“Did Jesus Have a Wife?”

Greg Strand – September 30, 2012 Leave a comment

Here are four more responses to the recent translation of a manuscript entitled “The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife.”

Ben Witherington, “Seven Minute Seminary: Did Jesus Have a Wife?”

Witherington serves as Jean R. Amos Professor of New Testament for Doctoral Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary where he has taught since 1995. He has written many books, including a socio-rhetorical commentary on every book of the New Testament (published by Eerdmans).

In this helpful clip, Witherington addresses the recent translation of the manuscript referred to as “The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife.”

Michael J. Kruger, “The Far Less Sensational Truth about Jesus’ ‘Wife’”: (September 19, 2012)

Kruger serves as a Professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte, NC, and author of the recently published Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books (Wheaton: Crossway, 2012).

Kruger considers several matters as he asks questions about this new discovery:

Authenticity: “At this point, there is no way to know whether it is genuine or a forgery. We cannot be certain until more scholars have an opportunity to examine it.”);

Composition: “there is nothing that would indicate that the composition of this gospel should be dated to the first century. It was produced long after the time of the apostles, along with all other known apocryphal gospels.”

Historical Value: “There is no reason to think this gospel retains authentic tradition about Jesus. It is a late production, not based on eyewitness testimony, and likely draws on other apocryphal works like Thomas and Philip. Moreover – and this is critical – we do not have a single historical source in all of early Christianity that suggests Jesus was married. None.”

Conspiracies and the Canonical Gospels: “When it comes to these sorts of questions I like to remind my students of a simply – but often overlooked – fact: of all the gospels in early Christianity, only Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are dated to the first century. Sure, there are minority attempts to put books like the Gospel of Thomas in the first century – but such attempts have not been well received by biblical scholars. Thus, if we really want to know what Jesus was like, our best bet is to rely on books that were at least written during the time period when eyewitnesses were still alive. And only four gospels meet that standard.”

Daniel B. Wallace, “Reality Check: The ‘Jesus’ Wife’ Coptic Fragment,” (September 21, 2012)

Wallace serves as professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary where he has been tenured since 1995. He authored Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1997), and has done extensive work in the area of textual criticism.

In this post, Wallace addresses “some facts, some probabilities, and some possibilities.” Under “facts,” in his ninth point, Wallace asks and answers, “Does this fragment prove that Jesus was married? The answer is an emphatic no. At most, it can only tell us what one group of ‘Christians’ in the middle of the second century thought. But it says nothing about true history, about Jesus of Nazareth.”

As far as “possibilities,” Wallace lists three: 1) “the manuscript is a fake”; 2) if it is genuine, a. it is not Gnostic, b. Gnostic but with an understanding of marriage other than a physical bond between a man and a woman, c. orthodox but the reference to “wife” is metaphorically used to refer to the church as Jesus’ wife, d. a derivative Christian group that was responded to the asceticism of the second century that looked negatively upon marriage, or e. a parabolic or metaphorical reference; finally, 3) “If it goes back to a second-century tradition, we must keep in mind that there is a world of difference between first-century, apostolic Christianity and the various spin-off groups that rose after that early period.”

Francis Watson, “The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife: How a face Gospel-Fragment was composed

Watson serves at the University of Durham. He includes a six-page analysis of the Coptic fragment in which he concludes this is the work of a modern author, a forgery.  

The text has been constructed out of small pieces – words or phrases – culled mostly from the Coptic Gospel of Thomas (GTh), Sayings 101 and 114, and set in new contexts.

This is most probably the compositional procedure of a modern author who is not a native speaker of Coptic. . . . it seems unlikely that GJW will establish itself as a “genuine” product of early gospel writing.

Watson also included an “Addendum: The End of the Line

His conclusion here is the following: “For the present, though, scepticism [sic] seems a safer option than credulity.”

Greg Strand


Affectionately called “Walking Bible” by his youngest daughter, Greg Strand has a ministry history that goes back to 1982. Since that time, he has served in local church ministry in a variety of ministry capacities: youth pastor, associate pastor of adult ministries and senior pastor. He is currently the EFCA's Executive Director of Theology and Credentialing. Greg reads voraciously and never stops learning — a passion reflected in the overflowing bookshelves that spill from his library to multiple offices. And he could tell you about each of those books! His hunger for learning pales in contrast to his great love for God and for teaching the Word of God.

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