Was Jesus Married & Does it Matter?

Recently, Prof. Karen King of Harvard University published a fragment on the internet that indicates that Christ was married. Written in Coptic, the language of Egyptian Christianity, it states, “Jesus said to them, my wife.” Unfortunately, because it is a small fragment, we do not know what Jesus actually said to them about “his wife.” At her blog The Forbidden Gospels, April DeConick correctly points out that this is not new news. We already had the Valentinian Gnostic Gospel of Philip that also hints at the marriage of Jesus.

How does the Church fall on the issue? On this and many other subjects, it has no official position. Many early church leaders did state that they believed Christ was married and that he may even have had children before his crucifixion. Modern uninterest in the topic fueled one anti-Mormon site into questioning the integrity of the Church, saying that it taught the public one thing and members another. In essence, this is a silly criticism to me, because fundamentally the status of Christ’s marriage does nothing to change the gospel message. As my mission president once stated, “Faith, Repentance, Baptism, and the Gift of the Holy Spirit are the pillars of our faith, everything else is mostly peripheral.”

My own personal position on the subject is that Jesus was married. Do I have proof? No, but I have circumstantial evidence that calls out to me. The strongest evidence to me is that the first to see the risen Lord was Mary Magdalene. Now, she could have been a very faithful follower or something more. Also, I believe Christ “fulfilled all righteousness” and provided the guidepost on how we live our lives. To me, this includes marriage. To be honest, we do not have the entirety of the Lord’s biography but are merely rooting around in the dark based on the scriptures and gleaned fragments. I would like more proven evidence to back up my personal belief but in the end my salvation does not hinge on the question.

Update: Jim Davila, at his blog PaleoJudaica (one of my favorites), has come out with the opinion that it is fake. He writes,

So my current judgement, which seems to be what most people are thinking, is that the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife fragment is very likely a fake. If it is genuine, it tells us what one late apocryphal tradition speculated about Jesus, but nothing about the historical Jesus.

See http://paleojudaica.blogspot.com/2012_09_16_archive.html#4202541771092050516.

What is in a Name?

이름 means name in Korean.

During my Korean class, we read a cultural section on Korean names where in Korea people have a closer relationship with their surnames because they can trace it to an identifiable ancestor. I had heard this before and became even more familiar with the concept upon watching Korean television dramas.

I know that generally last names in Korea are clan names – bon-gwan (본관). Not all last names are related though and one traces one’s name from the area in which the clan originated. So for example, the Gyeongju Kim and the Gimhae Kim are both Kims but not related. This is traced with the help of lineage genealogies called jokbo (족보). The aspect of clan and family name had some ramifications, as members of the same clan and family name are generally prohibited from intermarrying with each other no matter how far distant from the common ancestor. This is still considered a social no-no in modern Korea, although it was legally struck down in 1999.

This aspect of name and clan is not unique to Korea. It is also found in traditional China. I remember discussing with my students during my teaching days in Beijing many of these same topics. One also has to remember that these were generally upper-class issues in both Korea and China. The actual situation with last names in Korea are definitely more muddled. As Korea was a feudal society, the greater majority of the population were serfs without last names, I believe. They just chose their own as the society modernized. Also, in an attempt to raise money, in the final years of the dynasty the royal family sold their clan name to raise funds.

A second interesting point about Korean names is the use of dollimja (돌림자), in which every person in a clan’s generational level is given a similar name root so that one can quickly figure out how far down the generational chain on is from the common ancestor. A much better write-up of this is available at http://askakorean.blogspot.com/2010/10/still-more-about-korean-names.html. This is also common in traditional China.

So, what then about British (English, Scottish, Irish, and Welsh) names? I picked these because my ancestry, aside from a little French and German, comes from this area. Generally, people’s surnames come from three main sources – a person, a place, or a trade. Thus, McMahon means son of Mahon in Gaelic. Brooks lived along a brook or something. Smiths were generally blacksmiths, silversmiths, or such. The textbook is right, however, in that most people have lost the sense of how their surnames originated, unless they were clan or aristocratic names. I also notice the same problem about first names in the US wherein most people have no idea what they mean, which explains the popularity of baby name books.

What about my name?

 Devon O’Neal Williams

I am particularly proud of my name. Mostly it is ego, but so what. One particular point about my name is that when people see my name, they think I am black. Nope, lily white as can be. This is because 46% of those who share my surname are African-American. Devon, said in a different way than I pronounce it, is generally a black first name. So, there it is.

