To the editor:
This is in response to Gospel of Jesus' Wife, a papyrus fragment written in Coptic, which has been recently touted as a possible claim on Jesus' marital status.
If anyone knew which primitive Christians were married, it was St. Paul. He suggests that St. Peter and even Jesus' own brothers - some of them anyway -were married (1 Cor. 9:5), yet he doesn't mention a married Jesus. Don't you think he would have mentioned it? And who were these brothers of Jesus?
When Jesus' family is discussed by his own townfolk (Mark 6:3), the villagers mention Jesus' sisters and brothers, but these could easily be his cousins and their wives (cousins-in-law) living as an extended family along with Jesus and his mother in Nazareth. In the Hebrew and Aramaic, it is permissible to use the word "mishpocha," meaning all kin, including household servants (such as Rhoda, Acts 12:13), to identify family members. Notice that the villagers do not specifically mention a wife or child by Jesus.
Consider too that when ancient rabbis taught, it was usually out of their own homes. Their wives became surrogate mothers - den moms- for the students during the time that they lived with their rabbi. The den mother would cook and clean for her new sons, who often built dorm rooms onto the home and tended to farm life for their rabbi. A special student might even be given the hand of the rabbi's daughter. But Jesus didn't teach out of his home with a wife. His new dorm rooms for his apostles would be in heaven (many mansions); some say marriage suites for the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.
Instead, Jesus went to live with his friends - Peter, Andrew, John and James -in their homes in Capernaum and Bethsaida alongside the Sea of Galilee. He let THEIR surrogate mothers feed and clothe him.
They all became his extended "mishpocha" (Matt. 12:48, "Who are my brothers and mother?"). Everybody who lived with Jesus became instant family.
Now, if ever a manuscript fragment turns up in Aramaic about Jesus' "mishpocha," that I would want to read. But in Greek or Coptic? I wouldn't trust it.