OMG: Jesus was married!

September 19, 2012 • 1:46 pm

Well, the debate continues over whether a historical Jesus really existed, but in the meantime a fourth-century fragment of papyrus manuscript, written in Coptic (below), has appeared suggesting that God Incarnate might have had a wife.  I saw this on the evening news, but there’s a fuller description at Live Science and Yahoo News. Live Science reported yesterday:

A Harvard historian has identified a faded, fourth-century scrap of papyrus she calls “The Gospel of Jesus’s Wife.” One line of the torn fragment of text purportedly reads: “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife …'” The following line states, “she will be able to be my disciple.”

The finding was announced to the public today (Sept. 18) by Karen King, a historian of early Christianity, author of several books about new Gospel discoveries and the Hollis professor of divinity at Harvard Divinity School. King first examined the privately owned fragment in 2011, and has since been studying it with the help of a small group of scholars.

According to the New York Times, King and her collaborators have concluded that the business card-size fragment is not a forgery, and she is presenting the discovery today at a meeting of International Congress of Coptic Studies in Rome.

. . .King has cautioned that the new discovery should not be taken as proof that Jesus was actually married. The text appears to have been written centuries after he lived, and all other early Christian literature is silent on the question of his marital status. [JAC: Yeah, assuming he existed!]

But the scrap of papyrus — the first known statement from antiquity that refers to Jesus speaking of a wife — provides evidence that there was an active discussion among early Christians about whether Jesus was celibate or married, and which path his followers should choose, King told the Times.

. . . The text beyond “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife …'” is cut off.

Pity!  Perhaps the next words would have been “. . . is unable to bear children because, being haploid, I am unable to produce sperm.”

Or fill in the blank yourself!

Reuters/REUTERS – A previously unknown scrap of ancient papyrus written in ancient Egyptian Coptic is pictured in this undated handout photo obtained by Reuters September 18, 2012. The papyrus has four words written in Coptic that provide the first unequivocal evidence that within 150 years of his death, some followers of Jesus, believed him to have been married. REUTERS/Karen L. King/Harvard University

136 thoughts on “OMG: Jesus was married!

  1. I said on Facebook:

    Let someone write about Harry Potter’s third wife in 300 years and then someone will believe it 1700 years after that. Seriously???? This is evidence???? Baloney!

    It is evidence that someone wrote a story long ago. That is all.

  2. 4th century coptic – it most likely is a gnostic work and has little or no historical credibility to events in the first century BCE.

    I don’t believe Jesus could have been a haploid because the male gender in humans requires both a an X and and Y chromosome.

    The only explanations I can think of is that he had a biological father or it was a genuine miracle. Hello Occam.

    1. A Y chromosome is not necessary for somatic development. In mammals, you could probably duplicate the role of the Y with carefully timed infusions of testosterone.
      Problems with being fully haploid are more likely to result from gene-dosage problems on all the other chromosomes.

  3. So a person who possibly didn’t exist was possibly married to someone else who possibly didn’t exist.

    This business-card sized piece of papyrus will only lead to another schism!

      1. The crazy thing about the scene in the Life Of Brian where they argue over the meaning of the lost sandal would be funny were it not entirely plausible. The religious bicker of the most trivial details of their religions.

  4. I’m sure I read somewhere before that some scholars already thought he might be married based on the idea that the only person responsible for providing wine at a Jewish wedding would be the groom. (Thus the water into wine miracle for the wedding at Cana).

    Also, aren’t most of the other scraps of biblical documents that we have about same age and condition? What makes this one any less valid?

    1. Also, aren’t most of the other scraps of biblical documents that we have about same age and condition?


      What makes this one any less valid?

      Absolutely nothing.


      1. No.

        The Codex Sinaiticus contains most of the New Testament and is is approximately fourth century i.e. contemporary with this scrap. If you want actual scraps, the earliest is the Rylands Papyrus (P52) which is dated by palaeography to the middle of the second century.

    2. To answer the questions in your last paragraph: the bulk of the Biblical text is found in the Codex Sinaiticus and the Codex Vaticanus, both of which are dated to the fourth century CE. Those codices are sumptuous manuscripts and though incomplete to a degree thanks to the ravages of the centuries, are in far better condition than the scrap of papyrus under discussion.

      In addition to those more or less complete manuscripts, there are many smaller fragments of about the same size and condition as this Coptic fragment, and some of those are believed to date back to within a generation or two after Christ’s lifetime.

      1. some of those are believed to date back to within a generation or two after Christ’s lifetime.

        The rest of your post is a good summary, but this last line isn’t at all true.

        The oldest physical fragment of the Gospels is Rylands P52. Handwriting analysis suggests it’s from the middle of the second century — about a half dozen generations, not one or two.

        Further, our very own Michael Kingsford Gray has offered to perform a radiometric analysis on the dust that has fallen off the papyrus and been repeatedly refused. Considering the notorious unreliability of handwriting analysis and the overeager nature of those doing the analyzing, it’s conceivable that the result from radiometric dating could even put it into the third century.

        Questions about dating aside, P52 is significant in another manner that historicists don’t appreciate. Granting that it’s the oldest physical evidence of one Jesus ben Joshua of Nazareth…it’s of the Gospel of John — and the fragment doesn’t even have Jesus’s name, at that.

