Did Jesus have a wife?

I have been exploring the creation and fall of man and Lucifer in this series of posts. I plan to continue but some recent headlines in newsites around the world are beckoning a side post. A professor at Harvard University has announced the discovery of a business card-sized papyrus fragment dating from the 4th Century (300’s AD). The fragment (in Coptic) contains the phrase ”Jesus said to them, ‘my wife’”. Here is a smattering of headlines about this:

“An ancient scrap of papyrus makes explicit reference to Jesus having a wife, according to a renowned expert in Christian history.” BBC

“Papyrus fragment quoting ‘wife’ of Jesus raises questions for Christianity” – The Australian

“Was Jesus married? Papyrus fragment fuels debate” – Jerusalem Post

So what are we to make of this? Is this neo-narrative of Jesus really up for consideration? Well, let’s look first at the proximity of this ‘witness’ to Jesus life. The headlines and articles tell us it is ‘ancient’ and it is at that, but is it close to the time of Jesus? The articles themselves report the date of the fragment as 4th century, putting it about 300 years after the death of Jesus. Could such a document even be close to being a ‘primary source’? Well, just two hundred years ago, the war of 1812 raged between Canada and the US. I live  in Canada and if I claimed by my own authority to have a revision of events that transpired back then and have the ‘real story’ that has been kept hidden these two hundred years by our governments bent on keeping us in the dark – would you believe me? Of course not! How could I, two hundred years after the fact have any credibility as a source to set the record straight about what happened back then? It is so ludicrous an idea that it is beyond even contemplating. So how can a source, 300 years after the fact, be headlined in websites and Harvard professors as setting the real record – hidden all these years – straight? The websites continually refer to ‘church doctrine’ as standing in dogmatic opposition to this idea (that Jesus was married). For example the BBC article states

“Christian tradition holds that Jesus did not marry – but Prof King said in early years it was subject to debate. The provocative find could spark debate over celibacy and the role of women within Christianity, she added. But the announcement sparked scepticism from some theologians. “

The Jerusalem Post article opines that

Despite the Catholic Church’s insistence that Jesus was not married, the idea resurfaces on a regular basis, notably with the 2003 publication of Dan Brown’s best-seller “The Da Vinci Code,” which angered many Christians because it was based on the idea that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and had children.

King (the Harvard Prof announcing the discovery) said the fragment, unveiled at the Tenth International Congress of Coptic Studies, provided the first evidence that some early Christians believed Jesus had been married.

AsiaOne informs us that

Contacted by AFP, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi refused to call into question King’s competence as a historian but said that “we do not really know where this little scrap of parchment came from.”

“This does not change anything in the position of the Church which rests on an enormous tradition, which is very clear and unanimous” that Jesus Christ was not married, he said.

“This changes nothing in the portrayal of Christ and the gospels. This is not an event that has any influence on Catholic doctrine,” he said.

So is this a case of ‘narrow-minded’ churchmen blindly clinging to ‘tradition and doctrine’ in the face of contrary evidence? That is the impression one gets from these statements. But in point of fact ‘church doctrine’ has nothing to do with it. The gospels were written by three eyewitnesses and one investigative reporter (the Gospel of Luke) mere decades after the crucifixion of Jesus. And they are not found today on one business card fragment. I have a reference the size of an encyclopedia book that contains the transcripts of the many manuscripts of the New Testament that exist today that come before the Council of Nicaea (325 AD). That would put all these manuscripts earlier than mid-4th century. An encyclopedia-size of extant manuscripts written by primary source eyewitnesses vs. one business card size anonymous sentence 300 years after the fact! Why is it even making any news, let alone world headlines?

Gospel of Judas

But this is just the latest twist in a bizarre drama that is sweeping the world. It reminds me of the media attention paid a few years ago with the Gospel of Judas. The BBC opening sentence (bolded) was

Judas Iscariot’s reputation as one of the most notorious villains in history has been thrown into doubt with the translation of an ancient text.

