Tag Archives: Jesus

An Absolute Classic Which Everyone, Yes EVERYONE Ought to Read

In a new edition including an ‘afterword’ by Sebastian Moll-

Martin Kähler – Der so­ge­nann­te his­to­ri­sche Jesus und der ge­schicht­li­che, bib­li­sche Chris­tus

sogennanteFrüher war alles so einfach. Die Kirche legte die Antworten auf die großen Fragen des Glaubens einfach dogmatisch fest, auch und gerade in der Christologie. Der moderne Christ, gleich welcher Konfession, tut sich schwer mit diesen Kirchenbekenntnissen und sucht oft lieber eine Beziehung zu Jesus als Mensch, zu einem ,persönlichen’ Jesus. Der evangelische Theologe Martin Kähler, dessen 100. Todestag wir in diesem Jahr begehen, sah diese Entwicklung bereits zu seiner Zeit mit großer Sorge. In seinem Vortrag mit dem bewusst paradox gewählten Titel kritisiert er die Besessenheit mit der Person Jesus von Nazareth und stellt ihr den Christus des Bekenntnisses gegenüber, wie er bereits vom Apostel Paulus gepredigt wurde. Dabei bestreitet Kähler weder den Sinn historischer Wissenschaft, noch redet er einem plumpen Dogmatismus das Wort. Aber er weiß darum, dass der christliche Glaube ohne das Bekenntnis nicht lebensfähig ist. Ein mutiger und keineswegs veralteter Ansatz für eine mehr und mehr verunsicherte Kirche.

2013, 120 Seiten, Gebunden, Deutsch
Nachwort: Moll, Sebastian Berlin University Press
ISBN-10: 3862800520
ISBN-13: 9783862800520

No book (save Bultmann’s) on the Historical Jesus is more important than this one.  If you’ve never read it, you have to.  Yes, you must.

More Nutbaggery About Jesus

I’m not sure which is worse, the feckless ignorance of the mythicists or the feckless dilettantism of Mr Ellis.  It’s a toss-up really.  As Antonio informs us

jesus_edessaFollowing 25 years of research, Ralph Ellis has discovered that Jesus was a prince of Edessa in northern Syria. The Edessan monarchs were Nazarene Jews who helped build the Temple of Jerusalem and saved Judaea from starvation during a great famine. But, just like Jesus, they were also religious and political revolutionaries who tried to take control of Judaea, but were thwarted by the Roman Army. Thus there are many links and similarities between the biblical accounts and the princes and kings of Edessa.

That coin, yeah that’s Jesus, the King of Edessa…

Sigh.  Up next, a History Channel special on the ‘discovery’ no doubt.

Selective Reading

Indeed. How odd it is that promoters of certain behaviors forget that he said ‘I have not come to do away with the law and prophets but to fulfill them’ whilst suggesting that he never mentioned deviant acts specifically. That’s selective reading at its ‘best’.


Law v. Francesca: The Virgin Smackdown, 2012

TM Law has a few issues with Francesca’s reading of Isaiah and Matthew (referenced in her delightful BBC 5 interview earlier today).  As I suggested in a little conversation with Mark Goodacre and TM on the facebook on the subject, I don’t think at all that Matthew was so uninformed that he didn’t have a good enough grasp of Hebrew to know what Isaiah was saying.

The use of parthenos by Matthew is unquestionably a claim that Jesus was born of a virgin. But the claim is not based on a mistranslation, as Stavrakopoulou suggests. The Greek translator of Isaiah used a perfectly acceptable rendering for עלמה. It is more likely that there was already a virgin birth oral tradition, related to other Greek myths in the Greco-Roman world like that of the birth of Aeo (see e.g., Rösel, ‘Die Jungfrauengeburt des endzeitlichen Immanuel’, JBTh 6 [1991], 135–51). The Gospel writer was able to refer to the citation of Isa. 7:14 when he gave his narration of the birth of Jesus, because his readers, whether or not they were aware of the semantic shift that had occurred in the short history of this little Greek word, knew that in the first century parthenos indeed meant ‘virgin’.

I also understand that Mark will soon post a podcast on the very same issue.  So stay tuned.