        The fragment is of John 18, which describes the trial. In particular, it has Pilate accusing Jesus of being King of the Jews on the one side, and Pilate washing his hands on the other.

        We know that that never happened, for the simple fact that it wasn’t reported by any of the Roman Satirists. Scandals such as Pilate’s gross incompetence and the breathtaking incivility displayed by the Sanhedrin would have been the talk of the Empire and were literally the Satirists’s stock in trade. Hell, even if the Satirists somehow managed to miss it, there’s no way that Philo, who was there on the scene, or Josephus, who absolutely ate that stuff up, could have missed it. You’ll note that even Eusebius’s famous fabrication, the Testamonium Flavanium, doesn’t mention the scandalous nature of the trial.

        So, in short, P52, the oldest fragment of the Bible, is clearly a work of fiction from many generations after the “fact.”

        And this is as good as it gets?



        1. Ben,

          Are you aware that P52 is not in the curatorship of a religious organisation? It is in the John Rylands Library, Manchester, UK, which has no current or historical connection to any religious foundation at all, and in fact has a solid scientific pedigree. Why then would they deny Michael Kingsford Gray his request to submit it to radiometric testing?

          Perhaps, because like Bart D. Ehrman – and no matter what you think of his ideas, you will agree that he knows the field – they have never heard of MKG as a biblical scholar; MKG’s degree is in the ICT area.

          What evidence do you have that Philo, who lived in Alexandria, and who is reported as having been in Jerusalem once in his lifetime, was in the Holy City at the time of Jesus Christ’s alleged crucifixion?

          On the question of the visibility of influential Jews to the Roman writers, really Palestine hardly appeared on their radar. Josephus, arguably the second most important Jew of the 1st century, after Herod Agrippa, is not mentioned at all in contemporary Greco-Roman literature. HA, yes, a childhood friend of Caligula, but of Josephus, camp-adviser to a future Roman Emperor, not a peep. Would Jesus of Nazareth show up in this context? No.

          Of course, the bloke may not have existed, but I don’t find your reasons convincing.


          1. I’ll let Mr. Gray speak for himself.

            I’m sure you’re aware that Alexandria is just a hop, skip, and a jump from Jerusalem (~300 miles, a couple-few days by sail) — and that Philo kept up with the writings of other philosophers and of current events in Jerusalem. And, for that matter, that he wrote an account of his participation in the 40s in the Jewish Embassy to petition Caligula about the abuse of Jews at the hands of Romans. And let’s not forget that he was Herod Agrippa’s brother-in-law (removed? — Philo’s nephew Marcus married Agrippa’s daughter Bernice).

            Even if Philo was living in Alexandria for the whole of 33, I still think it most reasonable to characterize him as “there on the scene.”

            And, while Jesus himself may well have escaped the notice of the Satirists, the sort of humiliation such a lowlife inflicted upon both the Roman Prefect and the Jewish High Court wouldn’t have.

            And, as I mentioned. Even in the forgery of the Testamonium, Eusebius pretending to be Josephus mentioned the trial but not the scandal — the very scandal that P52 is reporting on. Josephus absolutely loved that type of gossip; look no further than the 20.9 discussion of Jesus ben Damneus, which is exactly the same type of scandal that P52 would have us believe Jesus instigated.



              1. @JonLynnHarvey on Philo:

                He wrote about theology, a Hellenised Alexandrian Jew. As Ben says, related to the Herodian dynasty by marriage (as I told him!) and also related to it by blood from a few generations back. A high-ranking Jew in other words.

                He was also interested in high politics and issues of the day; as Ben says, he was almost press-ganged into interceding on behalf of the Jews who were scandalised at the Romans for their sacrilegious behaviour. Such was the respect that Orthodox Jews, if I can use an atavistic term, had for him. Yes, around AD40 he went to Rome to plead with Caligula, of all people, to cease the oppression. Talk about brave.

                His account of it – forget the title, Ben can probably help, otherwise google Philo and Caligula – is fascinating and occasionally hilarious especially in the section quoting Caligula’s speech, and probably a major source for Graves’ ‘I, Claudius’.

              2. I’ll just add one point to the excellent ones Dermot made.

                The whole Logos shtick? As in, John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”?

                That was Philo.

                Philo was the inventor of Christian philosophy, the marriage of Hellenism into Judaism.

                You’d think Philo would have noticed the first street preacher to enthusiastically adopt his philosophy wholesale — if not the actual human incarnation of the very Word that Philo gave name to.


              3. Very amusing, Ben, but you know that the Synoptics are thoroughly Judaistic; they don’t claim Jesus as God in the sense of Philo’s attempt to synthesise Judaism with Greek philosophy.

                Only the Johannine Monarchian Prologue tries that one on; so yes, let’s say John was written in CE95, the author was influenced by Philoism, therefore, 45 years after Philo’s death. Maybe so.

                But, there was much more time for early Christianity to have been suffused with Greek ideas. Why? Even the Catholic Encyclopaedia admits that John 1:1-18, the most overtly Philoine section, was probably written arond CE200.

                No evidence at all that Matthew, Mark and Luke had a Hellenistic interpretation of Christology; no evidence that Jesus was wandering around proclaiming his own Logositude; that John proclaimed it, yes, but maybe 175 years after the crucifixion.