But did the Gospel of Judas have any historical credibility? Further in their article the BBC informed us it also was a ‘4th century manuscript’ so we know that it was also 300 years removed from the events of Jesus. So it was not, for example, written by the ‘real’ Judas as his version of historical events. And there is only one extant Gospel of Judas manuscript, against the many manuscripts that claim primary eye-witness source testimony. Yet the BBC article would have us believe that it ‘throws into doubt’ what really happened. And it leaves you with the impression that it is more ‘progressive’ and ‘educated’ to have this doubt whereas it is ‘doctrine’ and ‘tradition’ that keeps the ‘credulous’ within the oppressive shackles of ‘church orthodoxy’.

Da Vinci Code

Then there was the Da Vinci Code book and movie, which were based off “Holy Blood, Holy Grail” – a self-proclaimed work of investigative journalism – that concluded that Jesus went off to France with Mary Magdalene and sired a ‘secret’ bloodline there. It is not necessary to examine all the claims of these books. Some are so easy to disprove that their lack of credibility should be as apparent as the sun rising before our eyes every morning. For example, the Da Vinci Code claimed that the Roman Emperor Constantine forced a vote of church Bishops to make Jesus ‘Divine’ as the Son of God. Really? So why does the Roman historian Pliny the Younger, writing to the pagan emperor of his day in 112 AD, – 200 years before Constantine – tell him this about the Christians?

“They also declare the sum total of their guilt or error amounted to no more than this: they had met regularly before dawn on a fixed day to chant verses alternately amongst themselves in honor of Christ as if to a god, and also to bind themselves by oath, not for any criminal purpose, but to abstain from theft, robbery and adultery …” Letters 10.6

The arch anti-Christian Lucian, writing satire against the gospel in 170 AD tells us that

The Christians you know worship a man to this day – the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account … it was impressed on them by their original lawgiver that they are all brothers … worship the crucified sage, and live after his laws.    The Death of Peregrine 11-13

Constantine in 325AD could not influence what happened two hundred years before his time, so the controversy of the divinity of Jesus definitely was not invented by him and thus one of the main ‘historical’ claims of this whole revisionary history is shown to be smoke and mirrors. Yet it was once again mentioned with a tone of plausibility in the Jerusalem Post article above as well as with this new 4th century Coptic reference to Jesus’ ‘wife’.

We live in an age when we claim that we are scientifically inclined – less prone to believe things unless compelling rational evidence is presented. I am not so sure. I meet many who tell me that the evidence to believe in Jesus is not compelling. Fair enough. But then I find many of these same folk embracing fantasies and beliefs that are far, far less substantiated than the Gospel. Why? Probably many factors are at play. Today many of us have not bothered to develop a baseline of historical understanding about the Bible so we are not in a position to have an informed perspective on the latest headlines that will greet us.

But at even a deeper level, perhaps ‘rational evidence’ is not our main metric in determining what we will believe.  Because behind our mind stands a more difficult beast to tame – our will.  Implicit in believing the Gospel Story is following it – and that is something we instinctively and desperately fight against. The Gospel Story demands our allegiance while these neo-narrative stories merely tickle our fancies – requiring no surrender to our deeply instinctive need for autonomy.  So deep down it is whether the story is preferable, rather than rational, that often drives our beliefs.   As the man famous for his wisdom, Solomon, wrote so long ago

“This only have I found: God made mankind upright, but men have gone in search of many schemes.” (Ecclesiastes 7:29)

Why did God create a Devil?

In my last post I looked at the account of the Fall of man.  The book of Genesis records Satan (which means ‘accuser’) in the guise of a serpent orchestrating this tragedy.  But this raises an important question:  Why would God create a ‘bad’ devil (which means ‘adversary’) to corrupt His good creation?

Lucifer – The Shining One

In fact the Bible records that God actually created a powerful, intelligent, and beautiful angelic being (the chief among all angels) called Lucifer (meaning ‘Shining One’) – and that he was very good.  But Lucifer also had a will with which he could freely choose.  A passage in Isaiah 14 records the choice before him.

