Solving the Mystery of the Bible's Most Controversial Character, Mary Magdalene
Solving the Mystery of the Bible’s Most Controversial Character, Mary Magdalene

Solving the Mystery of the Bible’s Most Controversial Character, Mary Magdalene

Wyatt Redd - March 17, 2018

Solving the Mystery of the Bible’s Most Controversial Character, Mary Magdalene
Jesus and Mary Magdalene. Pixabay.

The idea that Mary was actually Jesus’ wife really came to widespread public attention with the publication of Dan Brown’s book, The Da Vinci Code. In it, the main character discovers that the Catholic Church has been suppressing the secret that Jesus and Mary Magdalene actually had a family together. But The Da Vinci Code was hardly the first work to explore the idea. The theory of Jesus having secret descendants has a long history. One monk and historian even claimed in the 13th century that the heretical Cathar sect believed something similar.

Most of the evidence for this theory comes from apocryphal texts. In particular, the Gospel of Mary, which probably dates from the third century, and the Gospel of Phillip, probably from the same period, make reference to the special relationship between Mary and Jesus. In the Gospel of Mary, she is described as the disciple that Jesus loved the most. And when Mary first goes to tell the apostles that Jesus appeared to her, they ask why Jesus would appear to a woman instead of them.

But Matthew, one of the apostles replies, “If the Savior made her worthy, who are you to reject her? Surely the Savior knew her very well. For this reason, he loved her more than us.” It’s an interesting suggestion that Jesus and Mary had a more complex relationship than is suggested in the cannon Gospels. If true, and if the other apostles were the authors of the Gospels in the Bible, then it makes sense that they may want to keep the fact that Jesus loved Mary more than them quiet. Of course, this passage doesn’t actually say that Mary was Jesus’s wife. But the Gospel of Phillip just might.

In the Gospel of Phillip, Mary is mentioned as being Jesus’ “companion.” And the word used for “companion” in the original Greek is often used in other places to mean “wife.” It seems like the text is actually saying that Mary and Jesus are married, which has led many people who believe in the theory to latch on to the Gospel of Phillip to support their argument. But there are a few problems with that interpretation. To begin with, the word for “companion” does sometimes mean spouse, but not always. And in other places in Phillip, a different word is used when referring to someone’s wife.

Solving the Mystery of the Bible’s Most Controversial Character, Mary Magdalene
Mary and Jesus after the resurrection. Wikimedia Commons.

So, it seems more likely that Mary is being described as a companion in faith to Jesus, not necessarily his spouse. And while it’s not impossible that this later book is reflecting an accurate tradition that Jesus was married, it seems unlikely that no other works would mention it. Even Phillip itself doesn’t seem to explicitly make that connection. Ultimately, there’s really no hard evidence to suggest that Mary was Jesus’ wife. Instead, she was likely an early and committed follower of Jesus. But the mysterious Mary Magdalene remains one of the most interesting and enigmatic figures in the Bible. And many of the unanswered questions about just who she was will probably remain unanswered for a long time to come.

 

Where did we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“Who Was Mary Magdalene”. James Carroll, Smithsonian Magazine. June 2006.

“What Are The Gospels?”. PBS. April 2018.

“The Gnostic Gospels.” Elaine Pagels, Vintage Books, New York. 1979.

Advertisement