Saturday, February 28, 2015

Jesus Was Married, Probably not Gay, But Might Not Have Existed

[UPDATE: At her own blog, Valerie Tarico has now added "(most likely a forgery)" to the sentence I mention below, but the article on hasn't changed.  She has the inaccurate "2014" date both places.  Doesn't Salon have editors?]

...and a few other dumb things from's Valerie Tarico. Actually, for a Salon article, it's not half bad; the author is able to stumble upon some truths in spite of herself and in spite of statements like these:
We have no record of anything that was written about Jesus by eyewitnesses or other contemporaries during the time he would have lived, or for decades thereafter.
Mostly true, but this is clearly stated to get the reader into skeptical mode; yet it's a red-herring, and an obvious one at that.  One needn't have writings by eyewitnesses to have knowledge of historical facts.  One needn't have documents written within less than decades of an event to have knowledge of the events.  Furthermore, one could say the same thing as our author in spades for virtually everyone in antiquity who we claim to know anything about.  In fact, we have more historical documents written within a close proximity of the time of Jesus (and about Jesus) than we do for anyone else in the ancient world.
Nonetheless, based on archeological digs and artifacts, ancient texts and art, and even forensic science, we know a good deal about the time and culture in which the New Testament is set. This evidence points to some startling conclusions about who Jesus likely was—and wasn’t.
So, let's basically ignore the massive amount of textual evidence available from the authors' writings which have been collected into the Bible, and let's speculate on what Jesus might have been like mostly from other evidence.  In other words, if the evidence counts in favor of Christian belief, we'll basically ignore it.  I'm not liking where we're headed...
1. Married, not single. When an ancient papyrus scrap was found in 2014 [sic] referring to the wife of Jesus, some Catholics and Evangelicals were scandalized. But unlike the Catholic Church, Jews have no tradition of celibacy among religious leaders. Jesus and his disciples would have been practicing Jews, and all great rabbis we know of were married. A rabbi being celibate would have been so unusual that some modern writers have argued Jesus must have been gay. But a number of ancient texts, including the canonical New Testament, point to a special relationship between Mary Magdalene and Jesus. The Gospel of Phillip says, “[Jesus] loved her more than all the disciples, and used to kiss her often on her mouth.”
It's never good when you begin your "facts" with evidence from an "ancient papyrus scrap [that] was found in 2014 [2012!] referring to the wife of Jesus" that is probably a forgerybut if not, still proves nothing since it would date to the EIGHTH century and have its origins in Gnosticism. Valerie must be getting her news from The Huffington Post.

Okay, read the rest if you want to learn a few things ("or laugh").  I'll end by letting Ms. Tarico speak for herself:
That leaves each of us, from the privileged vantage of the 21st century, with both a right and a responsibility to consider the evidence and make our own best guesses about what is real and how we should then live. A good starting place might be a little more recognition that we don’t know nearly as much as we’d like to think, and a lot of what we know for sure is probably wrong.

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