Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Why does it matter if Jesus was married or not?

Harvard Divinity School professor Karen King is in the news again after her revelation a few years ago of a scrap of papyrus that purports to prove that Jesus (you know, the Son of God, that one) had in fact been married. Now she is saying that the fragment is actually more likely to be a very good forgery.
The papyrus, written in Coptic, apparently includes the phrase, "Jesus said to them, My wife....", and Ms. King presented it to the world - to great fanfare, and equally great outrage - back in 2012. I remember thinking at the time, "What is the big deal here?" And that remains my reaction today, now that the papyrus fragment is being considered as probably inauthentic.
More important than whether it is a forgery or not, surely, is whether it actually changes anything. I am not religious, so it makes no difference to me whether Jesus (whether or not such a person even existed) was married or not. But what difference would it make to a religious person? Jesus did not teach that marriage was wrong, and most religious folk today seem positively gung-ho in favour of the institution of marriage. So, why the howls of outrage at the suggestion that Jesus may have married? After all, pretty much everyone married in those days. Even Mohammed was happily married (thirteen times, I believe!).
Maybe I am missing something, but I really don't get the significance of this finding, authentic or otherwise.

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