October 23, 2017

Some Things That Caught My Attention

Your iMonk prior, Fr. Dunn, is down for the count with the flu. Or at least a very bad cold. I’ve always suspected him of having Witzelsucht, but maybe he comes by his weird humor naturally. In any case, I am here as your substitute scribe for the day. Who am I? I go by the Synonymous Rambler. And that is all you need to know.

We will touch on a few subjects today in Jeff’s absence, and then open the floor for discussion.

Dr. Karen King, a historian from the Harvard Divinity School, revealed a small piece of papyrus that supposedly includes the line, “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife…'” Scholars around the world are weighing in on the viability of this find, calling into question whether or not it is authentic and, if it is, what it really said in context. Armchair scholars are reaching for their copies of The da Vinci Code by Dan Brown to compare notes. Jeff was immersed in world of Brown and his codes about ten years ago, editing one book and authoring another that dealt with the theory that Jesus was married. I’m sure he could go into more depth about this and its implications.

My feeling about this find? Who knows? Who cares? If this scrap of papyrus could be proven to be true, what difference does it make? It is obviously not taken from a book of accepted Scripture. I doubt Jesus was married—that would have been a pretty big detail to leave out of the entire New Testament! If he was, that did not affect him being both the Son of Man and the Son of God at once. This seems to me to be another Shroud of Turin. Is that really the burial cloth used to cover Jesus? Who cares? We know that some cloth did—it very well could have been the Turin one. What is more important to me is that Jesus shed his shroud and rose again. For that there is no proof. We must come to God by faith, not by sight.

How am I doing so far, iMonks?

The second order of business comes from the pen of Dr. Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and frontline fighter of the culture wars. He quotes from a letter sent to Washington Post advice columnist Carolyn Hax.

“I am a stay-at-home mother of four who has tried to raise my family under the same strong Christian values that I grew up with,” the woman writes. “Therefore I was shocked when my oldest daughter, ‘Emily,’ suddenly announced she had ‘given up believing in God’ and decided to ‘come out’ as an atheist.”

Did you catch it? I thought for sure Al would miss this one. I thought he would put up a fight for the “strong Christian values” that should permeate every home in America. But I was wrong. Al got it. He says,

Christian values are the problem. Hell will be filled with people who were avidly committed to Christian values. Christian values cannot save anyone and never will. The gospel of Jesus Christ is not a Christian value, and a comfortability with Christian values can blind sinners to their need for the gospel.

Wow. That needs to be preached from every Baptist pulpit this Sunday. And Methodist. And Lutheran. And Catholic. Even at Jeff’s church in Tulsa. Can we please drop “Christian values” and refocus on the good news that Jesus bore our sins and our shame?

Finally, have you heard about the new pirate movie? Jeff won’t be going to see it because it’s rated ARRRRR.

Just a little leftover humor from yesterday. Did you forget? September 19 is International Talk Like A Pirate Day. It has its own web site, so it must be official.

And I must be going. Pray for Jeff. See you down the road as we ramble together again sometime.

Comments

  1. I think the value of the fragment, if it’s real, is in trying to understand what did this Scripture mean to these Copts at this congregation that valued it. What value, if any, did they put on Jesus’s wife? What was unique about their community that they had this Scripture?

    International Talk Like a Pirate Day is the holiest day in the Pastafarian calendar, if I understand correctly. It has to do wtih CARRRRelation and chARRRRts.

    • Scripture? With a capital “R” (not ARRRR)? Does this mean that you elevate this fragment to the level of “Holy Scripture”, or was it just a reflexive hitting of the caps key while writing? It’s not known where this fragment came from, nor is it similar to anything found to date, so it is NOT “Scripture” in the sense of Holy Scripture, it is only scripture (lower case “s”) as in “writings”.

      • Sorry, strike that first sentence! I MEANT capital “S”. Got carried away with Pirate Day talk…

      • I tend to capitalize it when referring to ANYONE’s scripture. So the Upanishads, when I refer to them as Scripture, is also capitalized. I think it’s more habit than anything.

