Granted, I am not Catholic. I make this distinction because I recognize that in the Catholic tradition, Jesus' marital state has much greater ramifications. Both Paul and Jesus are presumed to have led lives devoted to celibacy and service to God. Their example is a primary reason why the Catholic Church still upholds this ideal. Yet, even if the newly found papyrus proves to be solid evidence that Jesus was married, the Church does not seem likely to change its stance, nor do the priests seem likely to adopt any new traditions. In a New York Times opinion piece, Reverend James Martin writes, "And will this fascinating new discovery make this Jesuit priest want to rush out and get married? No . . . It wouldn't upset me if it turned out that Jesus was married. His life, death and, most important, resurrection would still be valid. Nor would I abandon my life of chastity, which is the way I've found to love many people freely and deeply."
As Evangelical Christians, we see things a bit differently. I attend a non-denominational Christian church where all of the pastors and church leaders are married and the majority of them have children. Celibacy is only expected while pastors are single, and marriage is both encouraged and celebrated as something God created and placed his blessing over.
Darrell Bock, professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, believes this whole notion is not nearly as controversial as the media is making it out to be. In his 2006 book, Breaking the Da Vinci Code, Bock writes, "One of the most basic beliefs of Christian faith is that Jesus was 100 percent human [as well as 100 percent God]. So if He had been married and fathered children, His marital relationship and His parenthood would not theoretically undercut His divinity but would have been reflections of His complete humanity."
In theory, Bock is right. Marriage is a common practice, and any desire to marry would have been a definite reflection of Jesus' humanity. Most men do want to find a woman to share their lives with, after all. But on the other hand, if Jesus had chosen a wife, wouldn't people have thought he was playing favorites by dedicating his life to one woman and uniting himself with her sexually? Is it even appropriate to conceive of God conceiving children with a human being whom he also refers to as "his child?"
Forgive me if I find the concept a bit—I don’t know—incestuous?
Kenneth Samples agrees. He is the former Research Consultant and Correspondence Editor for the Christian Research Institute. In an interview for Reasons.org, he argues:
"Jesus is not just any human being. He’s not just any man. He is the God-man. He is a single person who has both a divine and human nature. He is the redeemer of lost human beings. He is the second person of the Trinity. His relationship with other human beings is going to be very different in that context. He says that he has come to save the lost. His life is not the typical, 'Let’s settle down, have kids, have a basic family.'"
To discuss this topic further, I chatted with Jeremy Livermore, host of a weekly radio show on Christian apologetics, which Wikipedia describes as "a field of Christian theology which aims to present a rational basis for the Christian faith, defend the faith against objections, and attempt to expose the flaws of other world views." He finds the prospect of Jesus' potential marriage to be an intriguing concept, but highly unlikely.
"There's no indication given in the Gospels that Jesus had a wife," Livermore insists. "However, it would be extremely interesting to see Jesus be married in the Bible—loving his wife, showing the world what that looks like."