Many biblical scholars have ignored non-canonical texts like the gnostic and apocryphal gospels suggesting Jesus had a wife.
However, they are now unable to ignore a faded fragment of papyrus, discovered in 2012, that suggests he was indeed married.
According to this month’s New York Times article titled ‘Papyrus Referring to Jesus’ Wife Is More Likely Ancient Than Fake, Scientists Say,’ that piece of papyrus is now known as the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife.
This discovery disrupts the Christian church’s depiction of Jesus for many reasons.
The Church doesn’t want to say that Jesus had a wife because his evangelizing with twelve disciples clearly points to the fact that he wasn’t a family man.
Also, the Church doesn’t want to accept that Jesus might have been married to Mary Magdalene -the second most important woman in the New Testament scriptures after Mary, the mother of Jesus -because the misogyny written in the patriarchal narratives of Jesus’s ministry cast her as a whore.
New evidence suggests that Mary Magdalene may have been one of Jesus’s disciples, may have bankrolled his ministry, may possibly have been his wife, and that Mary Magdalene was clearly Jesus’s go-to-girl for a lot of things.
This discovery, also, reopens the ‘down-low’ secret about Jesus’ sexuality that not only attacks the pillars of Christianity, but also profoundly plays into the oppression that women as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people face today in both church and society.
And that open secret about Jesus’ sexuality — suggesting that he was gay or married, not that the two are mutually exclusive if Jesus was on the ‘down low’ — points to the cultural war issues we are wrestling with today, namely the institution of marriage, women in the church, and gay clergy.
However, the debate about Jesus’ sexuality takes him from his mother’s womb to his tomb. The Christian depiction of Jesus as that of a life-long virgin who had no sexual desire and who never engaged in sexual intercourse raises anyone’s suspicion, because by today’s sexual standards, Jesus’ homosocial environment of 12 men suggests, according to the law of averages, that at least one out of the bunch was gay.
And given the nature of compulsory heterosexuality playing in Jewish marital laws during Jesus’ time, Jesus might have been forced to be on the ‘down low’ – if gay.
Encrypted in Leonardo Da Vinci’s 1498 painting The Last Supper is a spiritual and sensual narrative about both the sacred feminine and homoeroticism found in religious life.
And while many Christian fundamentalists and evangelicals find Da Vinci’s sensuous painting blasphemous, Da Vinci’s gay male homoerotic subtext pries open the door to the alluring quality about the Catholic Church that gay men find both rabidly homophobic and ravenously homoerotic.
When asked in 2002 during the Catholic Church sex scandal why so many gay men are attracted to religious life and the priesthood, Mark D. Jordan, then professor in the religion department at Emory University and author of The Silence of Sodom: Homosexuality in Modern Catholicism, told The Boston Globe:
‘Homoeroticism is written into the Catholic imagination and its institutions. Many gay believers feel a strong calling to the priesthood or religious life. The call doesn’t seem to deny same-sex desires; it seems instead to complete them. It is a call to act out your manhood against social expectations, outside heterosexual marriage and in the company of other unmarried men.
‘They are promised an exchange of their "disordered" identity as outsiders for a respected and powerful identity as an insider. They want to remain in the beautiful, sexually ambiguous space of liturgy. They are drawn to public celebration of suffering that redeems [and] they want to live in as gay a world as the Catholic Church offers.’
The scriptures talk about Jesus’s beloved disciple John. A hermeneutic of suspicion clearly begs the questions how did Jesus love John, and equally as important how did John love Jesus.
And let’s not forget the theological significance and homoerotic overtones in ritual kissing that was a vital part of worship during the early centuries of the Christian Church, as passing the peace with a hug and/or handshake is a vital part of worship in today’s Christian churches.
Kissing on the lips was a way of binding a community together and it always followed the communal prayer, the Eucharist, or rites of baptism and ordination. And it was only permitted among those of the same gender.
Homophobia in today’s Christian churches is antithetical to the early Church.
It is unlikely, given Jewish marital customs, that Jesus was not married, and he probably was assigned a wife long before he became an itinerant preacher and met up with male and female disciples on the road.
And as an itinerant rabbi with a gang of twelve horny men I refuse to believe they were virgins, celibate and not married.