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Papyrus referencing Jesus’ wife dates back to ancient times

Posted by on Apr. 14, 2014 at 6:56 AM
  • 62 Replies

HARI SREENIVASAN: Experts at Columbia, MIT and Harvard have concluded that a small papyrus fragment made public two years ago is from ancient times, not a forgery. But its contents continue to provoke controversy. That’s because it quotes Jesus making references to “my wife,” and also includes the words “she will be able to be my disciple.” For more about this we’re joined by Michael Peppard, he’s a professor of theology at Fordham University and author of the book “The Son of God in the Roman World.” Alright, so first of all, what’s the scientific finding confirm and why does it matter?

MICHAEL PEPPARD: Right, well when this came to light about a year and a half ago, there was a lot of uproar about “why wasn’t this tested” “how do we know it’s not a forgery.” Typically with ancient papyri, they’re not tested by science, they’re tested by paleography — meaning the study of handwriting. And yet because there was such a bombshell finding here in this phrase “my wife.” It was sent out and professor Karen King commissioned this from Harvard to be sent out for testing. Now the truth about this scientific testing is that it cannot authenticate something as much as it can prove that it’s not fake. So what I’m saying is that–

HARI SREENIVASAN: There’s a difference…

MICHAEL PEPPARD: Yeah, there’s a difference, the testing did not falsify anything. So that kind of tilts the scale a little bit back towards authenticity, right? But I would say that the community of scholars that study early Christianity, like myself, are still kind of in this middle ground of mysteriousness about the text. That being said, some of the critics on the forgery side argue that there is bad grammar, that there are other indicators, bad penmanship and that kind of stuff. But papyrologists — that is nerds like us that study ancient papyri — we see bad handwriting all the time. The apostle Paul himself in the new testament talks about his bad handwriting. So handwriting it’s a techne in Greek, it’s a skill, it’s acquired. And so we might think of typing, right? Typing doesn’t mean you’re smart or something like that.

HARI SREENIVASAN: So to a non-Christian scholar, what are the religious ramifications if Jesus did have a wife? Why does that matter so much?

MICHAEL PEPPARD: Right, so what we have here is probably a 7th or 8th century papyrus, which if authentic preserves possibly an earlier text, which doesn’t really tell us anything about the first century; so we have layers of history here. I would say most scholars do not think Jesus was married and I don’t think that’s a pious answer, I think it’s an answer about historically plausibility. I think Jesus was an itinerant, apocalyptic teacher, he says very controversial things critical of biological and domestic family life, already there in the canonical scriptures. And so I think that most scholars and most Christians will say “well we don’t think Jesus was married, and we think that is a later discussion about the roles of women as disciples, and the role of kind of sex and family life.” But now that is interesting, for a different reason, I think to most scholars. And that is that this papyrus gives us another window into what were some live debates in early Christianity. Debates such as: is procreation a vehicle for holiness or is celibacy — voluntary celibacy– a vehicle for holiness. A second debate that it clearly was engaging was the worthiness of women as disciples, especially Mary the mother and Mary Magdalen, two of the main figures that were discussed.


http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/papyrus-referencing-jesus-wife-dates-back-ancient-times/


Does this lend credence to the support of a woman's role as clergy?

Does the finding of this show that the exclusion of Book of Mary was a conspiracy to subjugate women?

Could this prove that celibacy is a misconstrued idea?

by on Apr. 14, 2014 at 6:56 AM
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lga1965
by on Apr. 14, 2014 at 7:06 AM
3 moms liked this

 This is fascinating. I wonder how Conservative Christians feel about this?

I think it makes sense. Why shouldn't Jesus have a wife? And ,knowing that he was a wise and reasonable person, I could see him saying that she would be a disciple.

There was a point made that to be "holy" , he would be celibate and not marry...that sounds ridiculous to me.

Anyway, this is interesting !

lancet98
by Silver Member on Apr. 14, 2014 at 7:45 AM

Does this lend credence to the support of a woman's role as clergy?

It depends on who you're asking.   But here's my guess.  If you ask a literalist, the papyrus, even if it was a copy of a much older text, it's irrelevant, even demonic, because what's in the NT right now, is all there is and the Bible makes clear woman is to have a subordinate role, "from Genesee on down to Revelations".   Handed down by God to Jesus who told his disciples, and 'it's finished'.   Nothing can be added to it or taken away.   Anything else is the devil's temptation and you shouldn't be reading it any way.

