Category Archives: Archaeology
Well, the more we know the less we know. Scholars in ever widening circles are questioning the authenticity of the so-called Gospel of Jesus’ wife, which appears to be a late forgery using quotes from the Gospel of Thomas. The ethical questions abound beginning with the “owner” desiring to sell the document. I agree with those who wonder why we didn’t learn of this document while it was still in Egypt if it’s legitimate.
Karen King reveals her bias against logic when she states:
Christian tradition has long held that Jesus was unmarried, although there is no reliable historical evidence to support that, King said.
The more accurate statement is that no reliable evidence exists to suggest that Jesus was married. It’s clear some scholars want Jesus to have been married for a variety of reasons. We keep hearing of bone boxes and tiny fragments which always turn out to have little value. If Jesus was married it would have been a big deal and any children would have been celebrities of divine status. In short, we would know. Those who claim it would be a theological problem therefore it would have been covered up are wrong. If Jesus was going to be a manufactured and managed image he would look more like the Gnostic image of a god only seeming to be present on earth. The twisted logic that produces a married Jesus from a Coptic gnostic fragment boggles my mind. The biblical gospels have a fully human Jesus with a functioning body and close relationships. Even after the resurrection he eats and gives and receives touch. The early church insisted that people remember he was in a physical body and fully human. If any gospel was going to have Jesus married it would have been the canonical gospels. But he most likely wasn’t because despite mentioning all this other normal human relationship stuff, they don’t mention it. If you can accept that Jesus was fully human and fully divine, what’s the stretch to say he had children? The medieval Roman church might have had a reason to support celibate clergy through a celibate Jesus, but that was a later development. The unmarried Jesus had already been with us for centuries.
To summarize: I don’t think Jesus was married to an individual woman. I think he has always been married to his mission and to God’s people, the church. He blessed marriage and affirmed it as a celebration of the miracle of life. I don’t think I believe that because the church has something to hide. There is nothing simple about the Trinity or Christology. A married Jesus would be no more difficult to teach than many other difficult doctrines. As usual, we project our cultural dilemmas onto the ancient world and ancient texts. I don’t even think the likely forged text is actually saying Jesus had an earthly, physical wife for reasons I explained last time. One has to supply a lot of missing letters to come up with that! But gnostics had a much greater theological motive for having a celibate Jesus than orthodox believers did. Their motive simply seems to be telling the truth. He wasn’t married.
In this case, ironically, it doesn’t seem to be the church that has something to hide…
The 4 Century Coptic fragment pictured above has been in the news the last few days. Coptics are Egyptian Christians who have been known for slightly different theology than most Western and Eastern Christian Traditions. All the attention is swirling around the idea that this is representing a discovery that early Coptic Christians believed Jesus was married on earth. What amazes me is the silence on the fact that we know for sure Jesus did in fact have a wife (and still does!)
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.”
(Ephesians 5:25–32 NIV)
Intertwined in Paul’s discussion of husbands and wives is Christ as husband to the Church. That the two become one and Christ lays down his life for her. It’s a metaphor for the loving relationship God has not only with individuals but with the church as a whole.
These may have been Coptic Christians, but they were Christians which means they first of all valued the earliest writings of the faith. Even the Gnostic gospels essentially appear to be devotional reflections on the more authoritative accounts. So the first thought of any historian or interpreter should be to compare the language with that of the New Testament. So it would seem his mentioning of a wife and dwelling with her would be building on this biblical image of the Bride of Christ being the Church. Since this is a much later work for a unique group, I suppose anything is possible. But why not start with the most obvious connection? Maybe because you desire controversy?
And it’s not just the New Testament. The Old Testament is filled with images of Israel as the LORD’s spouse. Hosea and other prophets use this image repeatedly. So there is strong evidence to support what I’m suggesting.
It’s always fascinating and interesting to discover ancient documents. But the simplest connections and explanations are usually the best in my view… So let’s live into the reality of the church, God’s people, living as the bride of Christ. Let’s walk closely with God and live together in harmony as we work and worship and anticipate the great day of His appearing!
In a not-so-stunning discovery, archaeologists found the back office of the Mayan Google Calendar! Along with beautiful paintings depicting the social position of the scribe who probably worked here, we have something like Tables and Rules for Finding the Date of Easter Day from the Book of Common Prayer. Only this is to find which moon god is ruling at a given time: jaguar, skull, or woman. Evidently, if the King leans over at his birthday feast and wants to know which moon god will be ruling when he’s 48 you’ve got to be ready to answer. This scribe was good to go. And it turns out, we are too. The calendar can span some 7,000 years into the future. So go ahead and make those Disney New Year’s plans after all. Er, unless of course the Mayans were wrong… Naaaaah. Couldn’t be, right? We only trust the dark predictions of ancient societies which caved in on themselves or terminally depressed Reformation era visionaries who never actually mention the end of the world! But Disney World does close right after the fireworks so plan accordingly.
