Was Jesus Married?

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

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But serious inquiry into Jesus' marital state-and more specifically into his relationship with Mary Magdalene-got a huge boost from the discovery of what is called the Berlin Codex. Discovered in Egypt in 1896, it wasn't translated until the 1950s, along with the Nag Hammadi Codex, discovered in 1945, around the same time the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. These texts have become increasingly important to biblical scholarship, and they illuminate a different kind of Jesus from the one depicted in the Bible--a wisdom teacher and spiritual seeker. That kind of Jesus is appealing to Westerners inclined to combine elements of Eastern religions with Christianity--and so, what are called the Gnostic texts have also become hugely popular.

The two Codex discoveries included The Gospel of Mary, the Sophia of Jesus Christ, and the Gospel of Philip, among others. For a long time, they were considered unimportant. But in the last decade, biblical scholars have begun looking at these texts more closely. The Gospel of Mary, for instance, dates to about 125 C.E., according to King, which places it among the oldest texts of the early Christian church. By way of comparison, the Gospel of John was written in the 90s C.E.

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Particularly in the Gospel of Mary, Mary Magdalene is depicted as having special knowledge of Jesus: "Peter said to Mary, 'Sister, we know that the Saviour loved you more than the rest of women." In the Gospel of Philip, she is described this way: "There were three who always walked with the Lord: Mary, his mother, and her sister, and Magdalene, the one who was called his companion." Some scholars point to these passages as possible proof of the Jesus and Mary Magdalene relationship.

A slightly more common view among liberal scholars is that whether or not Jesus and Mary Magdalene were intimate, she was as important as Peter. In fact, they say, Mary Magdalene was an apostle, but her story was suppressed by early church fathers who excised the Gospel of Mary from the Bible in the 5th century.

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