Monday, March 20, 2006

Davinci Decoded: Part 2 -- Was Jesus Married With Children?

Last week, I took some time to introduce you to DVC, to summarize the plot and give a little background on it, and to deal with a few of the historical elements that are unrelated to Christian theology, such as the artwork of Leonardo da Vinci, the Priory of Sion, and Opus Dei. In that study I listed several questions that DVC raises that we must deal with, for the strength of our own faith, and in order to defend the faith when we are questioned by those who are persuaded by DVC’s claims.
One of the foundational premises of the book is that secret documents which have been hidden for centuries affirm that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, and the two of them had a daughter named Sarah. According to this information, after the crucifixion, Mary and Sarah slipped away into hiding in France. And it is this information that we want to consider tonight, as we deal with the question, “Was Jesus married with children?”
The primary historical scholar in the cast DVC’s characters is Leigh Teabing. On page 245, Teabing explains, “The marriage of Jesus and Mary Magdalene is a part of the historical record. … Moreover, Jesus as a married man makes infinitely more sense than our standard biblical view of Jesus as a bachelor.”
The book’s leading lady, Sophie Neveu, asks, “Why?” Teabing replies, “Because Jesus was a Jew, … and the social decorum during that time virtually forbid a Jewish man to be unmarried. According to Jewish custom, celibacy was condemned, and the obligation for a Jewish father was to find a suitable wife for his son. If Jesus were not married, at least one of the Bible’s gospels would have mentioned it and offered some explanation for His unnatural state of bachelorhood.”
A few pages later, Teabing adds, “Behold … the greatest cover-up in human history. Not only was Jesus Christ married, but He was a father” (249). He goes on to say, “The royal bloodline of Jesus Christ has been chronicled in exhaustive detail by scores of historians” (253).
Now, from all those quotations, several specific claims can be drawn. The DVC is declaring:
Jesus’ marriage to Mary Magdalene and their having a child is a part of the historical record. All of this has been chronicled in exhaustive detail by scores of historians.
A married Jesus makes more sense than a single Jesus because Jewish men of Jesus’ day had to marry under social customs.
If Jesus was NOT married, one of the gospels would have told us.
I want to examine each of these claims to determine whether they are true or not.
Concerning the claim that Jesus’ marriage is part of the historical record, I couldn’t help chuckling at the comment made by liberal scholar John Dominic Crossan: “There is an ancient and venerable principle of biblical exegesis which states that if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it must be a camel in disguise.”
What in the world does that mean? He goes on to explain, “There is no evidence that Jesus was married (looks like a duck), multiple indications that he was not (walks like a duck), and no early texts suggesting wife or children (quacks like a duck) . . . So he must be an incognito bridegroom (camel in disguise)” (Bock 31-32).
One reason why I thought that was so funny was not just because of his sarcasm, but because I don’t think John Dominic Crossan has ever said anything I agreed with. But I agreed with this. It is absolutely foolish to suggest that historical evidence points to a married Jesus. This is one of the very few things that both liberal and conservative scholars have ever agreed on.
We have to wonder what historical record is Dan Brown drawing from where this marriage of Jesus becomes so evident? Brown relies on two primary sources.
Even though the media has treated Brown as a historian and a scholar, Brown himself claims to be neither. Dan Brown was interviewed on the Today Show by Matt Lauer. Lauer asked him, “How much of this is based on reality in terms of things that actually occurred? ….” Brown replied, “Absolutely all of it ….” When Lauer asked if Brown had interviewed a lot of historians, Brown said, “My—well, I’m very fortunate. I married an art historian who, you know, with whom I travel, and we have a great time.”
Brown’s historical record consists of two elements.
1) Contemporary books based on hoaxes, conspiracy theories, and modern legends, fables, and myths.
2) The writings of the gnostics, a second-century cult of mystics.
