Archive of articles classified as' "Religion"

Back home

Was Jesus Married?

13/04/2014

Short Answer:
Probably not.

Longer Answer:
Probably not, despite the recent verification by Harvard of the authenticity of a papyrus fragment referred to as “The Gospel Of Jesus’ Wife”.

090512_AncientPapyrus_1714_605

First off, what they were authenticating was not the validity of the text, but the piece of paper papyrus it was written on.

The fragment has a dubious history.  Its chain of possession can’t be accurately tracked back past 1999.  The scholar who first studied it thought it may have dated back to the 4th century AD; others scholars who investigated it felt the 7th or 8th centuries AD were more likely periods for its origin, though one dissenting scholar still thinks it is a modern forgery.

This authenticity has kicked off a bit of a kerfluffle[1] in both the Christian and skeptic camps because of how the translated text reads:

jesus-said-to-them-my-wife

It’s important to note what the authentication of the document means.

It does not mean the information contained on it is accurate or even bona fide.

It means the fragment of papyrus did physically originate sometime between 699 and 899 AD, and was written on during that period with an ink common to that era, and in a language that was used at the time.

The text could be:

  1. An authentic teaching of some Christian offshoot (possibly Gnostic)
  2. An inauthentic teaching written for some unknown motive (possibly profit)

If “1”, the fragment either:

  • Accurately reflects what it appears to reflect (i.e., that there was a debate among Jesus’ disciples and followers as to whether women could be disciples, and Jesus said, “Well, duh, look at my wife…” [paraphrased])
  • Or that there was a debate and Jesus was using a rhetorical device (as in “the church is the bride of Christ”, etc.)
  • Or that it was an entirely different topic of discussion and Jesus was not referring to an actual real woman he was married to but was making some other reference that is now impossible to follow due to the missing portion of the manuscript.

No matter:  Some folks have appeared eager to glom onto interpretation “1a” and insist this is proof that Jesus was married despite lack of reference to a wife in the four gospels, the book of Acts, or the various epistles (including those written by his brothers; more on them in a moment).  They correctly cite that in first century Judea all men were expected to marry and at least try to produce children, and only after producing at least one male heir were they allowed to slack off.[2]

Their argument is that if Jesus was indeed a first century Judean, then logically he should have been married.[3]

Well, that ain’t necessarily so…

Jesus was not an only child, at least not for Mary.  The Bible indicates a minimum of six siblings:  Four brothers (James, Joseph a.k.a. Joses, Judas a.k.a. Jude, and Simon) plus a minimum of two sisters (as they are referred to in the plural).[4]

We know very little about Jesus’ life prior to his ministry’s start, but we do know at age twelve he accompanied both Mary and Joseph on a yearly pilgrimage to the temple in Jerusalem for Passover.

We know they traveled in what must have been a fairly large group of extended family and friends.  While no siblings of Jesus are mentioned, one can assume if any had been born by that time they would have been in the group as well.

The charming story in the Gospel of Luke has the party getting a full day’s journey out of Jerusalem before realizing Jesus is not with them but back at the temple chatting it up with the rabbis.

Anyone who’s seen Home Alone 
can appreciate how easy it is to
misplace a kid in the bustle 

of holiday travel.

The next time we get a glimpse into Jesus’ home life, he and Mary are attending a wedding in Cana where mom twists his arm to perform his first public miracle and turn water into wine.

Joseph is not mentioned in that story, nor anywhere else in the gospels, so it is presumed he has died by this point.

Somewhere between his twelfth year and the start of his ministry at about age 30, Jesus became the head of his household by being the oldest male son after his father died.

The oldest male son with not one, not two, not three but six younger siblings to care for.

The boys, once they reached thirteen, would be out of his hair: 
At that age the would be leaving home to enter apprenticeships, or if at home would be earning money to support Mary and their siblings while simultaneously socking something away for the day when they would marry.

The girls, however, presented a different challenge: 
They would require dowries in order to find suitable husbands, and that would mean setting aside some nest egg from the family budget.

Jesus, in this position of responsibility, would have a good reason not to seek marriage himself until the last sister was married off.  While his brothers could be expected to contribute something to the extended family coffers, they would also have families of their own to look after.

No one would have looked askance at Jesus for not marrying under those circumstances; rather they’d have pity and respect for the young man trying to do right by his widowed mother and younger sisters.

But they would have also assumed that after the youngest girl was married off, Jesus would start looking for a wife of his own.

Remember that wedding in Cana?

Whose wedding was it?

Luke doesn’t specifically say it was the wedding of Jesus’ youngest sister, but the time line fits.  Men were expected to establish themselves in the world before seeking a wife, but girls tended to get married off ASAP.  If Joseph had died when Jesus was 16 or 17, nobody would have thought it unusual that his eldest son hadn’t married yet.[5]  An infant sister at that age would mean Jesus would have reached his 30s by the time he was ready to hand her off to her husband.

The story of the wedding at Cana (a.k.a. Jesus turns water into wine) occurs within three days of Jesus being baptized by John.[6]  Jesus had clearly been talking to and recruiting his band of followers in the days preceding that; while more were to join afterwards he already had a core group who were willing to follow him as their teacher.

