What's the Deal with Jesus and Mary Magdalene?
What’s the deal with Jesus? Why are there so many rumors about Jesus and Mary Magdalene?
You might remember the publication of Dan Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code (2003) and the movie of the same name that came out in 2006. They hype surrounding each was immense. Perhaps you read the book and/or saw the movie yourself.
The plot of the novel and movie revolves around the Holy Grail. By the end of the novel and movie it is revealed that the Holy Grail is not a thing, but rather a blood line, namely that of the descendants of Jesus and his wife, Mary Magdalene.
Dan Brown, the author of the novel, based his unique understanding of the Holy Grail on a couple of books published in the late 1990s and early 2000s that claimed that Jesus, far from the orthodox teaching of the Church, had married Mary Magdalene and had children with her. These books claimed that the Church had suppressed the truth about Jesus and Mary so that the priestly hierarch of the Church could maintain its power and riches. Evidence of such suppression is provided by pointing to the gnostic Gospels, books that were in existence in the early centuries of Christianity that purported to give the history of Jesus’ life like the Gospels do. These books did not find their way into the New Testament, were suppressed, and labeled as heretical. A couple of them elude to what might be taken as a love, even marital, relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene.
For example, The Gospel of Philip referred to Mary as the “companion” of Jesus, which some have taken to mean “spouse” and that Jesus loved her more than his Apostles. And in that same document also it is also said that Jesus used to kiss Mary “often on her ____.” Damage to the document destroyed the last word in that sentence, and some have filled in the missing word with “mouth.”
This was the sort of “research” that lay behind the claim that Jesus had married Mary. First, the Gospel of Philip, like many other purported “gospels” from the early centuries of Christianity, were written by and for groups that were on the very fringes of Christianity. These “gospels” aren’t meant to pass on historical information about Jesus (as are the Gospels in the New Testament). Rather, these so-called “gospels” were meant to pass on hidden teachings of Jesus that were purported to unlock spiritual portals that led to spiritual purity and power, which was the main concern of these Gnostic groups.
Documents like The Gospel of Philip were not suppressed from Christianity. That is, they were never accepted as true Gospels by a large number of Christians, and then suppressed by Church authorities in order to preserve power. These documents were never accepted as legitimate Gospels by Christians anywhere. They were only accepted by groups that were never really Christian to begin with.
Furthermore, kissing on the mouth was an accepted form of greeting, even between men, in the ancient world. And there is no compelling reason why “Companion” should be understood to mean “spouse.”
The New Testament presents Mary as someone who had received an exorcism from Jesus and who became one of his early followers. She was one of a group of women, a part of a much larger group of disciples, who followed Jesus in his earthly ministry. She was one of the women who went to Jesus’s tomb early on the first Easter Sunday. The Gospel of John tells us that she was the first of Jesus’s disciples to see the risen Lord on Easter.
As women had virtually no social status in the ancient world apart from the men in their lives, the fact that Mary Magdalene was chosen to be the first witness of the resurrection, and to receive the command from the risen Jesus to go and tell his male apostles about his resurrection, well….that’s a big deal. Jesus, and the early Church, did elevate women high above the usual roles that ancient culture limited them too.
So Jesus and Mary were never married, but Mary was an important member of Jesus’s group of followers.