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September 30, 2012

Column: Ancient scrap of papyrus revives celibacy debate


Biblical scholars cannot agree on the precise date the Gospel of Mark was written. Most agree the range would have been sometime between 65 and 70 A.D., or before the destruction of the Jewish Temple. Others argue it co

uld have been much later.

Regardless, Jesus is generally agreed to have died around the age of 33 and many scholars believe that none of the Gospels was written by an eyewitness to Jesus’ life.

Picture yourself among the literate “scholars” of the time. They believed in magic. There was no consensus on why the sun rose and set each day. There were scores of cult leaders and kings proclaiming themselves messiahs, both before and after Jesus’ death, including Alexander the Great.

My favorite take on why this debate continues was written by the Rev. Cynthia Bourgeault, who is a guest blogger for The Washington Post.

She said: “Nowhere in the (Nicene) creed does it specify as an article of belief that Jesus is a celibate, or that his divine status depends on his presumed celibacy. This is all later Christian mid-rash, the product of an increasingly patriarchal and misogynist hierarchy, which for the past 1,600 years has conducted its theological discourse in the hallowed halls of celibates speaking to other celibates. Not only does it not reflect the authentic message that Jesus is teaching; it actively distorts this message.”

The gospels that made the New Testament were chosen by politically-motivated church and state leaders who rejected dozens of other gospels with which they disagreed. This was completed centuries after Jesus’ death, early in the 4th century. What gave them the power to decide what should be included in the Bible and what should not?

The answer is nothing: They had political power and used it to sway church dogma. I urge all believers and non-believers to dig into biblical history. I’m shocked at the number of believers who’ve never read any

thing outside the Bible or listened to anyone but their pastors or priests on this topic. I hope King’s discovery will create a flurry of people rushing to learn more about how church doctrine came about in the first place.


Bonnie Erbe, a TV host, writes this column for Scripps Howard News Service. Email bonnie.scrippshoward@gmail.com.

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