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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Did Jesus Have a "Better Half"?

"A newly revealed, centuries-old papyrus fragment suggests that some early Christians might have believed Jesus was married. The fragment, written in Coptic, a language used by Egyptian Christians, says in part, 'Jesus said to them, 'My wife ...."

(Eric Marrapodi, "Newly Revealed Coptic Fragment Has Jesus
Making Reference to 'My Wife,'"  CNN, September 18 2012)

First of all, let me make it very clear that this "find" does not prove anything at all. Harvard Divinity School Professor Karen King says this discovered text "does not provide evidence that the historical Jesus was married."

"This fragment, this new piece of papyrus evidence, does not prove that (Jesus) was married, nor does it prove that he was not married. The earliest reliable historical tradition is completely silent on that. So we're in the same position we were before it was found. We don't know if he was married or not," King said in a conference call with reporters.

"What I'm really quick to say is to cut off people who would say this is proof that Jesus was married because historically speaking, it's much too late to constitute historical evidence," she continued. "I'm not saying he was, I'm not saying he wasn't. I'm saying this doesn't help us with that question," she continued.

King's analysis of the fragment will appear in the January edition of Harvard Theological Review.

The first dating for the fragment by a team of scholars puts the piece coming out of the middle of the second century.

The owner of the fragment has been identified by King as a private collector who has asked to stay anonymous. The owner brought the fragment to Harvard have King examine it in December 2011.

I must confess I find comfort in thinking that Jesus may have been married. Since I do not consider it heresy to open my mind to evidence about His life outside of the accepted Biblical gospels, I believe such finds are fascinating to consider whether they are factual or not.

Thinking about the possibility that Jesus was a married man allows me rich, new ground for considering the more human aspects of Christ during His brief stay on earth. How much new information could be pertinent to understanding aspects of Christianity? I believe it is very possible that some revealing accounts exist as yet undiscovered.

After all, a blank space in the record of Jesus' life covers eighteen years (from age 12 to 30). Other than the generic allusion that Jesus advanced in wisdom, stature, and in favor with God and man (Luke 2:52), the Bible gives nothing more about Jesus' life during this time span. A common assumption among Christians is that Jesus simply lived in Nazareth during that period, but there are various accounts that present other less popularly accepted scenarios, including travels to India.

This baffling gap (some call "The Missing Years") spans the period that stretches from his preaching in a temple as a young boy, right up to the point at which, as a grown man, he first met John the Baptist.

Doesn't it make you wonder how so many years from the life of the most influential person that ever lived went unchronicled? I have heard many speculations about the Missing Years, and, quite honestly, I find the theories very interesting. Some seem much less probable than others; however, mysteries cause speculation and imagination to run wild.

For example, L. Taylor Hansen wrote the book He Walked the Americas in 1963. In the book drawing from Native American legends, folklore and mythology discussed that a "White Prophet" had visited many different parts of America.

Mormons believe that the "White Prophet" was Jesus Christ. (Michael W. Hickenbotham, Answering Challenging Mormon Questions, 2004)

Some Mormon scholars believe that Quetzalcoatl, who they describe as a White, bearded God who came from the sky and promised to return, was actually Jesus Christ, in contrast with the Mesoamerican interpretation of their feathered serpent deity.

 Latter-day Saint President John Taylor wrote:

"The story of the life of the Mexican divinity, Quetzalcoatl, closely resembles that of the Savior; so closely, indeed, that we can come to no other conclusion than that Quetzalcoatl and Christ are the same being. But the history of the former has been handed down to us through an impure Lamanitish source. "

Some believe Jesus took a trip to England. In fact, Church of Scotland minister Dr Gordon Strachan makes the claim in a film entitled And Did Those Feet. The film examines the story of Jesus' supposed visit, which survives in the popular hymn "Jerusalem."

"And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England’s mountains green?
And was the Holy Lamb of God
On England’s pleasant pastures seen?
And did the countenance divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark satanic mills?

"Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire!
I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England’s green and pleasant land."

Dr Strachan believes it is "plausible" Jesus came to England for his studies, as it was the forefront of learning 2,000 years ago. "Coming this far wasn't in fact that far in the olden days," Dr Strachan told BBC Radio."The Romans came here at the same time and they found it quite easy." ("Jesus 'May Have Visited England', Says Scottish Academic," BBC News, November 26 2009)

"It is generally suggested that He came to the west of England with his grand-uncle, Joseph of Arimathea, who was here for tin," said the academic. Joseph of Arimathea was the man who donated his own prepared tomb for the burial of Jesus after the Crucifixion.

And, British Arthurian legend told of Jesus being in Britain during His Lost Years: In the late 12th century, Joseph of Arimathea became connected with the Arthurian cycle, appearing in them as the first keeper of the Holy Grail.

Legend contends that the Holy Grail was the vessel used by Christ at the Last Supper. Given to Joseph of Arimathea, it was used by him to collect Christ's blood and sweat while Joseph tended him on the cross. After Christ's death, Joseph was apparently imprisoned in a rock tomb in Jerusalem similar to the one he had given for the body of his grand-nephew. Left to starve there by the Romans, he was sustained for several years by the power of the Grail which provided him with fresh food and drink every morning.

This idea first appears in Robert de Boron's Joseph d'Arimathie, in which Joseph receives the Grail from an apparition of Jesus and sends it with his followers to Britain. Some versions of the story have him bringing phials of Christ’s blood instead to Glastonbury. This theme is elaborated upon in Boron's sequels and in subsequent Arthurian works penned by others.

A married Jesus? Remember the stir over the Da Vinci Code?

Basic to the story line is the claim that Jesus Christ was married to Mary Magdalene and that many in the church knew (as did people like Leonardo Da Vinci later on in history).

Darrell L. Bock, PhD., research professor of New Testament studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, says:

"The evidence for this claim comes from two extra biblical gospels, the Gospel of Mary Magdalene 17:10–18:21 and The Gospel of Philip 63:33-36. Both contain remarks that Jesus had a special relationship to Mary or that he loved her more than any of the twelve disciples. One text uses the term “companion” to describe her. In addition, there is an appeal in the Phillip text where Jesus is said to kiss Mary on the lips. So the inference is that if he kissed her in public he must have been her husband."

Bock continues:

"Now the facts are these. First, almost all scholars question whether these extra biblical gospels contain anything of value in terms of the historical Jesus. However, even if they did, the texts noted do not actually affirm that Jesus was married. In fact, the famous kiss on the lips text actually has a blank in the original manuscript right at the point where it describes where Mary was kissed. So it could be the lips or the cheek, which would simply refer to a kiss of fellowship. The term companion is debated as to its force. Most interpret the term as pointing to a spiritual relationship Jesus had with Mary because of the mystic character of the gospel in which it appears. So it does not allude to actual marriage at all, but to a fellowship that Jesus and Mary shared as believers."

(Darrell L. Bock, "Christian Analysis of Da Vinci Code: What Dan Brown Did Not Tell You - Three Major Errors Plus a Few More," 2009)

To me, the 21st century debate over a married Jesus will not harm a person's views about Christianity. Even if the so-called proofs are nothing but fiction, they stimulate investigation and discovery. For me, a living history adds interest to any subject. I can envision ideas "outside the box" much easier when I am stimulated with novel content. I believe Jesus was love incarnate. I trust the true objects of His limitless affections were all divine creations worthy of His favor.

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