Let’s consider for a moment the claim by Brown and his characters that this information is “chronicled in exhaustive detail by scores of historians” (p253). One would think that he could provide some heavy-hitting historical works to back up this claim, but instead all we get are these books:
Holy Blood, Holy Grail by Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln
The Woman with the Alabaster Jar by Margaret Starbird
The Goddess in the Gospels also by Starbird
The Templar Revelation by Picknett and Prince
However, you as a reader may not be aware that he has yet to name a single reputable historian. Baigent has an undergraduate degree in psychology, and has yet to finish his Master of Arts in Mysticism and Religious Experience. Leigh is a novelist and short-story writer. Lincoln is a television personality and scriptwriter with BBC. We discussed at some length in our last study how Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln’s book was based primarily on the information provided to them by Pierre Plantard, who confessed under oath that the Priory of Sion was a hoax, and who was determined by court of law to be a “crank” and was warned against “playing games.”
Picknett and Prince are conspiracy theorists who write primarily about the occult, the paranormal and UFOs (Abanes 41-42). Their book The Stargate Conspiracy deals with a major conspiracy involving extraterrestrials, the CIA, British intelligence, ancient Egyptians, and assorted world leaders. Margaret Starbird holds a Master of Arts degree in comparative literature and German.
To understand the folly of calling these sources “historical,” let me shara a few comments on Margaret Starbird, drawn from Sandra Miesel and Carl Olson’s book Da Vinci Hoax. And understand, these are not ad hominem attacks. They are critiques of her historical method.
First, Starbird explains in her book The Woman with the Alabaster Jar that her methodology is “Where there is smoke there is fire.” She says that there must be some truth to these theories about Jesus and Mary Magdalene, otherwise, why would such movies as “Godspell, Jesus Christ Superstar, and The Last Temptation of Christ depict the relationship of Jesus and Mary Magdalene as on of special intimacy and significance?” So you understand, she has turned these three films, all made within the last 35 years, into historical evidence. This is just utter nonsense. Ignoring mountains of historical evidence to the contrary, she builds her theory on pop-culture movies.
But perhaps worse than this is her circular reasoning in admitting the influence of Holy Blood, Holy Grail in her thinking. She left orthodox Christianity after reading that book and said, “The more deeply involved I became with the material, the more obvious it became that there was real substance in the theories.” So she believes the theories because that book says that we should believe its theories. The problem is that we have already discredited that book as a historical source by exposing the fraud of Pierre Plantard last week, and by demonstrating that none of its authors are qualified historians.
Remember, we said that Brown bases his book on two historical sources. The first was what we called contemporary books based on hoaxes, conspiracy theories, and modern legends, fables, and myths. Hopefully we are able to see know that this is no history at all, and these sources are not reliable.
We move to the second element in Brown’s so called “historical record,” and find that it is no more stable than the first. He points to material in the writings that have come to be known as “The Gnostic Gospels,” or the “Nag Hammadi Library.”
The Gnostics were a broadly diverse group of mystic, Greek-thinking religionists who became influential in the second-century, even among Christians. The word gnosis means knowledge. The Gnostics thought that they had gained a special level of enlightenment toward spiritual truths. They devalued the material world and emphasized the invisible, ethereal spirit world.
In the mid-1940s, near the city of Nag Hammadi in Upper Egypt, a collection of 52 writings was found in a jar. These texts date back to the 4th Century, but are copies of texts believed by most historians to have originated in the 2nd and 3rd Centuries. These are the writings that Dan Brown looks to for verification of his theories.
On page 246 of DVC, the historical expert Leigh Teabing shares a passage of the Nag Hammadi text known as the Gospel of Philip. Sophie Neveu reads the passage:
“And the companion of the Saviour is Mary Magdalene. Christ loved her more than all the disciples and used to kiss her on her mouth. The rest of the disciples were offended by it and expressed disapproval. They said to him, ‘Why do you love her more than all of us?’”