                Why would Philo look for his Word Incarnate in the Jesus camp, when none of them remotely thought like that at the time?


              4. Wait — I’m confused.

                G. John couldn’t have been authored both in 95 CE and 200 CE.

                If we’re to believe that the individual gospels themselves are mini-anthologies and / or multi-generational collaborative works…then remind me, again, why anybody is even pretending that they’re evidence of anything other than a certain literary and religious tradition?


              5. Yeah, Ben, I should have made it clear: John 1:1-18 is a later interpolation, hence, the disparity in dates; gotta rush, I have a lesson.

              6. Finished work, now Ben, and therefore I have more time.

                Yup, when I call it ‘John’, I mean what we now read as the Gospel according to John. So, John 1:1-18 is the Greek philosophy bit added to an already existing text. By a different hand? Of course, if the 2 dates of 95 and 200CE are even approxiamtely accurate.

                So yes, this constitutes your ‘evidence of a certain literary and religious tradition’ and points to a much later influence of Philo on Christian philosophy than the assumption that the whole Gospel was written, for the sake of argument, in 95CE.

                By the way, I’m sure you didn’t mean to, but one of your previous posts on Philo appears to imply he was a Christian due to his influence on Christian thought. Philo never thought of himself as a Christian, never, to my knowledge, mentioned it, and was a Jewish philosopher/theologian.

                Philo didn’t invent Christian philosophy; his ideas were adapted by much later Christians, long after his death.

              7. First, yes, of course — Philo invented the philosophy that Christians adopted for themselves. There weren’t any Christians in Philo’s day, not even Jesus Christ — again, as evidenced by the fact that Philo was there (and / or next door) and didn’t observe Jesus when Jesus couldn’t possibly have been missed.

                And, as I recall, the point of this discussion is whether or not G. John and the other Gospels are useful in establishing the truth claims contained therein. As soon as one realize that the individual Gospels themselves are patchwork quilts assembled over a span of several generations beginning several generations after the “fact,” that notion becomes moot.

                At that point, lacking evidence closer in time to the authorship of the works — again, remembering that all we have are Medieval manuscripts of dubious provenance plus a few isolated scraps of fragments from the third and fourth, and maybe the second centuries — it becomes clear that you really can’t say much of anything about the origins of the Gospels, including which bits got added when. The whole edifice of Biblical scholarship is a sky castle built upon a foundation of faith.

                Even if you can somehow reasonably come to the conclusion that it wasn’t until later that Philo-inspired passages were added to G. John, that tells you nothing at all about which came first in the Christian movement. It could well be that the Philo stuff was there from the start, that a later movement created the Jesus story to put a face to the philosophy, and it was only when the Jesus story had matured sufficiently that it got adopted.

                Is there evidence to support such an hypothesis? No, of course not. But there isn’t any evidence to support any other hypothesis, either…except for the negative evidence we have that demonstrates that nothing even vaguely resembling what’s described in the Gospels ever happened.



            1. Also, I think there is widespread consensus that the accounts of Jesus’ trial must have something quite wrong in them and must have considerable fabrication.

        2. It’s been a long time since I seriously studied the matter but I actually at one point was in Bible college as a Bible major. I chose a different path.

          At any rate, our examination of the Bible from an academic perspective –

          A) The 27 books currently in the New Testament were not formerly canonized until 4th century but we know they all existed in 2nd century because they are all referenced in 2nd century texts even though we do not have any fragments from that early.

          B) A problem in the early church arose, where forged documents claiming to be epistles started spreading. Many of these were the works of gnostics, often written in Coptic. Even though a formal canonization process had not yet taken place, this resulted in lists from the “church fathers” spreading that informed other churches which documents were valid and which were not. The oldest such list we have I believe dates to 190 AD and is virtually identical to the current New Testament canon with the exception that Revelation of John was not in the list.

          C) While the lists are useful, unfortunately we know some works were added to later on. Trying to figure out what are additions to the original text and what isn’t is quite a task.

          D) As far as the synoptic gospels go, most scholars believe there was a document called Q. This Q comes from a period in German scholarship where it was common to solve problems by making up sources that they had no evidence existed. There still is no evidence of Q. No fragment has been found, not even a mention of Q, and there actually is quite a bit of evidence against it.

          Q makes the assumption that the author of Luke did not have access to the Gospel of Mathew. However, there is textual evidence that the author of Luke did in fact have access to Mathew:

          Da) – There are numerous “minor agreements” between Mathew and Luke against Mark. If the author of Luke did not have access to Mathew than Q looked so much like Mathew that they might as well be the same document.

          Db) – There are clear cases of copying fatigue from Mathew to Luke. Luke tells the same story Mathew does but tries to put a different perspective on it using different phrases and words, so he starts out differently – but by the end of the story, he is using the same phrases and words that Matthew used. This is a very clear indication that the author of Luke used Mathew as a source. Either that or Q is so much like Matthew that they may as well be the same document.

          A good book on this is “The Case Against Q” if you are interested.


          Anyway, this Coptic fragment smells like a Gnostic work and we know the Gnostics were after the time of Jesus and the initial church, so while this fragment is a neat find, it really has no bearing on who Jesus may have been.