I’m glad Jesus predicted a wonderful new world where heaven is united with a renewed earth. But he said we don’t have to wait until then to get the party started. He said the Kingdom of God was at hand, so we should repent of our worrying and believe the Good News! By worry we cannot add a single moment to ANY calendar. And by following Jesus we can live an eternal reality where the Kingdom comes and God’s will is done on earth as in heaven…
Dr. Robert R. Cargill of the University of Iowa makes all my points for me on tonight’s Discovery Channel broadcast. I totally agree that Simcha is a non-scholar just looking for TV time. Dr. Cargill points out that very little evidence is presented and that the producers have an axe to grind. They want to try to say Jesus didn’t physically rise from the dead. The problem is they don’t use valid methods and no reasonable scholar interprets their evidence as they do. The Gospels and 1 Corinthians 15:3-11 are the earliest Christian beliefs about the resurrection. It’s clear they believed in a physical resurrection, not a spiritual one. What Simcha found was a rather typical Greek Ossuary box from 1st Century Jerusalem. Many Jews believed in the resurrection of the dead at the judgment (Pharisees, for example) and the inscriptions fit that belief well. I’m surprised Discovery ended up airing the broadcast because the research has been so discredited. It really has the effect of strengthening the validity of the NT witness, by making such a poor argument.
This is not the purpose of Dr. Cargill’s blog, but I thank him for pointing out these errors and the attempted manipulation of believers and skeptics for money and fame. I hope well-meaning believers never put on something this lame trying the “prove” the resurrection. Let the biblical witnesses stand and let people decide based on faith.
As always, I’m seeking to let the Christian Scriptures bring life into focus…
Originally posted on XKV8R: The Official Blog of Dr. Robert R. Cargill:
This will be the live blog of the premier of Simcha Jacobovici’s “The Resurrection Tomb Mystery” on the Discovery Channel on Thursday, April 12, 2012 at 9:00 PM Central.
This blog will be updated frequently and will be corrected/altered throughout the hour. (Please forgive misspellings and grammatical errors, as this is rapid fire.) I shall edit and make the text into a more coherent narrative when it’s over.
Eric Meyers seems right on the mark as a legit scholar pointing out likely identity of this latest “find”. Short version: move along, move along, nothing to see here…
It’s interesting to discover a tomb belonging to 1st century people but that’s about it. No real connection to Jesus of Nazareth or Joseph of Arimathea. If you read the very earliest Christian traditions, 1 Corinthians 15:1–11 (NRSV) you’ll see tradition already in writing within 2-3yrs of the resurrection. The very earliest Christians absolutely believed in the bodily resurrection of Jesus and paid for it with their lives. Eyewitnesses to the event are cited as still living at the time of Paul’s writing of this letter to the Corinthians. There were over 10,000 believers in this world-changing event within a few weeks of it occurring. There is nothing that could ever be discovered archaeologically that could overturn this reality. And no scientific methods exist to precisely identify 2,000 year old remains, if any were found. And without a sample, it would be impossible to compare it to the actual living Jesus. But in the meantime he can sell some books and get a TV show made. Below is the Bible passage, which absolutely proves there were not multiple interpretations of his death nor later theological traditions added onto the story of Jesus. The full Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John Gospels were written a bit later, but this letter by Paul is decades sooner and is referring to written tradition he received right after his conversion, which was right after the resurrection. They didn’t just believe it based on what they saw, they believed it based on the promises found in the Old Testament. So it was a very deeply rooted belief in the Scriptures as well as the testimonies. So there’s just no room for this Book/TV show’s understanding of early Christian faith. The history is just too documented. Instead, I think they’ve found a jewish tomb from the time with similar names… Greek inscriptions were very common for the time… Many/most Jews believed in the bodily resurrection that would follow the judgment so it’s not surprising for the hope to appear. Belief in resurrection in general is different than believing Jesus rose from the dead. That’s what was and remains the specific Christian belief since day one:
The Resurrection of Christ
(Cp Mk 16:9–20)
15 Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, 2 through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you—unless you have come to believe in vain.
3 For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, 4 and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them—though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we proclaim and so you have come to believe.