  2. Well done and said, Mystery Writer! Did you get a free donut at Crispy Creme for parroting a pirate saying, ot better yet did you go in full regalia to claim the booty of a whole box of donuts? Its funny on how the enemy stirs up someone to try to discredit the death and resurrection of Jesus with mundane nonsense through the years. Yet Truth and Grace prevail in victory!!!

  3. Prayers for Fr. Jeff’s healing. Prayers of thanks for Eagle’s healing. Arrr!

  4. Mystery Writer, you rock!

  5. This “Jesus’ wife” text fits comfortably in the gnostic traditions, but hardly has anything to say to the earlier gospels; it would be anachronistic to suggest that it be given weight and significance on the level of any of the other “writings.”

    Does it matter if Jesus had a wife? Probably not. Should we be concerned that “what-makes-for-good-news” matters more than honest historical conclusions (the kind the very researcher Karen King put forth in her essay- that this papyrus is fictional)? Absolutely.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      I’ve heard the gnostic-tradition Gospels described as “Jesus Fanfic”. And from my recent experience with MLP:FIM fanfics, fanfics vary all over the place.

    • It’s apparently fourth-century. While it’s fascinating that there was this tradition, it comes several centuries too late to have much value as information about Jesus.

      So was there a Mrs. Jesus? Not getting married would have been unusual; on the other hand, Jesus was obviously an unusual person. As a (legal) bastard of uncertain means, and whom his family considered crazy, he may not have been regarded as desirable husband material. Also, he may have been some sort of celibate ascetic. (Ancient Judaism apparently allowed for this under special circumstances, such as war.)

      The Bible does not mention a Mrs. Jesus. On the other hand, in view of the hostility between Pauline Christians and the Jerusalem church led by James, they may have found reason not to mention her even if she existed. John Spong argues that “Magdalene” is derived not from a place-name, but from a word meaning “great,” and speculates that “Mary the Great” derived her name from being Mrs. Jesus.

    • “This “Jesus’ wife” text fits comfortably in the gnostic traditions…”

      That was my first thought, but the media reporting on this has no background in religious history and is trying to make this into a lost verse from the bible. What doesn’t make sense is the very people who don’t believe the bible is anything more than mythology are treating this scrap as the very words from an otherwise mythical Jesus. Don’t get me started on how the thing looks like it was written with a Flair pen. The whole thing is dubious.

      • When even a representative of Union Theological Seminary is skeptical about it, why is anyone getting excited about this?

  6. My husband and I went to a pirate festival in Easport, Maine earlier this month. Fun! It is a three day affair, but we just went for one day. We and our friends dressed up like pirates like hundreds (thousands?) of other people did. The HMS Bounty ship was there and was an impressive sight. And the fireworks were the best I had ever seen…wow!

    Thanks for the post, Synonymous Rambler. I agree that it doesn’t matter whether Jesus was married or not. I know people say he may have been married to Mary Magdelene, but I think perhaps a better choice would have been Mary of Bethany.

    • Aren’t Mary Magdelene and Mary of Bethany thought to be the same woman?

      • Isaac (or possibly Obed) says:

        Not to Protestants and Orthodox. Some Catholic traditions consider the two to be the same, though. I think it goes back to a disagreement between the Greek Fathers and the Latin Fathers. The Greek Fathers saw the “sinful woman,” Mary Magdelene, and Mary of Bethany to be three different people. The Latin Fathers saw them to be a single person. Protestants sometimes see Magdelene and the “sinful woman” to be the same, but that’s usually more on the popular than scholarly level.

        There are so many Marys in the Gospels that it gets confusing. Heck, there may have been at least three different Marys at the Crucifixion!

      • These are primarily literary / mythical characters, about whom it is difficult to say anything very concrete.

  7. Arrrgh! I can’t stand it any longer. I have to say it, unimportant as it is.

    Shouldn’t it be The Eponymous Rambler, not the Synonymous Rambler?

    Pray, brothers and sisters, for the soul of this poor English teacher, who should probably just keep her mouth shut (computer off).

    • I’ve always had the same reaction and I’m not even an English teacher!

