or "Is the premise of The DaVinci Code really true?"

Originally posted September 2004

Credits: For Lou, who asked first and made me decide for myself. Thanks also to Dan Brown, the author of The DaVinci Code (link leads to my review of the book).

Short answer: Quite possibly, but we'll never know for sure.

The desire for certainty

I've been seriously asked several times now if I thought Jesus was really married to Mary Magdalene. Barring religious issues, I feel there are several logical and productive ways to look at this question.

1) Was it culturally likely?

The first is to look at the culture of the time (as best we can through the obscuring lens of two thousand passing years) and see if marriage is a feasible cultural ritual for Jesus to have been part of.

Under that time period's viewpoint, it would be downright peculiar for a rabbi to be unmarried — and Jesus was most certainly a rabbi, being obviously qualified to teach Jewish law. Also, most of the male disciples are described as married. Yet the bible mentions no social opprobrium cast on Jesus for his then-socially-unacceptable unmarried state.

Much like Jesus, Mary Magdalene also is never described as married, or even a widow (the myth about Mary Magdalene being a reformed prostitute is just medieval slander. Here's some good research on the subject: Mary Magdalen: Truth and Myth by Susan Haskins). Being both unchaperoned and never married is an exceedingly improper state for a nice Hebrew woman in the society of that time, so it's likely that was not actually her status. However, her fidelity to Jesus is unquestionable; she and other women are described in the Gospels as grieving at the foot of Jesus' cross when everyone else has fled, and it is she who discovers the empty tomb — not any of the male disciples.

So the answer to question one (is it culturally likely?) is a definite yes. It is peculiar and noteworthy for the times that both Jesus and Mary Magdalene are never described as married individuals.

2) Is there anything to support this theory?

When we look for mention of Mary Magdalene in the various books in the Bible and the Apocrypha, we find quite a bit of evidence for a special relationship between her and Jesus. As noted above, the Gospels themselves state unequivocally it is Mary Magdalene who is most loyal to Jesus. There is also repeated mention of this special relationship in the following Apocryphal books: the Gospel of Phillip, the Gospel of Mary, the Pistis Sophia, and the Gospel of Thomas.

Sadly, there are also several incidents of Peter jealously fighting against this special relationship. Peter is obviously not the sharpest crayon in the box, nor anything like the leader Mary is, as these texts will clearly demonstrate.

Gospel of Phillip

This Gnostic text apparently consists of verses collected from other, no-longer-extant sources. Like most religious texts of the time (including the original books of the bible, and the other Apocrypha) it is unfortunately neither completely saved nor completely intact. What this means is we have only some of the original scrolls, and there are holes and blurry parts in the ones we have — which means translation of the now "dead" language is sometimes a real doozy.

I recommend therefore that you read several translations of the original, in order to most closely catch the actual meanings of the text within proper context — because I've seen different translations use the words "loved" and "companion" instead of "mate." Here's Verse 36 — a fascinating one, where Mary Magdalene's special relationship with Jesus is particularly mentioned.

36. There were three Mariams who walked with the Lord at all times: his mother and her sister and Magdalene — she who is called his Mate. Thus his Mother, Sister, and Mate are called 'Mariam.'

She's provocatively mentioned again in Verses 59 and 60, as being more gifted in enlightenment than the rest of the disciples:

[59] And the Mate of the [lost text] is Mariam the Magdalene. The [lost text] loved Mariam more than all the other Disciples, and he kissed her often on her [lost text]. The other Disciples saw his loving Mariam, they say to him: Why do thou love her more than all of us? The Savior replied, he says to them: Why do I not love you as I do her?

[60] While a blind person and one who sees are both in the dark, they do not differ from one another. But when the light comes, then he who sees shall behold the light yet he who is blind shall remain in the darkness.

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