“The Unbelievable Tale of Jesus’s Wife.” The title of this article, from the left-leaning magazine The Atlantic, tells you all you need to know. It’s unbelievable to think that Jesus was married, because, well, it’s simply impossible to believe.
The supposedly ancient manuscript that mentions Jesus’s wife and set the world abuzz in 2012 is almost certainly, as the Vatican said at the time, “an inept forgery.” The fragment is of extremely doubtful provenance. That is, the chain of custody which is an essential part of verifying ancient artworks and literature is sketchy to say the least. While everybody loves a story in which an ancient artifact emerges after having been concealed for centuries, this fragment is as fictional as the book and movie, The DaVinci Code.
The chain of custody involves scans of photocopies – that is, copies of copies – that have serious discrepancies with dates on letters and sales documents. And it turns out that everybody who could verify the provenance of the manuscript over the last 40 years or so is conveniently dead.
The fragment came into the possession of, and was sold by, a con man by the name of Walter Fritz. Fritz is a pseudo-scholar who dabbled in ancient Egyptology and left a position at a German museum in 1992 shortly after valuable artifacts disappeared from the museum’s inventory.
Fritz – described by an acquaintance as slithery as “an eel” – also made a boatload of money in the porn industry, producing films which featured his own wife. His wife also had been channelling “angels” since she was 17, and engaged in automatic writing, putting down on paper what these beings told her to write.
The fragment itself contains errors in Coptic grammar and sections that appear to have been copied from the Gospel of Thomas, a gnostic work produced long after the time of Christ that has never been accepted as authentic.
Blank scraps of ancient papyrus fragments are easy to purchase, even on eBay, and recipes to reproduce ancient inks are easy to come by. Fritz got the papyrus fragment from a guy with an eighth grade education who manufactured auto parts.
What gave the story legs at the time is that it was offered to the public by a Harvard historian of early Christianity, Karen King. Fritz was slyly careful and never made a direct claim that the fragment was authentic. He just wanted her opinion, don’t you know. He apparently recognized her as an easy mark. King let her feminist and anti-Christian quest for fame and notoriety overwhelm her scholarly judgment. Even she admitted the scrap was useless as a reliable source of biographical information about Jesus since at the very best it was composed seven or eight centuries after Christ’s earthly ministry.
Fritz told the writer of The Atlantic article, “The truth is not absolute. The truth depends on perspectives, surroundings.” He is obviously not a source who inspires confidence.
In contrast, Luke, the author of the gospel that bears his name as well as the book of Acts, “followed things closely,” drew his narrative from those who were “eyewitnesses” of the life and ministry of Christ, and was eager to let his readers know that consequently they could “have certainty about the things you have been taught” (Luke 1:2,4).
Further, Luke’s eyewitness sources in both books were people of unimpeachable character and integrity. They are described variously as “righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord,” “righteous and devout,” “good and righteous,” “full of good works and charity,” “a devout man who feared God with all his household,” “a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there,” and so forth (Luke 1:6; 2:25; 23:50; Acts 9:36; 10:2; 22:12).
There are more than 5,000 manuscripts of the Greek New Testament in existence which agree in every important particular, and none of which contain even a hint that Jesus may have been married. In every respect, the New Testament documents as we have them are utterly reliable, and constantly being confirmed by new archeological discoveries.
Bottom line:There is absolutely no reason to doubt the New Testament texts which give us no reason – none – to believe that Jesus was ever married. If a liberal writer for a liberal magazine can figure it out, we ought to be able to figure it out too.
But we also should not overlook the plain fact that these same New Testament texts give us every reason to believe that Jesus is exactly who he claimed to be: the Son of God, the Savior and Redeemer of the world, and our once and coming King.
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