      Oh, well–to quote Nigel Tufnel “That’s just nit-picking, isn’t it?”

  8. “Christian values cannot save anyone and never will. The gospel of Jesus Christ is not a Christian value, and a comfortability with Christian values can blind sinners to their need for the gospel.”

    Thanks be to God. And from a Baptist, no less. The Lord is still at work.

    • Wow, that was refreshing to hear from him. Maybe the sleeping giant is awakening. Others still need a little push, as we see in a recent Ralph Reed interview:
      Q: You’re saying they’re not voting on theology, and the value system trumps the fact that Romney believes that everybody gets their own planet after they die.
      A: Have you ever looked at some of the things we believe?

      • A recent development in LDS apologetics is to react to Christians making fun of the more esoteric of their beliefs by answering, yes, but you believe funny things too. And it’s true. Every religion has unprovable and most have ridiculous beliefs. It’s refreshing to see people of various faiths becoming self-aware enough to recognize that they, too, believe funny things, and that criticizing someone else for having funny beliefs may not be the best idea.

    • Forgive me for saying this IMonk…but after reading Mohler’s comments I have to say this…

      Jesus, Mary and Joseph and all the Saints!!! 😯 (I watched Cinderella Man last night…which is the source of my inspiration for today!) You mean Albert Mohler says something that I agree with. Note this day well…because it will probably be the only time I can nod my head in agreement. Even though I’m puzzled by what he says because he keeps fueling the culture wars and driving some of these “Christian values”. I mean he’s Ken Hamm’s golfing buddy 😉 and has elevated the Christian value of YEC and made that mandatory and essential.

      So I guess the real question is this…? Has Al had a change of heart? Or is this another case of double speak which many of the neo-reformed are so guilty of? If Al has had a change of heart than I would expect him to change his views on the creation wars and distance himself from Ken Hamm. Hopefully the only ham he’ll know is the one he has one his kitchen table! 😀

      • Change of heart? Probably not. Remember, even a broken clock is right twice a day. 😛

        The thing about Mohler and similar is they are fiercely moralistic while being clear that such morals have no power to save. It can be a hard to balance the two, and at times they comes across as the morality police. But the reason for this is because morality is good for society. I would suggest that the disproportionate concern for the well being of society (conservative Christian values) can easily obstruct the message of God’s grace unless we learn to rightly distinguish law from gospel. Too often Reformed Baptists teach the law as if it had the power to do what only an act of divine grace could.

  9. It is only a matter of time before we find a papyrus fragment that says, “And Jesus said, ‘Arrrrrr! You’l find the treasure by the…”

  10. Randy Thompson says:

    I am so, so tired of academics promoting careers by promoting third century Gnostic texts which have no historically relevant material about the first century Jesus. This is as relevant to the Jesus of history as the much-hyped “Gospel of Judas” which was all the rage a year or two ago. Third century Gnostic texts are useful only for information about third century Gnosticism.

    If there was a reference in an ancient Gnostic text to a “Pirate Day,” I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to find some career-building academic holding a press conference to announce that Jesus was a pirate. This would, of course, mean that we would have to conclude our prayers not with “Amen,” but with “Arrrgh.”

    • In a way though, it’s also a corrective. Many people have this belief that early Christianity is just like their lived experience of Christianity and that it was uniform at the time and that the Scriptures as we have them fell down out of the sky or something, rather than the messy reality of the Councils and debates and such that created a framework.

    • To be fair, this IS a significant discovery (though about the fourth century, not the first). And the scholar in question spoke with appropriate restraint, cautioning the reporter against sensationalizing it.

      • EXACTLY. Karen King is the victim here. She presets a decently scholarly paper and people (like the Smithsonian) start dubbing it “the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife.” Nothing she intended.

      • I guess Pilate was the pirate, because he released b-aaaargh-abbas.

      • Randy Thompson says:

        Thanks for the correction–4th century it is.

      • Randy Thompson says:

        Thanks for correcting my comment. I didn’t realize that she had cautioned against hyping it.