          1. I can’t get past the dating flaw in your item A.

            If the documents reference 2nd Century texts then we can conclude that they were not written before the 2nd Century. We can not conclude they were written in the 2nd Century. They might have been written last week and still reference 2nd Century material. Since they were canonized in the 4th Century we can establish a window of two or three centuries for their authorship but “2nd Century” remains only a possibility.

            1. They way I parse what Alice wrote is that other texts, unspecified existing documents which are dated to the 2nd century, make references to the 27 books of the New Testament. This would indicate that the material in the 27 books of the New Testament are from the 2nd century or earlier.

              I have no idea if the information Alice related is accurate or not, just offering my interpretation of what she wrote.

            2. You’re right, that’s a pretty astonishing flaw in temporal logic. Which is why you should have re-read what she wrote to make sure you didn’t misunderstand. Which you did. Quite badly.

              She did not say that documents physically created in the 4th century referenced other documents created in the 2nd century. She said the 4th century documents were referenced by documents dated to the 2nd century, which does in fact mean (if accurate – I’m not qualified to comment on the veracity of the claim) that earlier copies of the 4th century documents existed in the 2nd century.

              That does not, of course, mean that the contents of the 4th century copies are the same as the contents of the 2nd century predecessors (not that Alice was making such a claim at all – she seems to know quite a bit better than to do that).

              1. What I meant is that the earliest fragments we have of the new testaments are 4th century.

                However we have documents from second century that reference them, so we know they existed at least in the second century even though we only have physical fragments from the 4th century.

              2. However we have documents from second century that reference them

                Do we, though?

                Or do we just have manuscripts from the Medieval period of doubtful provenance and an assumption that the long-since-lost originals of which only copies-of-copies-of-copies remain were penned in the second century?


  5. The full text says:
    “I’m Jesus, and so is my wife”
    I like the reasoned reaction of theologians!
    “Jim West, a professor and Baptist pastor in Tennessee, said: “A statement on a papyrus fragment isn’t proof of anything. It’s nothing more than a statement ‘in thin air’, without substantial context.”
    Isn’t it funny how quickly they learn the value of physical evidence!

      1. Reading Jim West’s very famous WordPress blog, it appears he is loonier than Pat Robertson, mostly due to West’s widely known self-inconsistency. The poles flip every day as long as he is on Earth.

    1. Jim West is the strangest pastor to ever live. He does not think the Creation-Evolution controversy is important, strongly believes in a creator god, and hates New Atheists. He is also anti-Zionist, believes there is little evidence for a Davidic state, and is friendly with Biblical Minimalists.

  6. My personal reveleation has completed the fragment: “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife will be used sparingly so people do not get tired of her.'”

    And then there is some incoherent statement about how being a savior would be easier if he were Latino.

    1. Well, if jesus was married, and he is indeed the one true conservative republican jesus, the next fragment should mention his scandalous excesses with male prostitues.

  7. The catholic church purged the apocryphal stories from the bible centuries ago but many of those stories continued in print until early last century. In the apocrypha, Jesus was married. I guess the catholic church decided they didn’t want too many contradictions and Jesus being married was one too many. For me this fragment (if it is genuine) would only demonstrate that the stories of a married Jesus are indeed among the early christian stories and not a much later apocryphal tradition.

  8. “… was shocked to find me in bed with peter since i had led her to believe i had been unfaithful only with mark”

    1. A “metaphorical” wife is certainly a possibility here, though there are too many undecided questions to make any definite judgement, other than a piece of papyrus mentioning Jesus’s wife exists.

  9. Interesting because the Archaeological Institute of America of America does not recognize the historical Jesus to begin with while their scholarly squad, made up of Robert Cargill and Eric Cline, with the help of other minimalists like Katharina Gallor and Israel Finklestein give no credibility or accuracy to the Old or New Testament. It is only really Professors and archaeologists that are related to religious educational institutions that come up with these scenarios.

    1. The AI of America (that last phrase only needed once) specifically rebuts the claim that Jesus’ bones were found in a given tomb. See
      However, the AIA makes no claim as to whether there was a historical Jesus one way or the other.

      However, many professors not aligned with religious institutions (albeit tentatively) think there may have been a historical Jesus, and no one is claiming that this proves Jesus really had a wife, only that some early Christians think he did.

      1. The AIA actually does take the position that there is no historical Jesus and has sponsored, in the past and as recently as this October , a series of lectures, between 2008 and 2010 , given by Katharina Galor giving that position. “Archaeological Institute of America entitled: Jesus: What is the archaeological evidence? It was delivered by Katharina Galor from the dept. of Judaic Studies at Brown University.” This year, for the AIA, she will continue that perspective on the historical Jesus, on a new tour, that will take her, in October, through Massachusetts. I have yet to find any legitimate archaeological association that supports a historical Jesus because there is no empirical evidence.

  10. I actually know Karen King. She was a good friend in College. Very smart lady. I never knew Karen to be super religious but she is THE scholar to be chosen to study dead languages. Coptic is her specialty I recall.

  11. “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife …

    …is imaginary because I’m not married! Ha ha. Historians of the future will be completely misled if only the first two words of this quote gets preserved. LOL.'”.

  12. One thing that bothers me about stories like this, or the Ossuary the other year, is that I find it hard to believe Jesus was a unique name. Wouldn’t it be the equivalent of ‘George’ for 1st Century Palestine? So if you find something mentioning ‘George’s wife’ then it would be hard to argue that ‘George’ is a particular religious leader as opposed to another with the same name.

