By David W. Daniels
An ancient piece of papyrus from the 300s AD has been in the news. It "seems" that it "might" have written on it words that imply that some people believed Jesus was married.
So why are some people treating this as proof that Jesus was married? And why does this 4th century piece of papyrus matter, anyway?
Good question. It's so easy to write elaborate claims on a piece of paper. It's very different when there are literally tens of thousands of people who can verify whether what it says is true or not.
So let's step back a bit into the first century, when God's only begotten Son became a man. He didn't step into a vacuum of space. There were thousands upon thousands of people who saw, heard and experienced something of this "Jesus of Nazareth."
When it says "all the city" "was moved," or "gathered" to hear Jesus, were the Holy Ghost-inspired writers lying or in error? Of course not!
We'd have to throw out of our Bibles Matthew 21:10 and Mark 1:33. When it says "multitudes" or "great multitudes" "followed him," "gathered" to meet or hear him or see a miracle, do we believe that God meant what He had men write in the Bible?
Of course! It says the same things in Matthew 4:25; 5:1; 8:1, 18; 9:8, 33, 36; 11:7; 12:15; 13:2, 34, 36; 14:5, 14-15, 19, 22-23; 15:10, 30-33, 35-36, 39; 17:14; 19:2; 20:29, 31; 21:8-9, 11, 46; 22:33; 23:1; plus 16 times in Mark; 14 times in Luke; and John 6:2 —67 times in the gospels.
So tens of thousands of people saw Jesus' manner of life, what He did, who He spent time with, how He did it, what He said, where He went, even how He was betrayed (a multitude also came with Judas and the guard—Matthew 26:47 & 55; Mark 14:43 and Luke 22:47), how he was tried and condemned (before a multitude—Matthew 27:20, 24; Mark 15:8 and Luke 23:1). And anyone out at Golgotha saw exactly how Jesus died.
But that's not all. What about Jesus' resurrection? By the 50s AD Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:6 that after Jesus rose from the dead the third day:
"...he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep."
Anyone in the multitude could tell you instantly if the story was true or false. They should know: they were there!
Why is all this important? Because the gospels were written, along with the rest of the New Testament, when there were crowds of witnesses still alive. You can't make stuff up and get away with it, with all these witnesses alive.
That's why the pagan and apocryphal writings about Jesus, Mary, Joseph and the apostles had to be written over 100 years later. Nobody was alive to say it wasn't so! That's why we should never accept any "gospels" that weren't checked by eyewitnesses.
Who cares what anyone wrote who wasn't there? We have the inspired witness of those who were. God had Peter write these words to us:
"For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty." (2 Peter 1:16)
Let's not be fooled by any "cunningly devised fables." We have God's words and His apostles' testimony, tested and approved by tens of thousands of living witnesses.
Why accept anything else?