Everyone knows Jesus breastfed.  But naturally some special interest group wants to complain that there aren’t any scenes of him doing so, so up in arms they go… milking their cause for every drop they can squeeze from the teat…

At its heartwarming core, Christmas is the story of a birth: the tender relationship between a new mother and her newborn child.  Indeed, that maternal bond between the Virgin Mary and the baby Jesus has resonated so deeply across the centuries that depicting the blessed intimacy of the first Noel has become an integral part of the Christmas industry.  Yet all the familiar scenes associated with the holy family today – creches and church pageants, postage stamps and holiday cards – are also missing an obvious element of the mother-child connection that modern Christians are apparently happy to do without: a breast-feeding infant.

The essayist then goes on to attempt an explanation but I have a simpler one: folk know it happens and they don’t need to see it.  Folk know people go to the bathroom but who wants to watch someone do it?  No one, that’s who.  Folk know their parents and grandparents must have carnal relations from time to time but who among us wants to think about it?  That’s right, no one.

Every aspect of life needn’t be on display.  Happily and merrily feed your little one but kindly don’t plop the feeding tube out whilst in public.  No one’s interested in your self-aggrandizing displays.  Especially, yes ESPECIALLY if you’re Mary, the Mother of Our Lord.

Jesus Was Born Before Jesus Was Born, Says Ratzinger

The entire Christian calendar is based on a miscalculation, the Pope has declared, as he claims in a new book that Jesus was born several years earlier than commonly believed.

Jesus was born between 6 and 4 BC. So what’s the Pope think? He thinks the same thing… He doesn’t (and honestly, who DOES) believe that Jesus was born in year 0 or year 1.

“The calculation of the beginning of our calendar – based on the birth of Jesus – was made by Dionysius Exiguus, who made a mistake in his calculations by several years,” the Pope writes in the book, which went on sale around the world with an initial print run of a million copies. “The actual date of Jesus’s birth was several years before.” The assertion that the Christian calendar is based on a false premise is not new – many historians believe that Christ was born sometime between 7BC and 2BC. But the fact that doubts over one of the keystones of Christian tradition have been raised by the leader of the world’s one billion Catholics is striking.

Many? How about all. I’m not sure who Mr Squires of the Telegraph has been reading all these years, but it isn’t any New Testament exegete known to me. Seriously, this isn’t even news to anyone even REMOTELY familiar with the subject. The Telegraph must be having a slow news day.

Via Milton A.

Peter Williams on the Dead ‘Wife of Jesus’

Peter has written a very fine, precise, and ‘all you need to know about the ‘Jesus Wife’ fiasco’ piece here.

He concludes

What do we learn from all this?

First, we see a number of layers of spin in this tale. Dr. King’s original decision to call the media and to label the fragment a ‘Gospel’ just set the ball rolling. Soon media reports copied each other, and started to suggest that this was a discovery to revolutionise or challenge Christian teaching. By the time this arrived at popular perception, the transformation was complete: a piece of historical evidence suggested that Jesus actually had a wife. The majority impression given by the media was that this was an authentic piece, and the message that, even if genuine, the fragment was of little historical consequence was not heard. Public attitude will have been affected for the worse.

So we are reminded that the secular media appear incredibly powerful at getting false messages across which it is hard for us to redress.

Secondly, it could have been worse. To her credit, from the beginning Dr. King released high resolution photos and the technical information she had. This enabled quick scrutiny. Had the person responsible for the fake been better at his or her job the story could have had yet more negative impact. As it was, it’s noteworthy that British and British-educated scholars like Watson, Bernhard, and Goodacre mentioned above, along with evangelicals Simon Gathercole and Christian Askeland, played a significant role in exposing the problems with the manuscript and claims about it on blogs and in the media. Andrew Brown ofThe Guardian was commendably quick to notice and publish the doubts being raised.

It is worth reflecting on the progress here. Evangelicals now make up a significant proportion of those with the technical expertise to tackle a subject like this, and some of them had an intellectual firepower on the subject considerably exceeding that of the Harvard professor. I was contacted by Christians in touch with the media and was able to refer them to Simon Gathercole, a leading evangelical expert on apocryphal gospels. The rapid and informed response by Christians probably went a considerable way to deflating the story.

It is now well known by many who are not believers that there is a vigorous conspiracy-theory industry propagandising against the Christian faith. If Christians are seen as standing on history while others follow spin, even what seems like adverse publicity will ultimately end up glorifying God’s name.