Similarly to how I have been admonished and warned for reading any pseudoepigrapha or apocrypha such as the Gospel of Thomas, anything outside the NT is deemed unsuitable reading material.

If you talk to non-literalists  a few might show some interest, but mostly, this text will be ignored by Christians, even by non-literalists.   Generally a less adamant version of the above will be their reason.

Most of the people who think the text has any possibility of being authentic, in the sense of being words Jesus actually spoke and believed, will be people who have a very different view of Christianity.  

You might find a few 'new agey' people - what my friend's dad jokingly calls 'cafeteria Christians' (meaning they pick and choose various beliefs from different cultures and religions) and new age believers who will embrace this idea.  

The conspiracy angle really appeals to some people.   Not to me.  Not when we're talking about something that I don't feel is a conspiracy at all but simply 'how stuff works' in human cultures.

For many people, the idea that Jesus had a wife is unthinkable.   It's too ordinary, too out of character with him being divine, being crucified, being resurrected.   The idea of Jesus humping away in some hut making babies is - it's unthinkable.   The next step is proposing that Jesus wasn't divine at all, but just some ordinary guy who liked to travel around and make speeches.

Does the finding of this show that the exclusion of Book of Mary was a conspiracy to subjugate women?

You mean the Dan Brown theory?   The one he simply copied from a goofy French guy who published it in the 1960's?  

I don't believe that theory.  I don't believe there is any religious conspiracy to subjugate women.   I believe subjugating women is a very old and very widespread cultural institution that has been a part of virtually every culture and so every religion since time immemorial.   The great world eligions only enshrine what is in the culture they grew up in, they don't independently invent. 

I don't believe there was any conspiracy at all.   I believe that in Jesus' time, as during all the rest of history(LOL) subjugation of women was a prominent part of the culture, not a conspiracy at all.

As for the idea that earlier texts were destroyed if they werent' sufficiently clear about the degree to which women should be subjugated, that's not a conspiracy at all - that's just what happens normally.  Belief texts are changed, often quite rapidly, to reflect the culture of the time.

Often this is done when a text is translated, and 'feeling and color' words are just very slightly tweaked, to fit the new context.   Each time the text is copied slight changes add up to a big change in perspective over thousands of years.  But more extensive editing is also possible.   By textual analysis the entire store of the woman stoned in adultery was added somewhat later, for example.  

Could this prove that celibacy is a misconstrued idea?

It could, except that it will be ignored by the loudest voices and by those in charge of the church.  And if current politics is any indication, America will become a country with a state religion, and like most countries down through history, the people in charge of the church will be the people in charge of the country, and they will make sure apocrypha, pseudoepigrapha and 'Jesus' wife' texts are burned and no one will be allowed to read them.

Texts written 200 yrs or 300 yrs or 400 years after Christ, are also ignored.   This one is dated much later than that.   it has no chance, lol.

One of the chief criteria of a text's 'authenticity' as far as being declared canon, is that it has to have been written very close to the time of Jesus' life.   The date at which the NT texts were written is assumed to be very early and very close to the time of Jesus.   But to be canon the text also has to not contradict anything else that is already a part of the NT.  

Since a wife of Jesus was not mentioned in the existing NT, this text contradicts the NT.   So it will never become mainline canon.  

But also, a part of the text is missing, so there is going to be a lot of argument about what the text actually says and what it means.   Everyone is going to interpret the text, according to their own interests and beliefs.

Let's say we take this to an extreme degree and by some incredible event it becomes part of the Bible.   Personally, I have no real confidence that changing the Bible would reduce the amount of prejudice against women or make their lot in life any better.    The subjugation of women is too much a part of too many cultures.  

And with religion becoming a political party in the US, such a thing is unthinkable as it would reduce the appeal of the political party to - to the people they most wish to appeal to.

Aslen
by Silver Member on Apr. 14, 2014 at 7:52 AM
6 moms liked this

I think it's awesome. He WAS human while here on earth afterall

stormcris
by Christy on Apr. 14, 2014 at 7:53 AM
1 mom liked this

Great response.

