TOO MUCH OF THE MEDIA just doesn't get the current scholarly discussion about the Gospel of Jesus' Wife
. The issue, insofar as it is an issue at all, is whether the fragment is a modern forgery or the remains of an ancient manuscript dating to centuries after the time of Jesus which tells a legendary story that involves Jesus having a wife. If the fragment is authentic, it has been suggested that the original text of which it is a copy could date to as early as the second century. I have seen that asserted, but never argued. Still, this is long after any living memory of Jesus.
The current very strong consensus is that it is a modern forgery. I think this is correct beyond any reasonable doubt. But evidently Karen King still wants to defend the authenticity of the fragment — that is that it is an ancient account of an otherwise lost apocryphal legend involving Jesus' wife. We will all be happy to consider any peer-review publication that wants to make that argument, but in the meantime just about all specialists find the case for it being a modern forgery convincing.
Be that as it may, no one, and I mean no one
, thinks that this text, even on the remote contingency that it is genuine, provides any information about any putative wife or marriage of the historical Jesus. It's not an issue. Not at all.
Why is that so hard? Yet note the headlines of the following articles on the recent discussion.
Was Jesus Married? Tests On ‘Gospel Of Jesus’ Wife’ Hint It Is Real. The Messiah may have been married to Mary Magdalene
(Yahoo News, UK). Not just the headline: the reporting is pretty bad too. "Many believe that this shows Jesus was married instead of celibate - which could impact religions such as Catholicism, where priests are required to be celibate."
Jesus had wife: Gospel origins begin to emerge
(Yahoo/News7). The article is more nuanced than the headline, but the accompanying ABC News video segment ("Was Jesus Married? An intriguing clue") completely missed the point, has many inaccuracies, and gives a very misleading presentation of the current discussion.
New Study On Controversial Papyrus Fragment Suggests Jesus Had A Wife
(Guneet Bhatia, International Business Times
). The article is more nuanced than the headline, but has some garbling.
This is even more evidence that Jesus may have had a wife
(Herb Scribner, Deseret News
). The accompanying article proceeds as badly as the headline, although it makes a small effort toward the end to nuance its treatment.
Jesus May Have Had a Wife: Origins of 'Gospel of Jesus' Wife' Emerge
(Science World Report
). I don't know anything about Science World Report
, but their name is pretty grand for the quality of reporting in this case.
Did Jesus Have a Wife? Controversial 'Gospel of Jesus' Wife' Papyrus Is Being Investigated
(STOYAN ZAIMOV, Christian Post
. The actual article is not bad, but it doesn't make clear the preponderance of current scholarly opinion.
Ink In Papyrus Revealing Christ's Marriage May Be Authentic
(R. Siva Kuvar, NewsEveryDay). The article makes some effort to present the actual situation.
JESUS MARRIED? GOSPEL OF JESUS'S WIFE IS REAL
(Sumayah Aamir, I4U News). The article isn't entirely consistent, but some of it is as bad as the headline. I hope the I4U News articles on technology are more accurate.
Is this proof that Jesus was married? New tests hint that ancient note could be real
(Ollie McAteer, Metro.co.uk). Seems to be based on the Yahoo UK article quoted above.
Now I grant you two things. First, sometimes the articles above are less misleading than the headlines. This might exonerate the writers of the articles, but the headlines are still inexcusable. People often learn about news stories just by a quick glance at a headline, and countless people will have come to the conclusion that the Gospel of Jesus' Wife
has something to do with whether Jesus actually was married thanks to these headlines.
Second, many of these headlines come from smaller outfits that perhaps don't have the editorial standards of the major mainstream media. Nevertheless, I expect better, for example, from Yahoo, ABC News, and the International Business Times
So, three lessons here. First, never, ever trust a headline. Second, anyone can set up a "news" site on the Internet, so don't believe anything you read there unless you know the source is reliable. And third, and most disquieting of all, do not trust even the mainstream media about anything they say. There are notable exceptions, but too often their coverage is lazy, sensationalistic, and garbled.
and oh so many links.