About Me

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Bedford, Texas, United States
Pastor of Woodland Heights Baptist Church in Bedford, Texas and former Professor of Old Testament. But mostly I am a husband of an amazing wife, father of gifted children, and servant of an AWESOME God.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

GosJesWife a fake?

In my previous post I left open the possibility that the fragment labeled GosJesWife was a fake. Several sources are now saying Dr. Craig Evans has stated that Harvard Theological Review is now declining to publish the article in question because consensus is developing that it is in fact a forgery.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

GosJesWife...A Call to Reason

This past week news hit most of the major outlets of a newly found papyrus fragment that mentions “Jesus’ wife.” A published translation of the fragment (titled GosJesWife by its publisher) is as follows:

Front side:
1 ] “not [to] me. My mother gave to me li[fe…”
2 ] The disciples said to Jesus, “.[
3 ] deny. Mary is worthy of it35[
35 Or alternatively: Mary is n[ot] worthy of it.
4 ]……” Jesus said to them, “My wife . .[
5 ]… she will be able to be my disciple . . [
6 ] Let wicked people swell up … [
7] As for me, I dwell with her in order to . [
8] an image [

on the reverse side:

1 ] my moth[er
2 ] three [
3 ] … [
4 ] forth which … [
5 ] (illegible ink traces)
6 ] (illegible ink traces) [1]

There have already been a few good articles written in response to the fragment as well as some helpful reflections on the matter of whether Jesus was married and whether or not it even matters (see http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2012/09/19/the-far-less-sensational-truth-about-jesus-wife/ and http://www.patheos.com/blogs/markdroberts/series/was-jesus-married-a-careful-look-at-the-real-evidence/ ). I won’t repeat most of the arguments in these as you can read them for yourselves, but since I don’t intend to take time out of a Sunday service on the issue, I thought I would reflect on the matter for those who I have a level of responsibility to here in my blog.

WHAT THE TEXT SHOULDN’T DO:

First of all, the text shouldn’t cause panic or even concern in any real sense. There is not enough context to be able to determine to whom are what the “wife” in the text is referring. Is this a mystical reference to the Church or to an individual? In fact, without the rest of the sentence we don’t even know if Jesus is in fact speaking in the affirmative or negating the idea of having a wife. Furthermore, even if one could historically prove that Jesus had a wife, this would not change or contradict any part of the biblical record. There is nothing even inherently negative about the idea of Jesus having a wife (Mark Roberts’ blog cited above has some really great insights on this issue and its implications). I am not saying there are no meaningful implications that would grow out of such a revelation, but they don’t amount to anything that would be the death knell of Christianity or any of its key tenets or beliefs.

WHAT THE TEXT SHOULD DO:

The text (and the fuss surrounding it) should cause us to carefully consider the resources we use for our evidence and how our own already drawn conclusions shape how we respond to new information. Those who are already of the mindset to question Christianity and its roots will quickly jump on information that could be used to question traditional understandings as truth that destroys the myth that is Christianity. The person with the heart of a conspiracy theorist will see this as evidence of a concerted effort on the part of early Christianity to squash the truth and maintain power (DaVinci Code anyone?). Of course, orthodox Christians such as myself tend to dismiss such texts as minimal variants representative of an early Christian sect that hold little to no value other than to provide a journey into the mind of an ancient nutcase who had strange ideas about Jesus and who He was.

But if we too quickly dismiss texts without knowing why or without good reason, we create a disconnect between our beliefs and reality that in the long run will undermine our witness to a world that has questions, doubts, and concerns about materials like this and the basis for the beliefs that we possess. The Gospel Coalition article I posted above states quite succinctly why a belief in the Canonical record makes sense from a historical standpoint.

To further a point mentioned there, but not gone into very deeply, it is illogical to give more credence to a second century GosJesWife text than to the Canonical Gospels.  The former dates from the late second century at the earliest; is based upon other texts that date to the mid second century; and  comes from a group known to have had strange ideas about a number of things. The latter were all written in the first century, have thousands of manuscripts to support them, have other contemporary documents and evidence which offer support, and, though they are full of the miraculous, give a very cogent and consistent portrayal of Jesus.

The so called GosJesWife, like the Gospel of Judas and Gospel of Thomas before it causes a stir because people like controversy. But any reasonable assessment of their origin and nature quickly relegates them to a historical curiosity or annoyance, not something to fret over or even give a headline to. But I guess in matters of faith, whether you are for or against, reasonableness often takes a back seat in favor of the passions of our cause.

[1] Copyright © Karen L. King, 2012. Forthcoming Harvard Theological Review 106:1, January 2013.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Cleaning House

It has been quite a while since I last posted on the blog.  It has certainly not been a lack of things to write about that has kept me away as I have often thought in the midst of sermon preparation or daily dealings with people that a certain topic that had come up would be great to write about. In truth, the reason can only be ascribed to laziness. Not that I believe my blog is of such importance to others that I have been robbing them of my great insights by not adding content, rather it has been laziness in relation to the benefits I receive from writing, from reflecting and from taking the time to put it all down.

I don't know if it is my mid-life crisis (truth be told I don't know what age you are supposed to go through one of those) or simply a work God has decided to do in me, but I have spent the last couple of months getting a lot of things in order. I have dropped 37 pounds since May, I have reorganized my office and books, and for the first time in a long time I am pursuing certain aspects of the Christian life that I had long ignored or neglected. I recently led Woodland Heights through a sermon series on Spiritual Disciplines. I don't know how much of an impact it had on them, but God showed me through the series some significant facts about prayer and fasting in particular.

While I have always participated in prayer, I have not done so with the passion and sense of urgency that God has recently brought me to. I had never fasted before.  And yet, these two elements seem so fundamental to the lives of believers in the Bible.  I can't believe I made them such a secondary part of my walk. C.S. Lewis once wrote, "The moment you wake up each morning, all your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists in shoving it all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other, larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in." That is what prayer has become for me - not just talking, but listening, submitting, and being transformed! Fasting can easily become about us and an inappropriate ascetic withdrawal from life. But when done in conjunction with prayer and with a mind to glorifying God, one can learn a lot about how needy we are, about how sufficient He is, and how those two realities can come together to bring us to new heights to intimacy with the Lord. I don't feel it appropriate to share too much about either of these things from my own experience because each one is personal and distinct. Furthermore, the intimate nature of each is not something easily communicated. As J. I. Packer once wrote, “Trying to describe what I do in prayer would be like telling the world how I make love to my wife.” Still, I would encourage you to do a biblical study on these two disciplines (listen to my sermons on them if that helps) and see what what you might learn about yourself and God that you didn't know before.

I believe getting back into blogging will allow me to continue my house cleaning well into the future. So, I am picking up the pen again (or I guess in this case pulling out the keyboard). I plan to write about what God is doing in me as well as sharing thoughts on theology and matters of debate. Whether anyone joins me or not, I know this is something God is going to use to help me grow in my relationship with Him.