Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Matt 24 watch, 170: Yahoo News promotes a 4th century papyrus as "evidence" in support of the assertion that Jesus had a wife

It seems that many cannot resist the Dan Brown style agenda of straining evidence to manufacture a wife for our Lord Jesus. This morning on opening up the Yahoo main page, the following headline jumped out:

Jesus had a wife, newly discovered gospel suggests

This was followed by the following photo and caption:

Live Science caption: >> Reuters/REUTERS - A previously unknown scrap of ancient papyrus written in ancient Egyptian Coptic is pictured in this undated handout photo obtained by Reuters September 18, 2012. The papyrus has four words written in Coptic that provide the first unequivocal evidence that within 150 years of his death, some followers of Jesus, believed him to have been married. >>
The echoes of Dan Brown's ill-judged speculations presented under the misleading declaration "fact," practically leap out. (Cf here for a brief survey and here for Lutzer's site on that.)

The main text of the article is even more revealing, as we can clip:

A Harvard historian has identified a faded, fourth-century scrap of papyrus she calls "The Gospel of Jesus's Wife." One line of the torn fragment of text purportedly reads: "Jesus said to them, 'My wife …'" The following line states, "she will be able to be my disciple."
The finding was announced to the public today (Sept. 18) by Karen King, a historian of early Christianity, author of several books about new Gospel discoveries and the Hollis professor of divinity at Harvard Divinity School. King first examined the privately owned fragment in 2011, and has since been studying it with the help of a small group of scholars.
According to the New York Times, King and her collaborators have concluded that the business card-size fragment is not a forgery, and she is presenting the discovery today at a meeting of International Congress of Coptic Studies in Rome.
The fragment, written in Coptic, the language of a group of early Christians in Egypt, has an unknown provenance, and its owner has opted to remain anonymous. Questions about the fragment abound, but scholars say it will nonetheless reignite several old debates: Was Jesus married? If so, was Mary Magdalene his wife? And did he have a female disciple?
 The article comes on a morning where the same "news" source has just presented an article purporting to highlight how science is undermining evidence that God exists, dealt with at UD here. That itself tells us a lot about the nature of the source.

The suggestions in the article bristle with un-addressed, often unacknowledged difficulties:

1 --> We have over two dozen eyewitness lifetime foundational, C1 primary source documents on the founding of the Christian faith. These lay out -- to moral certainty --  the main lines of evidence and core teachings of Jesus as well as the witness of the 500 to the death burial and resurrection of Jesus.

2 --> Something that diverts from that to a side track issue that has no serious eyewitness lifetime evidence -- a C4 document in Coptic simply does not count -- is little more than a red herring led out to a convenient strawman to be knocked over and dismissed as if that answers the central matter adequately.

3 --> This is irresponsible and perhaps dishonest disinformation in itself. For, such basic fallacies of bias and distortion are covered in even a simple course in critical thinking, much less a serious course in Journalism.

4 --> Material context has been suppressed: Coptic language and the provenance of Egypt, the place where Coptic was spoken and read, are typical contexts for Gnostic heretical materials, where this C2 - 4 movement -- just the right timeframe -- is precisely not within the historic Christian faith and foundational witness. Heresy is evidently being promoted to an unwarranted authenticity.

5 --> Gnosticism would have had a rationale for proposing a wife for Jesus contrary to history, in connexion with schemes about sacred sex and the like that echo the sort of scenes that are presented in Dan Brown's novels. They are also known not to be particularly concerned with historical accuracy. Cf the video rebuttal here:

6 --> Now of course, Jesus had many female disciples; including Mary Magdalene. Just, there is no credible evidence that he was married. 

7 --> Where, it is also quite clear on the C1 evidence that Jesus stood foursquare in the Biblical, Hebraic prophetic tradition and saw himself as the prophesied messiah,  that he would not have endorsed the Gnostic teachings on the chain of emanations that led to a population of celestial beings and to humanity as imprisoned in the body, and needing esoteric knowledge -- gnosis -- to break free of the entanglement of physicality.

But it seems -- just as Jesus predicted in Matt 24 -- that  this is a time for many winds and waves of patently false doctrines, dressed up in a veneer of scholarship. 

So, let us be on our guard. END