09/21/2012 12:45 pm ET Updated Nov 21, 2012

A Married Jesus?

A scholar from Harvard has delivered a paper at a conference in Rome announcing that she has been examining a papyrus piece of five lines of text that has the statement that Jesus says, "My wife..." I have no idea how authentic this piece is. The scholar claims she and others have been very careful and they believe that it is a fourth century A.D. papyrus. So maybe 300 to 350 years after his death, we have a piece of writing that is supposed to quote Jesus saying something about a wife.

How would that change our understanding of the Christian message? As I ponder the implications of that papyrus, I kept trying to find a place where the fact that Jesus was married would make any difference.

We already know that Jesus had dealings and conversations with women, and that he treated women with respect and integrity that was not always offered to them. The four Gospels have a number of stories where Jesus is very supportive of women. So it would not be surprising that women would respond to him.

But what difference would a married Jesus make? Think about the Christian apostles creed. Is there anything there that would have to change if he were married? He could still be "born of a virgin, suffered under Pontius Pilate, crucified, dead and buried. Descended into Hell, and on the third day He arose from the dead and ascending into heaven and sits on the right hand of God from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead." All of those affirmations could still be affirmed about a married Jesus.

Certainly some traditions would find a lot of their justifications for many of their rituals and rubric disappearing if Jesus was married. The whole celibate thing for priest might take a serious hit if Jesus had been married. Would it make Jesus more human to be married and less special in the minds of people? Or would it increase his identification with humanity and make he more real for us?