The Unbelievable Tale of Jesus' s Wife

No[quote=“gbrooks9, post:20, topic:5210”]
Do you know ANY denomination today… Catholic or otherwise … that SUPPORTS such a relationship?

No - i think it only became popular with the “rediscovery” of the Essenes in the early days of the Dead Sea Scrolls, before their teachings were fully digested and seen to be only superficially like early Christianity. The best account I’ve read in depth is that of N T Wright, who concludes that Christianity had more roots in Pharisaic Judaism than anything. That’s not surprising, because they were, unlike the Essenes, non-monastic, didn’t shun the temple and priesthood, played a full role in synagogue worship and so on.

That said, there were probably only a few thousand “party members,” and most ordinary pious Jews would have respected their theology most, disliking the quisling Sadducees and seldom encountering Essenes. It’s that group of “non-party” prdinary people that Jesus seems both to have sprung from and dealt with most, including ordinary priests (many of whom we read in Acts believed). Not only Paul, but many Pharisees also joined, which would be odd for a movement with any clear roots in the anti-temple, anti-Pharisee Essenes.

I’m intrigued what practices you think Christianity specifically inherited from the Essenes rather than more general Jewish sources (and the unique teaching or Jesus himself).


Flopsy Bunny’s Birthday Party–where Jesus changed water into carrot juice!


  1. The idea of the soul migrating to a divine region shortly after (3 days?) after death… this is an Essene view (which I attribute to Jewish contact with the Zoroastrians).

  2. Monasticism and/or living communally is clearly an Essene derivation.

  3. The Essene “Assemblies of God” seems to be how the early Church polities were organized… but I suppose some might argue that this was a Pharisaic practice in the synagogues first.

I was hoping to be able to think of more … but I think I’m stuck on 3 for now.

Baptism? I’m not sure the Pharisees baptized…

Pharisees did give water immersion a role… while the Essenes gave water immersion a DAILY role.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Zoroastrians were the ones to make water so important…

Baptism was not a Christian innovation.

1 Like

Hey, I’ll split the loot with you!

George, in reply to your three:

(1) Hippolytus affirms the belief Essenes shared with most Jews about the final resurrection of the body:

"Particularly firm is their doctrine of Resurrection; they believe that the flesh will rise again and then be immortal like the soul, which, they say, when separated from the body, enters a place of fragrant air and radiant light, there to enjoy rest—a place called by the Greeks who heard [of this doctrine] the ‘Isles of the Blest.’

What you’re describing is the more fuzzy (overall) secondary belief of what happened after death but before the resurrection. Wright examines that in detail through from Maccabean times, when these sects got established (well worth studying), showing how it was both influenced by and differs from the Platonic idea of liberation from the body.

(2) Monasticism is a much later development in Christianity (c250 on) so it’s hard to see how they were influenced by the Essenes, who ceased trading when Jerusalem fell. And of course the direct Jewish influence on Christianity declined after the Jewish believers were scattered by the Roman edicts after the rebellion of 130AD.

(3) Bearing in mind synagogues are the setting both of Jesus’s ministry and Acts, that would be the more obvious model, wouldn’t you say?

(4) You’re right to distinguish the practice of immersion of proselytes (Pharisaic?), taken up by John the Baptist (with enormous symbolic significance, since it suggested that even as a Jew you still needed to “cross the Jordan” into covenant with God), from Essene daily baths - if one wanted to push the point, Jesus in John told his disciples that having bathed they only needed to have their feet washed.

(Note to self - in “Flopsy Bunny” I must make the point that the footwashing episode in John was a crude attempt to disguise the Essene roots of Jesus… but how to fit it into the water-into-wine story? beaglelady, you gotta help me out here…)


In the press for time, I thought I would just respond to your second point for now.

Your statement that “Monasticism is a much later development in Christianity…” is rather beside the point, don’t you think?

Of the religions active during the time of Jesus, which one seems to have a particular fixation on the idea that people will benefit from life-long celibacy?

The Sadducee’s appear to have no taboo against marriage.

The Pharisees appear to have no taboo against marriage, but there are commentators about their interest in periodically avoiding sexual contact. The Sadducees may well have followed the same ideas, but not to the same enthusiasm as the Pharisees.

