historical figure of James, but almost nothing about his brother, other than through the edited canon.
    I think the temptation should be avoided however, and so frequently not, to make a specific history whatever you want it to be.
    Let’s just keep sifting the evidence, and keep our imaginations for speculation (even intuition) only, or pure story-telling when warranted.

  21. The fact that the earliest sources don’t mention a wife lends support to the idea of Jesus having been a bachelor.

  22. Ah yes, the traditional biblical marriage so important to the religious right wing nutjobs.
    A man, his seven hundred wives, his three hundred concubines and the free use of all his female slaves.

  23. I believe and have experienced that the central purpose of all spiritual practices is Love: helping humankind to live in peace by helping ourselves and all others that we directly or indirectly come in contact with to do our individual best towards perfection without causing any pain: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, sexual, psychological, etc.

    When possible, being present in the here and now without the past or future will often bring you peace and allow you to do your best towards perfection. I gave up engineering to become one of the best certified nurse aides in the San Francisco Bay Area since I learned how to work with my heart and be present. I have done what others are unable to do with patients and children.

    When you’re really present, perfection and experiencing miracles often follows. Perfection is not a goal but a result from opening your heart and repeatedly opening and trying to keep your heart open under all situations.

    Forgive yourself and others for all the pain that you and others have caused. Feel and think with your heart, not with your mind, bank account nor with fear of any kind such as being without food, help and support, a home and family, a job, some money, etc. Drop all you judgments of yourself and of all others and understand that you and others cause pain because of the lack of help and support(love) and/or because of any of the fears.

    Cole wrote in memoriam to Hal Davidon, Sep 2, 2012:
    “What the World Needs Now is Love Sweet Love“. It’s just not now, but the world “will always need” love as Kathleen commented. Governments are full of power and lack a lot of love. Love, altruism should be taught in schools and colleges. link to

    All government work, meetings should have 2 daily 3 minute breaks for remembering what real love is. Not the lust that is brainwashed into our young kids and teenagers by their parents, movies, TV, celebrities, the mass news media, etc. Lust is becoming a systemic disease in America.

    Please, Americans wake up. Quit setting poor examples to the world. Many politicians have no Love, just lust for power and money.

  24. Mark Goodacre hosts Frances Watson’s argument that the thing is a fake, a pastiche of GThomas and a couple of other documents.

    link to

    A number of scholars are saying it is a faked based on the writing and other factors.

    link to

    Lots of people have noted the tell-tale blotching on “my wife”

    Smithsonian has a pro article from the viewpoint of King:
    link to

    It’s a document from a private collection that has no historical context. And private collections are filled with fakes, many private collectors being merely marks for international criminal syndicates that specialize in this stuff. If you want to experience this yourself, just pick an antiquities category and start trying to collect it. The avalanche of fakes you’ll be greeted with is astounding. Everything that comes out of a private collection should be considered a probable fake until otherwise proven.

    The idea that it goes back to the second century has no foundation in evidence; it is merely a speculative assertion. Nothing shows that it is based on a second century text.

    Note also that no chemical or carbon testing has been done. Until the ink is tested we know nothing.

    ++Bill, to clear-up an important point: current scholarly consensus is that there indeed was a historical figure named Jesus upon whose life all of these writings under discussion are based. This point is considered beyond argumentation among historians (Dawkins et al obviously don’t quality as ‘historians’ in any real sense). In fact, there is not one ‘historian’ whose work is respected in the academy today that is claiming otherwise.

    To clear up an important point, for two centuries, anyone who claimed otherwise was booted from the academy, starting with Bauer — indeed, simply demurring from major orthodox positions was enough (Gerd Ludemann is a recent example). The position that Jesus never existed, certainly viable from any serious historical methodology (see the recent Keith book on the severe methodological problems within NT studies), has never been permitted to gain a foothold because the vast majority of people who have studied over the years have themselves been Christians. It’s quite specious to pretend that the view that Jesus exists is held by all scholars without noting the hegemonic domination of said view. Hence the circular claim “there is not scholar…” when in fact there are several but of course, their work is not “respected”. Robert Price, of course. Brodie also recently came out as a mythicist (Author of The Crucial Bridge, a key text for understanding the structure of GMark).

    Michael Turton

    • If Jesus didn’t exist, then why are the gospels so full of embarrassing details? If the gospel writers were making the story up from scratch, why would they have the hero suffer a humiliating death as a criminal? Why have him baptized by the disciple of John the Baptist (as if he had sins to be forgiven, and as if John were his superior)? Why have the text say that his family thought he was crazy?

  25. “””Joining the current conversation means investigating who Jesus was according to the data, not whether he was. -Andrew”””

    One of the little ironies of this comment is that not only does the data + methodology actually indicate that Jesus never existed (it’s methodology working on data that enables conclusions about Jesus existence, not data alone), but discussions of his marital state is one of the many signals that early Christians never thought of him as a person who had lived on the earth. In the first wave of texts, epistles and early gospels, Jesus’ marital state is never described as normative for Christians — it is never remarked on. The lack of a wife is the usual perception, but of course as a couple of exegetes have argued, silence may indicate that Jesus was a normal male of his day — married.

    Fundamentally, in the early texts there is no discussion of whether or not Jesus had a wife; Jesus’ own marital state is never normative for early Christians. That is a late second century debate when the Jesus stories were being reworked and fleshed out, the wing of believers who became the later Church struggled to define Jesus, as if they had no information about his life (strange, eh?). For example, in 1 Cor 7 Paul lays down some rules about marriage yet never draws on Jesus’ own marriage (or lack) to defend them or feels compelled to explain such a marriage (or lack) away. You’d think that Jesus’ own marital state would be his anchor, but no, the whole discussion is carried on as if Jesus was never a living being with a marital state (Earl Doherty has pointed out dozens of similar positive silences in the epistles — where the logic of an argument demands a response to a living Jesus, but no reference is ever made — See _Jesus, Neither God nor Man_) In the gospels the writers have Jesus lay down rules about marriage but again, he is never made to discuss his own marital state in relations to his pronunciamentos — even though he overturns Jewish law, no one calls him on it and no one in the alleged listening crowds ever challenges him on his own marital state. Why do you think that is?


Comments are closed.