Why is the Supposed Marriage of Jesus Such a Big Deal These Days? Part 2

Last Friday, I began suggesting several answers to the question: Why is the supposed marriage of Jesus such a big deal these days? So far, I’ve offered three options:

1. The Marriage of Jesus is a Big Deal Because of The Da Vinci Code
2. The Marriage of Jesus is a Big Deal Because It Appears to Undermine Orthodox Christianity
3. The Marriage of Jesus is a Big Deal Because It Appears to Raise the Status of Women

Today, I’ll finish up for now by suggesting three more reasons why there is so much hubbub surrounding the supposed marriage of Jesus.

4. The Marriage of Jesus is a Big Deal Because It Seems to Affirm Human Sexuality

If Jesus was literally married to some woman, whether Mary Magdalene or some other person, then we would assume he was sexually intimate with this person. For many people today, this is part of the excitement (and scandal) of the married Jesus. If Jesus had a wife, then sexuality gets an ethical and theological promotion.

To be sure, some Christians associate all sexuality with sin. This is one main reason they cannot tolerate the idea of a married Jesus. The fact that God created sex as something good, something to be shared between a man and woman as they become “one flesh,” something that enables humankind to be literally fruitful and multiplying, is forgotten. But, we are told, the marriage of Jesus endorses sexual intimacy. It seems to correct an error in the thinking of many Christians.

I can understand this perspective. What I find odd, however, is that the “married Jesus” perspective seems to have thrived, if it thrived at all, among Gnostic Christians who actually minimized the value of fleshly existence. They prized the spirit and ignored or denigrated the flesh. Thus, those who might have believed that Jesus was actually married and sexually active held a view of human life that undermines a healthy, holy sexuality. If you’re looking for positive affirmations of human sexuality, you’d be much better off with the Bible than with Gnostic speculations.

5. The Marriage of Jesus is a Big Deal Because It Appears to Make Jesus More Human

Small sculpture of Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. In the wall of the garden near the Church of All Nations in Jerusalem. In my opinion, this sculpture depicts a very human Jesus.

Eight years ago, in response to the popularity of Dan Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code, I wrote an online article called Was Jesus Married? A Careful Look at the Real Evidence. I concluded that the historical evidence for the marriage of Jesus was virtually non-existent. (In fact, if the Gospel of Jesus’s Wife is authentic, it supplies the only piece of clear ancient historical evidence for a wife of Jesus other than a circumstantial argument based on the incorrect assertion that all Jewish men in Jesus’ day were married. Of course, the actual evidence from the fragment of this “gospel” amounts to just a tiny bit more than zero, so I would still say the evidence for the marriage of Jesus is virtually non-existent.)

When I wrote my article on the marriage of Jesus, I never anticipated the responses I would get from dozens of people. Through comments left on my blog or through emails, readers let me know how much it meant to them to think of Jesus as married. Almost always, their main point was that a married Jesus seemed to be a much more human Jesus, a Jesus they could relate to, a Jesus they wanted to know and follow. Many of those who wrote to me were Christians who had envisioned a distant, judgmental, inhuman Jesus before they began to picture him as married. For them, Jesus had been 90% divine and 10% human (at most). A married Jesus balanced the scales, or tilted them in favor of Jesus’ humanity.

I do understand that certain streams of Christian tradition have so emphasized the deity of Christ that his humanity has been lost. The classic formula of “fully God and fully human” may have been affirmed in principle. But, in the faith and piety of some Christians, Jesus is “mostly God and barely human.” This kind of Jesus feels distant, judgmental, and uncaring. Yet, for many whose sense of Jesus obliterates his full humanity, a married Jesus brought him back to earth.

If you know anything about early Christianity, you can identify a giant irony here. The Jesus-with-a-wife tradition seems to have existed among those whose Christianity was Gnostic. The essence of Gnosticism involved a denial of the value of fleshly existence. Salvation was the deliverance of spirit from the prison of flesh. The “Savior” in Gnostic speculation is not fully human at all. In fact, many of the Gnostics claimed that the real Christ was not the Word of God Incarnate, was not truly human, and did not actually die on the cross. These things were just illusions or the actions of an imposter. So, historically speaking, belief in a married Jesus seems to be associated with an understanding of the Savior as not truly and fully human. Those who are drawn to a married Jesus because it makes him seem more human are at odds with those who originally cooked up the story of a married Jesus.

