Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Can one be both 'holy' and married?

- Jesus considers marrying Mary of Bethany (Jesus)

More talk on the 'Jesus' wife' papyrus fragment ... Fresh Doubts Raised About Papyrus Scrap Known as ‘Gospel of Jesus’ Wife’ ...

[...] Dr. Askeland [who raised the new concerns] is an evangelical Christian who is also affiliated with Indiana Wesleyan University, an evangelical college in Marion, Ind., and the Green Scholars Initiative. That organization was founded by the Christian owners of the Hobby Lobby chain of arts and crafts stores to study a collection of biblical artifacts amassed by the family for display in a Bible museum they plan to build in Washington ....

Dr. Askeland wrote his Ph.D. thesis at Cambridge on the Coptic versions of John’s Gospel, so he decided to compare this square fragment with another John text called the Codex Qau, an authentic relic which was discovered in 1923 in a jar buried in an Egyptian grave site. Amazingly, the text of the small John fragment replicated every other line from a leaf of the Qau codex, and for 17 lines the breaks in the text were identical. It “defied coincidence,” he said. Dr. Askeland’s theory is that a modern-day forger copied from a photograph of the Qua codex off the Internet. If the John text is forged, he reasons, so is the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife, which seems to be written by the same hand .....

Editorials by scholars in The Wall Street Journal, CNN’s Belief Blog and several academic blogs have pronounced the case closed. But other experts say, not so fast.

Malcolm Choat, a Coptic expert at Macquarie University in Australia who cautiously contradicted the doubters in his paper last month for the Harvard journal, said in an interview that the new evidence was “persuasive,” but “we’re not completely there yet” — until the John and Jesus wife papyruses can be studied in person or using high-resolution images to understand their relationship. Roger Bagnall, a renowned papyrologist who directs the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at New York University, and who early on deemed the Jesus’ Wife papyrus likely to be genuine, said in an interview about the skeptics, “Most of the people taking this view wanted it to be a fake, and they haven’t asked critical questions about their own hypothesis.”

Perhaps the copying of these two John texts was done in ancient times, not the modern era. Perhaps the John and Jesus’ Wife fragments were not written by the same hand: Indeed, the testing found that the ink is similar but not the same. The critics have asserted it would not be hard for a forger to mix a batch of carbon-based ink that could fool scientists. But Dr. Bagnall said, “I don’t know of a single verifiable case of somebody producing a papyrus text that purports to be an ancient text that isn’t. There’s always the first.” .....

It does seem like a lot of people come to this subject with an investment in the fragment being a forgery. This reminds me of Fr. James Martin's article in which he avers that Jesus was not married because being unmarried would have allowed Jesus to make a "single-hearted commitment to God". I think that assumption is erroneous on a whole number of levels and I have to wonder if this is all about a belief that a 'holy' person cannot have either a sex life nor a lifelong commitment to another human being.


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