Amen and amen.  With thanks to Mark Goodacre for mentioning it on the twitter.

The Guardian Too Joins the ‘C-List’ Simcha Disdains, and Denounces the ‘Jesus Wife’ Fragment as Fake

In a report titled ‘The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife: A very modern fake.’  Everything in the report is by now well known to those who have been following the story.  But it does conclude with a little joke which examines the implications of Jesus having a wife…

… the New Yorker alone was brave enough to examine the implications of the fact the Jesus’s wife, had she existed, would undoubtedly have been Jewish. Their Shouts and Murmurs humour column carried her side of the story:

“We were married in a simple, private ceremony in the desert, by a rabbi and someone whom Jesus called a Baptist minister. Right before the vows, the rabbi whispered to me, ‘Think about what you’re doing. Your children will be half Christian.’ Which was when the minister whispered, ‘So what? College isn’t for everyone.'”

Porn Destroys Lives, and Marriages, Because it Destroys Intimacy

A fine albeit brief essay at Keine Tricks-Nur Jesus titled Pornosucht: “Ich habe durch Pornos alles kaputt gemacht” is so very much worth reading because the subject is so very, very important.

Here’s the first paragraph-

“Ich habe durch Pornos alles kaputt gemacht”, seufzt mancher. Das mag natürlich gerne sein. Aber vergessen wir niemals — ganz gleich, was in unserem Leben geschehen ist, oder was wir selber angestellt haben —, daß es nichts gibt, was Gott nicht jederzeit wieder richten kann. Und auch zum Guten hin verändern wird, wenn wir mit aufrichtigem Herzen bereuen und im Gebet und in der Bibel ihn und seinen Willen für unser Leben zu erkennen versuchen.

And here’s the last-

Der Teufel will immer alles kaputt machen und versucht, uns unsere Kraft zu rauben, indem er uns an jeden Mist erinnert, den wir begangen haben oder begehen. Aber Jesus ist ganz anders als der Teufel. Jesus ist da, um uns zu retten. Völlig egal, wie tief wir auch im sündhaften Sumpf versunken sind. Vergessen wir auch nicht: Jesus kam ja nicht auf die Welt, um mit den Guten Tee zu trinken und lecker Kuchen zu essen; Jesus kam, um die Kaputte, die Fertigen, die Hoffnungslosen an die Hand zu nehmen und zu retten. Jesus kam wegen den Kaputten; nicht wegen denen, die ihn ohnehin nicht brauchen.

Read everything in between.

Lawrence Schiffman on ‘The Jesus Wife’ Fragment

One of the reasons I like Larry so much is his ability to say in a few words what some can’t say in a book. He does it again here in an interview in Moment Magazine.

“There is zero evidence that he [Jesus] was married,” says Lawrence Schiffman, a Dead Sea scroll expert who has also studied early Christianity extensively. “This text just shows that some people in the fourth century believed he was married.” Mary Magdalene is often believed to be Jesus’ wife and in the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, there are even references to a “close relationship” between the two. “One text refers to a kiss on the lips but just because they kissed on the mouth doesn’t mean they were married. If she was his wife, why wouldn’t the texts have said so? This was nothing to be embarrassed about in ancient Israel, when most men were married.” Schiffman, Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education at Yeshiva University and formerly Chair of New York University’s Skirball Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies, says that the text is important in showing that some early Christians wanted a Jesus narrative in which women play a more prominent role. “Mary Magdalene is a tantalizing figure. She’s mysterious and Jesus’ early followers want to know what’s going on.” The text, he adds, points to a dynamic religious tradition that changed over time. “Just like Judaism, Christianity isn’t a one-shot creation. There are developments over time and new ideas expressed every century.”

There’s a bit more but that’s the gist of it.  Larry isn’t buying the hype.

Now Available: The Francis Watson ‘That ‘Jesus’ Wife’ Fragment Thing? Yeah, It’s A Load of Hooey’ Collection

My characterization, not Mark’s.  Prof. Francis Watson has now written 3 pieces on the fragment which Mark posts here:

The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife: How a fake Gospel-Fragment was composed – INTRODUCTION AND SUMMARY

The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife: How a fake Gospel-Fragment was composed

Addendum: The End of the Line?

