Did Jesus have a real flesh and blood family and therefore descendants?
It’s surprising how long this debate has been going for. Right back in to the early persecuted church during the Roman Empire. Possibly as far back as the first generation of Christians – especially those who did not fall in to line with Paul.
From the early years, there was a split between Christians who saw the new religion as an extension or fulfillment of Jewish scripture and those who saw it as something distinct from Judaism and universal in application.
The former group, that included sects like the Ebionites, saw Jesus as a Jewish messiah and tended to conceptualize him in human terms. The latter group, that included groups like the Marcionites, took the view that Christianity could be spread to the gentiles and saw Jesus as a more spiritual, almost disembodied entity. The latter group even rejected the wrath filled and very Jewish god of the Old Testament.
The former strand of Christianity was capable of holding the notion of a bloodline – indeed, Jesus was believed to have come from a royal Jewish bloodline and his descendants were very real and amongst us. This was anathema to what became the Catholic church. Why? Well, think about it – who’s the real vicar of Christ on earth, the pope in Saint Peter’s or the bodily descendant of the messiah?
Paul wrenched Christianity away from its Jewish roots, though a Jew himself, and took it to the Greeks and Romans. He set in train a process whereby Christianity was adopted by the very people who had crucified the messiah.
Paul hated any whiff of competition from those in Palestine who had known Jesus – which Paul hadn’t. So he emphasized the godly and spiritual nature of Jesus, a nature that he could know more about than those pesky disciples in Palestine who had walked with the man himself. He could even know more about Jesus than the messiah’s very own brother – James – who we believe became a leader of the new sect in Jerusalem after the crucifixion.
Jesus did have brothers and sisters, mentioned in the gospels, but the church soon found a way of downgrading their importance. Without any grounding in scripture, they inferred through various dogmas and doctrinal statements that these siblings were in fact the children of Joseph and an earlier wife – not the by now virginal Mary. They might even be cousins, some suggested.
Mary as a perpetual virgin was key to removing the Desposyni – descendants of Jesus – from the Christian equation. In spite of reports that two Desposyni were brought before the Roman emperor Domitian, the bloodline of Jesus was swept under the theological carpet.
- Messiah married? ‘The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife’ suggests Christ tied the knot (rt.com)
- The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife and Sacred History from Judaism to Islam (juancole.com)
- The Significance of “The Gospel of Jesus’s Wife” (bycommonconsent.com)
- How Might Marcionite Questions Affect Mythicism? (Bob Price in “Is This Not the Carpenter?”) (vridar.wordpress.com)
- Divinity scholar says piece of ancient papyrus includes reference to ‘Jesus’ wife’ (pri.org)