The recent news (and anti-news) regarding a small ancient scrap of parchment which may or may not refer to Jesus’ wife seems to have created quite a buzz. At least in some places. While I don’t particularly care to comment on the parchment I do wish to raise some questions I’ve always had regarding the ancient Christian view of sexuality and why things like this matter.
While I am much more attracted to Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christianity than anything in Protestantism, its views on sexuality are a puzzle to me. I do understand how Aquinas understood the proper use of our “parts” so to speak, so I understand Catholic teachings on homosexuality and birth control. However, I think I still suffer from some kind of Western, “Protestant Disease” when I consider some doctrines of Catholicism and Orthodoxy, especially when it gives off the impression that sex is impure, or that celibacy is somehow “higher” than married sexuality.
For instance, the belief that Mary was perpetually a virgin. The insistence on clerical and monastic celibacy. And most of all today, the belief that Jesus not only did not have a wife, but that having a wife would have cast doubt on his divinity (something that was brought up in the Catholic Answers Forums today, a forum I browse but do not post in due to the anger and non-substantive discussion I find there). By contrast, at the William Lane Craig forums, most Evangelical/Protestant posters seemed to just shrug it off – from their point of view it doesn’t actually matter much if Jesus was married.
These kinds of doctrines often leave Western Protestants scratching our heads. And if I were ever to want to convert to Catholicism or Orthodoxy, I would have to accept these doctrines as true. But we are often left asking, what is the big deal? Why insist that Mary stayed a virgin the rest of her life after she was married? Why is it so heretical to think that Jesus had a wife, like practically everyone else during that time period? Why make this a centerpiece of your doctrine and insist on it? Why insist that bishops or priests must not have wives? Why is it that some are saying that the idea that Jesus was married would “shake Christianity to the core”? There are plenty of Christians who don’t think Jesus being married would actually affect their view of him, which leads me to think the view of Jesus, and sexuality, in both traditions is actually quite different in this respect.
The only thing I can think of is that somehow sex is viewed as something icky or base, and thus holy people would avoid it. But certainly sex is not “icky” when it is between two married people, right? Sex is ordained of God, and Good.
I saw some other posters imply that Jesus had better things to do, or that it would not be fair/balanced for God to be in a sexual relationship with a human female. But Jesus had a human nature, too, and that’s part of why he connects us with God. He shared in our nature and participated in our existence in order to save us. Well, marriage is part of our existence. So is it so blasphemous to think that Jesus could have been married?
Please, Catholic and Orthodox readers (if you’re out there), help me understand your mindset. I don’t want to post on Catholic Answers because frankly, that place scares me, but if you have a constructive, edifying, honest, non-reactive way to help me understand why you’re so viscerally opposed to the idea that Jesus may have been married, by all means help me.