6. The Marriage of Jesus is a Big Deal Because Jesus is a Big Deal

Even in our increasingly secular Western culture, and even in a world of wide religious and philosophical diversity, Jesus is still a big deal. Democrats and Republicans want Jesus on their side. So do Methodists, Mennonites, Mormons, and Muslims. Oh, there may be a few enthusiastic atheists who are done with Jesus, but they are plainly in the minority. Most people still care a whole lot about Jesus, or at least the Jesus of their own imaginations. Thus, if someone comes up with a novel claim about Jesus, especially if that claim seems to contradict classic Christian teaching, then folks get excited. Jesus still has the power to upset the apple cart as well as to sell newspapers and drive up the traffic to your web site.

I expect that, before too long, the tempest associated with the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife will die down. The fragment of this “gospel” may end up being judged by most scholars to be a forgery. But, even if it is seen as authentic, the fragment’s irrelevance will soon overwhelm the hype. Nevertheless, I wonder if there is anything to be learned from this whole discussion of the Gospel of Jesus’s Wife. I’ll share a few thoughts in an upcoming post.

  • B.H. Dyck

    Why are you Jebus fundies so afraid of acknowledging that if your Jesus was a man, as your religion teaches, then he must have had the same bodily functions as any other man. So your Jesus trotted around the ancient Middle East belching, farting, defecating and having erections. And if Jesus had erections, you know what he did with them, right?

    Bwahahahahahahahahahahaahahahahahaahah!!!!!!!

    Picture that the next time your in deep prayer with your savior!!!

  • High Heels

    Men, luckily, don’t walk through life belching, farting and having erections and defecating. Men, or humans in general, and animals either are not lead by those purely physiological things, luckily, their world is not overshadowed by them. And very human men and they can use their minds and bodies very well and have no problems with emotions, etc. You know, there is more in being a man than to belch, fart and defecate. (People do it, so what? why are you making such a big deal?)

    So far the only man I can imagine going arround belching and farting, etc. could be probably only you, as you were the only one who so vividly described it by your failed attempt at sense of humor. Ironically, your “advice” about picturing reminds me of the advice of some frustrated monks in some monastic traditions of the world: they were imagining women as totally physiological beings. Hostile view. You do in your comment exactly the same thing, just with religion. I am not religious, and I have distaste for intolerance in both camps, the non-religious type included.

  • Evan

    Mark,
    I wonder if you might comment on the perspectives in each of the following quotes:
    Mark D. Roberts: “I wrote an online article called ‘Was Jesus Married? A Careful Look at the Real Evidence.’ I concluded that the historical evidence for the marriage of Jesus was virtually non-existent.”
    Today’s AP article: “Christian tradition has long held that Jesus was unmarried, although there is no reliable historical evidence to support that, King said.”
    When I was in higher education, the latter approach was continually used, ie, “Where does it say, ‘I am Luke and I wrote this gospel’ or ‘Jesus was never married’ in the Bible? Where does Jesus say, Quote, ‘I am the Messiah’ Unquote? Those things never appear. They have all been added to ‘Chistianity,’ even though they never appear in ‘the Holy Scriptures.’”
    For me, having to prove a negative for historic persons is pretty shaky logically. Where does it say in any history book,”Winston Churchill was NOT a (fill in the blank)?” Hey, he could have been a murderer, a coed at the University of Kansas… show me where it says he was NOT. I find it totally disingenous, like saying, “Show me in the rules of Monopoly where is says you CANNOT rob the bank. It doesn’t, so robbing the bank is okay.”
    The Establishment Media is treating this as the Ultimate “Gotcha!” Moment, playing by the rules they are setting up. They would never play by those rules regarding people they respect.
    Evan
    (My apologies if the forum software snatches away all my line breaks again.)

  • Rodney Reeves

    How about a 7th reason? It calls into question the celibacy of priests.

  • markdroberts

    Actually, Christians do believe Jesus had the same bodily functions as other men. Not quite sure what led you to believe otherwise.

  • markdroberts

    Indeed. That’s a good one. Thanks.

  • markdroberts

    Yup. Thanks, Evan.

  • http://www.facebook.com/tneah.strobel Tneah Strobel

    Believing that Jesus was married, blows up the whole priest celibacy thing now doesn’t it? God invented sex afterall, Sexual energy is very important part of who we are, when suppressed can lead to horrible things, addictions to porn, and other awful things I need not mention.
    Jesus was human, a great teacher like Buddha, Krishna…why would any of them reject sexual energy? The Catholic church is a business, a huge money maker, like alot of “religions”. It thrives by keeping their members guilty and weaving mystical stories which we all love to hear. Jesus told us in scripture (written by man), “The kingdom of God is within each and everyone of you”, therefore looking outside yourself to find this place called heaven and redemption is ridiculous. But then again, that would mean taking responsibility for your actions, something most of us hate to do. I could go on and on. But I will spare you all. Thanks for letting me vent.


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