The National Catholic Review

Reports today of the authenticity of a fragment of the so-called “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife,” which was originally unveiled in 2012 by the Harvard Divinity School professor Karen L. King, are sure to cause a rash of news stories and opinion pieces on whether Jesus was married.  So here’s my answer: No.

Before I talk about the reasons why almost every New Testament scholar believes that Jesus was unmarried, let me say that my faith does not rise or fall on whether Jesus was married.  The Christian faith is not based on Jesus’s celibacy, but on the Incarnation and the Resurrection.  In short, a married man healing the sick, stilling storms and raising the dead is just as impressive as an unmarried man doing so.  More to the point, if a married man himself rises from the dead after being in a tomb for three days, I would be following him. Married or unmarried, Jesus is still the Son of God.

Also, before I talk about the reasons scholars believe that he was almost certainly single, I should point out that the manuscript in question was written long after the canonical Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) were written.  The fragment is most likely from the fourth to the eighth century.   By contrast, the earliest Gospel, Mark, was written in AD 75, only 40 years after Jesus’s time on earth.  The fragment in question, at its earliest, was written three hundred years after the canonical Gospels.  In general, it’s better to rely on sources closer to the actual events, particularly, as in the case of Mark, when there were people still alive who had known Jesus, and could presumably have corrected any inaccuracies in Mark's text.  Three hundred years later, people take many more liberties with he story.

Overall, it’s more likely that Jesus was unmarried.  How do we know this?  Here’s what I say in my new book, Jesus: A Pilgrimage

Now, it is almost certain that Jesus was celibate.  How do we know this?  For one thing, the Gospels talk about Jesus’s mother and “brothers and sisters” several times, so if he had a wife it would be odd not to mention her.  In his magisterial book A Marginal Jew, John Meier, a professor of New Testament at Notre Dame, and scholar of the “historical Jesus,” suggests that being unmarried was seen as undesirable for most rabbis of the time, and even though Jesus is not technically a rabbi, it would have been strange for the Gospel writers to concoct a story that he was celibate if he was in fact married. The Gospels’ silence about a wife and children likely means that Jesus had neither. 

What are some possible reasons for Jesus’s remaining unmarried?  He may have intuited that once he started his ministry it would be short or even meet a disastrous end. As a Jew, knew the fate of other prophets.  Jesus may have foreseen the difficulty of caring for a family while being an itinerant preacher.  Or perhaps his celibacy was another manifestation of his single-hearted commitment to God.  After sifting through the facts, Meier lands on the last reason: “The position that Jesus remained celibate on religious grounds [is] the more probable hypothesis.”

Other theories, where Mary Magdalene is proposed as Jesus’s wife, are also rather far-fetched.  Most women and women disciples in the New Testament are referred to, by the convention of their time, as “the wife of” or “the mother of.” In a patriarchal world, they were most often identified through their associations with either a husband or a son (or sons).  So we read of women like “Mary, the wife of Clopas” and “Joanna, the wife of Chusa.” Consequently, it is more likely that if Mary Magdalene were married to Jesus she would be called not "Mary of Magdala," but “Mary, the wife of Jesus.”

Also, in terms of the Passion narratives, which Christians will read during Holy Week, the Gospels place several important women at the scene of Jesus's death, at foot of the Cross.  The Gospel of John, written in roughly AD 100, reports the following women as present at the Crucifixion: “his [Jesus's] mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas and Mary Magdalene.”  An even earlier Gospel, Matthew, written around AD 85, says that there were “many women,” and then lists those the Gospel writer considers important: “Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.”  Were Jesus married, not mentioning “the wife of Jesus" in either the stories of the Crucifixion or the Resurrection would be odd indeed.

Nearly every scholar believes that Jesus was unmarried.  So do I.  As I said, my faith does not rest on his being unmarried--but my reason tells me that he was.

Comments

Tim O'Leary | 5/2/2014 - 3:38pm

The following article from yesterday's WSJ confirms this was a forgery (How the 'Jesus' Wife' Hoax Fell Apart) - http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB1000142405270230417810457953554082....

This "fragment" was copied from a 1924 forgery. The author kindly thinks Karen King and the Harvard Divinity School were the victims of an elaborate ruse. Willing victims?

