100 Answers in 100 Days

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Sharing answers to the various questions of faith I have faced, and which others have been challenged with also.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

#71: Was Jesus married?

The idea that Jesus was married has become popular since the release of Dan Brown's book, The DaVinci Code. Since it has to do with the history of Jesus Christ, Christians are necessarily interested to investigate this claim. What the book suggests is that throughout history there has been a cover-up of the fact that Jesus Christ was married, and the motivation for this cover-up was to maintain that Jesus Christ is divine. Could this be true, and what does this mean for Christianity?

I suppose the most clear reason why we don't believe that Jesus was married is because of it's stark omission from the Biblical narrative we have. This is where Dan Brown wants to suggest that its omission is part of the cover-up, and that there were other gospels which were rejected from the canon of Scripture which do imply Jesus' marriage to Mary Magdalene. One of these is the Gospel of Philip, which calls Mary “Jesus' companion”, and tells us that Jesus often kissed her on the mouth. But even if “companion” meant “wife” and not “friend”, and even if the kiss were sexual rather than part of common custom, (which kisses were, as a form of greeting), the gospel of Philip is not an authoritative Christian text. The reason such a gospel is not part of the canon is because it contradicts the Christian faith. How so? We might wonder how it's possible to say this when the texts that make up the Bible define the Christian faith in the first place. That's true; and so we expect no contradiction between texts, which there would be if we included the Gospel of Philip. The Gospel of Philip was not written by Philip the disciple, or even in the first century during the lifetime of Philip the disciple. It was written by a Gnostic writer; Gnosticism being a cult all of its own, and anti-Christian. It denies the divinity of Christ which the four gospels affirm.

Through the story of the DaVinci Code, people are led to doubt the authority of Scripture, being told that other texts, like the Gospel of Philip, might have been just as valid as the four gospels we have. And worse than that, it tells us that we've been kept from the “real truth” by the suppression of these other gospels and such. People want to buy into it because they don't want to feel deceived. But this completely undermines the sovereignty of God! Let's understand that God is able to preserve His Word; His message of salvation to mankind. No one who tried to bury it would succeed. In fact, as we read the gospels and the New Testament, people did try to prevent the preaching of the gospel that we have, and they did not succeed. The New Testament canon stands because God has protected it. Dan Brown's book suggests that the canon of the New Testament was decided upon at the council of Nicaea in 325 A.D, and that the four gospels were chosen from amongst 80 alternatives. But this isn't true; the earliest record of the 27 books of the New Testament is found in the Muratorian Fragment, dated to be from around 170 A.D. Dan Brown also claims that the doctrine of Christ's divinity wasn't invented until Constantine. But this seems ridiculous since we find this doctrine in the four gospels, and we know at the very least that they existed prior to 170 A.D. from the Muratorian Fragment. (Of course, dating of the four gospels is far more advanced than that, and we know that all of the gospels were completed by 100 A.D.) Part of what Dan Brown is trying to do is to get people to doubt the validity of the gospels. Now, it's a good thing not to blindly accept what you're told, even by the Church. But it works the other way too; let's not blindly accept what we're told by Dan Brown, either.

Dan Brown attacks the divinity of Christ, not in saying that Christ was married, but in saying that the doctrine of Christ's divinity was invented by the Church. If Christ was married, the implications for His divinity are minimal. To be married is not a sin; Christ would still be sinless. Perhaps the idea that marriage would defile Christ comes from notions surrounding the reason for a virgin birth, and notions of a sinful nature of sex which come from that; where some say that Mary had to be a virgin for Christ to be sinless. But that doesn't follow, since Mary herself was a sinner and Jesus would have inherited her DNA. (We cannot deny that He did, since I think that denies His humanity.) The reason for the virgin birth is, I think, simply a miraculous sign to show that Jesus is both God and man, and we don't need to conclude that it was necessary for that to be true.

Just about every miracle that Jesus performed had some meaning to teach us something about Himself. He didn't just turn water into wine in order to impress people, or heal the blind because He could. These things were done to the physical things of this world to teach us about what Christ is able to do with the spiritual things of this world. He gives us “eyes to see”; that is, He opens up our understanding of who God is. Much of the Bible is like this, where things have a symbolic meaning. Marriage is one of those things. The Church, for example, is called “The Bride of Christ” to teach us about the kind of relationship Christ has with His people, the Church. If much of what Christ did was symbolic, then His marriage to a woman like Mary would have been used to teach spiritual truths to us. It seems unthinkable to me that with marriage being so strong a metaphor as it is in the Bible, that if Jesus' was actually married, this relationship would have been referred to over and over throughout the New Testament.

Until tomorrow...
I feel a divine jealousy for you, for I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. (2 Corinthians 11:2)

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