Was Jesus Married?

A new novel forces people to confront a biblical puzzle. Was Mary Magdalene Mrs. Jesus?

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And that's it.

Even liberal biblical scholars don't really think Jesus and Mary Magdalene had a sexual relationship-though they don't entirely dismiss it, either. Marcus Borg, a professor of religion and culture at Oregon State University, for instance, had this to say about the possibility of Jesus and Mary Magdalene as sex partners: "It wouldn't bother me if he had a non-married sexual relationship with Mary Magdalene. In some way I wish he was married because it would shake up our ideas about Jesus and sexuality."

According to the New Testament: The Gospels say Mary Magdalene was a follower of Jesus and that, according to Luke 8, she supported him out of her own means, meaning that she was probably wealthy. She was the first, or among the first, to discover the empty tomb. (Mark 16:9 says, "Now after He had risen early on the first day of the week, He first appeared to Mary Magdalene, from whom He had cast out seven demons.") After the Resurrection, Jesus commissioned her to go to the other apostles with the news. Thus, she has been known traditionally as the "apostle to the apostles."

But since the earliest decades after Jesus' death, a parallel lore flourished, particularly in southern France, where in 1208 the people were condemed to death by Pope Innocent III for believing that Mary Magdalene was the "grail mother." In the parallel story, Jesus married Mary Magdalene, and she was pregnant with his child when he was crucified at Qumran, not Golgotha as it is usually thought. Mary delivered a child, and then she and the baby were spirited to France, where she died. This secret teaching-partially described in "The DaVinci Code"--is said to have been preserved by the Knights Templar, a monastic military order formed at the end of the First Crusade.


Outside France, historians and theologians for many years have debated if Jesus was married-to Mary Magdalene or to someone else. In 1970, for instance, a Presbyterian minister and scholar named William E. Phipps wrote a controversial book called Was Jesus Married? His conclusion is "yes," because the vast majority of Jewish males of Jesus' era married.

In the 1960s and 1970s, there was a rash of Jesus books and movies about Jesus, including Jesus Christ, Superstar, which made the assumption that Jesus and Mary Magdalene had a sexual relationship. More famously, Martin Scorsese's 1988 movie The Last Temptation of Christ includes a sex scene between Jesus and Mary Magdalene.

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