Note my original comment below was right on the mark: "Fr. Martin is being too kind to even engage in this hairbrained speculation that is barely above the level of The Da Vinci Code. Of course some "Harvard" scholar can be found to say that this might not be a forgery."

Venkata Sonti | 4/19/2014 - 11:13pm

If Our Lord was married, this important fact would be taken into account in the Gospels; and theology. The world is full of novelists who concoct fascinating tales. Great writers never will take liberties with known historical facts. That is why I love par Lagerqvist, Tolstoy and even Dumas but can only laugh at Dan Brown and other publicity hounds like him.

Egberto Bermudez | 4/19/2014 - 6:04pm

Comment
I agree with Fr. Martin, to the question: Did Jesus have a wife? The answer is, no, if the question means: was Jesus married to a woman? And my faith is also based on the Incarnation and the Resurrection and not on whether Jesus had a wife or not; nevertheless, Jesus was and is married, He was and is married to his people, He is the bridegroom of his people, He is the bridegroom of his bride: the Church. This subject was beautifully developed by John Paul II in one of his general audiences.
http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/audiences/alpha/data/aud1...

Related to what I wrote above, Msgr. Michael Heinz reflects on the connection between the marriage of a man to a woman, celibacy and the paschal love of Christ .
http://www.americamagazine.org/issue/shared-sacrifice

As it was mentioned in Fr. Martin's article, almost every New Testament scholar believes that Jesus was not married to a woman. In addition, there are certain historical facts about the death of Jesus that almost all serious scholars (even unbelieving ones) agree on: 1) Jesus died by crucifixion; 2) His tomb was found empty three days later; 3) His disciples believed that they had experiences with Christ after his death; 4) His followers were willing to die for the belief that they had encountered the risen Christ. These facts are very difficult to explain if one does not accept the Resurrection. It would have been inconceivable for a first century Jew to make up a story like the resurrection. It is a fact of history that 11 of the 12 apostles suffered torture and death for their faith. Yes, sometimes people die for false beliefs, but to die for a belief that you fabricated, that you know to be false, would be absurd. St. Paul is right, everything hinges on the Resurrection: (1Cor 15)” 14 if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” […] “20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.” Pope Francis, in Evangelii Gaudium, reminds us that Christ is alive and acting in our world today:” 275[…] If we think that things are not going to change, we need to recall that Jesus Christ has triumphed over sin and death and is now almighty. Jesus Christ truly lives. […] 276. Christ’s resurrection is not an event of the past; it contains a vital power which has permeated this world. Where all seems to be dead, signs of the resurrection suddenly spring up. It is an irresistible force.”

May the Joy of the Resurrected Christ fill our hearts and remain forever, Happy Easter! :

“He has taken us into the mystery and the grace of this life that springs up from death. If we, like him, encounter and accept suffering in our lives, we will move without awkwardness among others who suffer. We must be people with hope to bring. There is no failure the Lord’s love cannot reverse, no humiliation he cannot exchange for blessing, no anger he cannot dissolve, no routine he cannot transfigure. All is swallowed up in victory. He has nothing but gifts to offer. It remains only for us to find how even the cross can be borne as a gift." (#8 of the Congregation of the Holy Cross Constitutions)

john flynn | 4/19/2014 - 7:31am

Perhaps the most amazing facts concerning the relationship of Mary Magdalene and Jesus are those that emerge from the pages of Scripture, and which, ironically, are also supported in much of the non-canonical literature as well. Mary was a close follower of Jesus, who accompanied him on his journeys, helped to support him financially, learned from him, remained faithful to him even in his darkest hour when his male disciples fell away, was the first to see him after the resurrection, and was the first person in history to announce to others the good news that Jesus is risen. Jesus’ intentional inclusion of Mary, in a day when Jewish teachers almost never had female disciples or taught women, is a striking symbol of the inclusiveness of the kingdom of God. Most women living under God’s reign will still fill traditional roles of wife and mother, though single women have new freedom and power to serve God in their singleness (1 Corinthians 7). But women will not be defined primarily by their roles in the family, but by their relationship to Jesus as his disciple. This was true of Mary Magdalene in the first century, and it’s true of every female Christian today.

