Yep, the media did it again, fooled some of us into thinking, or even just arguing about, Jesus and an alleged marriage and ”historical document” that “proves” it. This is actually nothing new. Arguments and beliefs over Jesus being married, having siblings, and having children have been going on for centuries. Yesterday’s news reports about Jesus and Mary Magdalene being married and having children are a regurgitation of old news.
The current story is over a book called The Lost Gospel and it has put forward a “shocking” but rather unoriginal claim that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and had two children with her. The UK newspaper, The Independent, wrote about the “scholarly” work, claiming it is based on a 1,500 year old manuscript unearthed at the British Library. Why should we question it? Well, this manuscript never mentions the names “Jesus” or “Mary Magdalene” even once. Not. Once.
In fact, the “decoded” manuscript speaks of two people named Joseph and Aseneth. Somehow the authors managed to divine what no other scholars who have looked at the manuscript have: Joseph is Jesus, and Aseneth is Mary Magdalene. Poof! Now it’s truth. The authors have no other historical claims to back it up, nor any scholarly claims to explain how they decoded it and came to this revelation. But, thanks to the media, they have instant “credibility”… you know, the media reported it so it must be true.
Ok, put your eyes back in your head (because I know they rolled out after that last sentence), and let’s actually look at what is known. First, the author, Simcha Jacobovici, is a professional Bible debunker. That means his purpose in life is to make the Bible and proven biblical history a fairy tale, so he writes them. Never mind that archeology and non-Christian historical sources have proven much of the historical references, places and times recounted in the Bible.
Jacobovici’s most famous work is a documentary entitled The Lost Tomb of Jesus, which describes the finding of the Talpiot Tomb during a housing construction project, claiming that it was the family tomb of Jesus. The problem with that one? The professor who actually oversaw the archeological dig at Talpiot Tomb, Amos Kloner, called Jacobovici’s hypothesis, “very unserious work” and “nonsense.”
This latest piece is drawing similar criticism. Diarmaid MacCulloch, Professor of the History of the Church at Oxford University, called the theory “the deepest bilge.” John Wauck, professor of Literature at Rome’s Santa Croce University, said,
Let me get this straight: the host of a Canadian TV show called The Naked Archeologist is claiming that a Syriac manuscript from the 6th century AD that never even mentions Jesus Christ or Mary Magdalene somehow proves that they were married … by the Pharaoh, no less … and had kids?
Yeah, kind of the reaction I had as well.
Wauck noted that Jacobovici’s approach to the manuscript was bunk:
The authors—neither of whom knows Syriac and one who has called the New Testament “bloated, biased and unrepresentative” — seem to have relied heavily on their imaginations and produced, not surprisingly, a work of fiction that is hostile to the Christian faith.
Want more? Well, Mark Goodacre, a professor of religious studies at Duke University, said, “I don’t think that there is any credibility in these claims at all. There is simply no evidence in this text or anywhere else that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, much less that they had a couple of children.” Each of these men are actual scholars. They have the education and degrees to back up their disdain of this kind of manufactured “proof.”
But the story has been around for centuries. A movement today with roots back to a group of people called Cathars believe that there is a “royal bloodline” of descendants of Mary Magdalene and Jesus. It is centered in the Languedoc region of France and around a centuries old chapel called Rennes-le-Chateau. Apparently Magdalene came to France with Mary, Martha and Lazarus and evangelized there. The conspiracy theories abound about how the Catholic Church suppressed any mention of Mary as an Apostle, THE Apostle (as opposed to Peter as is represented in every other Gospel) and such. They follow a “Gospel of Mary” and discount any of the rest.
While the person of Mary Magdalene has been confused and misunderstood for a millennia, nowhere in any other writings is she ever referenced as the spouse of Jesus. Nowhere but in the “Gospel of Mary.” Mary may have been the prostitute in several of the Gospel stories, or another character. It’s not clear. But, whether she is or isn’t, I don’t believe it for a second that she was the wife of Christ, nor the mother of His children. There is no historical support in the records and writings of the day, including the Bible.
All of that said, I would venture another question for you to ponder: What difference, really, does it make to the basic tenets of the Christian faith? It doesn’t change the message Christ came to deliver. It doesn’t change the fact of who He was then and is now, the Son of God who died to absolve us of sin. At least it just means that the “marriage” wasn’t important enough to even be mentioned by those who were writing at the time and after. At the most, it’s just a big lie we should be ignoring, not giving credence to now, or wasting our time with.
What we, as Christians, need to do is stop giving nuts like Jacobovici the time of day. Don’t give into the hysteria around these “shocking” claims. Recognize them for what they are – provable lies. Debunk calmly and move on. Letting them get under our collective skin only gives the stories traction.