Why Assume Jesus Wasn’t Married?
- Friday, September 21, 2012
So what do all these metaphors have to do with the marital status of the historical Jesus?
I suggest that, if Jesus had been married, these references to the church as his bride would have—at the very least—required some further explanation. Perhaps a reference to his “spiritual bride” and his “earthly bride,” or some other shade of distinction offered to distinguish the church’s relationship to Jesus. Yet these statements, some of which can be traced back to eyewitnesses of the life of Jesus, seem to be made with the assumption that the church is Christ’s bride and he has no other, whether spiritual or terrestrial. This is admittedly a suggestion from silence, but—given the consistent metaphorical references to the bride of Christ—the silence regarding any earthly marriage seems significant.
Why the Singleness of Jesus Makes the Most Sense
Several years ago, The Da Vinci Codebreaker—a book I cowrote with my friend Jim Garlow—hit the bestseller lists about the same time that Sony Pictures released the movie The Da Vinci Code. As a result, dozens of television and radio stations interviewed one or both of us in the space of a few weeks. At some point during that flurry of interviews, one interviewer asked me, “Why are you so against the idea that Jesus was married?”
“I’m not,” I replied after a second or two of reflection. “If I woke up tomorrow morning and saw that archaeologists had exhumed incontrovertible evidence that Jesus was married, it wouldn’t destroy my faith. Jesus would still be the risen Lord. But, as I examine the historical evidence, I find absolutely no substantial evidence to suggest that Jesus was married. And I find even less evidence of some sort of church-wide cover-up. I’m not against the idea that Jesus was married. What I’m against is the weak historical basis of such a supposition.”
The idea of a married Messiah wasn’t rejected among the earliest Christians because such a revelation would cause the Christian faith to fall apart—it might cause theologians to rethink the way they frame some doctrines, but no essential belief in the Christian faith is dependent on the singleness of Jesus. A married Jesus wasn’t rejected because early Christians wanted to downgrade human sexuality—with few exceptions, they didn’t. The marriage of Jesus didn’t become part of the church’s story of Jesus for a single reason: In all the eyewitness testimonies to the life of Jesus and later reflections on his life, no reliable proof exists for such a marriage. The announcement of a so-called “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife” has done nothing to change that fact.
Timothy Paul Jones serves as professor of leadership and associate vice president for online learning at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Jones has been widely recognized as a leading writer and researcher in the fields of apologetics, Christian education, and family ministry. He has authored or contributed to more than a dozen books, including misquoting truth, trained in the fear of god, and the CBA bestseller the da vinci codebreaker. Dr. Jones blogs at http://www.timothypauljones.com. Follow him on Twitter @timothywashere.
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