Once when Jesus was preaching he was approached by his natural family. The crowd told him that they were there to see him. Jesus responded, “Who are my mother and brothers?” Then, looking at his disciples, he answered the question: “Here are my mother and brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother” (Mark 3:33-35). Ironically, therefore, Jesus is more inclusive and counter-cultural than those who would tie Mary Magdalene’s significance primarily to her filling the traditional role of wife. Though much in Scripture supports the importance of natural family, the relationship that matters most of all is our relationship with Jesus Christ as his disciple. We disciples are, together, the true and only bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:21-33).

source: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/markdroberts/series/was-jesus-married-a-car...

Tim O'Leary | 4/17/2014 - 5:29pm

Fr. Martin is being too kind to even engage in this hairbrained speculation that is barely above the level of The Da Vinci Code. Of course some "Harvard" scholar can be found to say that this might not be a forgery. There is always one who's door is open to a little publicity against the christian tradition. In the highly unlikely event that this is not a modern day forgery, it is just a mid-millennium fragment that mentions a word that could be construed as the word wife, that might be metaphorical and not literal, that might be written by someone outside the Church and not inside.

One need only be a believer in the Scriptures to see that the whole witness of the canonical Gospel represents Jesus as an utterly unique person, born of a virgin, Son of God, who was born only to die for the salvation of mankind. He did not come to set up house, have semi-divine children of his own, and create a new royal line. His mission was not thwarted by Judas or the Pharisees or someone else. His Church did not go off the rails as soon as He left. This is the idea of pagan religions.

But, if one is a believing Catholic, and accepts the Tradition and Teaching of the Church, then it is to the Church that one can turn for disputed questions (this doesn't even rise to the level of credible disputation). For example, the Church has clearly spoken that Mary had no other children, and that the correct interpretation of the references to brother's and sisters was to the extended family. As usual, it come down to the definition of a believing Catholic.

That several of the commentators below use even this figment of a fragment to criticize Fr. Martin or the Church (as always, ad nauseam, etc.) for a fear of the fairer sex, or for feminist insensitivity, just goes to show how outside the Tradition they are, although they may not realize it themselves. The question for them is do they really have to bring sex into everything they touch. Is their 'christian" faith so barren without it? Do they have a celibacy inferiority syndrome?

If someone said they had found a spare wheel from the spaceship that Jesus used to ascend into heaven, there would be plenty of commentators in the blogosphere to trot out a scientific basis for the event and no doubt an Ivy League professor to lend credibility of it all. You can fool some of the people all the time...

Sandi Sinor | 4/17/2014 - 5:46pm

Oh, good grief. This one is over the top - now you're comparing legitimate scholarly inquiry to space ship wheels?

The church has in history "clearly spoken" on any number of things that turned out to be wrong. Already mentioned Galileo, but that sure wasn't the only instance of the church's "clear" teaching being wrong. I'm guessing that if The Magisterium "definitively" taught that the wheel of the spaceship Paradise (the one Jesus used to ascend to heaven) had been found, it would be venerated as a relic, and sent on tour around the world for the "faithful" to view, some of the "defenders" of the "true faith" would be first in line to see it.

It's the church itself that brings sex into everything, btw. And the issue of mandatory celibacy is very tied into the church's "tradition" - especially its antipathy towards sex and women (read the early desert fathers, the early church fathers like Jerome, Augustine, etc etc). They didn't like women, and taking after Paul, thought that celibacy was superior to marriage. Sex in marriage was tolerated for the procreation of the human race (this attitude still governs the church's teachings on birth control and marriage) and that it was better (if second rate) to marry than to burn. Sadly, Tim, you have never taken the time to educate yourself on certain matters of church teaching. But maybe some people just can't bear the thought that the "church" (the institution) could be wrong about anything because if they are wrong about something, what else are they wrong about? Could really mess up their faith, which must not be too strong if being open to new possibilities is enough to shake it.

1 Corinthians 7: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. ...Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. I say this as a concession, not as a command. I wish that all of you were as I am. .

Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

J Cosgrove | 4/18/2014 - 5:24pm

In the Galileo affair the Church was right and Galileo clearly wrong. The Galileo /Church standoff was mainly political and had very little to do with religion or science. Galileo wanted to write a thesis on the tides and Pope Urban pointed him towards the controversy over the heliocentric view of the earth versus the geocentric. Urban said show the controversy but don't take a side since there is no science that can support either view conclusively. There was the parallax problem along with the wind problem. For the heliocentric view of the world to be accurate the earth had to be spinning at 1000 miles an hour and no body could explain why there would not be tremendous winds at the equator if the earth was spinning so fast. If the earth was revolving around the sun then why did not the stars change their position relevant to each other during the year. They had no conception of how far the stars were from them and didn't till a couple hundred years later.

Galileo's position made a fool of the pope and was published under the seal of a man who wanted to depose the pope. His thesis was not officially supported by science till about 200 years after his death. Galileo was also meddling in interpretations of the bible when these types of things started wars. Galileo was arrogant and he was wrong in much of his science. He was lightly published and Protestants took up his case years later to embarrass the Church when they had nothing to be apologetic about.

Tim O'Leary | 4/17/2014 - 6:08pm

What teaching on Galileo are you talking about, Sandi? I certainly wish the Church handled the irascible scientist better but how come Copernicus didn't have disciplinary problem. You suggest I need to do more study. Well, here is a summary for you to brush up on Galileo. http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/history/world/wh0005.html

Again, I think it is the dissidents who are obsessed with sex. For example, gay marriage was a leftist cause, as were all the sexual experiments. The holy men and women of the past had concerns with their own sexual weaknesses and they realized how great a temptation it was. Their focus was holiness. And, it was never just about the men, although they were the writers of the books that have come down to us. You might study up on Greco-Roman culture to fill that gap in your education. Jesus' apostles were shocked with the Lord's teaching on this issue. But, why would Jesus shock them on this if it was no big deal.

Now, if you ever find that spaceship wheel, be sure to have it carbon dated. And, check out if it has any pollen in it.

Sandi Sinor | 4/17/2014 - 6:52pm

There you go again - totally off subject and setting up strawmen again. Nobody is suggesting that Joseph should have married Zachary or that Mary should have been hooking up with every guy in the village. Being "holy" is every bit as possible for married people (who have sex) as for celibates (in fact, maybe even more so because married folk and parents are tested in ways that are far more challenging than simply controlling sexual urges) but some of the ancients could only see what you see - the pathological instead of the beautiful. So sad.

Never mind, Tim. Some people are totally unable to let even a little sliver of light or even the remote possibility of a new understanding penetrate their already-made-up minds. You will see "extreme feminists" and "dissenters" and, of course, those terrible, terrible libs every time somebody suggests a new idea or new interpretation to you. The church has spoken and Tim will never, ever question what the church says. My church, right or wrong, is the rallying cry for some.

I know you like to always have the last word and I know that any discussion with you is not a discussion really anyway and is a waste of time for both of us, so signing off now. I assume you jumped in because you see it as your duty, as a self-appointed guardian of "orthodoxy" to correct any possible mis-readings of the Catholic church that some passing internet surfer might come across. At least, mis-readings in your mind.

I wonder how many people who look at some Catholic websites go away shaking their heads and wondering about this group of people who are so anti-intellectual that any new possibility, even if unlikely, shakes them to their very toes. That particular mistaken perception of Catholicism is fairly widespread - for obvious reasons, unfortunately.

john andrechak | 4/18/2014 - 12:00am

Sandi,
You have summed up Mr.Leary precisely when you label him as a self appointed guardian of orthodoxy; the jist of all his comments revolves around true Catholics, which of course he defines (let me guess he will reply that he is simply quoting the Church). I love how he uses terms such as "leftist" I am a bit surprised that he didn't bring in political party affiliation.

Tim O'Leary | 4/18/2014 - 10:27pm

John - I only see a need to bring up the sorry past & present of the Democrats when we are dealing with slavery or abortion, and that is off topic here. You always seem to misspell my name. Typical hospitality from your side.

Tim O'Leary | 4/17/2014 - 6:54pm

As if you brought up Galileo because it was on subject with this piece.

But, I know exactly what you mean with your last paragraph. I was one of those people who for years just read articles. I also read the crazy anti-intellectual commentators and went away shaking my head. They were all congratulating themselves for their unanimous agreement and superior attitude. But, then, a few years ago, I decided to step into the fray, just to see how welcoming these self-declared tolerant folk might respond. I was welcomed with their typical hospitality.

