Was Jesus Married?

 

Submitted by Dr. Ronny West

 

The recently discovered Gospel of Philip, which some scholars think can be used as an independent historical witness to the mainstream gospel accounts, leads some scholars to assume that Mary Magdalene was the wife of Jesus.

This idea is refuted by biblical scholars who primarily use existing Judeo-Christian scriptures as their source.

But therein lies the problem. 

There is evidence that for primarily political reasons the early Christian church expunged the role of women from church history.


Was Mary Magdalene (Mag'dalene) the wife of Jesus?

Recently, a number of books have advanced this idea. Although some are admittedly works of fiction, some claim to be based in fact. da vinci code

The most famous of these books, of course, is Dan Brown's, Da Vinci Code. (Note photo on the right.)

Even though some of the "facts" underlining  a few of the premises of the book were proven false — even 60 Minutes got into the fray — the ideas definitely struck a responsible chord — especially among women.

But other books with the marriage theory exist, including another
"page turner," The Pegasus Secret.

Beyond these recent books we have impressive anecdotal and circumstantial evidence.

Unfortunately, since there is evidence that early Church officials not only "reworked" scripture accounts, but launched a vigorous and far-reaching (and very successful) campaign to get rid of what they decided were "heretical accounts," there is now very little to go on.

But there is the circumstantial evidence.

First, Mary Magdalene seemed to be a particular threat to the early Christian (Roman Catholic) church because not only was she a woman, (and the early Church had for largely political reasons decided to put women in a secondary spiritual position), but even then (hundreds of years after Jesus was crucified) there were persistent rumors about this Mary being the wife of Jesus.

If this were the case it would nullify the church's position not only on women, but upon sex, itself. People like St. Augustine, who had major and well-documented personal and family problems with both women and sex, made these ideas two of the cornerstones of Roman Catholic (and later general Christian) belief.

Churches were being started in Mary Magdalene's name -- churches which exist to this day.

Despite any supporting scriptural evidence, the Catholic Church tried to turn Mary Magdalene into a prostitute. This allegation was made by Pope Gregory the Great, assumed by many to be God's representative on earth.

And, of course, if Jesus were married, the Church's stand on celibacy for priests would be severely undermined.

Early priests were married and had families, and it was 1,000 years after Jesus left the scene that the church imposed the celibacy restriction -- even on the priests who were married at the time. It appears that the reason for this injunction had very little to do with spirituality and more to do with acquiring and preserving and church property.

In those days few people could read, so priests ended up being interpreters of scriptures -- and, of course, priests were under the control of the Pope.

Although there is no clear remaining gospel evidence that clearly supports the contention that Jesus was married, the gospels definitely retain circumstantial evidence.

We'll look at several points..

1. First, we'll remind you of the story of the woman anointing the head and feet of Jesus in what was seen (and condemned) in Jewish culture as being a sensual, suggestive and highly inappropriate act.

John's gospel account is the only one that does not see this as some sort of sacrilege against Jewish tradition. The only seemingly way to explain this is if this woman, who is identified as "Mary," was Jesus' wife. ("Mary" was a common name in those days, which has added a lot of confusion to historic accounts; but, then again, the name "Jesus" was also a common name.)

We know that the other gospels were "shaped" to meet the personal, political and religious needs of the early church. Possibly the account in John, which appears not to be based on the same shared documents as some of the other gospels, was somehow left relatively intact.

2. Remember the story in Luke about Martha, Mary's sister, rebuking her for sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening to him teach? Recall that in those days women were not supposed to be educable and this act was highly unusual, if not totally inappropriate -- especially within Jewish culture.

But, Jesus defends Mary's act, suggesting that she has been selected for a higher role than attending to domestic (womanly) chores.

Maybe this is not really startling—until you consider that Martha does not talk directly to Mary (her own sister), but asks Jesus to tell her to "get to work."

In those days husbands held the power over their wives and if you wanted to get them to act, you would request that they do so through their husbands. Possibly this is just another clue that was missed by Bible redactors.

3. Next, is the suggestion that Mary, the sister of Martha, was actually Mary Magdalene, portrayed in the scriptures as the leader of the female disciples that followed Jesus all the way from Galilee.

Only wives and prostitutes would follow an itinerant band of men. Contrary to the later trashing that Mary Magdalene would get from a Catholic pope, as we've noted there is no evidence anywhere in the Bible that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute....which leaves only...wife.

4. "Mary" (not further identified) refers to Jesus in the scripture as "my lord" and "raboni" in the fourth gospel—titles in Jewish society as only being appropriate for a wife addressing her rabbi husband.

5. Contrary to popular belief, there never was a city called "Magdala" from which Magdalene was supposedly derived. But, there is a Hebrew word, migdal used in the Bible that refers to a tower of great significance.

The word also implies a great person or great figure. "Mary, the great," or "the great Mary," might be translated as "Mary Magdalene" (things sometimes got a bit twisted in the translation process), a phrase writers may have originally used to describe Mary, the wife of Jesus. In this instance the scriptures seem to rule out this being Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Very much related, there is scriptural evidence from Jesus, himself, that Mary Magdalene was the "one who understood" [the most esoteric dimension of his teachings*]. And scriptures say that she was the one that "Jesus loved the most" -- even to the point that the other disciples were jealous. (The fact that she was a woman in that era of Jewish culture only made it even worse!)

6. Some Jewish historians have pointed out that marriage was an expected part of Jewish culture at the time and it would have been unusual for Jesus not to have taken a wife. This would have made it an important fact to include in the gospels -- but, as we know, nowhere is it mentioned.

7. After his death, Mary was allowed to visit the tomb of Jesus with his burial cloth—an act that under Jewish tradition was reserved only for family members, such as wives.

8. Finally, after Jesus arose from the dead, the first person he appeared to was reportedly Mary Magdalene. The reason, according to some scholars, was that Jesus knew that this Mary would be grieving more than anyone else. Thus, he singled out his wife (or consort) for special consolation.

These are just a few of the tidbits that have been left, both in the Bible as it evolved and in suppressed and ignored documents that have been found.  Magdalene.org has much more information.

Maybe all this adds up to only a theory; but, then again, court cases have been won on weaker circumstantial evidence.



* At the core of this is the non-dualistic nature of reality, which was (and is) a fundamental concept in Buddhism, Hinduism, and Vedanta -- the world's oldest (and some would say) purest religions. There is evidence in the suppressed Gospel of Thomas and other early records that Jesus taught this, but it was later dropped from Christianity.

At least one account states that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene for the final fifteen years of his life. However, there was no mention of children, as asserted in the Da Vinci Code.


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