Was Jesus Really Married to Mary Magdalene?
The Da Vinci Code’s Plot Hinges on This Very Question.
But What Does the Bible Have to Say?
by Philip Neal
Millions are intrigued by The Da Vinci Code’s sensational claim that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and fathered a child by her. Thinking Bible students, however, should be able to see right through this sham—as well as other falsehoods promulgated by author Dan Brown. Far from being based on provable fact, The Da Vinci Code is a mixture of Gnostic heresy and medieval folklore—blasphemy in the form of a romantic thriller.
Like the novel—which has sold over 60 million copies worldwide—the recent movie version combines history, conspiracy, drama and romance in an attempt to remake the Jesus of the Bible. Brown’s “Jesus” was just a man—a teacher, or a prophet at best, as opposed to very God in the flesh. Pictured as a false Messiah with political ambitions, Brown claims that Christ was married to Mary Magdalene—a union which resulted in a secret line of “royal” heirs. The Catholic Church is compelled, according to the plot, to hide this reality or risk loss of authority. Thus, the Gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were, according to Brown, adopted by the Orthodox Church as authentic for one reason: To hide the “truth” that Jesus was a mortal feminist who had a sexual partner. Dozens of Gnostic gospels—that supposedly revealed the truth about Jesus—were at the same time rejected and suppressed by Orthodoxy in this alleged, grand cover-up.
But the only cover-up here is Brown’s—as it seems he has succeeded in burying the truth about Jesus under a landslide of satanic deceit and human reasoning.
Brown cleverly takes advantage of the fact that most Christians have, at best, a sketchy view of early Church history and the canonization of the New Testament. Indeed, what makes The Da Vinci Code so dangerous is Brown’s bold claim that the plot is rooted in historical fact. But any mixture of truth and error is, ultimately, error. James Dobson of “Focus on the Family” says Brown’s creation of a “credible sounding” historical framework only serves to blur the line between factual history and sensational fiction. “Throughout The Da Vinci Code, Brown labors tirelessly … to create the illusion of truth. Myth is presented as fact. Actual historical documents are referenced, then misinterpreted. Authoritative-sounding sources are accurately quoted, but their conclusions twisted. All of this results in confusion…” (May 2006 newsletter, page 2).
Thus, the book has not only intrigued readers worldwide, but has raised many questions about the history of early Christianity and the validity of the canonical Gospels. Never has there been so much confusion about Jesus Christ—and The Da Vinci Code only adds to the problem. Sadly, this all points to the failure of established Christianity to teach the truth of the Bible in such a way that its followers are not “tossed and carried about with every wind of doctrine by the sleight of men in cunning craftiness” (Eph. 4:14).
Central to the plot of the book is Brown’s claim that Jesus married Mary Magdalene. In fact, the credibility of the book is based largely on this one point. Thus, if it can be proven from Scripture that this simply was not the case—that Jesus could never have married Mary Magdalene or any other woman—then the entire book stands exposed as a fraud.
Brown’s assertion concerning Jesus’ alleged marriage is based solely on passages from two Gnostic gospels—the Gospel of Philip and the Gospel of Mary Magdalene (both written at least a hundred years after Christ’s death). According to Brown, the Gospel of Philip claims that Jesus kissed Mary on the lips in a romantic manner. However, what Brown fails to mention is that the actual portion of the manuscript in question is badly decayed, with missing pieces—so it is not known exactly how Jesus kissed her. Undoubtedly this was a simple kiss on the cheek—a common Jewish greeting at the time (I Cor. 16:20), often called the “kiss of fellowship.”
Both “gospels” supposedly contain remarks suggesting that Jesus had a special relationship with Mary, that He loved her more than all the other disciples, and that Jesus called Mary his “companion.” It should be noted, however, that these Gnostic texts were written in Coptic. It is generally agreed that Christ spoke Aramaic, in which the word for “companion” decidedly does not mean, “spouse.” When taken in context, such passages show, at most, that Jesus deeply appreciated Mary’s wisdom, faithfulness and friendship. Anything more is simply “reading into” the text meanings that are clearly absent.
Moreover, virtually all scholars question the veracity of such non-canonical “gospels,” considering them to be of little value when it comes to shedding light on the historical Jesus. Such texts were written one or two centuries after Christ’s death—long after the biblical canon was completed by the apostle John. In contrast, the four Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life were all written in the first century by those who personally knew Christ. Their accuracy and genuineness are without question.
