taking the words of Jesus seriously

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.

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.

About The Author


Tony Campolo is Professor of Sociology at Eastern University, and was formerly on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania. For 40 years, he founded and led the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education, an organization that created and supported programs serving needy communities in the Third World as well as in “at risk” neighborhoods across North America. More recently, Dr. Campolo has provided leadership for the Red Letter Christians movement. He blogs regularly at his own website. Tony and his wife Peggy live near Philadelphia, and have two children and four grandchildren.

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