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Reader's view: Evidence shows it unlikely that Jesus was married

Was Jesus married? According to a Local View columnist, “Another piece of empirical evidence has been authenticated, revealing Jesus’ married life.” The April 30 column was titled, “Church must enact true change to regain trust.”

Though the columnist’s statement may be consistent with media reports, it was contrary to facts. In September 2012 Harvard professor Karen King announced the discovery of a papyrus fragment that contained a phrase referring to “Jesus’ wife.” Most scholars were inclined to accept the artifact as genuine. Recently, however, as Dr. Jerry Pattengale explained in a May 1 Wall Street Journal article, it has become clear the fragment probably is a 20th century forgery, not an ancient reference to Jesus having a wife.

Yet, even if the fragment was authentic, it still provides little reason to believe Jesus was actually married, as even Professor King concedes. She suggested this fragment dates from the sixth or seventh century, and she speculates it might be a copy of a document composed between 150 and 350 A.D. Even if those things were true, it would hardly be persuasive evidence that Jesus was married. Hundreds of pieces of evidence, many far more credible than a sixth century Coptic manuscript, explicitly or implicitly affirm Jesus’ celibacy.

Consider this analogy. A bicyclist is struck by a hit-and-run driver at a busy intersection. The police interview 100 witnesses, and 98 of them report a red car hit the bicycle. Two men, however, who were standing two blocks away from the accident, claim the car was blue. Is it possible the 98 were mistaken and the two were correct? Yes, but it is extremely unlikely.

Is it possible Jesus was married? Yes, but it is extremely unlikely, since there is overwhelming evidence contradicting that conclusion. It is unfortunate most media have not reported this fact.

Dan Erickson