    1. Indeed, there’re a dozen or so men named, “Jesus,” that Josephus mentioned. Except for a couple forgeries by Eusebius, though, none of them are of “the” Jesus — worng time, worng place, worng parents, worng résumé, etc., etc., etc.



      1. Ah, good old Eusebius! The same guy (actually a bishop) who cooked up the nonense of Constantine seeing the vision of the fiery cross as a sword and hearing the words from on high:’in this cross conquer’.

  13. Has Karen King been threatened with death yet? How dare she question the celibate nature of the saviour.

    “Behead those who insult the Saviour”. Slogan appropriated from the recent Islamist protest march in Sydney.

      1. I would have thought you would be just as happy with the full translation of the text:

        1) … not [to] me, my mother gave to me li[fe] …

        2) The disciples said to Jesus, “…

        3) … deny. Mary is worthy of it … (or, alternatively, Mary is not worth of it …)

        4) …” Jesus said to them, “My wife …

        5) … she will be able to be my disciple …

        6) Let wicked people swell up …

        7) As for me, I dwell with her in order to …

        8) … an image …

        Especially item 6) 😉

    1. NO writings relate to the “Historical Jesus”, as all are far too late. For no good reasons I suspect that all of the extant gospels were written after the Bar Kokhba revolt (132–136 CE).

      1. There’s at least one good reason.

        The Gospels are presented as friend-of-a-friend hearsay (Luke 1:1), they’re written in third-person omniscient using literary techniques, and they get basic history and geography spectacularly worng in ways that no eyewitness would.

        The only plausible explanation is that they were written well removed in both time and space, and mid-second-century Greece is just about perfect.

        Oh — did I mention? The gospels are written in scholarly Greek by educated Greeks who studied Greek at Greek schools, and they Greek retellings of ancient Greek myths about Greek heroes and Greek gods and Greek monsters and Greek philosophy popular with all the Greeks in the Greece of the day — stories that Greek parents had been telling to their Greek children for as long as Greece had been home to the Greeks.

        I think I might be sensing a pattern there….



        1. Actually Luke is written in somewhat scholarly Greek, but other Gospels are written in quite colloquial Greek. Mark’s Greek shows signs of its author either being Aramaic or using Aramaic sources, while there is no indication of this in Luke at all.

          Oddly, the Gospel generally presupposed as the !*least*! reliable by non-fundamentalist historians, John, is the only one that gets the geography of Palestine more or less correct. It is also the one that shows a lot of influence of Greek philosophy, much moreso than the other three.

          You’re overgeneralizing.

          1. Mark’s gospel also shows signs of it being written by a Latin speaker, such as him writing “Centurion” (κεντυρίων : kenturion) instead of what a centurion actually meant: “leader of 100” (ἑκατοντάρχης : hekatontarches), which is what Matthew/Luke write.

      2. I have not excluded your idea as a possibility, though scholarship should be consulted on this matter to reach firm conclusions. Most scholars seem to date the gospels to the late 1st C AD.

  14. “Jesus said to them, ‘My wif…i has been down for, like, 4 hours. Don’t worry, my mortal brethren, you won’t understand what that means, but one day your descendents will totally get what I’m saying.'”

  15. I don’t think the idea that Jesus was married is particularly dangerous to orthodoxy. If you start denying the possibility that Jesus could have been married, then you’re veering very close to docetism and denying that Jesus was a real human being at all. Even Luther thought Jesus was married to Mary magdalene ( not sure of the exact reference, but it’s somewhere in his writings, trust me). IMO most modern Christians are docetists without realising it.

    Of course, all this speculation is based on the assumption that there was a historical Jesus, which a fourth century Coptic manuscript does absolutely nothing to confirm.

  16. For fuck’s sake. Would you accept this sorta story if it was in biology?

    Mark Goodacre is very good to read on these matters. (Even if he’s a believer.)

    In short: this fragment is at least 200 years later than the supposed lifespan of the supposed Jesus. It’s as credible as Washington and the cherry tree.

    1. I have read Mark Goodacre (and referenced one of books above – The Case Against Q) – I whole heartily agree with you.

      What people need to realize, I’ve been inside the evangelical cicle – what people need to realiz is that when they make such foolish arguments to amuse themselves, these arguments are used as fodder by evangelicals to show the sheeple that there is an agenda against the church in science and that is then used to bolster their position that evolution is part of this conspiracy.

  17. Jesus said to them, ‘My wife has just taken out a life assurance policy on me for half a million shekels – does anyone know what “crucifixion double indemnity” means?’

  18. I’ve been thinking that this sort of demolishes the Church’s rationale for priestly celibacy, doesn’t it? And gee, I’d really love to see Saul of Tarsus’s face — that wretched, self-hating mysogynist — now that the news has gotten out about Jesus’s wife. And doesn’t it lead you to furious thinking about what was going on with all those disciples — if you haven’t thought about this previously? It’s just so damn yummy on many planes.

  19. Perhaps the next words would have been “. . . is unable to bear children because, being haploid, I am unable to produce sperm.”