And finally, we have the Essenes, The Essenes are so interested in celibacy, they created entire communities of celibates.

These details are very striking. Even in Paul’s writings we can see a fascination with celibacy… something that would have not have been out of place with anyone familiar with the Essenes.

Just like Shakers in this country. But you know what they say: you can’t inherit celibacy.

1 Like

An interesting one: in his 1 Corinthians passage about “the present circumstances” (whatever they were) he makes celibacy, like single widowhood, an option, and that could conceivably link to the Essenes, except that his permission to marry to avoid unrequited passion doesn’t sit with the one Essene sect that allowed marriage “only for the sake of the children”.

Other than that, he only mentions twice (from memory - once in the same passage, and once in 2 Cor) that he himself is unmarried - which of course creates a problem on your own admission that the Pharisees considered marriage more or less obligatory, as he was a Pharisee long before he was a Christian.

It seems most likely (cf Instone-Brewer’s study) that his self description as “unmarried” is not equivalent to “virgin” but to “widow” as there was no Greek word for widower. That is, he had been married (as a Pharisee of Pharisees, not an Essene) but lost his wife as so many did in those days, and remained unmarried thereafter - hardly surprising given his job-spec, let alone “the present circumstances”

With that in view I wouldn’t describe the one relevant passage - 1 Corinthians - as representing an obsession on his part with celibacy, especially since he recommends marriage in relation to desire, not to producing the next generation of Christians.

I think the Jury’s still out!

1 Like

I can see your point, @Jon_Garvey. But if you then add the writings of the Church Fathers … what you see is the ubiquitous theme about sexuality … avoid it… contain it… transform it …

None of this is in the Jewish scriptures… until we hit the Maccabees … and then you start to see hints of it.

So where does this preoccupation come from? How is it that many a congregation in the Bible Belt is more likely to welcome back a convicted murderer into their midst (God bless them for that) more easily than an unwed mother of children? (< Maybe not so true today, but certainly any time from the 1960’s and prior).

SEXUALITY AS TAINT (OR POTENTIAL TAINT) is more related to the Essene traditions than to any other religious sect we know of.

Sure, the Fathers might have said some dumb things. But marriage is a SACRAMENT in the Roman Catholic church.

And the Episcopal prayer book wedding service says,

"We have come together in the presence of God to witness and bless the joining together of this man and this woman in Holy Matrimony. The bond and covenant of marriage was established by God in creation, and our Lord Jesus Christ adorned this manner of life by his presence and first miracle at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. It signifies to us the mystery of the union between Christ and his Church, and Holy Scripture commends it to be honored among all people.

The union of husband and wife in heart, body, and mind is intended by God for their mutual joy; for the help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity; and, when it is God’s will, for the procreation of children and their nurture in the knowledge and love of the Lord. Therefore marriage is not to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly, but reverently, deliberately, and in accordance with the purposes for which it was instituted by God. "


Yes, indeed.

The Roman Catholic resolution of the matter was for Priests NOT to marry, while everyone else should.

Interestingly, the Orthodox position was that BISHOPS (and those who aspire to be bishops) should not marry … while everyone else should.

Nuns also were celibate.

1 Like

Oops… but of course. Didn’t intend to ignore the ladies!

The RC church forbade the marriage of priests in the ninth century, IIRC.

1 Like

In fairness to Dr. King, she had been suggesting that the “Jesus Wife” document dated to the 3rd or 4th century, and did not have anything to say about whether the historical Jesus was actually married. Rather, (assuming its authenticity) it spoke to a diversity of 3rd-4th century Christian opinion on sexuality and gender relationships.

There’s plenty to criticize here, but I suggest we try to refrain from making straw men (or women) unnecessarily.

King is the one who called it “the Gospel of Jesus’s Wife.”

True. But prior to that … celibacy was a surprisingly popular way for an individual to demonstrate his holiness or sanctity. The patristic literature is resplendent with missionary couples who may or may not be married… but are insistent that they do not have carnal knowledge.

Prior to the Hellenistic phase of Judaism … can you think of any religions in the region that cultivated celibacy for anyone who chose it to advance their spiritual status?