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  • Don Walker

Mary Magdalene: Hooker or Jesus' Wife?


In his novel, The Da Vinci Code, author Dan Brown asserts based upon what he claims are "historical facts," the idea that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene. For some time the possibility of Jesus having been married has been a source of speculation by biblical revisionists and conspiracy theorists. The major argument put forth is that the Bible never actually says that Jesus was not married, and that it would unusual in that day for a Jewish man to have been single. (It should be noted that apparently the major source for The Da Vinci Code is the controversial 1982 book entitled, Holy Blood, Holy Grail, a work that blends history and speculation. This book suggested that the Wedding at Cana was Jesus’ own wedding.)

The biblical scholar Ben Witherington III states that Mary (Hebrew – Miriam) Magdalene’s importance among Jesus’ disciples is clear, but asserts that there is “absolutely no early historical evidence that Miriam’s relationship was anything other than that of a disciple to her Master teacher.” It has been argued that Mary Magdalene was more of a significant figure in the early days of Christianity than the place normally afforded her. Some sources state that she was referred to as an “apostle to the apostles.” Darrell Bock, research professor of New Testament studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, says, “When the early church called Mary an ‘apostle to the apostles,’ the point was not to promote women’s ordination (and thus pose a threat to early bishops). The title only meant that she was divinely chosen and sent to the Apostles as bearer of the good news that Jesus was raised. In an era when women were not counted as legal witnesses, this exalted Mary as a significant role model for women in the early church.”

Mary Magdalene was undoubtedly an important member of Jesus’ circle of followers. Luke 8:3 records that she and several other female followers “provided for [the Twelve] out of their own resources” – implying she may have been wealthy. Matthew 27:56 and Mark 15:40 list Mary first among the witnesses of the crucifixion. In Luke 24:10 she is listed first among the discoverers of the empty tomb. John 20:14-18 records that she was the first to see Jesus after His resurrection.

In extrabiblical texts we find Mary’s role greatly expanded. Particularly among the so-called “gospels” that emerged out of the heretical Gnostic movement. For instance, according to The Gospel of Philip, which was probably written in the third century A.D. and not regarded as having any real factual basis, she is described as Jesus’ “companion” and it claims that Jesus “loved her more than all of the disciples, and used to often kiss her on the mouth.” (This line is cited in The Da Vinci Code.)

Mary Magdalene has been the victim of a great deal of speculation down through Church history. It has been proposed that she had been a prostitute prior to her conversion and the joining of Christ’s circle. She has been viewed as the one referred to in Luke 7:36-50 as the unnamed “woman of the city,” and the woman caught in adultery in John 8. But there is no evidence for this assertion. The idea that she had been a harlot did not emerge until the sixth century. The bottom line is she wasn't Jesus' wife, but she wasn’t likely a hooker either.

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