Teabing says to her after she reads it, “As any Aramaic scholar will tell you, the word companion, in those days, literally meant spouse.”
Unfortunately for Dan Brown, the Nag Hammadi texts are not written in Aramaic. They are written in Coptic, a form of Egyptian, and they have been translated, not from Aramaic but from Greek. Add to this what Craig Blomberg of Denver Seminary says, “No Aramaic or Hebrew words for ‘companion’ normally mean spouse!” Margaret Mitchell of the University of Chicago says that Brown is using “a shaky translation” of a word that “is usually translated as friend or companion.” (Abanes 39).
If that isn’t bad enough, consider this:
The real Nag Hammadi text of the Gospel of Philip is torn and tattered. There are holes in the text at some crucial points, so really, all we know it says is this:
And the companion of the […] Mary Magdalene. [… ] her more than […] the disciples […] kiss her […] on her […].
You tell me: Is this enough to build this theory on? Brown claims that a historical record exists to support the theory of Jesus’ marriage to Mary Magdalene, which has been chronicled in exhaustive detail by scores of historians. Well, we have weighed his sources and found them wanting. Thus, the claim that this is based on real history is dubious, to be kind about it. It is moreover an outright farce.
According to Brown’s characters, a married Jesus just makes more sense than a single one. After all, Jewish custom practically demands it of him.
Here again, Brown just fails to accurately reflect the facts. While marriage was by far the choice of most Jewish men, it is unfair to say that celibacy was culturally forbidden. The Essenes were a Jewish sect who were very pious and devoted to the Old Testament Scriptures and to genuine faith in God. Josephus is a name that should be familiar to those of us who studied the Got Life evangelism material earlier in the year. He was a first-century Jewish historian. In his Antiquities of the Jews, Josephus writes, ““There are about four thousand men that live in this way, and neither marry wives, nor are desirous to keep servants … but they live by themselves, they minister to one another.”
So here is a group of Jewish men, who for spiritual purposes, reject marriage and remain celibate, in pursuit of and devotion to God. And they were not shunned by society. Josephus said of them that they deserve admiration, and “they exceed all other men that addict themselves to virtue, and this in righteousness; and indeed to such a degree that as it has never appeared among any other man.”
I would also say that Jesus was never one to bend to accommodate social traditions anyway. The entire Sermon on the Mount contrasts the cultural thinking of his day. So, forget what we know about the Essenes or others who were likeminded with them – Jesus never claimed to come to fulfill society’s norms. He came to fulfill the Word of God. And there is nothing in it which would have forbidden Him from being single. So, claim number 2 of DVC is busted.
Brown’s characters tell us that, if Jesus had been single, the gospels would have told us. This is what is called an argument from silence, and they are especially dangerous. You can make these kind of arguments about anything, with absolutely no evidence at all. I could say, “I think Brad Smith robbed Wachovia bank last week.” If you ask me why, I would say, “Well, Wachovia bank was robbed, and Brad didn’t say that he DIDN’T do it, so he must have done it.” That would be a ridiculous claim to make, but that is exactly what Brown wants to do with this third claim.
Let’s look at what the Gospels and the rest of the NT tell us about Jesus and marriage.
In Matthew 19:3-15 (I encourage you to read the passage), Jesus speaks of marriage and children. In this passage what we find is that Jesus affirms marriage and speaks strongly to it, while also affirming celibacy for Kingdom purposes. Immediately here, Jesus also affirms children.
The Apostle Paul, who was not married (1 Cor 7:1-7), nonetheless explains in 1 Corinthians 9:5 that he has a right to take a wife. In making that case, he points to the fact that “the rest of the apostles and the brothers of the Lord” have wives. And he names Peter specifically. We know that Peter had a wife, because Peter had a mother-in-law. We know that because Jesus healed her in Matthew 8.
