A story reported by the New York Times today, as well in Dr. James Tabor’s blog, reports that a newly deciphered papyrus being referred to as the Gospel of Jesus’s Wife includes the words, “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife…” and “she will be able to be my disciple.” These are little words which carry heavy weight to impact mainstream Christianity. If Jesus had a wife then he surely wasn’t God incarnate, and if he wasn’t God then…..
Let the bible verse quotations and apologetics begin.
For a heretic like me who has already concluded that Jesus was a mortal man who obtained divine providence, this news comes not as a shock but as a possible validation to my changed beliefs on Jesus and the bible. For my fundamental family, this news has faith infringing consequences. They have built their religious structure from pulpit sermons that have taught Jesus was God incarnate, and that the bible is god-breathed and infallible. This will be a hotly discussed topic, but it won’t change their minds. In fact, I feel certain they will call up 2 Timothy 4:3 and assign this news to the prophecy of itching ears and false doctrines.
When my own beliefs began to change, admitting to myself that I truly believed that Jesus was a mortal man who became the Christ was not difficult because it was what I had always believed based on my interpretations of the scriptures, even if I dared not admit it to myself. When I openly accepted that this was what I believed and I didn’t burst into flames, I began asking myself more questions. One, why was it necessary to believe that Jesus was not a man? After all, it seemed more likely to me that he had to be a man or the sacrificial atonement carried no weight. Could God sacrifice omnipotent, omniscient God for the sins of Adam the mere mortal man? Can you make an apple pie with oranges? If it was the being of man within his own will who incurred the sin, then it had to be the being of man within his own equal will that atoned for the sin.
And two, does Jesus simply being a man negate the message that he taught? Should I discard his moral teachings into the trash heap just because he was not God incarnate? Do his teachings carry any less merit being uttered from the mouth of a man rather than the mouth of God?
I do not believe that God sacrificed his supreme, immortal, infinite being to salvage us from our sins. I do believe that an extraordinary man capable of divine wisdom and righteous spirit did. For me, accepting that Jesus was mortal allows me to forgo ridiculous arguments over doctrines such as the virgin birth and instead focus on the message that he taught.
With regard to this little fragment there will likely be much discussion, debate and defense of established doctrine. The New York times reports, “Until Tuesday, Dr. King had shown the fragment to only a small circle of experts in papyrology and Coptic linguistics, who concluded that it is most likely not a forgery. But she and her collaborators say they are eager for more scholars to weigh in and perhaps upend their conclusions.”
As the discussions mount, I look forward to the many documentaries that will be produced if this news carries the controversial momentum of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code.