As to that spaceship theory, I think the Vatican might shoot it down.

john andrechak | 4/15/2014 - 10:52am

I love it, all this rising to the defense about the possible married state of Jesus. Just imagine the furor if there was similar evidence that Mary and Joseph had sex, or actually there is, isn't there, in the translations of "brothers." The point here of course is somehow Mary, or Jesus, being sullied by the carnal act.

Sandi Sinor | 4/15/2014 - 11:31am

You got it. I was thinking exactly the same thing but didn't say it. I agree too about the teaching about "Blessed Mary ever virgin" - another example of the male celibates' aversion to - gasp! - sex!

john andrechak | 4/17/2014 - 12:03am

Sandi,
Thanks for the reply. I would love to hear why the Church has gone to such lengths describing Mary as "ever Virgin" other then as you say an aversion to sex, or at least that sex somehow would sully or degrade Christ's Mother.

Sandi Sinor | 4/17/2014 - 5:51pm

Wouldn't the church's teachings on marriage and family be so much more beautiful if Mary and Joseph had had a real marriage? The church also wouldn't have to scramble so hard to explain away the multiple references to Mary's other children, Jesus' brothers. From what I have read, their attempt to have the words mean "cousins" or even people from Jesus' hometown does not impress most biblical scholars. Most christians accept the "virgin" conception of Jesus, but they have no problem with other children of Mary being Mary and Joseph's children or with Mary and Joseph having had a real, normal, human marriage.

Tim O'Leary | 4/18/2014 - 12:27pm

Sandi - I note it is common for those pseudo-intellectual types who have abandoned the Magisterium to put their faith in academic opinion or opinion polls or the latest questionable papyrus or apocryphal literature ("most christians" and "most biblical scholars"). However, for Catholics, Truth is not decided by "most biblical scholars" or "most" anybody.

Your idea of beauty and God's are obviously not the same. You might find the Immaculate conception, the idea of a sacred womb, a new Ark of the Covenant or Holy of Holies, an Assumption into heaven and a Coronation all too mysterious for your taste but here is a good summary of the teaching Roman Catholics share with the Eastern Christians. http://www.stpeterslist.com/2022/4-biblical-reasons-mary-is-the-new-ark-...

BRUCE SNOWDEN | 4/13/2014 - 7:34am

It was necessary for Mary to have a husband, among other reasons, to give Jesus legitimacy and to the provide Jesus, Mary, Joseph, a loving family structure along with a respectable life. But it was not necessary that Jesus have a wife. Obviously all humanity is born to live and of necessity must eventually die. Only Jesus was born to die, as his prime reason for being born was to redeem, doing so as the Pascal Lamb on Calvary’s cross. If he had married what would his children be – “Sons/Daughters of God , co-equal to the Father?" And what about their children on and on, all “partakers of the Divine Nature,” since Jesus was also God? Yes, St. Paul says we do as Church through Grace, partake of the Divine Nature, but only through Grace, not biologically. But if Jesus were married it would be interesting to see how the Father worked out the unusualities.

It’s also interesting to note that once, Jesus was told his Mother and family were looking for him. Jesus replied, “Who is my Mother, my Brothers, my Sisters?” (no Wife mentioned) A loving husband dare not forget to include his wife! Continuing, Jesus said that those who do the Will of his Father are his “Mother, his Brother, his Sister,” again no Wife mentioned. Maybe she was with him? If she was, the message carrier would have gone first to her and have her tell her husband, Jesus, that his Mother and family were looking for him. Instead they
went directly to Jesus.

This is of course, speculation, but I think with some validity. To Jesus everyone has a familiar identity, part of the Family of God, his. All were Mothers, Brothers, Sisters and Wives, like the women who followed him on his journeys, doing “wifely” tasks, looking after his daily needs like food, lodging, clothes-washings. In a sense these women took the place of a Wife, which if Jesus had, would certainly have been in the forefront watching what the other women did! No Wife there.

