Dr. Karen L. King, a professor at Harvard Divinity School, has released what she claims may be a 4th century papyrus that depicts Jesus as being. Here’s how the “discovery” is being reported:
“A small fragment of faded papyrus contains a suggestion that Jesus may have been married.
“The fragment, with just eight lines of text on the front and six lines on the back, is from a fourth-century dialogue, written in the Coptic language, between Jesus and his disciples. In it, Jesus speaks of ‘my wife,’ according to Harvard professor Karen L. King, who discovered the fragment.
“‘The most exciting line in the whole fragment . . . is the sentence ‘Jesus said to them [his disciples], my wife.’”
Anyone familiar with the history of Christian doctrine knows that the church has always taught that Jesus never married. While Jesus holds up the sanctity of marriage (Matt. 19:1–12), it was not His designed purpose to marry.
To claim that Jesus was married in the usual sense of what constitutes marriage is an affront to everything Jesus is and what the Bible and the Christian church has taught for 2000 years. Many would call the “Jesus was married” claim blasphemy, and if not that, heresy. Will Christians storm the halls of academia and demand the blood of this Harvard professor who dares to publish such rubbish?
Of course they won’t.
Christians will evaluate the papyrus and come up with a reasoned response. A similar thing was done when there were claims that Jesus’ burial box (ossuary) was found implying that Jesus did not rise from the dead on third day “according to the Scriptures.” Such an assertion went to the heart of the Christian faith. The apostle Paul wrote:
“Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied” (1 Cor. 15:12-20).
To deny the resurrection, is to deny the Christian faith. The claim that Jesus was never crucified and never rose from the dead is a slam at the core of the Christian faith.
There were no riots. No one was killed. Instead, some very good scholars studied the issue and evaluated the evidence. The same is true when The Da Vinci Code was published and a film based on the book hit the theaters that claimed Jesus was married and had children.
How would Muslims have handled these attacks on their faith?
So what’s the answer to the 4th-century papyrus that claims Jesus was married?
First, the fact that it’s a 4th-century document, written 300 years after an abundance of first-century testimony to the contrary is a huge problem for the veracity of the papyrus’ claim. The gospels and epistles are first-century, eye-witness historical accounts (1 John 1:1–4). All the New Testament books were written prior to the destruction of Jerusalem that took place in AD 70. See John A.T. Robinson’s book Redating the New Testament for a defense of this position.
To reject first-century, eye-witness testimony would be like someone in 1920 claiming they had a better understanding of the Pilgrim landing in Provincetown, Massachusetts, and the settlement in Plymouth than William Bradford’s eyewitness account written by his own hand in Of Plymouth Plantation.
Second, the papyrus is a fragment. A fragment of what? Who was the author? We don’t know. King’s site on the papyrus states: “This remaining piece is too small to tell us anything definite about who may have composed, read, or circulated it.”
Third, there were many documents that were written centuries after Jesus lived that had views of Jesus that deliberately portrayed Him in a way that suited Gnostic beliefs. It’s not much different from the way Marxists and Socialists try to portray Jesus as a Marxist and Socialist.
Fourth, a number of scholars consider the fragment to be a forgery. The antiquities market is filled with them. The papyrus lacks a history of discovery. “Some archaeologists were quick to question Harvard’s ethics, noting that the fragment has no known provenance, or history of where it’s been, and that its current owner may have a financial interest in the publicity being generated about it.”
Try to pass off a signature of Honus Wagner, Shoeless Joe Jackson, or Babe Ruth with no provenance, and these guys lived less than 100 years ago. The owners of most pawn shops, like the one depicted in the History Channel’s “Pawn Stars,” have more integrity than professors at Harvard Divinity School.