Religion Today Daily Headlines - September 20, 2012

Religion Today Daily Headlines - September 20, 2012

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.

In today's edition:

  • 'The Gospel of Jesus' Wife': Ancient Fragment Stirs Debate
  • Pastors Sue Kenyan Government Over Lack of Protection
  • Kazakhstan Jails Pastor, Considers Extradition to Uzbekistan
  • Netanyahu: U.S. Voters Should Consider 'Red Line' with Iran


'The Gospel of Jesus' Wife': Ancient Fragment Stirs Debate

Karen King, a historian from Harvard Divinity School, revealed on Tuesday what she claims to be a fourth-century fragment of papyrus containing the phrase, in Coptic, "Jesus said to them, 'My wife ... '" According to King, the text, referred to as the Gospel of Jesus' Wife, suggests some early Christians might have held the view that Jesus was married, but she stressed that it could not prove Jesus had a wife. Darrell L. Bock, senior research professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, said if this papyrus was authentic, it would be the only text among many to suggest that Jesus had a wife. It represents "a very small minority in a much later period than original Christianity," Bock said. "It is a fourth-century text in a fringe gnostic group that is not representative of the larger groups that are [part of] Christianity." Dr. Joel B. Green, professor of New Testament interpretation at Fuller Seminary, echoed Bock: "We have no evidence at all of any debate among the earliest followers of Jesus regarding Jesus' martial status. This debate surfaced later. It's important to put this in context. Popular literature (say, from the third and fourth centuries) made all sorts of claims about Jesus ... These claims really don't tell us anything about Jesus of Nazareth, the historical person who lived in the first third of the first century. They do tell us about how some people in later centuries worked out their own beliefs and practices." Green also expressed concern over the "hype" often surrounding such discoveries, adding that "any claims that might be put forward about what it means will be guesses." Nothing is known about the circumstances of the fragment's discovery; King believes it may have been excavated from an area in Upper Egypt.

Pastors Sue Kenyan Government Over Lack of Protection

Protestant churches in Kenya are suing the country's federal government, alleging a lack of help and protection following recent attacks by Islamic extremists, Christianity Today reports. The National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK), which filed suit after Muslim riots in Mombasa in August destroyed four local churches, is claiming the violence was politically and religiously motivated, led by the Somalia-based al Shabaab extremist group. "The government bears full responsibility for the violation of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of the victims who are under its care," said Peter Karanja, general secretary of the NCCK. The NCCK is also seeking response from the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Kazakhstan Jails Pastor, Considers Extradition to Uzbekistan

A former Uzbek house church pastor is in prison in Kazakhstan, awaiting a ruling whether he will be returned to his native country, Open Doors News reports.  Meanwhile, Kazakhstan’s Supreme Court considers whether to declare him a refugee in the face of almost-certain persecution. Makset Djabbarbergenov was arrested Sept. 5 in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s financial center. He was detained by authorities who have frowned on his leadership in unregistered Christian communities. Djabbarbergenov was at one point an active church leader in Nukus, the capital of Karakalpakstan, the autonomous republic of Uzbekistan. At present, Protestant churches in Karakalpakstan are illegal. After appearing before court six different times, Djabbarbergenov and his family fled to Kazakhstan in 2007, where they are considered refugees by the United Nations, although the Kazakh government disagrees. Uzbekistan now wants him back to face charges that he practiced religion outside state regulation. He faces two charges; each carry a maximum penalty of three years in prison. Uzbekistan is ranked No. 7 on the World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.

Netanyahu: U.S. Voters Should Consider 'Red Line' with Iran

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appealed to American voters on Sunday, urging them to elect a president willing to draw a line on when Iran would face military attack over its nuclear weapons program, Fox News reports. After Obama refused to set specific boundaries on Iran last week, the Israeli leader took to CNN’s “State of the Union” and NBC’s “Meet the Press” to express his frustration. He compared Tehran’s nuclear program to Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh to appeal to his American audience. “It’s like Timothy McVeigh walking into a shop in Oklahoma City and saying, 'I’d like to tend my garden. I’d like to buy some fertilizer.' … Come on. We know that they’re working on a weapon,” Netanyahu said. Obama’s Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, has said he is willing to take a tougher stance than Obama against Iran, although his campaign has declined to provide specifics. Meanwhile, Obama continues to insist that the U.S. will not allow Iran to produce a nuclear weapon.

Publication date: September 20, 2012