Know Your Bible

VOL. 5                           June 4, 2006                           NO. 20








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    Was Jesus married To Mary Magdalene? The idea that Jesus was married, much less to Mary Magdalene, is a story made up from the lurid imaginations of the minds of men. Any far-fetched theory regarding Jesus that a scholar, writer, or producer can conjure up is sure to reap wide coverage in the print and broadcast media. These folks just love any sensational attack on traditional Christianity.

    In my lifetime Jesus has been described as a madman who schemed His own crucifixion and orchestrated His alleged resurrection (The Passover Plot by Hugh Schonfield, 1966); a radical revolutionary (Jesus and the Zealots by S.G.F. Brandon, 1967); a mushroom cultist (The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross by John M. Allegro, 1970); a master magician (The Secret Gospel 1973; Jesus the Magician; Charlatan or Son of God?, 1978, both by Morton Smith) and on and on.

    One of the more popular motifs has been to paint Jesus as a happy husband who either escaped or survived the crucifixion and lived in seclusion and marital bliss to a ripe old age. Several books have presented this hypothesis, the most influential being Holy Blood, Holy Grail by Baigent, Lincoln, and Leigh in the 1980's. According to the scenario presented in this work, Jesus married Mary Magdalene and had a child and the bloodline of Jesus is traced in the Merovingian dynasty of medieval France. This tale serves as the basis for the current bestseller, The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. In recent weeks I have seen newspaper columns and television specials devoted to this theory.

    The character in The Da Vinci Code that is presented as being in the absolute know regarding these matters is Leigh Teabing. It is he who explained: "The early church needed to convince the world that the mortal prophet Jesus was a divine being. Therefore, any gospels that described earthly aspects of Jesus' life had to be omitted from the Bible. Unfortunately for the early editors, one particularly troubling earthly theme kept recurring in the gospels. Mary Magdalene... More specifically, her marriage to Jesus Christ...It's a matter of historical record" (244).

Now so far as I can figure out, there would have been no transgression of God's law if Jesus had married. Marriage is fully within the boundaries of His will for mankind. But it would certainly raise some perplexing questions about any offspring from such a union. Do they share in the Deity of Christ in any way?

    The question is: Was He married? Is there anything to this allegation? The answer is a resounding 'no.' There is absolutely no evidence in either the Scriptures or the writings of the early Christians that Jesus was married to anyone. Not even in the Gnostic gospels and other apocryphal writings of the second and third centuries is it ever suggested that Jesus was married! In fact the notion that Jesus had a physical relationship with a woman would have been repulsive to the Gnostics. Also, the Gnostics were not interested in what actually happened. They took everything symbolically. This is why they felt free to write their own Gospels.

    "But there must be something!" one may insist. Surely such a claim would not just be made up! We do so want to believe the best about people, don't we? Well, okay. Here is the argument that undergirds this whole thesis. According to rabbinical tradition, Jewish men were expected to marry! That is! There was a general expectation of marriage. Therefore Jesus was married. And Mary Magdalene seems to be the logical bride. Never mind that there were obvious exceptions to this general expectation. Jeremiah was unmarried. John the Baptist was apparently unmarried. Celibacy was practiced by the Essenes, a sect of the Jews that are connected with the Quram community around the Dead Sea and connected with the Dead Sea Scrolls. Paul was unmarried.

    The expert character, Leigh Teabing, further states: "Jesus was the original feminist. He intended for the future of His Church to be in the hands of Mary Magdalene...She was of the House of Benjamin...of royal descent" (248). Of course, there is no evidence for any of this. Nothing reveals to us the tribal affiliation of Mary Magdalene and there is no suggestion that she was commissioned by the Lord to be a leader in the church.

    There are two apocryphal gospels that are brought in to witness. The Gospel of Philip refers to Mary as Jesus' "com- panion" which Brown's character Teabing says translates as "spouse or wife in Aramaic." The problem here is that this work was not written in Aramaic, but in Greek. It is a third century work. Historian Paul Maier says, "Scholars dismiss the work as having no genuine historical recollections that are not drawn form the canonical Gospels."

    The Gospel of Mary Magdalene is the other work that allegedly supports this theory. It also is a late work and is given no credibility by scholars. But even if these works were credible, neither of them furnishes any evidence that Jesus was married. But the fictional character Teabing says, "I shan't bore you with the countless references to Jesus and Magdalene's union" (p.247). There are two late, unreliable references, neither of which even says that they were married.

There is no evidence at all that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were wed. But there is some good evidence to the contrary. Paul, though unmarried, argued that he had the right to marry and support a wife (1 Cor. 9:5). He names as precedents for this, "the other apostles, and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas" (Peter). If Jesus had been married, it would certainly seem that He would have been named as the primary example.

---Ken Green

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