On the note of the Book of Mary, I use the words conspire or conspiracy perhaps in a much older context often. I mean that people came together and decided to manipulate a situation for a particular outcome. 

Quoting lancet98:

Does this lend credence to the support of a woman's role as clergy?

It depends on who you're asking.   But here's my guess.  If you ask a literalist, the papyrus, even if it was a copy of a much older text, it's irrelevant, even demonic, because what's in the NT right now, is all there is and the Bible makes clear woman is to have a subordinate role, "from Genesee on down to Revelations".   Handed down by God to Jesus who told his disciples, and 'it's finished'.   Nothing can be added to it or taken away.   Anything else is the devil's temptation and you shouldn't be reading it any way.

Similarly to how I have been admonished and warned for reading any pseudoepigrapha or apocrypha such as the Gospel of Thomas, anything outside the NT is deemed unsuitable reading material.

If you talk to non-literalists  a few might show some interest, but mostly, this text will be ignored by Christians, even by non-literalists.   Generally a less adamant version of the above will be their reason.

Most of the people who think the text has any possibility of being authentic, in the sense of being words Jesus actually spoke and believed, will be people who have a very different view of Christianity.  

You might find a few 'new agey' people - what my friend's dad jokingly calls 'cafeteria Christians' (meaning they pick and choose various beliefs from different cultures and religions) and new age believers who will embrace this idea.  

The conspiracy angle really appeals to some people.   Not to me.  Not when we're talking about something that I don't feel is a conspiracy at all but simply 'how stuff works' in human cultures.

For many people, the idea that Jesus had a wife is unthinkable.

Does the finding of this show that the exclusion of Book of Mary was a conspiracy to subjugate women?

You mean the Dan Brown theory?   The one he simply copied from a goofy French guy who published it in the 1960's?  

I don't believe that theory.  I don't believe there is any religious conspiracy to subjugate women.   I believe subjugating women is a very old and very widespread cultural institution that has been a part of virtually every culture and so every religion since time immemorial.   The great world eligions only enshrine what is in the culture they grew up in, they don't independently invent. 

I don't believe there was any conspiracy at all.   I believe that in Jesus' time, as during all the rest of history(LOL) subjugation of women was a prominent part of the culture, not a conspiracy at all.

As for the idea that earlier texts were destroyed if they werent' sufficiently clear about the degree to which women should be subjugated, that's not a conspiracy at all - that's just what happens normally.  Belief texts are changed, often quite rapidly, to reflect the culture of the time.

Often this is done when a text is translated, and 'feeling and color' words are just very slightly tweaked, to fit the new context.   Each time the text is copied slight changes add up to a big change in perspective over thousands of years.  But more extensive editing is also possible.   By textual analysis the entire store of the woman stoned in adultery was added somewhat later, for example.  

Could this prove that celibacy is a misconstrued idea?

It could, except that it will be ignored by the loudest voices and by those in charge of the church.   Texts written 200 yrs or 300 yrs or 400 years after Christ, are also ignored.   This one is dated much later than that.

One of the chief criteria of a text's 'authenticity' as far as being declared canon, is that it has to have been written very close to the time of Jesus' life.   The date at which the NT texts were written is assumed to be very early and very close to the time of Jesus.   But to be canon the text also has to not contradict anything else that is already a part of the NT.  

Since a wife of Jesus was not mentioned in the existing NT, this text contradicts the NT.   So it will never become mainline canon.  

But also, a part of the text is missing, so there is going to be a lot of argument about what the text actually says and what it means.   Everyone is going to interpret the text, according to their own interests and beliefs.

Let's say we take this to an extreme degree and by some incredible event it becomes part of the Bible.   Personally, I have no real confidence that changing the Bible would reduce the amount of prejudice against women or make their lot in life any better.    The subjugation of women is too much a part of too many cultures.  

And with religion becoming a political party in the US, such a thing is unthinkable as it would reduce the appeal of the political party to - to the people they most wish to appeal to.


lancet98
by Silver Member on Apr. 14, 2014 at 7:59 AM
2 moms liked this

And yet, I'd still disagree with you.   LOL.

