Did Jesus Have a Wife?

A Bible Study by Jack Kelley

Right from the start, the notion of a man also being God was a problem. The Jews wound up executing Jesus for claiming to be God in the flesh, and Gentile cultures had similar difficulties. In Greek thinking, matter (flesh and blood) was inherently evil, while spirit was good, and like water and oil the two simply didn’t mix. God could not become a man, nor man a god.

This unresolved conflict led to the so-called Gnostic Error that denied the deity of Jesus and proposed the acquisition of knowledge (gnosis) as the way to salvation. To Gnostics Jesus, being human and composed of matter, couldn’t be sinless and therefore couldn’t be our Savior, while God being an eternal spirit couldn’t have died for us. There had to be another path to salvation.

The Gnostic Error, already a growing force in Christianity by the end of the First Century, caused three big problems for subsequent generations. It was the seed from which secret societies like Freemasonry sprang, wherein the progressive acquisition of secret knowledge elevated one closer and closer to perfection. It also contaminated early texts like Codex Siniaticus, from which some modern translations of the New Testament are taken, which has the effect of preserving the thought that salvation is a progressive realization rather than a single event. And from this problem of reconciling flesh and spirit first came the notion that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married with kids.

I first heard this idea put forth in an issue of Biblical Archeology Review about 15 years ago, and since then have run across it several times. The movie “The Last Temptation of Christ” hinted at it, and in the Musical “Jesus Christ, Superstar” the composers have Mary singing “I Don’t Know How To Love Him” an obvious reference to her feelings toward Him. But the recent TV special on the DaVinci Code has people thinking about it again. Let’s look at the facts.

By some accounts Mary Magdalene was from a small village called Magdala on the west shore of the Sea of Galilee, north of Tiberius. By others the word Magdalene comes from a root meaning braided hair and hints at her supposed profession, prostitution. This is supported by the reference in Mark that Jesus cast 7 demons out of her (Mark 16:9). Some see her as the sister of Martha while others think the two are different, one being from the Galilee and the other from Bethany on the outskirts of Jerusalem, far to the south.

But all agree she became one of the Lord’s closest followers, probably the only one who really understood His mission, and is likely the sinner who washed His feet with her tears and dried them with her hair at the home of Simon the Pharisee (Luke 7:26-50). She was first to see Him after the Resurrection, and ran to tell the others.

While it’s easy to see the intensity of her devotion to Him and to imagine how she must have felt in her heart, the Bible makes no mention of any romantic relationship between them and certainly not of a marriage and children. But can we take the Bible’s silence in this matter as a denial of the claim?

Here’s where the application of some simple logic can work wonders. Would the Bible, with its emphasis on the sanctity of marriage and the importance of family, have omitted something as significant as the marriage of Jesus in capturing the great events of His life?

And would the Jewish betrothal customs (so predictive of the Second Coming where our Lord takes the Church as His Bride) which required a public commitment ceremony followed by a year of very limited and closely chaperoned visitation have been ignored and in fact violated by the One Who ordained them?

And how about this? Jesus came to be our High Priest. The Law forbids a priest from marrying a woman who isn’t a virgin unless she’s the widow of another priest. The High Priest couldn’t marry a non-priestly widow and was specifically forbidden from marrying a prostitute. (Lev 21:13-14) Jesus said He didn’t come to abolish the Law but to fulfill it.

In Genesis 6 the Bible says that one reason for the Great Flood was to judge those from the angelic host who took on the appearance of men, married human women and produced children contaminating the human gene pool. Would a Righteous and Just God now take this privilege for Himself while holding those others in chains for judgment? Think about it!

But most importantly would God, who became man to offer His sinless life as a ransom for the sins of humanity, have permitted His mission to be destroyed and mankind to be lost by falling into sin Himself? The reason for the restrictive betrothal customs was to keep the couple from yielding to temptation. Remember any sex outside of marriage was punishable by death in those days, and the Lord himself cautioned us that even lustful thoughts render us guilty (Matt 5:28). His own Law required the shedding of innocent blood as the only acceptable sacrifice for sin. In order to be our Savior, He had to remain sinless in thought, word, and deed.

Proponents of this theory are trying to portray Jesus as a mere man. Could a man, in love with a beautiful woman, prevent even one lustful thought from entering his mind? And if his betrothed was a former prostitute could he prevent anger and jealousy from ever raising their ugly heads as well? It doesn’t make sense!

Clearly this notion of a relationship between Mary and Jesus violates both the letter and the spirit of the Law. It’s the work of unbelievers who are themselves ignorant of Biblical truth and rely on the ignorance of others for their acceptance.

And behind the scene just beyond the limit of our vision stands the Great Deceiver preying on those ignorant souls, using them to distort and pervert the Word of God in his frantic attempt to render humanity hopeless and helpless, portraying our only Savior as having disqualified Himself to redeem us.

These attempts will become more and more persuasive as the time draws closer. Let this serve as a warning, that we must know what we believe and why to withstand these attacks on our faith.