Why Jesus Could Never Have Married
The fact is, there is no mention whatsoever in any historical writing or in any passage of Scripture of Christ ever having had a wife—at least not in the commonly understood sense. Jesus was, however, as the God of the Old Covenant, married to the nation of Israel—for Christ was the One who created all things (John 1:3, Eph. 3:9, Col. 1:16, Heb. 1:2, etc.), and “was made flesh” to dwell among men (John 1:1-14). Notice what God—the One who became Jesus—told Israel: “Turn, O backsliding children [of Israel] … for I am married unto you….” (Jer. 3:14)—and “your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is His name…” (Isa. 54:5). In time, however, because of Israel’s unfaithfulness, God was forced to “put her away” giving “her a bill of divorce” (Jer. 3:8).
Even while “separated” from Israel, Christ remained faithful in His marriage covenant, still bound by the law to Israel. According to Romans 7, “the woman who is married is bound by [the] law to the husband as long as he is living; but if the husband should die, she is released from the law that bound her to the husband” (verse 2)—and is free to remarry. Likewise, the husband is also released in death from his marriage to the woman. Thus, Christ was released through His own death from His marriage to Israel, making Him free to marry New Covenant “Israel”—the Church.
The apostle Paul said that he had “espoused” the Church to “one husband,” and looked forward to presenting her “as a chaste virgin to Christ” (II Cor. 11:2). He also wrote, “For this reason shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined to his wife; and the two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery; but I am speaking in respect to Christ and the church” (Eph. 5:31-32). Continuing in Romans 7, Paul says that Christians have been “made dead to the marriage law of the Old Covenant by the [sacrifice of the] body of Christ in order … to be married to another, Who was raised from the dead…” (verse 4).
Revelation 19:7-9 foretells of Christ’s future marriage to the Church at His return. “Let us be glad and shout with joy; and let us give glory to Him; for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready” (verse 7).
Clearly, Jesus was already married when He walked this earth as a human, and could never have married any woman, let alone Mary Magdalene. And even if Christ had been free to marry Mary Magdalene, it would have been impossible—for Jesus was already destined to marry the Church. Christ was always faithful to His Father’s will—remaining pure and sinless (II Cor. 5:21, I Pet. 2:22), “that the world might be saved through Him” (John 3:16-17).
Mary Magdalene is mentioned 12 times in the gospel accounts. The only thing we really know about her is that Christ cast seven demons out of her, that she faithfully followed Jesus, that she was involved in His burial, and that she was the first person to see the risen Christ. Popular claims that Mary was a prostitute are baseless speculation. It is worth noting, however, that if Mary had ever been married and was divorced or widowed—or if she simply was not a virgin—then Christ could never have married her. The reason is that Christ was called to be our heavenly High Priest (see Heb. 3:1; 4:14-15; 5:5, 10; 6:20; 8:1; 9:11, 25; and 10:21). According to Leviticus 21:13-14, the High Priest could only take a virgin as a wife—and God is bound by His own laws. This law, of course, is prophetic in nature, pointing to the fact that the Church will be “a chaste virgin” in her marriage to Christ (see II Cor. 11:2 and Rev. 14:4).
Another point to consider: Just before His death, Jesus made it clear that John, His closest disciple, was to care for His mother, Mary. “Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold your mother.’ And from that time, the disciple took her into his own home” (John 19:26-27). This begs the question: If Christ had been married to Mary Magdalene, why did He not make similar arrangements for her (and their alleged child) to be cared for after His death? Obviously, the answer is that Jesus and Mary were never married.
Brown’s claim that Jesus married Mary Magdalene is clearly fraudulent—thus, the entire backdrop to the novel collapses and The Da Vinci Code stands exposed as a fabrication.
As a re-mix of age-old heresies, Brown’s novel is an intentional, well-planned attack on the Christian faith. As such, it represents a very real danger to non-believers as well as to those young and inexperience in the faith. It must be emphasized, however, that the widespread popularity of The Da Vinci Code is due in no small part to the failure of mainstream Christianity to provide its adherents with a solid biblical foundation from which to repel such assaults. Instead, an ever-changing counter-culture is rapidly invading today’s “Christianity”—one that is turned off by commitment, ideals and absolutes, while finding fascination with titillating spiritual issues (such as provided by Brown). Religion is rapidly becoming a la carte—where one can “pick and mix” his or her own feel-good brand.
Like Israel of old, we too want our teachers to “speak to us smooth things” (Isa. 30:9-10) that fit neatly into our comfort zones. Unwilling to hear “sound doctrine,” we look to those who can satisfy our “itching ears” (see II Tim. 4:3).
Indeed, Dan Brown has found fertile ground for his controversial novel.
The Da Vinci Code is but the latest effort in the ongoing satanic plot to undermine the truth. There will be many more. Like never before, the time has come for true Christians everywhere to “fervently fight for the faith, which once for all time has been delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).