The Quest for the Historical Jesus Part 2 - Was Jesus Married?

by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

The Bible and the Christian faith are under extreme attack. The following, excerpted from an article by BJ published in the Journal of Biblical Apologetics, deals with yet another attempt to undermine historical Christianity.

A contemporary allegation that has been circulating is the notion that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and that she became pregnant with His child.

The Jesus bloodline theory is rooted in historical fiction. There is absolutely no historical evidence (biblical or extrabiblical) that supports the idea that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene.

The only sources that people who hold to this theory can appeal to are the Gnostic gospels. However, beyond the fact that the Gnostic gospels are not trustworthy documents on the life of Jesus, they nowhere claim that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene.

The following are two historical reasons which clearly point to the conclusion that Jesus was not married:

1) Celibacy was not forbidden in Jewish culture.

It is asserted by proponents of the Jesus blood line theory that Jesus was married because celibacy was forbidden in the Jewish culture. However, while it is the case that marriage was the norm, it is not the case that celibacy was forbidden.

For example, there are Jeremiah and Elijah in the Old Testament, and John the Baptist, and perhaps Paul (1 Corinthians 7:8), in the New Testament, who lived celibate lives. In addition, the Jewish historian Josephus records in his writings that celibacy was practiced by the Essenes of the Dead Sea community at Qumran. Josephus mentions that one of the distinguishing marks of the Essenes was that they "neglected wedlock" in their attempt to conquer their passions.

2) The Bible nowhere indicates that Jesus was married.

The earliest documents that we have on the life of Jesus (canonical Gospels), and some of the earliest documents on early Christianity (Pauline epistles), make no mention that Jesus was married. This is important to keep in mind because there are several places in the Bible that, if Jesus were married, one would expect the authors to make reference to this marriage.

Consider the following two examples: First, in John chapter 19, while Jesus is on the cross, He asks His disciple John to take care of His mother:

Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, "Woman, behold your son!" Then He said to the disciple, "Behold your mother!" And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home. (John 19:25-27).

If Jesus was married, then this passage raises some perplexing questions. Why did the author, John, not identify Mary Magdalene as Jesus' wife when he identifies the relationship between Jesus and the other two women in the passage?

If Mary Magdalene was His wife, then following His crucifixion, why did Jesus not make arrangements for her when He made arrangements for His mother?

There is no reasonable answer to these questions other than to accept the fact that Jesus was not married.

Second, in 1 Corinthians 9:5 Paul defends his right to have a wife (which it appears that he never acted upon):

Do we have no right to take along a believing wife, as do also the other apostles, the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas?

Now if Jesus were married, then certainly Paul would have cited Jesus as his example rather than the apostles.

What greater appeal could Paul have made to validate his right to marry then the fact that Jesus was married. However, Paul makes no mention of Jesus being married, and as historian Paul Maier notes, "First Corinthians 9:5 is the graveyard of the married-Jesus fiction."

Once again we have found another contemporary allegation that is rooted in pseudohistorical fiction.