Further, while Mary seems to have been a key participant in the wedding feast, Jesus and his disciples are considered less important guests.

Consider:
Jesus’ youngest sister no longer needs him to look after her or build up a dowry.  Once freed of family responsibility, Jesus begins spending more time with the men who will become his first disciples; maybe he lets one or more of his younger brothers take over the carpentry shop (and no one begrudges him this; hey, he’s been bearing a man’s burden since his teen years).

But he is starting to get a tad flakey, and his own family is beginning to wonder if his interest in religion isn’t making him go a little funny in the head just like it drove his goofy cousin John out into the wilderness to preach like a wild man.

So Jesus and his best buds get invited,
but nobody wants them to be too
deeply involved in the affair.

Towards the end of the feast the bridegroom hits a major faux pas:  The party has run out of booze.[7]  For some reason this is A Big Deal to Mary, who promptly tells Jesus he needs to do something about it.

Why?

Why would Jesus have any obligation to save the bridegroom from embarrassment for his own failure to adequately plan ahead?[8]

Why would Mary get her kethōneth in a twist?

Who was this bridegroom to them that saving his face was so important?

Well, who was the bride?

Jesus’ kid sister?

The Gospel Of John doesn’t say, but it’s easy to imagine that apostle being eager to tell this story of Jesus’ first public miracle but at the same time not wanting to hurt the feelings of the holy brother-in-law or kid sister so he opts to refer to them anonymously.

This first miracle done, Jesus realizes there’s no point putting off the inevitable any longer, and heads out into the wilderness for his 40 days of fasting before launching his full time ministry.[9]

.

.

.

[1]  Though perhaps “kerfluffle” is too strong a word.  “Ado” might be a better substitute, possibly “blather” though it certainly doesn’t reach the proportions of a full-fledged “brouhaha”.

[2]  Judaism having a couple of lines of rabbinical thought that same sex relations between men was excusable provided the men were doing their religious / cultural duty by marrying women and producing children.

[3]  Outlaw theologian Matthew Fox has speculated Jesus was a widower who had no offspring, which helps explains his enlightened view of women and children in his teachings.  There’s nothing in scripture to specifically refute that, but neither is there anything that indicates it, either.

[4]  Roman Catholic and some Orthodox Christian churches hold these were not biological children of Mary but either Joseph’s children from a previous marriage left orphaned, or cousins who for some reason were counted among Jesus’ household.  There is nothing in the Bible to support either of those two ideas; they spring from the argument that Mary remained a virgin her entire life.

[5]  And we’re presuming a sudden death, not a lingering malady that may have rendered him incapable of supporting his family and having to rely on Jesus to run the carpentry shop on his own.

[6]  While Matthew and Luke report that subsequent to this Jesus went into the wilderness to fast for 40 days and be tempted, only Mark indicates it happened “at once” after Jesus emerged from the Jordan river.  “At once” is one of those terms that seems to mean one thing, but in reality is highly subjective and can be legitimately interpreted in a variety of ways; ask any mother / toddler combo what “pick up these toys at once” means and see what you get.

[7]  From the frequent mention of wine and drunkards in the gospels, we can only assume that first century Judeans — Jesus’ followers in particular — were one hard drinkin’ crew.

[8]  Indeed, Jesus later tells the parable of the Ten Foolish Virgins who get shut out of a wedding feast because of their lack of preparation.

[9]  John jumps abruptly from the immediate aftermath of the wedding feast to a point two or three years later when Jesus’ ministry is in full bloom and he enters Jerusalem for his final week of confrontation with the Pharisees.  Did John write a longer account and the middle was lost in transcription?  Or did he just assume the three synoptic Gospels covered that part of the story well enough and chose to focus more on the death and resurrection?  Good question, and one I have no answer for…(yet)

 

 

No Comments

The Words Of The Prophets…

13/04/2014

…are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls

WotP CSLewis

No Comments

The Words Of The Prophets…

29/03/2014

…are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls

WotP Anthony Douglas Williams

No Comments

I Luvz Me Some NOAH

28/03/2014

Noah_poster946While not a great movie, Noah is certainly a good one, and it is certainly the hands down front runner for the title of weirdest Biblical picture ever made.[1]  You can’t drag the Nephilim into your story and hope to stay within the bounds of normalcy.

Kudos to director Darren Aronofsky and co-writer Ari Handel for moral complexity, unexpected plot twists, good restrained acting, and top notch production values.  It follows the Biblical story closer than either the 1928 version or the 1966 version but it does add stuff that is not specifically excluded in the Bible story (such as how they kept all the animals quiet on the ark) and ends with a positive statement that we are most like God when we show mercy and love.

The middle portion is much stronger than the beginning and end, Anthony Hopkins steals the show as Methuselah, and the fallen angels vs. human army slugfest has gotta be the wildest scene ever filmed for a Biblical movie.

So why do so many people hate it, sight unseen?