Concluding, I must say I find it devious that people responsible for stirring up the not new story of a married Jesus at this time, should do so during the most sacred time for Christians, Holy Week and Easter. It makes me wonder if they have a nasty ulterior motive, trying to disrupt, discredit, destroy, the credibility of Christianity, precisely the Catholic Church. It isn’t going to happen as masterfully explained in the above article, "Did Jesus Have A Wife? No" by Father James Martin, S.J. I agree with all he says.

Anne Chapman | 4/14/2014 - 2:56pm

Bruce,

How does simply considering the possibility that Jesus may have had a wife at some time in his life before his public ministry (by which time he may have been a widower) discredit or even destroy the credibility of christianity?

What difference would it make to christianity if Jesus had married?

Would christianity no longer be true or valid if Jesus had followed the traditions of his people and married?

Fr.Martin's unequivocal "No" implies that he too may think that there is something so inferior about the married state that he cannot even entertain the possibility - that the credibility of Jesus's life and ministry would somehow be invalidated if someday the discovery of another trove of "Dead Sea Scrolls" reveals that Jesus did indeed have a wife. Is it really totally unlikely that he married when he was 14 or 15 (people married shortly after puberty in that era), and that perhaps his wife died young, perhaps in childbirth so that she was not around to do the "wifely" things you mention at the time of his life the gospels record. Early death from complications of pregnancy and childbirth was a sad but true reality for most of history.

I find this way of looking at this possibility (NO) disturbing for two reasons.

The first is on intellectual grounds - there is so much that we don't know and will probably never know about Jesus' life. There is no information at all in the NT about his life from age 12 to age 30. Biblical scholarship did not advance for most of christian history - not until archeology revealed new information and especially not until the discovery of other ancient writings. To close the door on the possibility that Jesus may have been married at some time seems to close the door on being open to new knowledge, new understandings.

The second is more personal - as a married woman - a wife - I find it somewhat offensive that so many seem to believe as you do that even the possibility that Jesus may have had a wife destroys the credibility of christianity.

.What is so awful about women and marriage that some won't even consider the possibility that Jesus married?

BRUCE SNOWDEN | 4/14/2014 - 4:19pm

Hi Anne, Let me try to answer your question simply and plainly without gloss. Of itself a married Jesus would not destroy, or discredit the credibility of Christianity (the Catholic Church) if from the beginning it was clear that Jesus was a married man. There is nothing wrong with being married - My wife and I will soon celebrate forty-seven years of marriage, not that our marriage really applies to the point in question. But there are as ever, "teachers with itching ears" who as Paul says "try to lead astray even the elect" meaning that there are some would latch on to anything hoping to destroy and discredit Christianity for reasons best understood by themselves.

I agree with Fr. James Martin that a married Jesus would not, should not, destroy the Church's credibility. But I do wonder what would Jesus' children be? If they are chips off the old block, would they with their dad be "co-equal to the Father" in other words, God? If not, why not? As I said in my original post, there is no necessity for a married Jesus, doctrinally complicating who Jesus is, as has been taught from the beginning. But as I always like to point out posting on any profound theological question, "I am not a theologian."

Again as previously stated, I find it curious that often at most sacred times in Christianity like Holy Week, Easter, someone will come up with something, often rehashing stuff that at least might discredit Christian belief. How come? The only thing really that would topple Christianity (the Church) is if Paul's words proved true, "If Christ be not risen, your Faith is in vain!" This is the best I can do, Anne, I hope it satisfies you at least a little.

Anne Chapman | 4/14/2014 - 5:31pm

The papyrus was discovered some time ago and has been under analysis for some time also - it didn't just happen during Holy Week. It appears to be authentic, and I find that to be absolutely fascinating. I think we know so little of what there is to know and welcome all advances in knowledge, especially advances that shed more light on Jesus' life and on the lives of those who followed him in the early years, before there was a Catholic church, but simply a group of Jews who followed Jesus. I am also very interested in what the scholars continue to discover about the early church. The Jews were the first to follow Jesus (who was not a Catholic, of course, but an observant Jew of the first century), but then the gentiles also, and eventually all became a separate group called christians.