    A long time ago, I read about a man who started bleeding from his posterior orifice shortly after his 13th birthday. This bleeding occurred once a month. Physicians at the time could find no explanation (X Rays were not in widespread use at the time). This continued until he was in his early 40s at which time the bleeding stopped. In the interim, he married and had children. It was only after he died and there was an autopsy that it was discovered that he had a full set of female organs internally, including a birth canal that terminated in the large intestine.

    The man was, apparently, a hermaphrodite, a very rate condition among humans but, considering that he had children, he was clearly not sterile.

  20. Without reading all the above comments, surely marriage would have been the norm for an adult Jewish male? To stay unmarried would have been rather unusual at that time in that culture.

  21. @Ben Goren

    Posted September 20, 2012 at 4:22 pm

    Ben, I hope you’re not trying to make a case for the NT to have been written in the fourth century?

    Yes, the earliest complete surviving copies of the Gospels date from then, of course due to the arid conditions in which they were stored.

    By way of comparison, these are some dates for the earliest surviving manuscripts of literature from the classical world, roughly contemporaneous with commonly agreed authorship of the New Testament books.

    Tacitus’ Annals – eleventh century
    Suetonius’ Lives of the Caesars – probably ninth century
    Pliny the Younger – ninth century
    Livy – fourth century
    Pliny the Elder’s Natural History – ninth, possibly, eighth century
    Caesar’s Gallic Wars – ninth century

    Back to classical and ancient Greece:
    Herodotus – tenth century
    Thucydides – tenth century (but not trustworthy)
    Homer’s Odyssey – tenth century

    We’re actually lucky they survive at all. Many of them were copied by Christian monks, a tradition instigated around the end of the eighth century by Charlemagne, the illiterate Holy Roman Emperor. The Greeks, I suspect, come to us via the Islamic empire route. We don’t imagine they were written just before the date of the earliest manuscript.

    Likewise with the Gospels, we don’t imagine they were written just before the date of their earliest manuscript. Off the top of my head, can you imagine that a fourth century author would know much about Pontius Pilate? Whose existence was only confirmed in 1961 (?) with that mile-stone, stele, whatever it was.

    1. Ben, I hope you’re not trying to make a case for the NT to have been written in the fourth century?

      Erm, considering the Council of Nicaea was in 325, yes, that’s exactly when the New Testament was written.

      Was it written using a pool of earlier source materials? Of course. But, if one is to analyze the New Testament with the intention of using it to establish historical facts, you’d have to consider the entire pool of sources it was drawn from, not just the ones finally selected, and consider why the final selection was made.

      As soon as you do that, it becomes clear that the already-jumbled mess of the New Testament is actually quite coherent, what with the Marcionites and the Ophites and what-not. The true literary nature of the New Testament becomes instantly apparent.

      As to your list of ancient manuscripts, two points.

      First, in many cases, we have solid archaeological evidence to support the claims made in those works. For example, when Caesar wrote that he camped at this location on such a date with so many men, you can go to that spot, put a shovel in the ground, and find the debris of a Roman military encampment of a similar size, and the empirical dating of the ruins will match to within the margin of error.

      Every such attempted empirical verification of significant Bible claims has turned up either empty or with results that radically contradict those made in the Bible.

      Second, we actually have, quite literally, an entire library of original documents penned by Jews in and around Jerusalem before, during, and after all possible dates for Jesus’s lifetime. I refer, of course, to the Dead Sea Scrolls.

      And those Scrolls include all sorts of evidence where Jesus, had he been even a shadow of the Gospel figure, should have showed up. There’s the oldest copy of Isaiah, including the very passage about a maiden given birth that was supposed to have been a prophecy of Jesus’s arrival. There are treatises on war, prophecies of New Jerusalem, beatitudes (but not those beatitudes), and much much more — but nary a peep about Jesus or any of the events of the Gospels.

      And why shouldn’t we suppose that at least some of what’s in the New Testament wasn’t brand new to the first documents in which it appeared? That sort of thing happened all the time — and, indeed, you’ve argued for exactly that sort of later interpolation with Philo’s philosophy being inserted into G. John. Joseph Smith authored his books right there on the spot; would you consider his claims to have translated the text on the golden plates to mean that he must have at least been working with centuries-old manuscripts?



      1. Ben,

        A couple of points and then I think we should finish, so as not to go over JAC’s 15-20% threshold.

        Yes, the reason why I mentioned Pilate’s real existence was in anticipation of your point about extra-biblical confirmation of ‘facts’ esquissed in the NT.

        Yes, I know there are myriad later interpolations into the NT; it’s honest Biblical scholars, and there are some, Ben, who have worked out which ones they are. Btw, I can’t resist correcting myself by coining John 1:1-18 as an ‘antepolation’.

        I’ll take your final exclamation on Romney’s buddy as a rhetorical point you couldn’t resist.

        Over and out, Ben, I’ve got three pints of bitter seeking a home.


        1. I’m still not I understand the point of Pilate. Name-dropping doesn’t enhance a source’s reliability, and the Gospels already drop the names of Roman Emperors, Jewish Kings, and Paul the Baptist. And the Gospels aren’t the only ancient source to mention him; Philo, Josephus, and Tacitus also all mention him.

          The difference between the Gospels (or any individual Gospel, for that matter) and Julius Caesar’s autobiographical works is that Caesar wrote of verifiable and verified mundane matters in a single voice, whereas the Gospels write of unverifiable spectacular larger-than-life events unknown to history, and they did so in a collection of diverse and contradictory voices in archetypal fictional literary style. Many writers introduce real bits of history in order to make the story believable; Harry Potter is set in modern England, complete with well-known London landmarks.

