Sancta Mater Ecclesia.
We did not need the New York Times to tell us that, right? But the Times has told us that A Faded Piece of Papyrus Refers to Jesus’ Wife. This will, of course, be taken seriously by the enemies of the religion. It will then fade from memory, and when the actual significance of the discovery turns out to be something the enemies of religion can’t really use, the whole thing will die with a whimper, without the courtesy of a retraction.
Quoth the Times:
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 …’ ”
All giddy over the big discovery, The Times’ Laurie Goodstien enthuses:
Even with many questions unsettled, the discovery could reignite the debate over whether Jesus was married, whether Mary Magdalene was his wife and whether he had a female disciple. These debates date to the early centuries of Christianity, scholars say. But they are relevant today, when global Christianity is roiling over the place of women in ministry and the boundaries of marriage.
Debate? Are you kidding, Ms. Goodstien? The issue hasn’t been genuinely “debated.” It was only ever asserted by a handful of bizarre sectarians or people silly enough to take Michael Baigent or Dan Brown seriously.
Here are some possibilities regarding the scrap of papyrus.
- The thing is a forgery.
- The thing is real and its meaning is not at all what Professor Karen L. King says it is.
- The this is real, does mean what Professor Karen L. King says it means, and is the product of a bizarre sect of the fourth century. (In which case, we are assured, once again, that Gnosticism Sells Big.)
Some self-proclaimed Christians of the first centuries did not believe in the reality of matter. Others were dualists (good god and evil god are equal). Others were pantheists. Others thought that Jesus was not God. Others thought the Holy Ghost was not God. Others thought that Jesus was not a man, but only appeared to be one. In short, many nonsensical things were advanced in the early years of the Christian era by sects that found themselves condemned by the authority of Jesus’ real Bride, the Catholic Church.
In fact, dead people have no monopoly on nonsense, for many nonsensical things are still advanced by those calling themselves Christian.
And very many nonsensical things are advanced in the pages of the New York Times.
To paraphrase something Joe Stalin purportedly said: Papyrus will put up with anything written upon it.