Friday, January 13, 2006

The Bride of Christ

"Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now."
-John 2:11

Who are these scholars who say the story in John's gospel of the wedding feast at Cana offers evidence that Jesus may have been married? The text offers certain hints that it is Jesus's own marriage, they say.

Of course the text gives the impression that it may have been Jesus' marriage! The text also hints as to who the bride is, and it's not Mary Magdalene -- it's the people of God. Have these scholars completely missed the nature of the symbolism in John's gospel?

It seems that scholarly deconstruction can be a serious impedement to hearing the obvious in the text. And in recent years it is exactly this habit of Biblical scholarship that has been passing into the public imagination. At Christmas, my cousin told me how he likes to play devil's advocate when talking with some of his conservative Christian co-workers. He asks them, "Which is more likely, the Virgin Birth or Mary having been raped by a Roman soldier and then they made up this story to cover it up?"

I could excuse that from my cousin, but knowing that it comes to him from the ranks of professional scholars drives me nuts. If the circumstances of Jesus' birth were what was in view, wouldn't it have been far easier just to ignore it (as two of the four gospels do anyway)? Why make up this elaborate cover story? Unless....the Virgin Birth story has a different point altogether.

Has scholarship always been this bad?


Thomas Adams said...

Yes, the urge to shock is not limited to your cousin, but has permeated deep into academia (I know from personal experience). We live in a culture where sensationalism is valued over substance and conspiracy theories abound. And what's more sensational that suggesting that parts of the Bible are fabricated? So an academic that disputes biblical claims gets lots attention from Newsweek and USA Today, while more careful and modest scholars publish their work in little-read academic journals.

LutheranChik said...'s just a cynical Zeitgeist.

I hate to say this, because I think a certain amount of "theology of suspicion" is necessary, but I think there's a tendency for it to spin out of control, from a healthy critical eye concerning certain biases on the part of biblical authors to an a priori assumption that everything in the Bible must be bogus, because it's the Bible.

Re Jesus' marriage: While I really don't think that Jesus' marital status is pivotal to the salvation story, I think the best argument for Jesus' unmarried state is the lack of Scriptural evidence for a wife or children. There would have been no reason for either the Jewish or Gentile Christian communities to have "covered up" this aspect of Jesus' life. In Judaism, apart from some of the celibate sects that were around in Jesus' time, rabbis are married. In Greek and Roman cultures, the deities were married, and most of their professional religious leaders(Vestal Virgins excepted, and even they got retired eventually) were married. What would there be to cover up?