Would a Married Jesus
Have Been Sinful?
NCW 18, April 1995
Q. Why do you insist that Jesus was married when you know from the Scriptures that He lived a sinless life?
Firstly, we do not insist that He was. We insist only on what the Bible unequivocably says. Since the Bible neither directly affirms nor denies Jesus' marrital status, we insist that Bible-believers do no less either.
We also insist that Bible-believers honestly examine the historical background of the Bible and accept the known facts of Jewish life. And if, as it is known, the Jews of Jesus' time believed that singleness was selfish and a sin against the Israelite nation, then we must seriously ask ourselves whether a single, unmarried, celibate Jesus would have either gone unnoticed, been accepted or criticized by the people He lived with.
Given that the Pharisees, Sadducees and Scribes were desperately searching to find fault with Jesus' observance of the Law, it is rather remarkable, is it not, that no criticism was made against Him for supposedly being unmarried when they took especial pains to try and trip Him up for keeping company with the outcasts of society -- the ceremonially unclean prostitutes, tax-collectors, and even gentiles. Added to this is the undeniable fact that no authorized Rabbi -- as Jesus was -- could be unmarried. And if He had been unauthorized, He would have been silenced immediately.
Yes, we do indeed know, and testify, that Jesus lived a sinless life, and we know because the Bible says so (Heb.4:15). But we also know that the God of the Bible would never command an individual, let alone the whole human race, to commit a sin. We also know, because the Bible says so, that we are to become perfect as Jesus is, by following His exemplarary life-style (Matt.5:28,48; 1 Jn.4:18). So if Jesus were indeed unmarried, and since we are to follow His example in righteousness (Eph.5.1), ought we not to remain single too, since that would be the path of perfection and sinlessness? Or does God expect us to sin by marrying and then receive forgiveness from the One who was not allowed to "sin" by not marrying?
But then we have a contradiction here since it is written that women cannot be saved unless they give birth and rear children (1 Tim.2:15). Since they cannot do this without being married, it follows that the men must be married too to make them pregnant. But let us ignore this "problem" for the present...
To insist that Jesus was married is not a doctrine of salvation, but to insist the opposite -- that He was not married, in the face of the historical evidence, is surely dishonest. Those who believe He was not married can only truthfully say that the Bible is not equivocal about the matter and leave it at that.
It is an old Gnostic heresy that says marriage and sex are evil. How could something that God created, and declared to be "good", be evil (Gen.1:31)? Marriage and bringing forth children is a divine commandment to the whole race (Gen.1:28). As God entering human flesh and becoming man, Jesus, who obeyed the Law given to humans in every other respect, would not be exempted from marriage. How, indeed, could He be tempted, as married people are, without being married Himself? For it is written: "(He) has been tempted in every way, just as we are..." (Heb.4:14, NIV). And who will deny that marriage has temptations?
It is our belief that Jesus lived a sinless life as a married man. He faced the temptations of the flesh as all men do and never fell once. He is indeed the saviour of marriage as well as the single estate. He entered flesh and experienced it completely (John 1:14).
We do not insist that all Christians accept this doctrine but we do insist that they give good solid evidence that Jesus was not married before being dogmatic. The fact that nothing is directly said about Him being married in the New Testament says nothing as to whether He was married or not because marriage was so normal that His being married would never have aroused any comment. Rather, an unmarried Rabbi, apart from being unlawful, would most certainly have brought a stinging rebuke from the religious leaders of the day. Indeed, a single Jesus would never have been ordained a Rabbi and never been allowed to preach in the synagogues. There were no single religious leaders except in the Qumran community, an aesthetic sect living out in the Judaean wilderness who believed that the Messiah would be the angel Michael in human form.
To in any way say that marriage is sinful is to blaspheme the Creator-God who ordained and blessed it (Gen.2:24). Fruitfulness amd multiplication are signs of God's favour throughout the Bible and big families are encouraged. It was the Greeks who invented the idea that sex was evil, and Greek philosophy, mingled with Christianity in variant forms, has been the prevalent mode of thought of Europeans and their colonies.
The picture of a celibate Christ distorts both Judaism and Biblical Christianity. The fact of the matter is that European and American Christianity is not pure Christianity because it has become divorced from its Hebrew roots. It is a hybrid. New Covenant Christians have rejected that hybrid and have returned to Christianity's original roots.
We believe that Jesus Christ was, and is, the Son of God -- God in the flesh -- that He lived a perfect, sinless life, atoned for our sins at Calvary, and arose in a resurrected physical body. We believe He lived a fully human life on earth as a friend, brother, husband and a father, setting an example to generations of families after Him. We believe that a celibate Christ distorts the historical Jesus, placing Him in an aesthetic environment that never existed. We realise that this flies in the face of centuries of Christian tradition and that many are offended by it (Mark 7:8-9).
That Christ could have lived a celibate life we do not deny but that He did we consider unlikely and opposed to the evidence. It would make the atonement incomplete. And the truth may be even more surprising than either we or orthodox Christians dare even imagine.
This page was created on 2 May 1998
Last updated on 2 May 1998
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