- 3:56 pm - Wed, Sep 19, 2012
- 3 notes
A recent New York Times article describes a newly discovered textual fragment which mentions Jesus and a wife in the same sentence. This has been a gift to headline writers everywhere (though not to the predictably cranky Rod), but as we know in Wonkistan, there’s probably more to the story than “Jesus was married! Story at five.”
Take it away, Ivan:
There is nothing particularly lost about the latest scandalous “Lost Gospel” story to come out of The New York Times. Neither is there anything particularly Gospelish. Just because something is old and mentions Jesus doesn’t mean it’s credible, well-researched, or authoritative. The twenty-seven books of the New Testament were very carefully selected, not only on the basis of theological correctness (look up how the Gospel of John almost didn’t make it in!) but also for signs of authenticity. You should be especially cautious if a modern report makes a big deal about a single sentence fragment in a single document in which Jesus mentions a wife.
[W]e were treated to front-page headlines yesterday in the New York Times about Jesus’ wife (“A Faded Piece of Papyrus Refers to Jesus’ Wife“), based on a very tiny fragment of what one scholar says is a 4th-century writing about Jesus Christ. If there’s one thing we all know, it’s that mysterious stories about 4th-century Coptic fragments of questionable provenance are probably more authoritative (in the media’s eyes) about Jesus’ life than the extensive writings of his contemporaries. Now, considering how these annual “shake the foundations of Christianity” stories always tend to be about the sensationalizing of scholarship or archeological claims, yesterday’s could have been worse.
Eleanor Barkhorn at The Atlantic points out that the Bible has Jesus referring to his wife fairly often too. That wife doesn’t happen to be a person, but no matter.
Clickthrough-demanding headlines aside, before you hop onto the latest piece of revisionist Biblical scholarship, go ahead and do a little contextual research. The nuance is the fun part!