Married with Children? Recent Headlines About Jesus and Mary Magdalene

Lots of people have been sharing the “news” headlines that a Syriac text allegedly reveals that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and had children with her.

The fact that the book these news articles are designed to promote mentions “decoding” an ancient text is the first sign that this is dubious. That the “decoding” will be carried out on a text that has been known for centuries should make you even more suspicious.

The book in question is The Lost Gospel: Decoding the Ancient Text that Reveals Jesus’ Marriage to Mary the Magdalene by Simcha Jacobovici and Barrie Wilson. One of its authors should be familiar to you from previous sensationalist claims – that he had identified the tomb of Jesus with his and his son’s bone box in it, that he has a nail from the crucifixion, and that he has proof of the Exodus.

If one person claims to keep making monumental discoveries, it is fair to hold them to a very high standard of evidence, since they are either absolute genius-level in their field, or they are offering hype without substance.

A Washington Post article claims that the text that the book is referring to is Ecclesiastical History of Zacharias Rhetor. In fact, it is that work’s version of the tale of Joseph and Asenath that is the focus. Apparently  Jacobovici and Wilson are reading that work as though it were about Jesus and Mary.

That’s not a discovery. It is creative reinterpretation.

And so as far as I can tell, there’s nothing here to get excited about.

For more on the texts in question, see Bob Cargill’s post on them from last year.

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  • Jonathan Bernier

    Jacobovici is Canadian. I hang my head in national shame. But seriously: yeah, this is just silliness.

  • Jacobovici ought to know by now that it’s more profitable to release these “revelations” the week before Easter.

  • TomS

    The Wikipeida article “Jesus bloodline” has this as its earliest mention of this legend:

    “The 13th-century Cistercian monk and chronicler Peter of Vaux de Cernay claimed it was part of Catharist belief that the earthly Jesus Christ had a relationship with Mary Magdalene, described as his concubine.[5]”

    So it would be mildly interesting to find a 6th century reference to it. Sort of like finding the etymology of “whole nine yards”. Now, if only the author can find a plausible line of transmission between a speculative reading of 6th century Syriac literature and 13th century Catharists.

    Somehow, I have the feeling that it is supposed to be more interesting than that.

  • John the Pausanias

    I can be more sensational than that! Check this out:

    What if the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus never really happened, but were just invented out of literary models from older Greek and Jewish writing? What if this was done because it was thought the world would be a better place if people believed Jesus died for our sins and rose from the grave?

    Plato writes: “What they will say is this: that such being his disposition the just man will have to endure the lash, the rack, chains, the branding-iron in his eyes, and finally, after every extremity of suffering, he will be crucified, and so will learn his lesson that not to be but to seem just is what we ought to desire …” (Republic 2.361e-2.362a). Maybe this passage in Plato’s Republic inspired the crucifixion story in the New Testament in the same way Psalm 22, Isaiah 53, and the Wisdom of Solomon did by way of haggadic midrash. Maybe the crucifixion and resurrection story about Jesus was one of those noble lies Plato spoke of in the Republic (see Republic Book 3, 414e–15c), told because it would make the world a better place if the masses believed it.

    Plato apparently takes the idea of the noble lie from Euripides’ Bacchae, where Cadmus says “Even though this man (Dionysus) be no God, as you say, still say that he is. Be guilty of a splendid fraud, declaring him the son of Semele, for this would make it seem that she was the mother of a god, and it would confer honour on all our race.” Maybe this is why Christians said Jesus was a God.

    “The noble lie” would fit in with Jewish and Christian theology, where lying and deception were allowed if it served the purpose of God (see Exodus 1:18-20, Joshua 2: 4-6, 1 Kings 15:5, 1 Kings 22:23, 2 Kings 8:10, 1 Samuel 21:2, Jeremiah 4:10, John 7: 8-10, 2 Thessalonians 2:11, James 2:25).

    Maybe a better world was a cause the original Christians would die for, even if they knew Jesus never rose from the dead. Paul would have been part of this conspiracy too, because he was never hunted down by his former employers when he deserted and joined the Christians.

    In my opinion Jacobovici and Wilson are not trying hard enough to be sensational (lol)

    “Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful (Lucius Annaeus Seneca)”

    • It might be worth trying to get a book deal. You could get the best of both worlds by writing this book under a pseudonym, and debunking it using your real name… 🙂

      • John MacDonald

        Anyone can argue one side of an issue. The real money is in arguing both sides of the issue so that your reader has no clue what your position is (lol).

      • John the Pausanias

        Of course the Jesus story was all lies. Religion has always been all lies. Did Muhammad fly off into the sky on a winged horse, or was somebody lying? Did Apollonius of Tyana do all those miracles, or was somebody lying? Did Joseph Smith find golden plates from heaven, or was somebody lying? Did Jesus do all those miracle and rise from the dead, or was somebody lying?

        I want a movie deal (lol)

        • John MacDonald

          That one sentence should have read “Did Jesus do all those miracles and rise from the dead, or was somebody lying?” Sorry. Bad grammar lol.

    • TomS

      That’s too tame. Too “intellectual”.
      What you really need is something that sells.
      Pontius Pilate was Jesus’ father.

  • Bethany

    Sort of like, “Low-overhead index funds, still the best choice!”, “Still no evidence that Jesus was married or had children!”, alas, doesn’t sell books, magazines, or newspapers (to people who still buy newspapers).

  • Ian

    I got as far as “Simcha Jacobovici” groaned, then laughed.

    No Discovery Channel special on this one?