Distinguished Harvard Divinity School professor Karen King has caused quite a media stir with her comments regarding a recently translated codex fragment, which she refers to as The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife. King has carefully examined this small fragment (12 partial lines) that includes the words “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife....’ ”1 Written in Coptic, it may date from the fourth century A.D., though some have suggested that this is a copy of an older book, perhaps written in the late second century.
Is the fragment genuine? Gary Manning Jr. from the Talbot School of Theology makes this observation: “It’s too early to tell. When manuscripts are discovered, it usually takes some time of examination and scholarly vetting before forgeries are discovered. There are some concerns about The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife’s unknown provenance and history of ownership, but the initial reports make it seem likely that this is a real fourth-century Gnostic document. That doesn’t mean that the document is true or has anything to do with Jesus!”2 He continues, “Since Gnostics weren’t around until the second century, and Gnostics are notorious for making up sayings of Jesus, this tells us absolutely nothing about the real Jesus. . . . You can bet that this important fact will be overlooked or downplayed when you see it on the cover of new magazines or watch the forthcoming Smithsonian documentary.”3
People seemingly have an ongoing fascination with the latest “news” about Jesus. Did Jesus father a child with Mary Magdalene? Was Judas the real hero in the gospel story? Did Jesus succumb to His last great temptation?
This season of the year provides a unique opportunity for each one of us to share the teaching of the Scriptures regarding the life and mission of Jesus. He certainly made some startling declarations about Himself: “ ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me’ ” (John 14:6).4 “ ‘I am the bread of life’ ” (John 6:35). “ ‘I am the light of the world’ ” (John 8:12). “ ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live’ ” (John 11:25).
The apostle John was an eyewitness of the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and he provided this firsthand testimony: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life—the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us—that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:1–3).
John shared his testimony about Jesus for two vital reasons: “these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31); “And these things we write to you that your joy may be full” (1 John 1:4).
Knowing the truth about Jesus brings abundant joy and life in all its fullness. The goal is not simply longevity, even for eternity, but a joyful life both now and forever in a loving relationship with the Father and His Son Jesus Christ. Jesus declared, “ ‘These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full’ ” (John 15:11).
Frank Hasel reminds us in this current issue of Ministry that the truth about Jesus is clearly revealed in the Bible. We don’t have to speculate about Jesus. Nor should we. “God has arranged to use His Holy Spirit to lead us to the Living Word (Jesus Christ) through the Written Word (Holy Scriptures). . . . The Bible is the source that tells us all about Jesus Christ. Through the Holy Scriptures we have learned to know and love Him (1 Pet. 1:8).”
In the midst of current speculations and fanciful suppositions, let’s take every opportunity, especially during this Christmas season, to share the truth about Jesus. There is no better way to share the joy that comes from above.
1 King’s findings and conclusions will be published in the January 2013 issue of the Harvard Theological Review.
4 Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are from the New King James Version of the Bible.