        However, I really am fed up with the sensationalism that surrounds every newly discovered fragment of a Gnostic text. The discovery of the Nag Hammadi manuscripts was huge news. What’s come since seems small potatoes in comparison.

        • A few years ago, Evangelicals were hyping an equally sensationalistic book (Eyewitness to Jesus, aka the Jesus Papyrus) about a similar fragment called the Magdalene Papyrus (after Magdalene College), which was optimistically supposed to date back to the first century.

    • Maybe Jesus was a pirate. After all, one of his favorite disciples was Peter b-aaargh Jonah.

  11. Let’s declare a fast on Christian values talk. While we’re at it, let’s also declare a fast on Christian world view talk. Ten years should be about right.

  12. Wasn’t there a novel from the 50s or 60s with a plot that centered on somebody finding proof that Jesus was married and died and stayed dead? There was a big cover up from the Vatican or something. This reminded me…

    • A couple years ago at a friend’s lakehouse , I came across and read a late 60s/early 70s paperback that was called “The Word.” It may be the book you’re thinking about. It was certainly better written than Dan Brown’s “Da Vinci Code,” though I doubt it won any awards either.

    • Could you be thinking of Irving Wallace’s “The Word” (1972)? It’s about the discovery of a lost gospel written by James the Righteous (Jesus’s brother). Or James Hunter, “Mystery of Mar Saba” (1940), the book that some say inspired Morton Smith to forge Secret Mark? It’s a spy thriller involving a ms discovery (actually a forgery) titled “The Shard of Nicodemus,” whose denial of the resurrection is part of a plot to demoralize the Allies.

      • And then there’s Wilton Barnhardt’s “Gospel: A Novel” (1993), in which a “Gospel of Matthias” reveals Jesus to have been mummified at Oxyrhenchus).

  13. Yes! I think that’s it!

  14. “Christian values cannot save anyone and never will.”

    Al Mohler? THE Al “boycott Disney” Mohler? As they say in Japan, “Even monkeys fall from trees”, but come on! I don’t know whether to shout, “Amen, brother!” or “pass the aspirin; my head hurts”.

  15. If Jesus was married, then there would be no need for either Sun Myung Moon nor David Jang to be the second coming of Christ. What a scandal that would be.

  16. petrushka1611 says:

    The entire sentence from the papyrus reads: “…my wife…take her, please!”

    And I wonder if Jesus had well-meaning old ladies telling him to get busy for God and wait on God’s will for his life when he was young and single.

  17. Jesus has a bride, the church. To even imagine the scenario that this could be true and to state “who cares” or “what difference would it make” is to reveal a great deficincey in one’s grasp of our Lord’s person and mission and work on earth and eternity with regard to humanity.

  18. The gospels don’t say much about Jesus’ life between the ages of, say, 13(?) and 30. It is possible that he had a wife and she goes unmentioned because she died at a very young age and left him as a widower (just as an argument can be made, and is made, by some Christians that, even though the Scriptures don’t mention it, Joseph died before he and Mary had sexual relations, leaving her a widow and the ever Blessed Virgin) or the gospel traditions and writers sought to protect her from hostile authorities by giving her a very low (non-existent) profile. None of this would have an effect on either Jesus’ mission or nature; and none of it can reliably be supported by this Coptic fragment, which, even if it is authentic, comes from such a late date that it can have no significant bearing on the much earlier and better attested canonical traditions. But the non-Christian world is fascinated by the idea that Jesus had sexual relations, and feels less threatened by the idea of a Jesus who partook of the pleasures of the flesh, because such a Jesus seems to it less holy and righteous, more human and understanding, and less likely to be what it dislikes most of all: the atoning sacrifice for their sins, sexual and other. Some of the blame for this perspective can be laid at the feet of the church(es), which has put such an unhealthy burden of judgement around the subject of sexual sin that much of the negative ambience has infected all sexual expression. So we can’t expect these kinds of media sensations around Jesus’ sexuality to go away. They will continue to erupt periodically.

    I have a question for some of the commentators here: why would it have been sinful, or otherwise conflict with his mission, for Jesus to have had a wife?