Wednesday, April 8, 2009

DaVinci Code: Was Jesus married?

According to The Da Vinci Code, “the marriage of Jesus and Mary Magdalene is part of the historical record…social decorum during that time virtually forbid a Jewish man to be unmarried…if Jesus were not married, at least one of the Bible’s gospels would have mentioned it and offered some explanation for His unnatural state of bachelorhood” (245).

Not only are the Gospels silent about Jesus being married, nothing is written about him being married in the rest of the New Testament or any other early Christian writing either. Of course, if you buy into the conspiracy theory that the church was trying to suppress the “truth” you may think this is irrelevant, but you should also know that none of the so called “lost gospels” that the church supposedly “suppressed” say anything about Jesus being married either.

Nevertheless, we're all supposed to believe that Jesus was married because the Gospels don’t say he was! While most men were married in Jesus day social decorum did not forbid singleness—the Essenes, for example, were a Jewish group that usually remained unmarried. But even if social decorum pressured men to get married, Jesus was not particularly known for following social decorum.

Another reason given for believing that Jesus’ was married is because the Gospel of Philip—written in the 3rd century AD—says that Jesus’ “companion” was Mary Magdalene and, according to The Da Vinci Code, “As any Aramaic scholar will tell you, the word companion, in those days, literally meant spouse” (246).

This is actually kind of funny because the Gospel of Philip wasn’t written in Aramaic! It was originally written in Greek, and then translated into Coptic (and Egyptian language). The word “companion” both in Coptic and in Greek is koinonos, which means friend, partner, or companion—but not spouse. Both Greek and Coptic have words for spouse or wife and koinonos is not it. While it is true that your spouse should be your companion, not all your companions are your spouses—well, we hope not anyway or you may have some legal issues.

So let’s turn this argument on its head. Suppose that an essential, fundamental doctrine of Christianity depended on Jesus’ marriage to Mary Magdalene. To support this doctrine, the church’s only evidence is to appeal to the fact that the New Testament is silent on the subject and that a single document, written two hundred years after the time of Jesus says that Mary was his “companion.” If this was our only evidence, critics would rightly laugh us out of court, so to speak.

On the other hand, the Gospel of John records that when Jesus was being crucified he assigned the care of his mother to his disciple, John. According to the Gospel of John, Mary Magdalene was at the foot of the cross at that time so if he had been married, it is pretty remarkable that the writer would have Jesus being concerned about the care of his mother, but apparently caring nothing for his wife! Conspiracy theorists could argue that Jesus’ marriage to Mary was suppressed out of a desire to demonize Mary, but that’s ridiculous—the church has always held Mary Magdalene in high regard.

So where does this idea of Jesus’ marriage come from? It seems that the whole thing was made up in the 1960’s or 1970’s by a Frenchman named Pierre Plantard who once served time for fraud. He fabricated supposedly ancient documents claiming that he was a descendant of Jesus! When one of his associates committed suicide, Plantard was investigated and ended up confessing under oath that the papers were a fraud. The lies in these fraudulent documents were picked up in the book Holy Blood, Holy Grail and then borrowed from there for Dan Brown’s story.

Both the Judaism in which Jesus lived, and the Christianity which developed after Jesus, had a very high view of marriage and of sex within marriage—so there is no reason why Jesus couldn’t have gotten married if he had so desired, or why the church would have wanted to suppress such a thing if it was true. Personally, I would prefer that he had been married, but, unlike some writers, I’m unwilling to fabricate “history” to support my preferences.