How you have fallen from heaven,
morning star, son of the dawn!
You have been cast down to the earth,
you who once laid low the nations!
You said in your heart,
I will ascend to the heavens;
I will raise my throne
above the stars of God;
I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly,
on the utmost heights of the North.
I will ascend above the tops of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.” (Isaiah 14:12-14)

Lucifer, like Adam, had a choice.  He could accept that God was God or he could choose to decide that he would be god unto himself.  His repeated “I wills” show that he chose to defy God and declared himself to be ‘Most High’.  A passage in Ezekiel gives a parallel account of the fall of Lucifer:

You were in Eden, the garden of God.
…  I ordained and anointed you
as the mighty angelic guardian.
You had access to the holy mountain of God
and walked among the stones of fire.
“You were blameless in all you did
from the day you were created
until the day evil was found in you.
… and you sinned.
So I banished you in disgrace
from the mountain of God.
I expelled you, O mighty guardian,
from your place among the stones of fire.
Your heart was filled with pride
because of all your beauty.
Your wisdom was corrupted
by your love of splendor.
So I threw you to the ground.  (Ezekiel 28:13-17)

Lucifer’s beauty, wisdom and might – all the good things created in him by God – led him to pride.  His pride led to his rebellion and fall, but he never lost (and thus still retains) any of his power and traits.  He is leading a cosmic revolt against his Creator to see who will be God.  His strategy was to enlist mankind to join him – by tempting them to succumb to the same choice that he made – to love themselves, become autonomous from God, and defy Him.  The heart of the test of Adam’s will was the same as Lucifer’s; it was just arrayed with a different garb.  They both chose to be ‘god’ to themselves.  This was (and is) the ultimate ‘god delusion’.

Satan – working through others

The passage in Isaiah is directed to the ‘King of Babylon’ and the Ezekiel passage is addressed to the ‘King of Tyre’.  But from the descriptions given, it is obvious that no human is addressed.  The “I wills” in Isaiah describe a being who was cast to the earth in punishment for wanting to place his throne above the stars of God.  The passage in Ezekiel addresses one who is an ‘angelic guardian’ who once moved in Eden and the ‘mountain of God’.  This tendency of Satan (or Lucifer) to position himself behind or through someone else is consistent.  In the Genesis fall he speaks through the serpent.  In Isaiah he rules through the King of Babylon, and in Ezekiel he possesses the King of Tyre.

Why did Lucifer revolt against God?

But why would Lucifer want to defy and usurp the rule of the One omniscient and omnipotent Creator?  An important aspect of being ‘smart’ is to know whether or not you can defeat a potential opponent.  Lucifer may have had (and still has) power, but even his limited creature-power would have been insufficient for a successful revolt against His Creator.  So why risk all and go for something he could not win?  I would think that a ‘smart’ angel would have recognized his limitations pitted against Omniscience & Omnipotence combined – and held back his revolt? So why didn’t he? This question puzzled me for many years.

What helped me was to realize that Lucifer could only come to the conclusion that God was His omnipotent Creator by faith – the same as for us.  Let me explain.  The Bible associates the origin of angels with the first week of creation.  We see this in Isaiah 14 above, but this is consistent through the Bible.  So for example a creation passage in Job tells us:

Then the LORD spoke to Job out of the storm. He said…
“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
Tell me, if you understand….
while the morning stars sang together
and all the angels shouted for joy? (Job 38:1-7)

Picture Lucifer being created and becoming conscious sometime in creation week, somewhere in the cosmos.  All he knows is that now he exists and is self-aware, and there is also another Being who claims to have created him and all the cosmos.  But how does Lucifer know that this claim is true?  Perhaps, this alleged creator popped into existence in the cosmos just before Lucifer had popped into existence.  And because this ‘creator’ arrived earlier on the scene, so to speak, he was (perhaps) more powerful and (perhaps) more knowledgeable than he was – but then again perhaps not.  Could it be that both he and the alleged creator had both popped into existence?  Lucifer could only accept God’s Word to him that He had created Him and that God himself was eternal and infinite.  And in his pride he chose to believe the fantasy that he had birthed in his own mind.