          …which takes us to a something of a tangent. Back in ’99, Motorola sent me to London, Scotland, and Flensburg to do some training. Dad made me promise to have a pint of bitters at the Nag’s Head pub just outside the Islington Underground station. Good stuff! Hope you enjoyed yours.



            1. Sorry…this was over a decade ago, and my “Knowledge,” if you will, of London geography is piss-poor, indeed. If it helps, it was a short walk from the pub to Trafalgar Square, and I vaguely remember the pub being to the northwest of the Square…maybe….


              1. Looked up the Nag’s Head in Islington. It doesn’t look like the sort of pub I imagine you in, Ben. Mind you, I may be mis-reading your tastes. Looked like a dreaded chain pub to me, all comfy chairs and beautiful young people with forty year-old haircuts. Islington ain’t that short a walk from Traf. Square. You Americans – Phoenix you’re from? – seem to have a vastly different concept of distance compared to us Brits bumping around on our crowded little island. Alexandria next door to Jerusalem, indeed! Sorry, couldn’t resist.

              2. @ Ben

                Not really.

                It might have been the one that I visited a few years ago with some American colleagues who were looking for a “real English pub”.

                Most times I’m in London, we’re near Lancaster Gate (“The Swan”) or South Bank (“The Sherlock Holmes” over the Hungerford Bridge isn’t bad).


              3. Dermot, as Ant has figured out, it’s a matter of confusing names, not locations.

                But…since you bring it up: what do you think would have been the transit time of a first century merchant vessel sailing between Alexandria and Jerusalem?

                Compare that with modern travel. What would be a comparable pair of cities for a modern politician / titan of industry / high muckety-muck to travel between? Say…New York and Paris? Tokyo and London?

                Sure, the common folk wouldn’t have lightly travelled between Jerusalem and Alexandria, but we know for a fact that there was regular trade between the two and that people of means made such journeys as often as people of means make intercontinental trips today.

                And, remember: even then, a land caravan wouldn’t have taken much more than a week, two if slow, to make the trip.



              4. Of course, Ben, it’s possible, but unproveable, (unless summat turns up) that Philo was there in 33CE. The obvious point is that he made it to Rome at the age of 60, and therefore he was up to the sea journey, a mere bagatelle in comparison. What a guy. Unless there’s something we don’t know about the prevailing winds. currents etc. between Alexandria and Jaffa, would it be?

                Btw, no evidence at all that Christianity had made it to Alexandria by 50CE, the date of P’s death. Earliest dating of an NT book? 49CE; Thessalonians, I think.

              5. Dermot, I’m not trying to claim that Philo would have been a personal witness to the Crucifixion or anything along those lines.

                Rather, we know that Philo had interests in Jerusalem before, during, and after any reasonable timeframe where Jesus could have had his years-long ministry. And, even if not, he did go to Rome to protest to Caligula about what the Romans were doing to Jews — and Jesus’s case would have had to have been Exhibit A, even if he were just some random nobody schmuck.

                I would also be very cautious about uncritically accepting an early dating of the Pauline Epistles. Many of them are dated based on assumptions that the Gospels were written by the men whose names appear at the top around or before the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE and are completely trustworthy. Pure bullshit, in other words.



              6. That’s not how I remember Philo’s complaints at all. They were about how the Romans were sacrilegious towards official Judaism, towards the Temple; even Herod Agrippa, Caligula’s old buddy, had interceded on behalf of the Jews (and failed, hence Philo’s journey) because they were so outraged at their treatment by the empire forces. Jesus, in that case, would not have been exhibit A because he was opposed to official Judaism – sacking of the Temple during Passover week etc.

                Re: doubts on dating Pauline epistles: that’s why I said ‘earliest dating’ meaning the earliest dating put forward – mea culpa, not clear enough, in the interest of brevity. Btw, a later dating for the NT books makes it more likely that Philo would not have mentioned Jesus, if the latter existed.

                But the wider point on dating of, say, the Gospels isn’t only contingent on the names at the top of the book, it’s based on internal evidence, the sophistication or otherwise of the theology and literary analysis; for instance, to my knowledge, very few Bibilical scholars agree that John was written by John the apostle. And other criteria, which, frankly, I’m too knackered to raise.

                It’s 2.30 a.m. fer Christ’s sake!

                Cheers, Ben.

          1. Ben,

            The beer slipped down very nicely. Once more unto the breach charge the nerdy atheist bibliophiles.

            On the Qumran scrolls: ‘…there was no trace of any other book in the caves (of Qumran – DC) relating to an opposing religious faction except perhaps in the rebuttal in MMT (‘particularly important as a source of ancient legal debate’ – DC quoting Vermes – within Judaism – DC’s clarification).

            Furthermore, the same source cites, ‘The contribution of the Scrolls to general Jewish history is negligible, and even to the history of the Community is fairly limited. The chief reason for this is that none of the non-biblical compositions found at Qumran belongs to the historical genre.’ The ‘Community’ refers to the Essene ascetics at Qumran, and perhaps the ones in the towns.