It's not an anti-Catholic or anti-Christian conspiracy, it's scholarship at work. It's really very exciting to anyone who doesn't have a closed mind. I have no idea if Jesus was married or not, but rather like the idea. After all, he was "fully" human and normal men in his era married, and married young, by today's standards. There is no mention in the NT of marriage or children (but there is no mention of Mary's "immaculate" conception or "assumption" either) so it is possible that he did not have children even if he did marry - as we know, many notables in the bible did not have children (at least at first - until a miracle occurred). And we definitely know that many women died in childbirth along with their unborn or newborn children. Infant and child mortality rates were high. If there were children, they would be fully human like their mother and father. Jesus' father? That's a different issue. But haven't you ever wondered what modern science - DNA testing - would show about Jesus' paternity? I assume he had both an X and Y chromosome as do all male human beings and he was not a "clone" of his mother - he wouldn't have 100% matching DNA. But, I am neither a scientist nor a theologian. I wish I were both.

I sometimes wonder, though, about how weak someone's faith might really be if they are fearful of new discoveries, and advances in knowledge in science, archeology, history, and especially in biblical scholarship..

There would be nothing in Jesus's human life being fully human (including marriage) that would preclude "Christ being risen".

BRUCE SNOWDEN | 4/14/2014 - 8:58pm

Hi Anne - just briefly, I know the papyrus is ancient not just found even authenticated. But I am bothered that the questionable document and it is questionable is it not, should be given publicity during our holiest of times. Do it sometime after the holy days, then pull it apart, study, discuss, gnaw at it, discover its whole truth and nothing but the truth. But for God's sake let science respect the sensitivities of the many who take delight in the Lord Jesus as we know him through Faith, prayer and personal experience. T do otherwise I find offensive.

Sandi Sinor | 4/15/2014 - 10:17am

OK, I'm going to jump in here, because I really don't get it.

Bruce, you are choosing to be offended it seems - why?

This document has been closely analyzed and apparently there there are references that indicate that Jesus may have had a wife. It's tough to figure these things out sometimes. Look at all the hoopla about the Shroud of Turin in spite of a gazillion tests - nobody really knows. Some people want to believe" in the conclusions of some analysts who say it's "real", but not the conclusions of folk who point out all the contradictions. And I bet I'd win if I guessed which group you go with.

This papryrus seems to indicate that there is a real possibility that Jesus was married.

There is nothing inherently offensive in that possibility, is there?

So why are you offended?

BRUCE SNOWDEN | 4/15/2014 - 12:33pm

Hi Sandi -- Yes I am offended because I'm fed up with Christianity (the Catholic Church especially) being mocked, its teachings scrutinized with ill intent, opponents salivating at the opportunity to prove the Church wrong, its Faithful looked upon as a misled bunch of buffoons!

I'm sure you've been in love, maybe deeply in love now and I am sure if the one you love deeply was maliciously, or non-maliciously mocked etc., etc., you'd be offended to and defensive of her/him.. Well, I deeply love Christianity, the Catholic Church and I do take offense at seeing the love of my life stepped on, so to speak, its integrity berated over and over again. Why doesn't this happen to other world religions. Enough said.

Sandi Sinor | 4/15/2014 - 1:29pm

Bruce, how is the possibility that Jesus MIGHT have been married become "mocking" christianity or the church? I really don't get it. What's so awful about it?

Maybe someday someone really will prove that Jesus did get married. What then? Will you stop believing in christianity? The church has been wrong lots of times. You know that. Everybody knows that. The church was famously wrong when it condemned Galileo and later had a whole lot of egg on its face. Hundreds of years later everyone remembers that. Instead of attacking the people who study these things, maybe it would be a whole lot better just to say "That's really an interesting possibility. I guess we will have to wait until the scientists can study this some more". You're attacking the messenger and it just makes the church look anti-science and anti-intellectual. If you worry about people mocking the church, then the church shouldn't have to be dragged kicking and screaming into at least considering the possibility that something they thought was true maybe isn't.
Every time there is some new controversy some folk in the church fall into the same trap. They get all excited and angry and defensive and say "That's NOT what we've ALWAYS taught so you're just attacking us" Wrong. That kind of "We refuse to even consider new knowledge" reaction is just what the church's enemies wait for because to outsiders, it seems to prove their point.

BTW, it seems to me that lots of other religions get attacked all the time. Islam is a special target these days. You can't have missed that. Yesterday evening was the beginning of Passover. Three Jewish people were murdered just a few days ago because they were Jews. Jews have been targets (of christians and muslims mostly) for at least the last 2000 years. I suppose before then they were attacked by the Egyptians..