I don't think it's even a conspiracy in that sense.   It's just a natural and very open process.   I don't think people are even aware they're doing it.   That's precisely why it works so well and happens so consistently down through history to so many different religions and cultures.

What I mean is I feel that Christianity didn't invent the subjugation of women.   It canonized it, but it canonized every bit of culture and tradition it grew up in, just like every other religion does.   I don't see that as a conspiracy on any level of any type.   It's simply as natural as breathing, it is at the most fundamental level, what culture does.

The reason EVERY religion is 'anti women' is that being 'anti women' is such a consistent and fundamental part of ALL cultures.   It is, in fact, a disorder of the human condition.

 

Quoting stormcris:

Great response.

On the note of the Book of Mary, I use the words conspire or conspiracy perhaps in a much older context often. I mean that people came together and decided to manipulate a situation for a particular outcome. 

Quoting lancet98:

Does this lend credence to the support of a woman's role as clergy?

It depends on who you're asking.   But here's my guess......

stormcris
by Christy on Apr. 14, 2014 at 8:05 AM

Ah ok I see what you are saying. 

Quoting lancet98:

And yet, I'd still disagree with you.   LOL.

I don't think it's even a conspiracy in that sense.   It's just a natural and very open process.   I don't think people are even aware they're doing it.   That's precisely why it works so well and happens so consistently down through history to so many different religions and cultures.

What I mean is I feel that Christianity didn't invent the subjugation of women.   It canonized it, but it canonized every bit of culture and tradition it grew up in, just like every other religion does.   I don't see that as a conspiracy on any level of any type.   It's simply as natural as breathing, it is at the most fundamental level, what culture does.

The reason EVERY religion is 'anti women' is that being 'anti women' is such a consistent and fundamental part of ALL cultures.   It is, in fact, a disorder of the human condition.


Quoting stormcris:

Great response.

On the note of the Book of Mary, I use the words conspire or conspiracy perhaps in a much older context often. I mean that people came together and decided to manipulate a situation for a particular outcome. 

Quoting lancet98:

Does this lend credence to the support of a woman's role as clergy?

It depends on who you're asking.   But here's my guess......


lancet98
by Silver Member on Apr. 14, 2014 at 8:24 AM

 

How about you?   Do you feel it's something the heads of the church decided on more specifically and consciously?   Do you feel contradictory texts were destroyed in a concerted and deliberate manner?

Because there is an extremely evocative fact in your favor, if you do feel that way.

That is, there are NO complete texts of the NT that date earlier than about 425 AD.  

That's a very powerful argument in your favor if you believe this was done more consciously and deliberately.

When we have far older read-able texts in the same material (papyrus is the most likely material for any earlier texts of the NT) the fact that we have no earlier NT's does look extremely peculiar.

Some say this was done to purge elements that were gnostic in nature or out of line with the Nicean Synod's results.   But the synod occured at least a hundred years before the date of our oldest NT text and according to all accounts the synod was not about the role of women at all, but about the nature of Christ - all divine, spirit, or wholy divine and wholy human and other issues that had to be 'put to bed' or see the nascent church torn to pieces.  

The positions for these issues that were settled at the Nicean Synod all appear to be unifying in nature - in other words, designed to keep the church together as an organization, and avoid having overly prominent/divisive factions be created.

So presumably, even if the role of women was discussed, given the role of women in the culture of the time, the results would not have been a complete rethinking of the role of women.

Quoting stormcris:

Ah ok I see what you are saying. 

Quoting lancet98:

And yet, I'd still disagree with you.   LOL.

I don't think it's even a conspiracy in that sense.   It's just a natural and very open process.   I don't think people are even aware they're doing it.   That's precisely why it works so well and happens so consistently down through history to so many different religions and cultures.

What I mean is I feel that Christianity didn't invent the subjugation of women.   It canonized it, but it canonized every bit of culture and tradition it grew up in, just like every other religion does.   I don't see that as a conspiracy on any level of any type.   It's simply as natural as breathing, it is at the most fundamental level, what culture does.

The reason EVERY religion is 'anti women' is that being 'anti women' is such a consistent and fundamental part of ALL cultures.   It is, in fact, a disorder of the human condition.

 

Quoting stormcris:

Great response.

