Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Sex and Mrs. Jesus

It's been kind of fun to watch reactions recently to the words, "Jesus said to them, 'My wife ....,' " that turned up, written in Coptic, on a tiny scrap of papyrus. A Harvard Divinity School historian of early Christianity unveiled the fragment earlier this month --- not claiming the words on it implied that Jesus actually did have a wife, pointing out only that they might reflect a debate among early Christians about the nature of Christ and his relations to others as well as the place of women in the early church. It seems to date from perhaps the third century, substantially later than what we now call the epistles and the gospels.

While there's been some entertainment here, and if you think this modest uproar is exciting, just imagine what would have happened had that line read, "Jesus said to them, 'My boyfriend ....,' "

Actually, there's no particular reason Jesus should not have had a wife. Most Jewish males, and females, of that time did get married. But this was not an era when starry-eyed lovers picked up marriage licenses at the courthouse in New Bethlehem, then drove out to the Little Brown Church by the Sea of Galilee to tie the knot. Since life was short and infant mortality rates high, brides tended to be very young, 13-14 or thereabouts. And marriages were arranged by families for economic and procreative reasons --- love had little to do with it, although some couples no doubt became fond of each other.

On the other hand, there's absolutely no proof that he did. Some of that lack I suppose could be attributed to the possibility that reporters of the day did not take good notes. Or to the zeal of the early church to recreate the poor guy in an image that matched its aspirations --- consider the doctrine of that cosmic implant, for example, or the really odd construct reflected in trinitarian theology.

As a result of something, nothing is known about the life of Jesus during the time when he might logically have gotten hitched and had a couple of kids.

But in general, it's as pointless to invest in the theory of a Mrs. Jesus as it is to invest in the theory that Jesus was gay --- something LBGT theorists allege now and then primarily I think just for the entertainment value of opening the henhouse door and watching those inside flap their wings, flop around and shriek "heresy."

Although, of course, he did hang around all the time with all those guys --- and seemed to value women primarily for their humanity rather than their sexual or culinary and house-cleaning potential. That, especially, seems suspicious.

Anyhow, a majority of Christians seem to have reacted to the new bit of papyrus in the most logical way, "well, now, that seems unlikely," sometimes adding the question, "so if Jesus had been married, would it make a difference?"

To many it wouldn't, but to some it certainly would. Primarily because of that other thread in Christianity --- an obsessive worry about sex that has caused assorted acts to become theologically equated with wickedness (unless performed purely to procreate and no one has any fun in the process). But it's too early in the morning to go into that ....

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