|Issue No. 38||24 Sep - 30 Sep 2012|
|Did Jesus have a Wife?||By Quek Tze-Ming|
Last week, Professor Karen King of Harvard University announced the discovery of an ancient manuscript in which Jesus apparently speaks of "my wife." Professor King called the fragment The Gospel of Jesus’s Wife, and has published a good photograph and detailed scholarly analysis of the fragment together with the press release. Almost all of what we know of the fragment is based upon her her work, which can be accessed here: http://www.hds.harvard.edu/faculty-research/research-projects/the-gospel-of-jesuss-wife
A transcription and translation of the fragment can be found at the link. As you can see, the relevant line 4 of the fragment reads "... Jesus said to them, 'My wife ...' (text breaks off at the edge of the fragment)" Most scholars do not take issue with either transcription or translation.
Predictably, some news sources have characterized this find as a sensation which may have repercussions on the Church's traditional teaching on Jesus and/or marriage and/or singleness. Is this manuscript really such a sensation?
Let me say firstly, as a student of the historical Jesus and early Christianity, that any historical datum which may cast light on that period is most welcome. After all, Christians affirm that God sent his Son into our world "in the fullness of time" (Gal 4.4). The great event that was God-with-us-in-theflesh happened in a real time and place in history, and affected the flow of human history. We do not need to fear history, as long as history is done with proper rigour.
As it turns out, the manuscript is much ado about ... well, definitely less than what some newspapers claimed. Several scholars - much better qualified than I am - have offered assessments that confirmed my early suspicions. It is enough for me to briefly summarize their thoughts, and point you to where you can find fuller treatments:
What of the meaning of the text? Professor Daniel Wallace of the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts provides some suggestions:
All this means that this 4th-century fragment, if genuine (big "if"!), tells us very little about the historical Jesus. Professor King dates this fragment to the 4th century, and proposes an earlier composition date in the 2nd century. But even she states that “its possible date of composition in the second half of the second century argues against its value as evidence for the life of the historical Jesus.” So no, this fragment doesn't tell us that the historical Jesus had a wife. But, as Professor Simon Gathercole of Cambridge University says, it "offers us a window into debates about sex and marriage in the early church, and the way Jesus could be adapted to play a part in a particular debate, but only if it is genuine."
For more detailed discussion from Simon Gathercole and Daniel Wallace, see the respective links below:
|BGST Book Corner|
|Rev Dr Peter Teo of Mt Carmel B-P Church will be Chapel speaker on 3 October. Chapel begins at 12 pm. You are welcome to join us.|
|Our deepest condolences to Rev Dr Peter Teo of Mt Carmel BP Church Pastor on the demise of his beloved father on 19 September 2012. Please pray for God’s comfort to be upon his family in their time of bereavement.|
|Upcoming Open Lecture & Course|
Romans : the gospel according to Paul
The Apostle Paul wrote one third of the New Testament. His explanation of the essence of the Christian Faith in his Epistle to the Romans is fundamental to a correct understanding of the preaching of the Apostles. This preaching stands solidly upon the foundation of the teaching of Jesus Christ. A firm continuity exists between the teaching of Paul and Jesus, and indeed also between them and the Old Testament. This course will focus on a theological discipline called “Biblical Theology” in which we will attempt to understand the Apostle Paul’s theological thinking, allowing him to speak to us as far as possible from his own writings. For more information, please visit our website at http://www.bgst.edu.sg/courses-and-events/312-romans--the-gospel-according-to-paul
The Doctrine of the Trinity in the Early Church
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The Craft of Teaching
Examines the teaching acts of Jesus and the theories of learning to gain an understanding of the principles and methods of effective and creative Christian teaching. Emphasis is on the process of designing teaching plans that demonstrate creative teaching strategies and relevance to ministry contexts. For more information, please visit our website at http://www.bgst.edu.sg/courses-and-events/293-the-craft-of-teaching
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