Fascination with a Fragment

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The major news networks all went out of their way to feature a story about a recently surfaced papyrus fragment that suggests that Jesus had a wife. You are kidding, right?

Nothing in the Bible supports that and for centuries only an occasional eccentric might take such a claim seriously!  Yet this small fragment, believed to date back to the fourth century, is written in Coptic on papyrus, and provides the basis for this supposedly dramatic revelation that just maybe Jesus was married.  All of this furor is suggested by a six word phrase, “Jesus said to them: “My wife….”  But even the professor who brought this fragment forward warns the public that this little find does not prove anything–only that it contributes to an interesting bit of speculation that such a thing might have been an idea held by a few people in the early churches.  Since when does that qualify as a major news story?

Obviously people like stories that challenge traditional biblical accounts.  Dan Brown made a mint a few years ago when he wrote The DaVinci Code, trying also to suggest that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and bore children.  Great fiction, but hardly a newsworthy theory!  Occasionally other little fragments of ancient texts show up offering even more creative insights into the life and character of Jesus.

But what amazes me is the public interest in such media revelations!  Rather than accepting the wealth of evidence contradicting such a revelation, they seem more interested in discrediting ancient biblical manuscripts and supplanting them with rare remnants of other extant documents.  They gladly and curiously embrace the validity of the exception while dismissing the preponderance of manuscripts supporting the biblical text that has survived through the ages.  Thousands upon thousands of manuscripts have survived which bear witness to the fact that what we have today in our modern Bibles corresponds with them, not the occasional random surfacing of a novel idea on an extremely rare fragment.

The issue, then, is not really the available evidence.  The issue is whether the media and “modern scholars” can continue to find new ways to cast doubt upon the reliability of Scripture.  Not one article in the recent accounts dares to mention how many thousands of old manuscripts and pieces of old texts support the text of the Bible we have today. Nor do they take note of how many spurious documents were composed and rejected by the early church as false representations and fictional accounts of the life of Jesus.  Of course, as we should expect, some of the fraudulent accounts may have survived, but the overwhelming evidence of the manuscripts and scripture fragments validates the earliest accounts about Jesus as preserved in the Bible.  And the early church and honest historical efforts recognize and treat silly stories as they deserve–to be viewed as interesting efforts by some among the ancients to try to shape Jesus according to their own imagination, just the way so many have done in our day!

So here’s an idea!  Let’s trust God’s Word to get it right and let the evidence speak for itself!  Then instead of weighing the many texts by the rare, we can stand confidently on what the record shows–that we have a trustworthy record of the life and times of Jesus Christ in the gospels that bear witness to His matchless name!

2 thoughts on “Fascination with a Fragment

    crochetimpressions said:
    September 24, 2012 at 9:35 am

    Dear David,

    I am going to play “Urtle the Turtle” and stick my neck out for a moment. I have been studying some Ancient Hebrew for a couple of years. It is my understanding that the term ” Wife” in the ancient text did not mean the same thing as the english interpretation. I understand it could mean a woman who cleans or cooks for a man, maybe even a servant but, may not be married to him in the biblical definition. I think the writing is already on the wall. Many experts in the secular realm already have many doubts this papyrus will prove to be authentic.

    I had someone ask me a few years ago if it were absolutely proven that Jesus had been married and had children would it destroy my faith. My answer was I do not believe proof of that would ever occur, but my faith would not change because Jesus Christ was then and is still today “The Only Begotten Son of God.”

    Lynn W….

      davidhhorner responded:
      September 27, 2012 at 2:28 pm

      Lynn,
      Thanks for weighing in! Really appreciate your response! But even if the fragment is legit as far as antiquity is concerned, it still does not meet the credibility criteria for content! As noted, many spurious documents could survive the ages and still be spurious. Glad to have your comments.
      David

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