Jesus Has a Wife (or at least a bride…)
The 4 Century Coptic fragment pictured above has been in the news the last few days. Coptics are Egyptian Christians who have been known for slightly different theology than most Western and Eastern Christian Traditions. All the attention is swirling around the idea that this is representing a discovery that early Coptic Christians believed Jesus was married on earth. What amazes me is the silence on the fact that we know for sure Jesus did in fact have a wife (and still does!)
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.”
(Ephesians 5:25–32 NIV)
Intertwined in Paul’s discussion of husbands and wives is Christ as husband to the Church. That the two become one and Christ lays down his life for her. It’s a metaphor for the loving relationship God has not only with individuals but with the church as a whole.
These may have been Coptic Christians, but they were Christians which means they first of all valued the earliest writings of the faith. Even the Gnostic gospels essentially appear to be devotional reflections on the more authoritative accounts. So the first thought of any historian or interpreter should be to compare the language with that of the New Testament. So it would seem his mentioning of a wife and dwelling with her would be building on this biblical image of the Bride of Christ being the Church. Since this is a much later work for a unique group, I suppose anything is possible. But why not start with the most obvious connection? Maybe because you desire controversy?
And it’s not just the New Testament. The Old Testament is filled with images of Israel as the LORD’s spouse. Hosea and other prophets use this image repeatedly. So there is strong evidence to support what I’m suggesting.
It’s always fascinating and interesting to discover ancient documents. But the simplest connections and explanations are usually the best in my view… So let’s live into the reality of the church, God’s people, living as the bride of Christ. Let’s walk closely with God and live together in harmony as we work and worship and anticipate the great day of His appearing!
Posted on September 19, 2012, in Archaeology, interpretation, Spiritual Formation and tagged Bride of Christ, Coptic Christians, Gospel of Jesus' Wife, manuscript discovery. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.