You might think it fanciful that Lucifer would believe that both he and God (and the other angels) just ‘popped’ into existence.  But this is the same basic idea behind the latest and greatest of modern cosmology.  There was a cosmic fluctuation of nothing – and then out of this fluctuation arose the universe – that is the essence of modern atheistic cosmological speculations.  Fundamentally, everyone – from Lucifer to Richard Dawkins & Stephen Hawkings to you & I – must decide by faith whether the universe is self-contained or was brought forth and is sustained by a Creator.

In other words, seeing is not believing.  Lucifer would have seen and conversed with God.  But he still would have had to accept ‘by faith’ that God had created him.  Many people tell me that if God would just ‘appear’ to them then they would believe.  But through the Bible, many people saw and heard God – that was never the issue.  But the crux of the issue was whether they would accept and trust His Word about Himself and themselves.  From Adam & Eve, to Cain & Abel, to Noah, to the Egyptians at the first Passover, to the Israelite crossing of the Red Sea all the way to those who saw the miracles of Jesus – ‘seeing’ never resulted in trust.  The fall of Lucifer is consistent with this.

What is the Devil doing today?

So God did not make a ‘bad devil’, but created a powerful and intelligent angelic being who through his pride has led a revolt against God – and in so doing was corrupted (while still retaining) his original splendor. You, I, and all of mankind have become part of the battleground in this contest between God and his ‘adversary’ (devil). The strategy on the part of the devil is not to go about in sinister black cloaks like the ‘Black Riders’ in the Lord of the Rings and put evil curses on us, but with his retained splendor he simply seeks to deceive us from the redemption that God has signaled at the beginning of time, through Abraham, through Moses, and then accomplished in the death and resurrection of Jesus. As the Bible says:

Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. (2 Corinthians 11:14-15)

Because Satan and his servants can masquerade as ‘light’ we are more easily tricked. This is why understanding the Gospel for ourselves is so vitally important.

What about Human Evolution?

[See my related post on whether there was a real Adam or not here and a Noah or not here (and that controversial flood here)]

Recently I had the opportunity to present a scientific critique of human evolution in a university human evolution anthropology class. I recorded the presentation and Q&A which followed and then spliced it into the three videos below. My overall conclusion, referencing in part the textbook and scientific journals, is that the human evolution story is just that – a story – which says more about our society and culture than anything derived from hominin fossil data.

In the first video I discuss how it is our worldview which moves us to interpret data in a certain way, rather than the data forming our worldview. I cite from the textbook used in the course to provide some examples of this. I then look at how the fossil hominin data is to all practical extent removed from investigators. I introduce the Catalogue of Fossil Hominids – a catalogue of discovered fossil hominids up to mid-1970’s – and contend that the fossil data is actually much better than we are usually led to believe – it just does not follow the standard evolutionary story so we do not know about it.

 

 

In the second video (a continuation of the same presentation in class). I systematically go through the most ancient hominin candidates that are typically proposed as the first human ancestors that diverged from apes 5-8 million years ago. I analyze Ardipithecus, tchadensis, Tuang skull (an australopithecine), australopithecus afarensis (ie Lucy), australopithecus africanus, Laetoli footprints and homo habilis and argue that all of these do not readily fit within the standard evolutionary story. I look at fossil hominid KP271 which we usually do not hear about since it does not follow the standard story.

 

 

In the third video I examine the standard homo specimens: homo erectus, archaic homo sapiens (ie Heidelbergensis) and Neanderthals. I look at 2010 Neanderthal nuclear DNA sequencing data results which show Neanderthals interbred with modern homo sapiens and that therefore all these homo species can be seen as varieties of homo sapiens – this is one conclusion supported in the textbook. Funny thing, the BBC reported the same thing just after.  The video then follows the Q&A time where the class interacted on the material I presented.