In sum, this Huffington post article is an unfortunate exercise in “whack a mole.” It is the same old conspiracy theory of prior generations, fed to a new audience that perhaps wouldn’t know any better. And that is the sad part of this whole story. The average person reading this article will probably accept it as fact. But, despite the bold claims of the article’s title, there are few real facts to be found here.
When I was a kid, I always used to enjoy the “whack a mole” game at the local arcade (yes, we had to go to an “arcade” to play games). You had be quick to win that game. Each time you hit a mole, another would pop up, taking its place.
Of course, that is what made the game both fun and frustrating at the same time. No matter how hard you worked, it always seemed that the moles just wouldn’t go away.
Sometimes it’s like that in the world of biblical scholarship. Theories pop up, are quickly refuted by the academy, and then, just when you think they have gone away, they pop again. Some theories just keep coming back.
In 2003, Dan Brown’s best-selling fictional book The Da Vinci Code raised (again) the idea that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and that this fact had been cleverly suppressed by the church for thousands of years. Apparently it took a fictional author to uncover the “real” truth.
Brown was not the first to make such a claim, of course, but his book gave it new life. At least for a while. But, after a chorus of scholars showed the claim to be (again) without merit, the chatter about Mary Magdalene died down a bit.
But this particular mole will not go away. Filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici wrote an article for the Huffington Post on this very topic entitled, “Jesus’ Marriage to Mary the Magdalene is Fact, not Fiction.“
Now, I am all for bold, catchy titles. But, this one is pretty brash. If you go with a title like this, you had better have the facts to back it up.
But, not surprisingly, there are no new facts presented in Jacobovici’s article. Instead it is a reheated version of the same old material used by Mary Magdalene advocates in prior generations. There are half-truths, arguments from silence, and appeals to conspiracy theories. In the end, it simply doesn’t hold up.
Here is a quick look at some of his arguments:
1. “The fact is that none of the four Gospels say that Jesus was celibate.”
This is a bit of rhetorical slight of hand. Yes, the Gospels do not explicitly say Jesus was celibate. But, Jacobovici overlooks the bigger issue, namely that none of the Gospels, nor any other New Testament documents, nor any other early Christian sources, tell us Jesus was married. None.
Given that historical claims–such as the claim Jesus was married–require actual, positive evidence, this is a noteworthy fact. This is why the best argument Jacobovici can muster is an argument from silence, namely that the Gospels do not state Jesus wasn‘t married.
2. “Rabbis, then as now, are married. If Jesus wasn’t married, someone would have noticed.”
This is simply a rehashed version of Dan Brown’s claim that Jewish men were expected to be married and that celibacy would have been unusual (Da Vinci Code, 245). But, again the facts don’t fit.
Though Jesus was called “Rabbi” by his followers, there is no indication that he held the formal, official office. His followers addressed him as such simply because he was their “teacher.” And we have a number of instances of Jewish men, teachers, and scribes who were single. The Essene community at Qumran, for example, was a group of mostly single, celibate males who were waiting for the kingdom of God to come.
Moreover, there is no evidence that all rabbis were married.