[SIZE=“1”]An excerpt from Bart D. Ehrman’s The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings, Fourth Edition:[/SIZE]
One of the hardest things for modern people who are interested in Jesus to realize is that he lived in a completely different culture from ours, with a foreign set of cultural values and norms—so much so that people commonly claim that he did not (or rather could not) have meant what he said. Nowhere is this more clear than in the area known today as “family values.”
Since the modern sense of family values seems to be so good and wholesome, it is only natural for people to assume that Jesus too must have taught them. But did he? It is striking that in our earliest traditions Jesus does not seem to place a high priority on the family. Consider the words preserved in Q: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters and even his own life, he is not able to be my disciple” (Luke 14:26; Matt 10:37). A person must hate his or her family? The same word is used, strikingly, in the saying independently preserved in the Gospel of Thomas: “The one who does not hate his father and mother will not be worthy to be my disciple” (Gosp. Thom. 55). If we understand “hate” here to mean something like “despise in comparison to” or “have nothing to do with,” then the saying makes sense. Parents, siblings, spouses, and even one’s own children were to be of no importance in comparison with the coming kingdom.
This may help explain Jesus’ reaction to his own family. For there are clear signs not only that Jesus’ family rejected his message during his public ministry, but that he in turn spurned them publicly (independently attested in Mark 3:31–34 and Gosp. Thom. 99).
And Jesus clearly saw the familial rifts that would be created when someone became committed to his message of the coming kingdom:
[SIZE=“1”]You think that I have come to bring peace on earth; not peace, I tell you, but division. For from now on there will be five people in one house, divided among themselves: three against two and two against three; a father will be divided against his son and a son against his father, a mother against her daughter and a daughter against her mother; a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law (Luke 12:51–53; Matt 10:34–46; independently attested in Gosp. Thom. 16).[/SIZE]
And family tensions would be heightened immediately before the end of the age, when “a brother will betray his brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise up against their parents and kill them” (Mark 13:12).
These “anti-family” traditions are too widely attested in our sources to be ignored (they are found in Mark, Q, and Thomas, for example), and suggest that Jesus did not support what we today might think of as family values. But why not? Could it be that Jesus was not ultimately interested in establishing a good society and doing what was necessary to maintain it? Remember: for him the end was coming soon, and the present social order was being called radically into question. What mattered were not strong family ties and the social institutions of this world. What mattered was the new thing that was coming, the future kingdom. And it was impossible to promote this teaching while trying to retain the present social structure. That would be like trying to put a new wine into old wineskins or trying to sew a new piece of cloth to an old garment. As any wine-master or seamstress could tell you, it just won’t work. The wineskins would burst and the garment would tear. New wine and new cloth require new wineskins and new garments. The old is passing away and the new is almost here (Mark 2:18–22; Gosp. Thom. 47).