Some of you have probably already seen the news report: apparently, Jesus had a wife. Sort of. A well-known scholar from Harvard University, Karen King, has recently made a public announcement and delivered a lecture about a small fragment (slightly smaller than a business card) of a manuscript with eight lines of Greek text. The fifth line translates as, “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife…’”.
The manuscript fragrant has been tentatively dated to the fourth century, though it’s authenticity has not been fully verified. It’s part of a collection of documents discovered in 1945 in Egypt. These “gnostic” documents reveal what Christians have known for centuries: false teachers and even sects have existed throughout church history. In the case of the gnostics, most of them taught that the God of the Old Testament is evil, along with the physical world, and that Jesus was merely a man. It is because of the constant presence of these sorts of teachings that the New Testament writers warn us, “There will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies…” (2 Peter 2:1). John writes, “For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist,” (2 John 7). There really is nothing new under the sun.
Scholars such as King are committed to convincing people that what we know as biblical, orthodox Christianity was really only one of a number of “christianities,” and that other, more authentic versions should be embraced today. There are always false teachers among us.
The media sensationalizes such discoveries and often uses them to plant seeds of doubt into the minds of readers and listeners. Never mind the fact that this fragment hasn’t been verified as authentic. Never mind the fact that Christians have known about such gnostic teachings for centuries and recognized them for what they are: later attempts to use bits and pieces of the truth, combined with error, to push a false religion. I’ll take the Gospel accounts, all written within a few decades of Jesus’ life by either eyewitnesses or close associates of eyewitnesses over the often contradictory and fantastic accounts of the gnostics written two to four hundred years after Christ lived on the earth.
Unfortunately, many people hear or read reports of such “discoveries” and simply log away more doubts in the back of their mind. Over the years, these unchallenged doubts can build a wall of resistance to the Gospel. For that reason (and not because of the merit of these kinds of claims) we need to be ready to “give a reason for the hope that is in” us. We need to be able to quickly refute such claims and point people to the real Jesus, who, by the way, does have a bride: the Church. He gave his life for her, and suffered in her place, rising from the dead to give to all who are a part of her through faith in the bridegroom the hope of eternal life.