Let my break it down for you. I am named after the county of Devon in England, which comes originally from the Celtic tribe Damnonii. This tribal name is usually translated as “dwellers in deep valleys” or some such. My middle name – that I received from my grandmother – is a eponym, meaning that I am named after someone. The O’Neal surname means grandson of Niall. This Niall is Niall Glúndub mac Áedo or Niall Black-knee, son of Áedo. He was a high king of Ireland in the 10th century and was a member of the Uí Néill clan. The Uí Néill traced their lineage from Niall Noígíallach, or Niall of the Nine Hostages, a legendary king of Ireland in the 5th century.

My last name is also rather interesting – Williams, or son of William. On the 2000 census, it ranked 3rd in the most common surnames. Most people have no clue who their original William was. I do as Williams is not my ancestral surname. My Williams comes from my great-great-grandfather, William F. Washburn (1846-1911), who after a dispute changed his name to Frank Williams. As you can see, my ancestral surname is Washburn, 1763rd most common surname in the US. The Washburn family derives its name from the town of Washburn in Gloustershire, England. The first person of that name was Sir Roger d’Washbourne, from whom I am descended. He was a 11th century knight of Norman ancestry and this area was his fief. Wikipedia notes that “the name comes from the Saxon for ‘from the flooding brook,’ with ‘wash’ meaning ‘swift moving current of a stream,’ and ‘burn’ referring to a brook or a small stream.” I will have to take their word for that.

Grad School – Joy?

Ah, grad school – how I dislike thee, let me count the ways. A great many of my friends have been very encouraging of my return to the University of Utah to finish up my Master’s program. Thank you all for that I also am interested in finishing and getting my degree so that my life can have some forward momentum. My M.A. degree will be integral to achieving this. Plus, I don’t like to quit and leave things unfinished.

But, grad school! I had forgotten how much I despise writing papers. No, not forgotten perhaps, but subjugated it to my latent ambition while reapplying. Now it returns to the fore.  In addition, it had also slipped my mind how much I had enjoyed playing patty cake with university administration, particularly financial aid. Sitting here broke and avoiding my landlord, I await the money authorized me, but temporarily denied due to a technicality that the office had neglected to mention almost to the point of scrapping the whole thing. The ignominy of having to drop out because of “those” people. Yes, the joy – you can almost imagine the smile on my face, can you not?

Thirdly, I am not a fan of grad students. Don’t get me wrong, I think a majority of them are very good people and a few are even my friends. However, I rarely get to meet such pretentious egos in such confined spaces. I do not think of myself as pretentious, but perhaps those that know me will vote another way. The root of my view is no doubt founded in how I approach history. I look at what is being said about what. Theory is my weakness and I often ignore the many and varied arguments over it that my fellow students seem to revel in. For example, I was in a study space where a certain book was being discussed and evaluated. It was a narrative and detailed one at that. The lack of theory or the little in the way in which to point to a theory was pointed out with a certain disparagement of its merit. I no doubt would have read it and found it a damn fine book. I hope this helps you understand my issue – fundamentally, my lack of interest in historical theory is detrimental to my being a history graduate student, much less a professional academic.

This is why I am so interested in government work. Political theory has only killed people in the hundreds of millions, so a lack of interest in that should not be an issue there, right? Fortunately or unfortunately, however you may prescribe to it, I actually enjoyed political theory.

Hunger Games

I initially approached this series a little hesitantly. Working as a librarian when the movie was being released made it and its sequels hot items at the time. Despite recommendations from both co-workers and patrons, my level of enthusiasm was about nil. Two weeks ago or go I decided to finally watch the movie. I was very impressed. I find the dysotopian nature of this future a tad bit undeveloped, but the individual emotions that were brought out made a deep impression. The main characters of the Hunger Games performed by Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson were great and gave added visual depth to the books when I read them. Woody Harrelson was cast in a role that suited him well as all of his roles seem to be high on something.

After watching the film, I was compelled to read the books. I enjoyed the first one as it gave a deeper layer of meaning to the actions portrayed in the films. This is to be expected when limitations on time are enforced in order to make a 142 minute film. It was in the second or third book that I began to become bogged down. The character of Katniss for me seemed to undergo stagnation and character development was limited due to the need for action. I thought that Peeta’s character became perhaps the most complex, although due to outside forces of course. Not to spoil the ending for anyone who may not have read the books, but it was only at the end that Katniss seemed to come alive for me as a person that she was in the first book. This entire perception was no doubt influenced by my attachment to the film and seeing it before reading the book. It will be interesting to see if the next two movies will in any way recapture this and make me re-evaluate my feelings toward the last two novels.