BELATED CONGRATULATIONS to Jesus Christ after recent research revealed that he might have been married during his short life. (Although, if he had to help with the dishes every night, it might have seemed longer.)
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My immediate reaction was to wonder what you get a deity for a wedding present, even though it’s way too late. Their Pottery Barn listing is probably out of date, but that might be for the best, since all the cheap stuff would have been taken by now. (My oldest daughter is getting married next year, so I speak from experience that you’ve got to get in there fast and sign up for that salt shaker. Otherwise, you’re stuck buying an entire set of towels, or a food processor. She’s my daughter, but one must draw the line.)
Trying to get your head around the idea that the shortest verse in the Bible should be “Jesus wed,” the whole thing seems a little farfetched, but you can’t argue with possible science. Harvard Divinity School professor Karen L. King claims that a 4th-century papyrus fragment, written in the Coptic language of Egyptian Christians at the time, makes a reference to Jesus’ “wife.” King presented her findings at a recent gathering of the International Congress of Coptic Studies, which doesn’t seem like the kind of gathering that generates much Twitter traffic, unless there’s a private party in one of the rooms. (“Would you like to come upstairs and see my papyrus fragments?”)
From what I can tell by the photos, the handwriting on the fragment looks like a shopping list I’d hurriedly written out and then couldn’t read when I got to the store. Not having the foresight to bring along a Coptic translator, I’d invariably forget that one thing the family really needs. I wonder if Jesus had to put up with the same condescending looks when he brought home the wrong stuff. Okay, probably not.
AN UNDESERVED scolding is just one of the mundanities that might have been part of Jesus’ married life. Did he go out for the day to heal the sick, but then have to stop on the way home to pick up milk? And did he remember to bring the right coupons? When he got back after a long day, did his wife say, “Hey, shake the dust off your feet, mister, before you come into my clean house”?
And in fairness to her, did his wife grow weary of having to set out 12 extra plates for dinner? (“Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to make them fishers of men, dear. I wish that just once they’d show up with a nice halibut, or at least a side dish.”)
Maybe this is just a rumor, but I heard that after a while the disciples got so tired of her influence on the boss that they started calling her “Yoko” behind her back.
ALL JOKING ASIDE, a spouse might have been a good partner for Jesus during his ministry. Having a thoughtful editor for his sermons and speeches, for example, might have been useful: “Okay, I like where you’re going with this talking point, but I’m not comfortable with saying ‘the 47 percent you’ll always have with you.’ I’d keep it general, and just say ‘the poor.’” A sensitive spouse could also soothe the frustrations of the long-awaited Messiah: “No, honey, they’re not stalkers. You told them to ‘follow me,’ remember? I warned you not to speak metaphorically with these people.”
Frankly, the whole idea of Jesus being married shouldn’t be all that controversial. But the long-standing assumption of Jesus’ bachelorhood began with early church leaders who probably couldn’t find mates of their own. (“And if I couldn’t get a date for my high school prom then, as Constantine is my witness, I’m sure Jesus couldn’t either.”)
Ed Spivey Jr. is art director of Sojourners.
Image: Rings, Vaclav Mach / Shutterstock.com