I recently noticed the “dust up” in the news concerning Jesus’ wife. Karen King, a Harvard Divinity School professor, announced the discovery of the only existing “ancient text which explicitly portrays Jesus as referring to a wife.” According to the professor, this text – discovered on a fragment smaller than a business card – records Jesus referring to a woman, Mary, as “my wife,” and later saying, “She can be my disciple.” This discovery returned the discussion of Jesus to the public conversation; albeit, I fear, for all the wrong reasons.
Many in the media began excitedly hypothesizing the implications of this discovery. Could Christianity survive, they wondered aloud, the revelation of Jesus’ marriage? Were the traditions of Jesus’ bachelorhood so obviously debunked, they mused, what other widely held tenants of the faith were at risk? Christians rose up in defense of their faith by discounting this new revelation and reaffirming age-old traditions. This debate lasted about two days, or until the next “shiny object” attracted the media’s attention. I remained “on the sidelines” throughout this debate. What’s the problem, I wondered, with Jesus having a wife?
This debate extends to the third or fourth century A.D. Believers of that time were engaged in debate with a sect called the Gnostics who believed in a separation of the physical from the spiritual. These Gnostics taught that the spiritual was the good and holy part of creation and the physical was evil and should be done away with. They denied the teaching of the incarnation, God made flesh. They taught that Jesus only seemed to have the presence of God upon him. Thus they had no difficulties with the human Jesus being married or even having children. The recent popular narrative, The Da Vinci Code, springs from Gnostic roots.
Christians have processed this debate through the centuries and have come down on the side of Jesus’ remaining unmarried. Scriptures are silent on the matter, but traditions have been handed down to that effect. Later in her conference paper on this discovery, professor King makes it clear that this new text does not prove that Jesus had a wife, but instead “it is evidence that some early Christians believed Jesus had a wife.” I don’t believe that Jesus had a wife, but I do believe that He is married. I should explain.
Scripture tells us that the Church is the bride of Christ. In the Gospel of John, John the Baptist speaks of Jesus Christ as the bridegroom and mentions the bride. “The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice.” (John 3:29) Mark records Jesus’ answer as to why His disciples do not fast as the disciples of John and the Pharisees do. Jesus answers, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast.” (Mark 2:19) In Ephesians 5:22ff the union of husband and wife is compared to that of Christ and the church. Other passages, 2 Corinthians 11 and Romans 7, carry forward this idea of the church being married to Jesus. In the book of Revelation we find several instances of this idea of the Bride of Christ. Rev. 19:7 speaks of the marriage of the Lamb and His wife being made ready. Rev. 21 speaks of the Lamb’s wife, the bride, coming down from heaven.
Was Jesus married, as this newly found document seems to indicate? I don’t believe that He was. Would my faith be irreparably damaged if this allegation were proven true? I don’t think so. I have the solid assurance of the Scriptures that Jesus and the Church have an ongoing, eternal relation like unto that of a husband and wife. He cares for her, as a good husband will. He gave all for her, as our example. Let the winds of so-called controversies swirl. I rest upon these truths of Scripture.
Praying you know the assurance of trusting in Him,