A Truly Stunning Manuscript Discovery

A new manuscript has been uncovered in the desert of Egypt written in Boharic and reading

“And [lo even if Bob] Cargi[ll] himself or an angel from heaven delivers an unprovenanced manuscript, do not believe him- he is anathema [12 broken lines]…. Saith the Lord Almighty…. [ms breaks off here].

How utterly astonishing!!!

This fragment was given to me by a friend at Cambridge last Winter and I’ve just been given permission to post it. If you’re interested in buying it I will have it up on Ebay soon.

And Now The Motive For the Announcement of the ‘Jesus’ Wife’ Fragment May Be Coming to Light

The AP reports

Ancient papyrus fragments have been frequently cut up by unscrupulous dealers seeking to make more money.  An anonymous collector brought King the fragment in December 2011, seeking her help in translating and understanding it. In March, she brought it to two papyrologists who determined it was very likely authentic.  On Tuesday, Harvard Divinity School announced the finding to great fanfare and said King’s paper would be published in January’s Harvard Theological Review. Harvard said the fragment most likely came from Egypt, and that its earliest documentation is from the early 1980s indicating that a now-deceased professor in Germany thought it evidence of a possible marriage of Jesus.

More importantly

Some archaeologists were quick to question Harvard’s ethics, noting that the fragment has no known provenance, or history of where it’s been, and that its owner may have a financial interest in the publicity being generated about it.

Exactly what I’ve maintained since the start.

King has said the owner wants to sell his collection to Harvard.

AhHA!  There it is.

“There are all sorts of really dodgy things about this,” said David Gill, professor of archaeological heritage at University Campus Suffolk and author of the Looting Matters blog, which closely follows the illicit trade in antiquities. “This looks to me as if any sensible, responsible academic would keep their distance from it.”  He cited the ongoing debate in academia over publishing articles about possibly dubiously obtained antiquities, thus potentially fueling the illicit market. He questioned, for example, whether the letter from the German Egyptologist was authentic, and whether Harvard should have contacted Egyptian authorities about the find.

I don’t know Prof. Gill but he’s clearly a man of sense.

I Have ‘Arrived’: I Made Mention by the BBC

Who knew…  Anyway, it’s really all down hill from here.  Mention by the BBC?  I can die now.

Harvard divinity professor Karen King unveiled the 4th-Century Coptic script at a conference in Rome. She said researchers had identified the words “Jesus said to them, ‘my wife'”, which might refer to Mary Magdalene. Christian tradition holds that Jesus did not marry – but Ms King said in early years it was subject to debate. The provocative find could spark debate over celibacy and the role of women within Christianity, she added. But the announcement sparked scepticism from some theologians. Jim West, a professor and Baptist pastor in Tennessee, said: “A statement on a papyrus fragment isn’t proof of anything. It’s nothing more than a statement ‘in thin air’, without substantial context.” Wolf-Peter Funk, a noted Coptic linguist attending the same conference as Ms King, said there were “thousands of scraps of papyrus where you find crazy things,” and many questions remained about the fragment.

It’s good to be so beloved.  Take that. Tilling!

One Final Observation on the ‘Wife of Jesus’ Fragment

It strains credulity to belive that of an entire document, however long it originally was, the only portion preserved in near pristine, incredibly legible condition is the credit card sized segment which just happens to mention ‘Jesus’s wife…’

And this from an anonymous source. Has the academy set aside its well known healthy skepticism for another object in the family tree of the ‘Secret Gospel of Mark’?

Could it be legitimately ancient? Sure anything is possible. But that so many are accepting it as such without knowing its origins is just downright troubling.

