Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-Chief
Last Modified: 15:42 PM EDT, 19 September 2012
On Tuesday, 18 September 2012, Karen King, Hollis Professor of Divinity at Harvard Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts announced the existence of a fourth-century fragment that alludes to Jesus being married.
The announcement contradicts the assertion which has been assiduously advanced by the Catholic Church that Jesus never married. The church based this claim on a theologian known as Clement of Alexandria, who in 200 C.E. wrote that Jesus did not marry. Therein lies the controversy with King’s contentious discovery.
From a sociological standpoint, as a Jewish man living at that time and in that part of the world it is highly unlikely that Jesus would have been unmarried because marriage and childbearing were and continue to be a central component of Jewish life. In fact, it is considered a ‘great mitzvah,’ and ‘if someone intentionally does not fulfill this mitzvah is considered analogous to a murderer.’
The idea of Jesus being married has not been problematic in Judaism or Islam in which sexuality within the context of marriage is considered healthy, natural, and pleasurable. This is not to say the same of does not exists in many Christian traditions; but Catholicism seems to have historically struggled to reconcile the concept of sexual gratification and pleasure even within the confines of marriage.
According to the Torah, or Old Testament, God stated that the purpose of marriage is to produce offspring, “be fruitful and multiply” (Bereishit 1:28) and also for companionship, “It is not good for the man to be alone.” (Bereishit 2:18-24)
The New Testament goes on to encourage men to marry “because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife”, “it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” (1 Corinthians 7:1-5)
In all three traditions, Jesus is acknowledged to have existed and died. However, Muslims like Christians, believe in his virgin birth by Mary; but unlike Christians, Muslims regard him as a mortal prophet sent by God who was not crucified but ascended to heaven like the prophet Elijah before him.