Now, here is my point. If Jesus had been married, Paul could have saved this entire argument by saying, “Hey, why can’t I be married? Jesus was!” But although he refers to Peter and the rest of the apostles and the brothers of Jesus, he does not mention Jesus. Now here is where we turn Brown’s argument on its head – If Jesus had been married, Paul most certainly would have told us here. It would have made his case irrefutable. So, here, I believe we have debunked the third claim concerning Jesus being married with children.
Now I want to conclude by asking a difficult question – one that some Christians don’t have the spiritual guts to wrestle with. Could Jesus have been married? Could Jesus have had children? Here we are not asking “did He?” but “could He?” Would it diminish our view of Jesus in any way if He were married with children?
This is a theoretical question. There have been speculations on both sides of this question. Fortunately for us, He didn’t marry so we don’t have to come up with an answer to this question. However, let me just think out loud with you about few ideas.
We believe that He was absolutely divine, fully God; but we also affirm that He was fully human. He is absolutely and completely God, but at the very same tame, absolutely and completely man. This is the mystery of the Incarnation – the hypostatic union – not half man, half God, but all man and all God. He ate, thirsted, slept, tired, lived, and died – all very human things. So, marriage would not make us see Him as more human than divine. He is already completely and perfectly both. The Scriptures and Christian theology have a high view of marriage, and it would not diminish Christ’s character if He had been married. Therefore, if Jesus had been married I see no need for there to have been an elaborate cover-up. Why not acknowledge it and celebrate it? I do see a few problems that might need to be addressed in this question, which would require more time than we can give it here and now. Just a few of those questions would be: What position or authority would His wife have under God or over the church? What would be the nature of His child? Would that child have a divine nature like He did? These questions would have to be wrestled with if Jesus had married and had children. But the facts are in. He didn’t. Perhaps He could have, but He didn’t.
The Bible speaks of the presence of Jesus at two different weddings. The writers of Holy Blood, Holy Grail say that the wedding at Cana of Galilee in John 2 is the wedding of Jesus to Mary Magdalene (p331-333). We know that this wedding was the site of Jesus’ first public miracle, but was it really his own wedding?
Consider this:
If this was Jesus’ wedding, verses 1 and 2 don’t make much sense. I was certainly glad that I was invited to my own wedding. Also notice in verse 3 how Mary (the mother of Jesus, not Mary Magdalene) says, “they have no wine.” Obviously, since the groom’s family was responsible for planning these festivities, Mary would not use the third person “they” to refer to herself and Jesus if this was His own wedding. Additionally, how can we make sense of Jesus’ statement in v4 if this is His own wedding? Then notice how in v9-10, the head waiter does not call Jesus aside to speak about the wine, but the bridegroom. And finally notice how in verse 12, Jesus left with His mother, His brothers, and His disciples. Now, how can I say this tastefully? When the reception was over, I can honestly say that I did not give a thought to my mother, my brother, or my friends. All I could think about was getting out of there with my bride.
The suggestion that this is the wedding of Jesus is absolutely ridiculous. But there is another wedding for Jesus that is yet to come.
John 3:29 -
Building with the words of John the Baptist, the NT builds up to that great day when Christ will receive His bride unto Himself.
Jesus Himself spoke of the Kingdom of heaven as a wedding in Matthew 22:1-14.
And as the bride was given time to prepare herself, but never knew when her bridegroom might come, so Jesus gave this warning in Matthew 25:1-13.
The Apostle Paul, in Ephesians 5, speaks of Christ’s husbandly love for His bride, the church.
But as it is now, we are just in that betrothal period. We have received the Holy Spirit as the engagement ring – the earnest – of our marriage to Christ, but the event will take place in heaven. Let’s turn to Revelation 19:7 …
Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready." And it was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. And he said to me, "Write, `Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.'" And he said to me, "These are true words of God."
Was Jesus married? No, but He will be one day when the church is wed to Him for all eternity. Mary Magdalene, myself, and every other born-again believer will be in that number when Christ receives His bride. What about you?


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