A previously unknown scrap of ancient papyrus written in ancient Egyptian Coptic includes the words “Jesus said to them, my wife”, a discovery likely to renew a fierce debate in the Christian world over whether Jesus was married. The existence of the fourth-century fragment- not much bigger than a business card, was revealed at a conference in Rome on Tuesday by Karen King, Hollis Professor of Divinity at Harvard Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Karen mentions, “Published here for the first time is a fragment of a fourth-century CE codex in Coptic containing a dialogue between Jesus and his disciples in which Jesus speaks of “my wife”. This is the only extant ancient text which explicitly portrays Jesus as referring to a wife. It does not, however, provide evidence that the historical Jesus was married, given the late date of the fragment and the probable date of original composition only in the second half of the second century. Nevertheless, if the second century date of composition is correct, the fragment does provide direct evidence that claims about Jesus’ marital status first arose over a century after the death of Jesus in the context of intra-Christian controversies over sexuality, marriage, and discipleship. Just as Clement of Alexandria (d. ca 215 C.E.) described some Christians who insisted Jesus was not married, this fragment suggests that other Christians of that period were claiming that he was married. For purposes of reference, the fragment is referred to as The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife.”
This latest piece of information has sparked off a debate that never fails to arouse the world’s interest. Did Jesus have a wife?
With the lack of mass literacy or printing, verbal communication has originally been the most used form of communication. Oral histories, since they are not directly communicated by the story-teller to the reader, and passes through several channels on the way, often thus, are subjected to diversion and distortion of the real facts. And also, since there is no visual proof to validate the facts, the onus is upon the numerous messengers of that information to communicate the correct thing, which often becomes a drawback. So, someone might unintentionally paraphrase something incorrectly, or this drawback could be beneficial to anyone, who wants to edit the course of history.
As much popularised by the bestseller Dan Brown novel, The Da Vinci Code, the world got a glimpse of the heated debates within Christianity in the backdrop of a fiction. Thus, the audience for the debates phenomenally increased since. Christianity’s obsession with the “Godliness” of their savior Jesus reveals a conservativeness that is often shielded in the much “modern” nations that harbour the majority of the Christian populace.
It touches even the hearts of even the normally not-wearing-their-religion-on-their-sleeves Christians, and brings forth their religious beliefs. This is because religion is something that is at the core of every individual, as generally, it is under the broad umbrella of religion (not to forget the influence of several factors such as region and culture, which vary from place to place) under which value system every individual is raised.
The mystery of Jesus’ alleged marriage to Mary Magdalene is the biggest controversy surrounding the most followed religion in the world. Even the portrayal of Jesus’ mother, Mary, as the holy virgin, thus, branding virginity as a symbol of purity, and sexual feelings and intercourse as satanic and unholy. Is celibacy so crucial to the publicity of the religion? Is it possible to accept, through reason and logic, that Jesus was one extraordinary and influential human with the ability to guide millions to follow his path?
Even in Hinduism, the several million gods that are there, at the end of the day, are different avatars (manifestations)of humans only. They are not all good or all bad. Their lives were marked by good deeds and bad deeds. Even Rama, our most popular god, and maryada puroshattam had abandoned his wife at the call of a dhobi (washerman). Or even Krishna has been viewed by some as inciting war.
But we choose to revere them; we respect and worship them even so many centuries later. So why can’t we accept Jesus falling in love, a very natural, positive and basic emotion, which, in the end, is the ultimate message of any and every religion…