Did Jesus Have a Wife?

Jesus Wife
There has been an uproar over the discovery of a small piece of a parchment which had Coptic writings in which there was a reference to Jesus, referring to His wife.  Newspapers across the country and around the world immediately began to raise the question of whether or not Jesus was married.  If not, what was this reference about and to whom was it referring?

First and foremost, I have to remind people that the name Jesus was a common name in the ancient world.  It wasn’t as if the incarnate God was the only one who had this name.  So when one reads something about Jesus which refers to a wife, one has to ask the obvious question, “Which Jesus?”  As a case in point, Barabbas, the one who was set free, and for whom Jesus took his place on the cross, also had the first name of Jesus.  Of the huge number of men in the ancient world who had the name Jesus, Barabbas was just one of them, and so we have to ask the question: “To which Jesus was this tiny bit of writing in Coptic letters referring?”

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Secondly, I have to ask the question as to what would be the problem if Jesus was married.  Of course, it might be a problem for Roman Catholics, who somehow posit that the holiest of Christian leaders must, in fact, be celibate.

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The Christian community sees something holy about marriage.  We do not believe that anyone who gets married loses any spiritual qualities by having sexual intercourse in a sacred committed relationship.  St. Augustine made marriage to be something that those who wished to be completely spiritual should never enter into.  He suggested that sexuality in some way mars a person’s spiritual character.  While I agree with a great deal of what Augustine has written for the Church, I think he was wrong about sex and marriage.  Not for one moment do I believe that Jesus was married, but if He had been, it would not change anything so far as His divine nature would be concerned.  At least, that’s what I believe.

Tony Campolo is the Founder and President of EAPE and Professor Emeritus of Sociology at Eastern University. Look for Tony in your area and follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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Tony Campolo

Tony CampoloTony Campolo is Professor Emeritus of Sociology at Eastern University. Look for Tony in your area and follow him on Facebook and Twitter.View all posts by Tony Campolo →

  • Sue H

    I like the explanation that this may simply be about some other Jesus, not Jesus Christ! 😉 I wonder if there is any other indication within the script that may give more details?

    As to Jesus (the REAL one!) being married, the only issue is with just that – ‘issue’. Would such a marriage have produced children……… I feel a ‘Da Vinci Code’-moment coming on!

    Also, if there had been a marriage, why was that not attested to by the Gospel writers – yet there is no mention. With the care and consideration Christ showed for His own mother, even from the cross, surely if there had been a wife she would have been likewise entrusted to the care of the disciples?

    I think this scrap of parchment is either a case of mistaken identity or an elaborate hoax – but if it gets people talking about Jesus then I’m all for it! 😉

  • guest

    Good post, thanks Mr. Campolo.
    Jesus could have been married without changing His divine nature.
    However, I agree with Sue H – if He had been married, His wife would surely have been mentioned in the Gospels. Probably in the OT & the rest of the NT as well (although this latter point is just a logical speculation).

  • I think God can do wonderful things through married people (speaking as a married guy), but from my understanding of Paul’s letter to Corinth (1 Cor. 7) aren’t we more capable of serving Christ in a single capacity?

    I gather from that chapter that we are more able disciples when single, but that marriage is great for those of us who “burn with passion.” That would leave me to believe that Christ would probably have not burned with passion, and thus been single as the role model of how we can best serve the Lord.

    Just musing aloud here… I don’t think it would ruin his divine nature if He was married, but I do think His alleged singleness is lauded by Paul as a strength.

  • Michael Snow

    “Secondly, I have to ask the question as to what would be the problem if Jesus was married.”
    The problem is that Jesus already has a wife as put well by The Atlantic. [And by now, it seems all but certain that this fragment is a fraud.. But whether fraud or simply false teaching from the fourth century, it is heresy if it refers to the Jesus of the Church.

  • Great post, Tony! I like that you pointed out the fact that Jesus is a very common name. However, I would have to agree with Michael Snow on this one — Jesus already has a bride, the church. Also, Jordan Maslyn made a great point about Jesus being our model to follow paired with Paul’s writing on singleness/celibacy. Personally, I think we would also run into theological issues with the two becoming one flesh. If that’s the case, and after marriage the two are regarded as one person, then Jesus’ wife would have to be perfect as well or Jesus would lose His holiness. That’s just what’s been running through my mind.

  • Paul in Tucson

    Well put, Tony. If He were married, it wouldn’t change my faith — but as you, I don’t think He was married. Certainly the Scriptures would have made at least one mention of Jesus’ wife, had she existed.

  • Is the Coptic word for “wife” the same as the Coptic word for “bride?”

  • Ragan Courtney

    It makes me laugh at all the attention we religious folks give to sex. If Jesus were married, that would confirm how clever God was is making us sexual beings who need to join with one another, and how Jesus was God INCARNATE. I personally do not think he was married as he would have mentioned it, but I do think he was a sexual being. That is not bad, it is part of the “good” God proclaimed when He created us. Whether he ever had a sexual experience seems like a ridiculous thing to contemplate so I won’t, rather I’ll accept that he was tempted in all ways like as we are, yet WITHOUT SIN. Tony Campolo is my hero!

  • David

    jesus chose to forego marriage, i think, because the commitment marriage requires would have impeded on his commitment to being king of his people and to serving their spiritual and physical needs. his mission required that he be single, not because singleness is holier, but because it freed him to devote himself entirely to his mission. i like to think, though, that perhaps this was a point of suffering for jesus, who perhaps really did have someone who he loved who he wished to marry. we don’t know, just a thought.

  • Sons of Zadok

    The only way Jesus could have had a wife, is she would have had to be supernaturally conceived like Jesus was, or she would have had to come from one of his ribs like Eve came from Adams. The reason is. Jesus was made from perfect seed, and lived a sinless life,not from the imperfect seed of Adam, if he took a wife from the imperfect seed of Adam, and became one flesh with her, he would have been defiled, and his sacrifice on the cross would have been rejected by God.

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