Tuesday, September 25, 2012

More on the Gospel of Jesus' Wife

Discussion proceeds apace over the provocatively-titled Gospel of Jesus' Wife, the 4 x 8 cm papyrus fragment whose "discovery" was announced last week by Karen King of Harvard (see my evaluation of the text, with reference to numerous other helpful posts, here).

Francis Watson of the University of Durham in England has published a thorough and compelling follow-up to his initial reactions in an article in The Bible and Interpretation, in which he states the case that the fragment is most likely a modern forgery (one immediately thinks of the late Columbia professor Morton Smith and his "discovery" of the so-called "Secret Gospel of Mark" in 1960; the case for dismissing this text is made compellingly by Acadia Divinity College Professor Craig Evans here).

Further judicious assessments of the GJW may be found in recent posts by Ben Witherington of Asbury Theological Seminary (here), Larry Hurtado of the University of Edinburgh (here and here), Stanley Porter of McMaster Divinity College (here), and John Dickson of Macquarie University and the University of Sydney (here).  April DeConick of Rice University has published a pair of posts on her blog from the perspective of one who maintains the hegemony of the celibate view of Jesus is ultimately due to the tradition of "holy misogyny" she attempts to demonstrate in here book of that name (here and here; her perspective is clear in her provocative--and misleading--question, "why did the sexual Jesus become the heretical Jesus while the glorification of the celibate male become the dominant orthodox view?).  Finally, from a more "orthodox" perspective, James McGrath of Butler University wonders why "[s]ome react to the idea [of a married Jesus] with such an excessive dismissiveness, as though their faith were at stake" (here).  He rightly, in my view, attributes this to a faulty Christology (a truly docetic diminishment of genuine "incarnation"): "[S]ome people have a view of Jesus that bears no relationship at all to the human figure in the earliest New Testament Gospels."

Ultimately, as I mentioned in my last post, this matter is really much ado about nothing--or, as Witherington says, "not very much."  If genuine (which, though I have doubts, I very much hope it to be), it still says nothing except that a fringe group of "heretical" Christians maintained that Jesus had been a married man.  And that is something all scholars of the New Testament and early Christianity already knew.

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