In the past couple of days, devout Christians from around the world have been busy defending the faith after a Harvard University professor, Karen King, unveiled a centuries-old fragment of papyrus she said contains an ancient text mentioning Jesus as having a wife. The name of the wife referred to was Mary Magdalene. You can read more of the controversial text here.
So was Jesus really married? Was Mary Magdalene the wife of Jesus? My friend and a Catholic faith defender, Ramon Gitamondoc, shared on Facebook his views about the issue. I am sharing his thoughts for everyone looking for answers to the questions.
This is in response to the article written by Ms. Stella Estremera entitled “Blasphemy?” in her column Spider’s Web dated September 24, 2012. She wrote about a Harvard researcher by the name of Karen King who reportedly unveiled an ancient papyrus which allegedly contain evidence that Jesus had a wife who according to King’s own interpretation is no other than Mary Magdalene. For me this news is not astonishing. What is astonishing is the fact that according to Ms. Estremera it will not change her faith a bit whether Jesus is married or not.
Whether Jesus was married or not matters because truth matters. If one believes in Jesus then he should have the truth about Jesus. Not only did Jesus say “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6) but he also said “know the truth and the truth shall set you free” (Jn 8:32). In our days we have come across many false prophets as our Lord himself warned us (Mat 24:5, 24). Many of them presume to teach using their peculiar interpretation of the Bible (2 Pet 3:16) but there are others under the guise of pseudo-science. We have heard of so-called archeological discoveries like unearthing the bones of Jesus and Mary. If indeed this were true this would undermine the fundamental teaching on which the Christian Faith is based and that is the bodily resurrection of Jesus (1 Cor 15:14,17). Christianity is not based on a philosophical system but is based on the person of Jesus (1 Jn 1:1-4). The Christian message is closely bound up with the person of Jesus. Distort one aspect of the life and person of Jesus and you distort the totality of the Good News.
The proposition that Jesus is married is contrary to what the Gospel testifies, to the testimony of the saints, and to the whole binding Tradition of the Church. We are well aware that in the early days of Christianity there were pseudo-Christian writings which were written by men who strive to distort the truth about Jesus such as the Gospel of Thomas, Barnabas, Peter and a host of other pseudo-gospels, epistles and apocalyptic literatures. The Catholic Church in the plenitude of her God-given authority separated the chaff from the wheat so that out of the multitude of writings we only have 27 books of the New Testament which Christians accept as authentic. If Jesus chose to live a celibate life it is not to repudiate marriage anymore than Jesus’ choice of being born male would be a repudiation of the female specie. It is to teach us a lesson of the virtue of virginity and of the whole-hearted dedication for the sake of the kingdom of God (Mat 19:11-12; 1 Cor 7:32-34). The Catholic Church who requires her priest to remain celibate as a way of following the example of Jesus and as a sign of the world to come (Mat 22:30) is at the same time the greatest defender of the indissolubility and sanctity of marriage. On the other hand it is not uncommon that those people who scorn virginity as a virtue also advocate divorce.
Ms. Estremera also stated that “It was already infuriating to know from non-Catholic friends that Jesus was not an only child of the couple Mary and Joseph when it was there in the Bible all the time, but many choose to skip that fact.” I suspect that she is referring here to the Bible passages which speak about the so-called brothers of Jesus (Mark 6:3; Mat 12:46; etc). I am quite confident the same non-Catholic friends of Ms. Estremera, if they are protestants, would be infuriated to hear if someone would tell them that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene. Biblical scholars will easily inform us that the Scriptures, especially the New Testament was originally written in Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic. In Greek, the word “Adelphos” which is translated in English as “brothers” has in fact a wider connotation which could include not only siblings of the same parent but also cousins, kinsmen, distant relatives, and even close associates (see Gen 14:14; Gen. 29:15; Deut 23:7; 2 Sam 19:12; 1 Hari 9:13; 2 Sam 1:26). Also, we can trace with sufficient degree of accuracy that so-called brothers of Jesus were not sons Joseph the husband of Mary but were sons of Alfeo (Gk “Clopas”) whose wife is also named Mary (Mat. 10:2-3; Mar. 15:40; Jn. 19:25). According to Hegesippus, an ancient historian, Alfeo is the brother of St Joseph thus Alfeo’s wife is the sister-in-law of the Blessed Virgin. Thus the so-called brothers of Jesus were not his blood brothers but his cousins and consistent with Jewish custom they were called his brothers.
I hope that Ms. Estremera will be infuriated at knowing that her non-Catholic friends have withheld from her the whole truth. I hope she will renounce this blasphemous distortion about the person of Jesus, the Son of God and Son of Mary.
Original photo source: Karen L. King