On the note of the Book of Mary, I use the words conspire or conspiracy perhaps in a much older context often. I mean that people came together and decided to manipulate a situation for a particular outcome. 

Quoting lancet98:

Does this lend credence to the support of a woman's role as clergy?

It depends on who you're asking.   But here's my guess......

 

stormcris
by Christy on Apr. 14, 2014 at 8:41 AM

I believe that the text were carefully and deliberate either hidden away or destroyed to create a certain type of belief in order to create a certain sort of society and control. The text that would suggest Jesus is a necromancer is left out, which could be construed as control over women as it was often viewed there were more women who practiced magic. However, it could also be viewed that this was to create a separate religion that did away with the idea that people could control the conditions of their life alone. The removal of the Book of Mary can be seen as a subjugation of women. It could also be seen as destroying the pagan rituals of sex as being correct and good.

I do believe what was selected was all about control but control over who is debatable, as truly they would want to control all that were not in power, and be able to dictate who was in power. It could easily be supposed that the determinations were made because men were more easily controlled via an illusion of power and dominance. In general though, I think they tried to make sure everything that they feared was made immoral and unjust all so the deciders could have power. Thus, they removed as much as they could that hinted at the possible righteousness of that which they feared. 

Quoting lancet98:


How about you?   Do you feel it's something the heads of the church decided on more specifically and consciously?   Do you feel contradictory texts were destroyed in a concerted and deliberate manner?

Because there is an extremely evocative fact in your favor, if you do feel that way.

That is, there are NO complete texts of the NT that date earlier than about 425 AD.  

That's a very powerful argument in your favor if you believe this was done more consciously and deliberately.

When we have far older read-able texts in the same material (papyrus is the most likely material for any earlier texts of the NT) the fact that we have no earlier NT's does look extremely peculiar.

Some say this was done to purge elements that were gnostic in nature or out of line with the Nicean Synod's results.   But the synod occured at least a hundred years before the date of our oldest NT text and according to all accounts the synod was not about the role of women at all, but about the nature of Christ - all divine, spirit, or wholy divine and wholy human and other issues that had to be 'put to bed' or see the nascent church torn to pieces.  

The positions for these issues that were settled at the Nicean Synod all appear to be unifying in nature - in other words, designed to keep the church together as an organization, and avoid having overly prominent/divisive factions be created.

So presumably, even if the role of women was discussed, given the role of women in the culture of the time, the results would not have been a complete rethinking of the role of women.

Quoting stormcris:

Ah ok I see what you are saying. 

Quoting lancet98:

And yet, I'd still disagree with you.   LOL.

I don't think it's even a conspiracy in that sense.   It's just a natural and very open process.   I don't think people are even aware they're doing it.   That's precisely why it works so well and happens so consistently down through history to so many different religions and cultures.

What I mean is I feel that Christianity didn't invent the subjugation of women.   It canonized it, but it canonized every bit of culture and tradition it grew up in, just like every other religion does.   I don't see that as a conspiracy on any level of any type.   It's simply as natural as breathing, it is at the most fundamental level, what culture does.

The reason EVERY religion is 'anti women' is that being 'anti women' is such a consistent and fundamental part of ALL cultures.   It is, in fact, a disorder of the human condition.


Quoting stormcris:

Great response.

On the note of the Book of Mary, I use the words conspire or conspiracy perhaps in a much older context often. I mean that people came together and decided to manipulate a situation for a particular outcome. 

Quoting lancet98:

Does this lend credence to the support of a woman's role as clergy?

It depends on who you're asking.   But here's my guess......



Mommabearbergh
by on Apr. 14, 2014 at 8:57 AM
1 mom liked this
This is a awesome discussion
Woodbabe
by Woodie on Apr. 14, 2014 at 9:28 AM
5 moms liked this

I have all due respect for the Bible but seeing how its been changed and translated and molded by men over and over I find it hard to believe it is the rock solid Word of God in every word. Look at how different religion is today from when it started. There were times when only Clergy were allowed to read the Bible and it was up to them to interpret religion and to mold the masses. If it were set in stone then we'd be practicing religion today in the exact same manner as it was in the beginning.

This being a missing part of actual history would not surprise me and it actually would make sense considering cultural norms of the time.

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