A great many people objecting to it are doing so mostly because it says rapacious greed and treating humans like commodities are evil (there are hints of cannibalism in the film as Tubal-Cain’s army prepares to assault the ark).  As servants of Mammon and not God, these critics are appalled at the mirror-like reflection Noah shows of contemporary culture, and as such they feel duty bound to condemn it.

Noah gets more into the why & wherefore of the flood than previous versions of the story, and in doing so casts it in a light that doesn’t make God seem to be a petty spoiled child who kicks over the sand castle when things don’t go His way but rather a just and loving creator who realizes that humanity is far from perfect but if there is to be any hope of saving us from ourselves it is to save those who desire to serve Him and His creation (including other humans) rather than those willing to consume the planet with their own greed, gluttony, and lust for power.  That is what is driving the prejudice against this film.

God (referred to thru out as The Creator) is depicted as just and righteous, yet loving and merciful.  The destruction of the world is a human process, the flood is a cleansing one from God.

Noah is willing to serve God, but in the process makes an erroneous but not wholly illogical assumption; he does not act on that assumption but shows love and mercy instead.  This leads to his famous post-flood drinking binge because he feels he has failed God.  In the end of the film Noah and his family realize the flood was not to punish the wicked but to save the just from the unjust, and that we are closest to the image of God when we show mercy and love.

So far all the objections I’ve seen have either been from false-flag extremists or nit-pickers who regard any deviation from what they believe to be true and factual as blasphemy.

Does Noah take liberties with details in the Genesis story?
Yes, but without undermining the moral & theological core of that story.

Does the film state there is a Creator God who has the moral right to judge humanity?
Sure does.

Does the film state mercy and love are the most God-like traits humans can hope to aspire to?
Once again, affirmative.

Does the film have the Nephilim in it (referred to as The Watchers in the movie)?
Yes, and I think a lot of people are bugged that somebody dared to depict them other than the way they had personally imagined them.[2]

Has any movie ever followed the true Biblical account?
Movies are works of fiction using actors performing off scripts that are written and edited to form a dramatic whole; that’s why even with historical films we see events and characters dropped or melded together so that the underlying truth of the story can come through even if the actual facts can’t be emulated.

There have been hundreds of films based on various stories in the Bible.  This is one of three big budget Hollywood productions based in whole or in part on the story of Noah.[3]

What this movie does state clearly again and again is:

  • There is a Creator responsible for everything
  • This Creator has the moral right to judge His creation
  • Even those who believe the Creator has abandoned them believe He exists
  • A just God is more interested in saving the just (i.e., those willing to serve Him and His creation including the humans He has created) than in punishing the wicked
  • We are never more God-like than when we shown mercy and love

Sounds like Biblical truth to me…

.

.

.

[1a]  Some would argue Godspell deserves that title and I would not oppose anyone who chose to argue that point.  But ultimately Godspell is a pretty straightforward adaptation of the Gospel of Matthew set in Manhattan with a troupe of circus performers adding song and dance to the otherwise intact text; it’s odd in appearance, not content.  Noah is like the James Tissot of Biblical movies.

[1b]  The question also arises as to just what is a Biblical movie?  Godspell, despite its odd style, is clearly meant to be the actual story found in Matthew; Jesus Of Montreal, despite being one of the finest religious allegories ever made, is not the gospel story per se but a story about the gospel story; a fine distinction but a real one.  And The Sign Of The Cross, the only religious based movie to give Noah a serious run for the title IMO, is technically not a Biblical movie even though it occurs during Paul’s time in Rome.

[2]  That’s one of the things that makes this movie so weird for a Biblical film: It actually shows stuff that no other Biblical movie has shown before.  I think the style of the presentation is what is bothering some folks, not the actual content.

[3]  It’s certainly closer to the text than the 1925 version (which was forgiven its egregious departures because it was presented in a pious manner)or 1966 version (which was just an all around bad movie, no matter how sincere the film makers were).  We shall not speak of the Disney adaptation with Donald Duck as Noah (admittedly a more even keeled Hollywood personality than Russell Crowe).

No Comments

The Words Of The Prophets

15/03/2014

…are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls

WotP barry mcguire

No Comments

The Words Of The Prophets…

8/03/2014

…are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls

217434_481247571947284_1500343728_n

No Comments

The Words Of The Prophets…

22/02/2014

…are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls

WotP Johnny Depp

No Comments

The Words Of The Prophets…

9/02/2014

…are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls

248293_486417578096950_1192533572_n

No Comments

…And Now, A Theological Debate Between Richard Land And A Siberian Husky

4/02/2014

husky debates dr land

No Comments

The Words Of The Prophets, Pete Seeger edition

29/01/2014

“To My Old Brown”

To my old brown earth
And to my old blue sky
I’ll now give these last few molecules of “I.”
And you who sing,
And you who stand nearby,
I do charge you not to cry.
Guard well our human chain,
Watch well you keep it strong,
As long as sun will shine.
And this our home,
Keep pure and sweet and green,
For now I’m yours
And you are also mine.

seegerthanx to Susan E. Fisher
for supplying the lyrics

 

No Comments