Did Jesus have a wife?

The following timely article is from Peter Williams the Warden of a leading, Christian post-graduate study center in England called the TYNDALE HOUSE. It possesses one of the finest libraries for biblical research in the world, packed with specialist material on the language, culture, history, and meaning of the Bible. This article clarifies what the news media have only made unclear: this fragment does not support the modern, non-sensical notion that Jesus had a wife.

The Web is by now awash with stories of an ancient text in which Jesus says ‘my wife’. The story which broke yesterday in the New York Times and some other sources, is being carried today by outlets too numerous to list. Some of the reporting is responsible, but not all. Consider this extract from The Daily Mail: “If genuine, the document casts doubt on a centuries old official representation of Magdalene as a repentant whore and overturns the Christian ideal of sexual abstinence.”

We are of course in a context where there is so much ignorance of basic facts about Christianity that even when the media properly relay facts they get completely distorted and misunderstood in popular perception. This can be seen in the way derivative media put spin on the story and in the online comments below the news items.

The papyrus at the centre of the publicity

Here we try to establish a few facts.

The scholarly article upon which almost all knowledge of the fragment is based is here [at Harvard].

What do we know from this? Continue reading

Beat people with your Bible?

“You shouldn’t beat people over the head with the Bible.”

Often heard phrase, but is it useful to say (or affirm)? Last week, in a Prayer Partner Letter from Bethlehem College & Seminary, President Tim Tomlinson wrote the following helpful reflections. Let me know what you think.
~ pdb

I don’t know if you have ever heard the following phrase, but I have on a number of occasions: “You shouldn’t beat people over the head with the Bible.” Whenever I’ve heard that said, it has always troubled me. I understand, I think, what those who say it are trying to accomplish. They don’t want to alienate people who might be alienated by some parts of the Bible. But therein lies what troubles me. There is implied in this statement the notion that the Bible, by itself, is not adequate for helping people overcome whatever it is they are struggling with (sin, depression, denial of God, etc.). It requires some sort of qualification or special relationship standing before it can be used to help inform, correct, exhort, or inspire people.

When I look at the Bible itself, however, I don’t see that attitude portrayed at all by those who speak of its value to all of life. The Psalmist who wrote Psalm 119 makes over 170 references to the worth and value of the Word of God. The entire theme of this psalm is to extoll the surpassing worth of the Word to all of life.

“Oh how I love your law!
It is my meditation all the day.
Your commandment makes me
wiser than my enemies,
for it is ever with me.
I have more understanding than all my teachers,
for your testimonies are my meditation.
I understand more than the aged,
for I keep your precepts.
I hold back my feet from every evil way,
in order to keep your word.
I do not turn aside from your rules,
for you have taught me.
How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!”
(Psalm 119:97-103).

For the psalmist, the Word of God is his sustenance, his joy, his guide, his way of understanding, and his love. Such a view of the Bible is an example to all of us that the Word of God is sufficient for all situations and all people–even if it makes us uncomfortable sometimes with its clear and life-giving truth.

Yes, we should use the Bible with care, and with an appropriate, loving, and sensitive attitude in sharing it with others, but we should never shrink back from bringing the life-giving Word of God to bear on any life situation we may encounter.

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

Tim Tomlinson,
June 22, 2011