Was Jesus Married?

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

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And that is the idea that "The DaVinci Code" may popularize.

"They didn't attack Mary Magdalene because she was Mrs. Jesus," says liberal scholar John Dominic Crossan. "They attacked her because she was a major leader, that she was up there with Peter and the rest and they fought like hell to put her back down in her place."

Crossan does not believe Jesus was married. In fact, he considers the entire question an insult to Mary Magdalene, because it implies that she is important only through marriage. "To say Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene is a putdown, unless you say she was clearly as important as Peter and that's the reason she's married to Jesus."

Crossan believes, instead, that Jesus wasn't married to anyone-because he was too poor to afford a wife and children.

In any case, many scholars agree that in the 4th Century, around the time Constantine converted to Christianity, church patriarchs began trying to suppress women's leadership roles in the Christian movement. At the Council of Nicea in 325 C.E., convened by Constantine, Jesus' divinity was debated and voted on. Later, as the church evolved, the 27 books of the New Testament were canonized-and the Gospel of Mary and the others were thrown out.

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Liberal scholars say that, among the reasons these other books didn't make it into what is called the "biblical canon" are that they include clear evidence of Mary Magdalene's importance in Jesus' ministry, and that they portray Jesus less as the Son of God and more as a great teacher preaching about an interior spiritual path.

But Bock, a conservative scholar, says there is an even simpler reason the books were axed. "It's a later collection of material, probably belonging to a splinter group of Christians, and therefore isn't very trustworthy," he says.

He also says the theory of Mary Magdalene as a major church leader doesn't hold up. "Anyone who argues that there were women who had a full-orbed ministerial role in the time of Jesus that's equal to the Twelve Apostles is arguing beyond speculation. There's really no basis for it at all. There certainly were women who participated in the earliest church and who were faithful. But the only office women held was deaconess in the early church period. And there is no trace of a ministry of Mary Magdalene in any of the biblical materials."

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