Let There Be Wife

Article excerpt

Byline: David Sessions

Why imagining a married Jesus would be good for women.

Peering through the historical keyhole at Jesus's sex life has always been tempting, and glimpses of his intimate relationships tend to take on a life that outstrips the available evidence. When Karen King, a historian of early Christianity at Harvard University, unveiled a shred of papyrus in which Jesus refers to his "wife" and calls her a "disciple," religious scholars arguing for a more humanized view of Jesus and a greater role for women in the church got a boost of encouragement.

The papyrus, given to King by an anonymous collector, is written in Coptic and dates from the fourth century, three centuries after Jesus died. Because of its distance from the historical Jesus--the Gospel of Mark is believed to have been written less than 70 years after his death--the new "Gospel of Jesus's Wife" is unlikely to upend the view that Jesus was celibate. Similar texts found in Egypt referred to Jesus kissing Mary Magdalene "on the mouth," but haven't led the Catholic Church to take a kinder view of kissing in the priesthood.

But like other religious notions, the idea of a married Jesus does not need conclusive proof to cast a powerful spell. The Vatican proved that with its attack on Dan Brown's novel The Da Vinci Code, which portrayed Jesus as married to Magdalene. Just imagining him having sex, apparently, can threaten the entrenched association of sacredness with sexlessness. …