The revelation that a Fourth Century papyrus fragment depicts Jesus referring to my wife and claiming that she will be able to be my disciple has caused a stir.
Commentators speculate that the Catholic Church, whose celibate male priesthood is modeled on an unmarried Jesus and his unisex Apostles, may need to reconsider its organizational model. Some expect Evangelicals to be relieved that the Lord, who seemed to spend a suspicious amount of time with men, was demonstrably hetero, and that, if his wife was also his disciple, she must have honored and obeyed her Lord and master.
Before we get carried away, we should remember that the document was written centuries after the time of Jesus, by God knows who, with God knows what ax to grind. And it’s just a fragment, with possibly as much resemblance to its source as a book-jacket blurb has to the original book review.
Let’s face it. The best we’ll get out of this historical curiosity is the chance to speculate what a day in the life of a married Jesus might have been like:
Honey, I’m home.
Oh darling, you look awful. I was so worried when I heard you drove the money-changers out of the Temple. Can’t you think of me when you start brawling like that? And anyway, why do you want to bully decent, hard-working Judeans who are just trying to make an honest shekel. Really, you act like you think you’re the Son of God.
But I am the Son of God!
Yeah, right! You put your robe on one sleeve at a time, like everyone else. And what’s this I hear about you cleansing a leopard?
OK, leper. You didn’t actually touch him, did you?
Well, duh, if I was going to cleanse him, I had to touch him, didn’t I? You can’t cleanse by remote control.
Don’t get sarcastic with me, Mr. Change-the-water-into-Wine. You know, leprosy is a communicable disease!
But it’s not like a cold. It takes long-term contact.
Keep cleansing a whole bunch of lepers for a few months, and it’ll happen, mark my words. Why can’t you think about me and the kid?
Kid? We don’t have a kid. Are you telling me you’re ….
No … well, maybe … I’m not sure. I missed my …
Oh God, I’m going to be a Father. But, how can I be the Son and the Father at the same time? Will my boy be the Son of the Son of God, or maybe grow up to be the Son of God? But, what am I saying, what if my boy is a girl? (Jesus almost breaks into song, but is brought back to reality) Oy, what a muddle. Maybe I should talk to the man upstairs.
You’re going to talk to God again? When do I get equal time?
No, Isaac, up on the third floor. He’s got experience. He has begat lots of …
It’s begotten, not begat.
Whatever. Listen, more important, I’ve got to go out tonight, to meet with my disciples and …
Thanks for letting me know. What about me? Am I a disciple or not? Besides, it’s Friday, the beginning of the S-A-B-B-A-T-H, remember? You’ve got chickens to pluck and services to attend tonight.
OK, OK, I’ll go now and be back in time to pluck and take you to temple. But, on the disciple question, the guys were thinking that … well … y’know … it’s just that … I know I said you are able … and you really are … but they’re used to women being separated … like at temple … and they just don’t feel they can open up like they really want to if, y’know … and anyway, discipling is really a guy thing.
You listen to me and listen carefully. If you welsh on your promise to me, you’ll wish you had a Roman centurion on your case. You’re a revolutionary. You’re a leader. Act like one, Godammmit!
Not a revolutionary. I never said that. An evolutionary, a reformer, but not a revolutionary. And wasn’t it you who just said easy does it with the whole knock-people-over-the-head thing? Make up your mind.
Look, this is getting us nowhere. We’ll talk about it later. Go off to your big meeting, but be back in time to pluck the chickens and go to temple. And don’t forget, you’ve got to wash the dishes.
That’s what you think!