BRUCE SNOWDEN | 4/15/2014 - 2:00pm

Hi Sandi - I'm done, offering the following quote from Pascal, "The heart has reasons that the mind cannot comprehend!" Amen.

Crystal Watson | 4/12/2014 - 7:29am

It can't be said for sure that Jesus was not married ... there's no proof of his marital status either way. To say that if he'd been married then it would have been mentioned in the gospels is unconvincing ... most NT scholars think the apostles were married, but their wives aren't mentioned in the gospels (aside from the passage about Peter's mother-in-law). And at least one non-canonical gospel mentions Jesus being married - the gospel of Phillip. It seems like the church has an investment in Jesus not being married, perhaps to justify mandatory celibacy for priests.

Anne Chapman | 4/11/2014 - 7:47pm

Fr. Martin, why are you so concerned about this? Why do you feel so strongly the need to defend the traditional belief that Jesus never married? Why are you so closed to the possibility that Jesus may have married during his lifetime? You say it doesn't matter to you, but your other words seem to belie this statement. In reading this, one is reminded of the scene in Hamlet where the Queen comments that "The lady doth protest too much, methinks".

Wangeshi Njogu | 4/11/2014 - 2:33am

Thank you Fr, what is the explanation for Jesus' brothers and sisters?

Reyanna Rice | 4/10/2014 - 5:24pm

Father Jim,
I would like to say something about this sentence in your article:

"Or perhaps his celibacy was another manifestation of his single-hearted commitment to God."

Celibacy is not the only way to have a single-hearted commitment so I hope that is not your thought. One can have this same commitment in marriage. It is achieved through one's single-hearted commitment to one's spouse. They are for us the very image of God in our lives. And marriage is about redemption. In and through each other we redeem one another. In a good long marriage, much comes into your life, some of it good and some of it bad. I was married for 40 years to a wonderful man, watching him die at the end from acute myelogenous leukemia. We truly redeemed each other through all of that, holding each other up to the very end. Neither of us felt that we did not have a single-hearted commitment to God, because we knew we were touching God every day as we loved and cared for each other and our family I think the church sometimes kinda forgets, that posing celibacy over the years as the somehow more committed way. It has gotten better over the years about recognizing the married state as a try vocation. For many years it was liked down upon as second and best, that somehow if you chose marriage you were not strong enough in your commitment to God, sorta a second -class state of life.

James Martin | 4/10/2014 - 8:34pm

No, that's definitely not what I meant.  There are many ways of being committed to God.  I said it was his way.

William Nassari | 4/10/2014 - 12:09pm

Faith aside, it's still inconclusive that Jesus was or was not married. But other great religions were founded by married men, some married to more than one woman.

Raymond Glennon | 4/10/2014 - 10:02am

Thanks for this timely and cogent piece. Greatly appreciated in this time of overheated media coverage of anything that might be used to make believers look "foolish" rather than followers of Jesus and "fools for God."
Ray Glennon
Twitter: @RayGlennon

Anne Chapman | 4/11/2014 - 11:39pm

It is doubtful that anyone will ever be able to prove anything about Jesus' marital status. Perhaps he was once married and was a widower at the time he began his ministry - which he started quite late, by the standards of the day. He was 30 then, and most people married in their early teens, shortly after puberty. Jesus must have had some type of work in the many years before his public ministry, between the ages of 12 and 30. Some think he might have been a carpenter like Joseph since boys often followed their father's profession. And it is also likely that he would have followed tradition and married while a teenager.

Life was far more precarious then than now and average lifespan at birth (because of the high risk of death from disease or accident) was less than 40 years, although those who survived to adulthood had a better chance at a longer life . But, it was even more dangerous for women. Thoughout most of history many women have died young from complications of pregnancy/childbirth. If Jesus did marry at the expected age (while a young teen), he could easily have been widowed by the time he was 30 and possibly long before that.

But, there is no historical evidence of this, nor is there evidence that he never married. This is not unusual - there is no historical evidence of a great deal about Jesus that christians take "on faith".

I don't see what holding either belief (whether or not he ever married) has to do with looking "foolish" or being followers of Jesus. Perhaps you could explain?