Wednesday 19 September 2012

Jesus's Wife - a Radical Proposal

I've been pondering the way news stories work when it comes to anything to do with ancient archaeology and texts - especially in the Holy Land, largely in the Middle East, but also maybe more generally.

So when Atlantis was found using Google Ocean - note that the Telegraph here is using what I like to think of as the "Distancing Question Mark". So newspapers saying "Lady Gaga Stole and Ate A Horse" are at danger of libel action. Whereas, the theory goes, if the headline is "Did Lady Gaga Steal and Eat a Horse?" - hey presto, free from any need actually to be factually correct. Note also that the Telegraph uses the standard geographical size for any medium-sized entity - i.e. "the size of Wales".

But I digress. The "Atlantis Found" story was printed, quite straight, quoting Atlantis "experts". The fact it was, if we believe the Telegraph datelines, debunked the same day - proves just what a well-researched story it was. But Atlantis is sexy. Atlantis sells. If we ever do find Atlantis, I expect to see, on a stone tablet, a copy of the Atlantis Telegraph, saying "Sea Level Rise - a Left Wing Scam?"

In the same way, "more old scrolls found showing consistency with know Gospel versions" is not news. "Gospel of Judas shows he was a good bloke" - now that's news. Basically every time we find a Gnostic Gospel, somewhere under the sands of the desert or in some pot, the whole of Biblical scholarship is going to be "overturned". It's always a "bombshell". It always turns out that Jesus didn't have a real body, or he was married to Mary Mag. Or his dad was a Roman. Or he was in a civil partnership with Peter. Or all sorts of other things.

All based on - generally speaking - one scroll. Or as in the "Gospel of Jesus's Wife" - a few words on a parchment.

So here's my thesis - radical it might be. But I'm going to stick my neck out here.

Based on four Gospels (five, if you include Thomas) and the rest of the New Testament and other early writings, and on the general agreement of those parts of the Church that had no vested interest in trying to synthesise the Apostolic tradition with Greek philosophy - I propose:

  • That Jesus was probably not married (though it wouldn't matter all that much if he did, as it wasn't a sin), 
  • That he never went to India, nor Glastonbury.
  • That he had twelve close apostles - none of whom, as far as we can tell, were female or gay lovers of his. He had lots of other disciples - men and women.
  • That one of his apostles betrayed him to an alliance of the Romans and the Jewish leaders.
  • That he died, and was buried.
  • That on the third day, he rose from the dead.
  • That all the graves in the Palestinian territories and Israel marked "Jesus" are other people
  • That he didn't leave any living descendants (although it wouldn't matter much if he had - as he had totally normal human DNA).
  • That the church went and preached much of what I'd said above.
  • That the Gnostics made stuff up to try and fit Jesus into other philosophies. Because they were so odd, and because the tradition said otherwise, they didn't last.

By the way - is it Jesus' or Jesus's? I realise I could just go all 19th Century and say Jesu's but that's just cheating.


  1. I was wondering how Jesus 'pulled'? Given that he was serious and forthright, not a trait that many women would have appreciated.

    And, he hung out with loads of blokes, who have given up everything, including wives, children, businesses and all to follow him.

    And if he did have a wife, how does that effect the parables - where he tells his followers to leave everything and follow him, And the other one where he states that families will be divided, father from son, son from mother, husband from wives by the Gospel.

    No, I believe that he was a confirmed bachelor with some pretty close friends of both sexes. And, hanky panky outside marriage wasn't on the cards.

    1. Serious and forthright? Maybe the second, but although he was serious at times Jesus appears to have had a well-developed sense of humour - witness the ridiculous nature of some of the stories and illustrations he used - certainly good enough to get him invited to all sorts of parties with the riff-raff. Aren't women (stereotype alert!) supposed to appreciate a GSOH?

    2. I'm pretty sure that Jewish mums encourage their daughters to marry lawyers and doctors. Not messiahs.

  2. I'd go for Jesus', but not at the risk of causing a schism.

    1. I try to avoid sentences requiring a decision on this one. How to pronounce the apostrophe is also a bit of a dilemma.

    2. I'd suggest slightly longer than the standard s, but not so long as to make it obvious. Leave the hearer in some doubt and he (or she) can then rely on faith as to what he (or she) prefers to hear.

  3. Having closely examined the parchment (via the bbc news website) I can conclude that this is part of an early example of a 'mother-in-law joke' . jesus was saying "Peter did you here the one about......."

  4. Replies
    1. You'll change your tune when Mitt gets into power and sends his droid army to darken the skies over Husborne Crawley..

  5. Excellent thesis! I too yawn at these supposedly faith-shattering "discoveries". Have you thought of laminated pew cards? (I mean for your thesis, not just generally... Although I supposed you might ponder them in moments of reflection.)

    And don't you love the way they try to make the Atlantis story more credible by comparing it with Milton Keynes?

  6. Oh my word! According to the 2nd Telegraph article:

    A spokeswoman said: "It's true that many amazing discoveries have been made in Google Earth including a pristine forest in Mozambique that is home to previously unknown species and the remains of an Ancient Roman villa.

    Gosh, those Romans got everywhere!

    love Mags B x

  7. Superb! And adaptable, too. The next time someone comes up with another of these "Shock! New papyrus shows Jesus' disciples all wore check trousers! Is this the end of the Church?" scares, I'll know where to turn for comfort.

    Oh, and by the way, it all seems to be as much tosh as we all probably thought, anyway: The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife: How a fake Gospel-Fragment was composed, by Francis Watson . (I always did have a soft spot for the University of Sitting-on-Top-of-a-Big-Rock-Drinking-Tea.)

  8. You are all more intelligent than I am.
    DNA wouldn't have mattered to the ancients because they believed that the mother was just a vessel into which the father deposited all of himself.
    When we began to know a bit better, the Catholics immediately came up with more and more theology to purify Mary.
    The thought that the human+divine Jesus from a heavenly father and an extra-pure virgin, who was biologically free from original sin, could have had children would be too earth shaking for mainstream Christianity to cope with very well.


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