Thursday, September 20, 2012

too much weight for so little papyrus to bear

The media & the blogosphere are ablaze with what Dr Karen King is calling the 'Gospel of Jesus wife.' Don't know what I'm talking about? Scroll back up ... that's it right there: all of it. All 8 cm X 4 cm of it. All 8 incomplete lines. Incomplete because it has been ripped out of whatever document it originally came from. There's no way of knowing what was above, below, to the left, or to the right of what we have ... in other words no context. And of course we don't know where it came from - to use more fancy language it lacks provenance. And we don't really know when it dates from: 2nd century AD? 4th? Older? Younger? No one really knows.

So why all the fuss? 'Cause one of the partial sentences it contains reads: ... Jesus said to them my wife ... And what does that mean? Who knows without the rest of sentence and the context from which it has been taken. Of course, there are lots of folk jumping to all kinds of conclusions. Some of them are journalists. Some are even Ivy League scholars. One frequent theme: this shows Jesus was married & it changes everything. And all I can think about them is: they get paid for this? Really? 

And if you disagree with my thinking that they really are putting too much weight on a wee bit of papyrus that no one truly knows when or where it came from, there's the translation below: Coptic to the left, English to the right. In my opinion you could make what we have say just about anything you want. Play the game for yourself. Fill in the blanks of what goes before and after each fragmentary sentence ... hours of fun for all the family I'm sure. And don't feel you're wasting time ... after all, Harvard's best and brightest are doing it too. And if it is good enough for them, it is surely good enough for you ... enjoy!

(much thanks to Thomas L. McDonald  at the patheos blog  where I found both the image and translation)

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