The recently announced 4th century Coptic papyrus fragment in which "Jesus" refers to "my wife" has generated quite the buzz in the media. The New York Times' provocative headline read "The Gospel of Jesus' Wife." Even David Letterman had a spoof about it on his show. Within a day of this story breaking, a college student in our church messaged me on Facebook wanting to know what I thought about this new discovery (a good reminder of the new media reality that people don't have to go looking for skeptical claims anymore; skeptical claims find them!).
Well, first things first, does this fragment prove that Jesus was married? According to Dallas Theological Seminary New Testament scholar Dan Wallace, "The answer is an emphatic no. At most, it can only tell us what one group of 'Christians' in the middle of the second century thought. But it says nothing about true history, about Jesus of Nazareth." And now there seems to be a growing consensus that the fragment is actually a fake.
While sensational headlines like these can create doubt and confusion for people, they can also create timely opportunities for us as pastors and Christian leaders to remind those we serve of the importance of understanding why we believe what we believe (i.e., apologetics). Let's not let this cultural moment pass us by. Here are five things Christians need to understand when it comes to apologetics.
- Defending the faith is not optional.The Bible makes this clear: "In your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer [apologia] to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" (1 Pet. 3:15; Phil. 1:7). Apologetics involves responding to objections (defense), making a case (offense), and giving hope (Christ-centered). It is part of what it means to be a thoughtful follower of Jesus who seeks to love God with all of your mind (Matt. 22:37)