            Geza Vermes – The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English (7th Edition) Kindle

            In other words, the Essenes who stored and wrote the scrolls weren’t even interested in their own history! Most of it is concerned with the rules of the community and their own interpretation of Judaism. Of the documents of theirs that remain, they are all, in the end, about themselves. Why mention Jesus in that context?

            Cheers, Ben,

            JAC, do tell us if we’re getting tiresome.

            1. The Essenes, of course, were the smallest and most reclusive of the three predominant Jewish sects at the time, with the other two being the Pharisees (whom Jesus made to be devils incarnate) and the Sadducees. Jesus didn’t like the Sadducees, either; see Matthew 16.

              Further, the Essenes had a great deal in common with early Christianity, especially including the millennialism, the communalism, the eschewing of animal sacrifice, the non-violence, and so on.

              What’s more, if one takes seriously the suggestion that Jesus wasn’t of Nazareth but rather a Nazarean…well, the Nazareans were part of the Essenes.

              So, if we go with the “Jesus as a random schmuck whom nobody else would have noticed” theory of Jesus — a theory, of course, soundly refuted by every extant document, whether orthodox or heresy…well, we’re still left with needing some sort of sizable movement, and that movement would have been amongst the Essenes.

              The Essenes who didn’t notice him at all….


              1. Apart from the fact that Jesus’ teachings differ in great degree to those of the Essenes, in that he was, according to the NT, a proselytiser and in the world, not withdrawn from it, and the fact that you obviously hesitate to take seriously the idea that ‘Jesus wasn’t of Nazareth but rather a Nazarean’, we need to look at the references in the Dead Sea scrolls to:

                Nazareans: none
                Nazarean: none

                So, I tried the alternative spelling:

                Nazoreans: none
                Nazorean: none

                And just in case there’s the confusion over ‘Nazarene’, whence the theory of Jesus’ Nazarean connection in the first place:

                Nazarenes: none
                Nazarene: none

                That’s a quick Kindle search, Ben. Again, Jesus wouldn’t turn up.

              2. At this point, I think we really need to take a step back to address the question: who was Jesus?

                Because I’m sure you would agree with me that the Jesus of the Gospels most emphatically would have been noticed by anybody and everybody in the Mediterranean. Right from the beginning, there was the prophecy, the Star of Bethlehem, the Magi, Herod, the Massacre of the Innocents, and so on.

                Your assertion that nobody would have noticed Jesus, therefore, must mean that the Jesus you have in mind was somebody quite different from the one described in the Gospels.

                So: who was this Jesus, and on what evidence do you support your theory? How do you know who he was with enough certainty to know that nobody would have noticed him, not even his kindred spirits who assembled the greatest ancient library to survive to this day, not even by the prolific philosopher whose novel philosophy would one day be adopted wholesale by his followers?


              3. Just spotted this; good questions, but I need to go to bed. In brief, the answer is I don’t know who Jesus was, whether he existed or whether he was a ‘random schmuck’ but I don’t have your certainty about his non-existence. I do think there are honest Biblical scholars who have done the years of work that I haven’t and now lack the time to put in.

                They say Milton was the last man who knew everything. Nowadays, even if we know a deal about something, we all know how little we really know about it, or at least I do.

                When the subject next comes up, I’m sure we’ll carry on.


              4. In that case, I would highly recommend that you take some time to construct a Theory of Jesus — one, of course, that is positively supported by the evidence, and one that has reasonable explanations for any contradictory evidence.

                There’re three main paths you can take.

                First, of course, is the Christian one, that Jesus was exactly as described in the Gospels. I think we’re agreed that this is purest bullshit.

                Next is that Jesus was a mere mortal of some kind but still the founder of Christianity. That’s what you’re trying to argue…but the problem is that, not only is there not one single scrap of evidence supporting such a hypothesis (it’s all based on the assumption that there’s fire where there’s smoke), but it’s contradicted by every account (especially the earliest and most authoritative ones) we have of Jesus.

                The last is that Jesus is exactly what he appears to be: a garden-variety Greco-Roman death / rebirth / salvation demigod grafted upon the Jewish pantheon. We know that that’s how new religions were born; famously, there’s the example of Serapis. We know that everything about Jesus’s biography was plucked out of the popular Greco-Roman tropes of the day, from the prophecy of the virgin birth to the struggles with the establishment to the triumph over death and the glorious return. And all the miracles are standard issue, too — water into wine, spitting in eyes to cure blindness, the portents at his death, all the rest.

                That, incidentally, also explains why there were so many different competing (and all equally absurd) notions of Jesus. Historicists are left with the unpleasant task of explaining why the Gospels paint a true picture of Jesus but Marcion, the Ophites, and thee rest of the heretics (who were all writing contemporarily with the Gospel authors) were way off base.

                And, obviously, it explains why nobody noticed anything out of the ordinary at the time this was all supposed to have happened.

                The only substantive objections to the latter theory I’ve ever encountered ultimately come from Christian apologetics writing long after the fact — objections that invariably rely upon the insistence that the Gospels are really true, even down to the miracles.

                Think on it….



  22. Nothing new. As many people have pointed out, Jesus was a rabbi, and rabbis pretty much had to be married. Of course, his wife was Mary Magdalene and their wedding is described in the gospels (where he turned water into wine as his first miracle). Read the story. Jesus is the host, not a guest. And why does his mother just happen to be there?

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