Jesus Had a Wife?
Karen King from the Harvard Divinity School announced that a fragment of papyrus written in the Coptic language states that "Jesus had a wife". Apparently Jesus said to them "My wife, Mary".
This little dittie has created a storm in the Christian world. Is it a surprise? Not really. Well, not if you have looked at the history of the early Christian church from a historical perspective, and not from the perspective of "insider" who relies on "belief" and "faith".
The former approach is scholarly and academic; the latter is not.
What it comes down to is that in the early church, there was not "one, holy and universal church" with an accepted dogma, doctrine, and view of Jesus. There were many early churches, and not just in Rome.
There was a church of Alexandria, Jerusalem, Antioch, Damascus, Egypt, Ephesus, Colossi, etc.
The four "accepted" gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were agreed upon by a council, and the "other" gospels (the Gnostic Gospels to be precise), were excluded and considered to be "heresy".
These Gnostic Christian gospels were discovered in Nag Hammadi, Egypt in the 1940s. They share a great deal in common with the four "canonical gospels" in the sayings, and doings of Jesus. However, they have sayings and "doings" attributed to Jesus that differ from the accepted gospels.
These Gnostic gospels were buried by a likely pious monk, and they were forgotten for 1600 years. Why?
Well, there was an active campaign to persecute, rub out, and destroy the views of the various churches in a political attempt to control what was a mosaic of independently thinking churches scattered across the Mediterranean world.
In the Gospel of Philip, it is written: “Jesus loved Mary Magdalene more than all the disciples and used to kiss her often on the mouth."
So, the view that Jesus had a "lover", if not a "wife", is not terribly new. It will surely remain a controversial issue, due to religious belief, but as examined as a historical document, it is not unprecedented except that this fragment of papyrus is the first reference to "wife" of Jesus. However, the implied reference to Jesus as having a relationship with Mary Magdalene has precedence, and is rather eloquently stated in the Gospel of Philip.
I don't expect discoveries like this to supplant faith or belief, but it is a fascinating look into the historical Jesus, and what the early Christians (a heterogeneous group), thought of him.