Last night as I listened to a news report about the wife of Jesus while I was driving from the airport, I wondered whether I’d passed through a time warp to a future April 1st.
The BBC’s Robin Lustig was asking a Vatican spokesman what effect a 4th century fragment of a papyrus scroll would have on the Roman Catholic Church if it proved to be ‘genuine’ and ‘authentic’. What did Lustig (and the Vatican ‘expert’ for that matter) mean by ‘genuine’ and ‘authentic’?
A genuine 4th century fragment, perhaps? An authentic piece of papyrus with Jesus making a cryptic reference to his ‘wife’ maybe?
Let’s have a sense of proportion about this shall we? A fragment of a papyrus manuscript that resembles a passage in the Gospel of Thomas and written some three centuries after the New Testament was completed is discovered. It seems to suggest that Jesus was married. So what? So what?
What would the scholar say if in some old house a scrap from a nineteenth century book was discovered in which Queen Elizabeth1 referred to her husband. Not a lot, I expect. It would be ignored. There would be no discussion. There would be no mention on the TV news and the Net would not be awash with reports.
Imagine some archaeologist digging up a mouldy copy of The Da Vinci Code in a couple of thousand years and announcing he had found conclusive proof that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene!
All this ‘discovery’ goes to show is that within the scholarly community there is a great desire to find some evidence – however flimsy – that the New Testament in general and the Gospels in particular are unreliable.
Now why would they want to do that?
Read Simon Gathercole's take on the discovery here.