Dr Morwenna Ludlow

Who said Jesus was married?

Dr Morwenna Ludlow, from Theology and Religion, will be appearing on BBC Radio 3's 'Nightwaves' programme on 11 October to discuss the so-called ‘Gospel of Jesus' wife’.

In September Prof Karen King of Harvard University revealed to the world what she claimed was a brief extract from a hitherto unknown early Christian gospel.

In the few words on a papyrus fragment Jesus appears to refer to a woman (perhaps a woman called Mary) as his 'wife'. King thinks that the fragment is a fourth century copy of a late second century text which contained a dialogue between Jesus and his disciples. We have other examples of similar writings from the same period, none of which are in the accepted collection of New Testament texts today, but which offer a fascinating glimpse into the varieties of very early Christianity.

In the following weeks scholars from around the world have debated whether the papyrus fragment is a fake and, if not, what light it might shed on Jesus' life. But King herself is adamant that the fragment provides us with no evidence at all about Jesus; rather it opens a window on to early Christian debates about women and sexuality.

Were women 'written out' of the standard Christian collection of gospels? Why could later Christians not accept the role of Mary Magdalene as Jesus' companion and apostle? Why were debates about the value of marriage especially heated in the fourth century, when this particular papyrus copy was made?

Dr Morwenna Ludlow will discuss these questions with Elaine Storkey and 'Nightwaves' presenter Samira Ahmed, on Thursday 11 October at 10pm. Morwenna’s interest in this issue stems from her published research on the formation of the Christian Bible and from her current research on the rhetoric surrounding women, sex, virginity and marriage in the early church.

Date: 8 October 2012

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