Yesterday a review copy of Anthony Le Donne‘s new The Wife of Jesus: Ancient Texts and Modern Scandals arrived in the mail. I began reading it this morning. In the forward Le Donne recounts a forum held by the University of the Pacific (Stockton, CA) in the response to the so-called Gospel of Jesus’ WifeWhat was most interesting about his story (and its central point) is how people began to respond fiercely in local newspapers and through blogs at the news of this meeting prior to it taking place! Immediately, there was verbal attacks against academics and the university that would sponsor such a blasphemous discussion. When all was said and done though there had been no Da Vinci Code like theories presented and Le Donne recalls that it was a very balanced and level headed discussion among the panel participants and the audience.

Then as a historical Jesus scholar he makes these important observations:

This topic has been sold as a scandal for so long that people can’t help but be scandalized by it….people tend to be more scandalized by the question itself and less so by the answers. [1]

This served as motivation to research the subject, both as a historian and an observer of modern culture and religion. Le Donne writes:

I had no predetermined conclusions; I only knew that the topic was worth exploring. Indeed, any topic that enrages and fascinates so many people is important — if for no other reason than to tell us something about ourselves. [2]

This makes me wonder what other aspects of historical Jesus research seem emotionally off-limits to us and why. What is it about the idea of a married Jesus that threatens us? What was it about Reza Aslan’s Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth that scandalized us (besides the shoddy scholarship? I mean the the idea of Aslan’s thesis, not the execution of his research which received much criticism) that causes similar reactions? What is it about Jesus that causes us to protect him as we understand him presently?


[1] p. x

[2] p. xi where it should be notes that this is not a claim for objectivity, per se, but instead an admission that he had come to a predetermined position prior to doing the research. Le Donne admits in the previous sentence, “While I have dedicated my life to historical Jesus research (so I am anything but impartial, I really had no idea what I would discover on my quest for the wife of Jesus.”