We’ve pretty much heard it all. Jesus was from Africa, Jesus was black and then he was white. Jesus went to America, and then went to India. Jesus was gay, but then Jesus was straight. Then Jesus hated animals and then Jesus loved them. Humanity has consistently and persistently turned the real Jesus into a cartoon character that people keep drawing, erasing and re-drawing to fit their liking. Now an ancient piece of papyrus has led to hypotheses, debate and analysis about Jesus’ marital status.
In recent news, an ancient fragment, of 1.5 inches by 3 inches, piece of papyrus was presented by Karen L. King, a Harvard scholar, at an international conference of Coptic scholars in Rome held earlier this month. The ancient fragment was dated from the fourth century and is said to have eight and six lines on each side. Dr. Kingstates that the piece was found on the antiquarian market and not through a “dig.” For permission to publish the fragment, the owner, a private collector of antiques and ancient findings, wishes to remain anonymous. However, in Dr. King’s article about the papyrus posted on the Harvard Divinity School webpage, she states that the fragment was presented to her on Harvard grounds in December 2011 personally by the collector. With further testing and analyzing the genuineness of the piece, King finally presented it at the Coptic scholar conference. Nothing further is known about the circumstances of its discovery. Despite lack of familiarity of its origin, many have become interested by the words on this ancient fragment. One of the more controversial lines in the piece, “then Jesus said to them, my wife,” has caught the eye of the world and how they perceive the Son of God. Dr. King states that in the rest of the piece, Jesus was in dialogue with his disciples about Mary and whether or not she is worthy. In turn, Jesus replied, “she can be my disciple.”
In Dr. King’s article about the fragment posted earlier this year, she stated that she does not imply that Jesus had a wife or was married but rather that she now questions the marital status of Jesus. A week after Dr. King presented the fragment, Francis Watson, a scholar at Durham University in England, disagreed, stating that the text was a fake and pieced together from the Gospel of Thomas. A week after that, the Vatican stated in the New York Times that it is indeed a “clumsy forgery.”
Christina Mals, a junior political science major at LIU Post, wonders why people are so quick to believe the media and so fast to judge by their own instincts. She says, “People will believe what they want to believe, but faith comes from God.” Junior Bo Bankewitz, a nursing major, questioned its validity, stating“if it was real and important, it would be in our bibles. Why wait 2,000 years to bring something like this up?” He said he doesn’t need a piece of old papyrus to believe something about Christ, and that his Christian faith is what he needs to believe, for by faith is how we believe and not by sight. Jack Salti, a University of Damascus 1982 Alumni and educated gospel researcher, says, “If Jesus was married, one of the four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke or John would have mentioned it in their writings.” He also says that this shouldn’t move a Christian if his or her faith is strong. Salti also said, “This fragment doesn’t change the reason or message that Christ brought to earth.”
Reading this news about an old fragment was weightless for me. I was asked by my peers about my thoughts of its authenticity. My honest response was simply that I don’t care. If some¬one took the time to read the Bible, he or she would find that it wouldn’t be odd for Christ to say “my wife.” God put His relation¬ship with Israel in simple terms for us to relate to, like marriage. In the Old Testament, God joined in a covenant with Israel, like a vow, much like in a wedding. In fathomable terms, Israel was like God’s wife. God was faithful, and kept to his part of the vow, however, Israel did not. She was unfaithful. With any other marriage, a divorce would take place in a situation like this, but God considered a new covenant, Jesus Christ. In the New Testament, Christ talks about His bride, who are the believers of Christ, who will be joined together at the Resurrection, joined to be “married.”
So what’s the big deal? Why is everyone running around trying to defend Christ and his marital status? Here’s a news flash, Christ doesn’t need our help trying to defend him. Whether or not this piece of papyrus is real or not, it doesn’t change what Christ did for the world. It doesn’t change who he is or what he is doing. It’s really the other way around; we are the ones who need Christ to come to our defense. The only thing I see this ancient papyrus doing is getting people to talk, if not think, about Christ, which isn’t a bad thing at all.