We can’t go a year without conspiracy theorists raising the question of Jesus’ marital status. The latest attempt came from film producer and perennial biblical dilettante Simcha Jacobovici with the publication of The Lost Gospel, which hit the blogosphere with great aplomb despite scholars almost universally dismissing its claims.
Of course, who can fault these authors? Few topics can trump something as provocative as the Son of God’s hypothetical sex life, and as tired as the theory may be, it continues to sell books.
However, as an apprentice-scholar in this field of biblical and religious studies, I can’t help but see these publications as subverting religious literacy. Sure, historical fiction like Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code is innocuous enough, but Jacobovici’s book masquerades as real scholarship. Its not unlike climate-change deniers putting forth articles and books to undermine scientists’ warnings about global warming (though, granted, the longevity of our planet isn’t contingent upon this arcane argument about Jesus’ personal life).
In both cases, we see non-experts disputing the clear findings of experts. So how do we respond?
Call me old fashioned, but I think that presenting the evidence in a clear and persuasive manner is the best response to wild theories.
This is why I produced this video blog episode on the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife. I see this papyrus fragment as a self-contained story on how the scholarly process functions. Although the media latched on to the provocative bits of the story, scholars worked behind the scenes for two years until they reached a consensus: the gospel is a modern forgery. Judge the evidence for yourself, but I hope you find it persuasive: