Making the rounds this week of all the usual media outlets is a slightly sensational "finding" of a Harvard religion professor. She reported a discovery of a piece of a papyrus document (about the size of a cell phone) from around the 4th century that mentioned the words, "Jesus wife" - a reference to which she said has never been seen before. This report is an excerpt from an academic paper about this papyrus document she is working on. Potentially sensational, it has made the front of the NY Times and other major online news sources. Other scholars have been just as quick to downgrade the seriousness of the discovery. No one really knows where it came from or even if it is genuine. It is like finding a paragraph out of an old book but not knowing what book it was out of. There were many hoaxes back then just as there are now - and it may be a much more recent forgery. Even if it is somehow proved to be as old as the Harvard prof claims it is - it is not surprising that the idea that Jesus had a wife was around back then. There have been a number of other gospels found which claim all sorts of things about the life of Jesus which were not true. Recently, Dan Brown popularized the idea that Jesus had a wife in the Davinci Code (and he and Mary Magdalene lived happily ever after post crucifixion). So it should not surprise anyone that the the idea of Jesus being married was floated a time or two in antiquity.
What is surprising is the media attention an announcement like this attracts. As if it would be sensational news if Jesus did have a wife. There is no reason that if Jesus did have a wife it would not have been reported in the Gospels. Jesus had a mother and a father, and siblings and they are all named. He went to weddings. He could have married and had children. In fact, most parents would have welcomed some instruction on raising kids from Jesus! But, even though Jesus blessed marriages and children, family life was not his calling. He was here on earth a short time and his life ended tragically from a human point of view. His death pierced Mary's heart, why extend the sorrow to others. Jesus' mission was the message of the Kingdom of God. To preach it and to live it. And to share it with others by his sacrificial death on the cross. Then, he was raised from the dead offering the gift of eternal life to us. Philippians says he gave up a lot to complete that mission. Including the joys and demands of family life.