Saturday, September 22, 2012

Was Jesus Married? Who Cares?

I don’t usually address current hot topics, because, well . . . just because! But in a blog dealing with relationship issues, it seems as if I should share my thoughts about Jesus’ marital status.

Decades before the tiny 1 ½” x 3” scrap of papyrus was found and echoed around the world, I had a professor in a college class (lost mostly in the mist of time) tell our class that at the time, it would have been unusual for a Jewish man of His age not to be married. In fact, so odd would it have been, that that would have been noted and part of the record. I don’t know if that is true, nor do I care.

I took classical Greek in college, but that is so far in the past, I cannot pretend to be able to translate the Coptic Greek of the papyrus found. The added concern of unknown provenance would make any scholar/translator nervous. So, I will trust that the translation we have been given is accurate. There are numerous online articles re this topic, but in case you haven’t heard about it, here is the link to the first one I read:

I know that translators have huge power in shaping our beliefs by the words they put into the Bible. For example, in the Christmas story, the actual translation should have been, “Peace on Earth to men of good will.” Now that’s a different message!

Also, “virgin” was substituted for “unmarried young woman”. Maybe Mary was virginal, but not necessarily. These sorts of choices shape the religion being described.

I have long been fascinated by the Gnostic gospels, those early Christian church accounts NOT selected to be in the official canon. I have many of them and find them an intriguing read. Were a different group were to be selecting those books, we might well have the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Thomas. Maybe the Gospel of Mary Magdalene would have appeared and be read by us.

The point is the New Testament was formed from the selections of books that the early Christian church leaders thought best to form their church around. Of course they had to make choices. Some of those Gnostic gospels had Jesus doing the equivalent of magic tricks and weren’t credible. So they had to pick, but what criteria did they use? If women were to take a less prominent role in the early church, then leaving out Mary Magdalene’s account makes sense. Women could play a support role, but not be priests. If the Jesus they wanted to base the religion around were unmarried, it would be easier to go with celibate clergy later down the road.

I don’t care. Married or unmarried, the moral actions of the historical Jesus are what should matter to Christians. What guidance is provided should trump inconsequential questions of marital status.

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