NBC News Roundup of the ‘Jesus’ Wife’ Papyrus

In an essay titled ‘Reality Check on Jesus and his ‘wife’‘ you’ll find the following towards the end:

The debate over the papyrus fragment’s authenticity and the meaning of the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife is likely to play out for a long time among scriptural scholars — and among “Da Vinci Code” fans as well. For now, here are links to background material and the initial blog reactions:

  • The news release from Harvard Divinity School points to a Web page about the papyrus and to the manuscript that King has prepared for publication in January’s issue of Harvard Theological Review.
  • James Tabor, a scriptural scholar at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and the co-author of controversial books about Jesus and his family, notes King’s research — and says Witherington and other scholars should “reconsider the question” surrounding Jesus’ marital status.
  • Michael Heiser, a scholar in biblical languages, says on his PaleoBabble blog that he tends to agree with the view that church leaders have “manipulated the testimony of Mary Magdalene” — but he warns against reading too much into the discovery.
  • Jim West, a biblical scholar at the Quartz Hill School of Theology and pastor of Petros Baptist Church, says on the Zwinglius Redivivus blog that “without more context, both historically and archaeologically, the snippet is valueless.”
  • James McGrath, a New Testament scholar at Butler University, also voices caution on the Exploring Our Matrix blog but adds that there’s no reason why people should find the idea that Jesus was married “inherently unbelievable.”

No, People, a 4th Century Scrap Doesn’t Prove Jesus Had a Wife

So calm yourselves.  First, what’s the provenance of the fragment?  Was it discovered in a controlled scientific dig?  Who are the excavators?  Where are the photos of the artifact’s discovery in situ?  Who deciphered it?  What is its date?

A historian of early Christianity at Harvard Divinity School has identified a scrap of papyrus that she says was written in Coptic in the fourth century and contains a phrase never seen in any piece of Scripture: “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife …’”

Again, what are the answers to the questions above.  King isn’t an archaeologist so how did she come into possession of the piece?  Furthermore, a statement on a papyrus fragment isn’t proof of anything.  It’s nothing more than a statement ‘in thin air’, without substantial context.  For all King knows (and those panting after the papyrus like it was a gold inscribed tablet dug up in Illinois and interpreted by the angel Morono) the full context is a joke of a letter written by one pagan to another.

The provenance of the papyrus fragment is a mystery, and its owner has asked to remain anonymous. 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.

Ah, so it’s provenance is a mystery.  That means, so far as real historians and biblical scholars are concerned, it’s rubbish.  No provenance, no usefulness.  The only people who accept unprovenanced artifacts are people who do shows for the Discovery Channel.  Anyway I think the first thing that King needs to answer is where and when she got it and from whom and how.  And then that person needs to turn over the chain of custody so that the piece can be understood properly.  It may well not be a ‘forgery’ but without more context, both historically and archaeologically, the snippet is valueless.

She repeatedly cautioned that this fragment should not be taken as proof that Jesus, the historical person, was actually married. The text was probably written centuries after Jesus lived, and all other early, historically reliable Christian literature is silent on the question, she said.

Well that’s sensible.  Taking a fragmentary statement in a fragmentary document and building a theory from it has already been done- and it resulted in miserable failure and widespread rejection (Panthera, father of Jesus, whatever happened to you?)

But the discovery is exciting, Dr. King said, because it is the first known statement from antiquity that refers to Jesus speaking of a wife. It provides further evidence that there was an active discussion among early Christians about whether Jesus was celibate or married, and which path his followers should choose.  “This fragment suggests that some early Christians had a tradition that Jesus was married,” Dr. King said. “There was, we already know, a controversy in the second century over whether Jesus was married, caught up with a debate about whether Christians should marry and have sex.”

Actually the only thing it shows is that one (potential) Christian writing in Coptic in a document that is incomplete may or may not have been referring to a tradition concerning Jesus that was held by only himself or perhaps a handful of others.

In short, what it shows is that even now, when people should know better, they still are more than willing to say more than can honestly and confidently be said.  I’m not accusing King of that- but those who will now run with her slight comment and slim evidence and produce mockumentaries from studios in Canada featuring talking heads and various ‘authorities’ keen to see themselves on TV.

UPDATE:  A few other observations and news reports are available here, here (NBC), herehere (BBC) and most recently here and here in The Guardian.  Simon Gathercole of Cambridge chimes in here.  A new video completely ignores the question of provenance, but it seems that there are still those pretending that – even without provenance- this discovery is meaningful.  Finally, Francis Watson shows that, beyond a doubt, the fragment is a fake (in three essays), and most recently in a more popularly aimed essay on B&I which includes even further information and an appendix by Stephen Carlson which is must reading.

UPDATE II:  HTR has decided to have nothing to do with the papyrus or its publication.  The Vatican has slammed Harvard for its publicity questing, also describing the fragment as a fake.