Dr John Dickson

Australian writer, academic, and speaker — public advocate for the Christian Faith

I like the idea of Jesus being married, but not at the expense of all historical reasoning

Honestly, folks, this business about the discovery of a document revealing Jesus' marriage to Mary Magdalene (and their two kids) is so entirely bunkum I feel embarrassed even commenting on it. But since quite a few have asked, I will swallow my pride and say:

1. The document referred to in these claims is NOT a Gospel of any kind and it is NOT even about Jesus. 

2. The document is called Joseph and Aseneth, and is not new. We have 16 manuscript copies of it, and the one in the British Library (in Syriac), from which this claim is made, is listed in all the scholarly literature. 

3. Joseph and Aseneth is a (fictitious) Jewish tale telling of the biblical patriarch Joseph's marriage to the converted Gentile Aseneth.

4. The authors of this new claim are suggesting that this long known Jewish tale is actually 'code' for a life of Jesus, a code no pseudepigrapha scholar has picked up before.

5. Permission for this code-reading is found in what they think are clear Christian phraseology in Joseph and Aseneth: Joseph is called "a son of God" (like many other Jewish figures; and, indeed, in the same text Aseneth is called "daughter of the Most High") and there is a reference to the "bread and cup of life" (which are common enough Jewish phrases).

6. Further permission is found in the covering letter of this Syriac version of Joseph of Aseneth, which speaks of the "hidden meaning" of "our Lord". But that's nuts! It was routine for scribes to read all ancient stories as containing an allegory pointing to the redemptive work of Jesus. They do it with the biblical story of Joseph in Pharaoh's house. They do it with Moses. They do it with David. And so on.

7. To claim that the rollicking Jewish story of Joseph and Aseneth (set in Egypt in the second millennium BC, by the way) is really code for Jesus' ministry in first-century Israel is to engage in pure mischief. All scholars of ancient Judaism know this document. None thinks it is about Jesus. 

8. The principal author, Simcha Jacobovici, a film maker, has form: he was the director of the Lost Tomb of Jesus, a Discovery Channel farce about the claimed discovery of Jesus' tomb!

I quite like the idea of Jesus being married - the New Testament itself celebrates marriage - but not at the expense of all historical reasoning.