Was Jesus married - and to whom
This will most likely be a rather long article,
much longer that the previous ones, and most likely longer than any that I willl
publish about this subject in the future, but who knows? In this
article I try to join two of the articles from my Danish pages, "Was Jesus
Married?" and "Who were the many Marias".
Was Jesus married?
The question in the headline for this section
has occupied many people for quite some time, but not least after Dan Brown
published his novel, "The Da Vinci Code" in 2003, the interest in Jesus' marital status flourished. A simple Google search for the question in the headline,
yields more than 32.000 hits from the search term "Was Jesus married?"
When I originally became interested in Jesus as a historical figure in the early
1980s, there were a few books, among those that I read, that discussed this
subject. One was the 1982 book "The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail", written by
Michael Baigent, Henry Lincoln, and Richard Leigh. Although not least the second
part of the book, concerning the Priory of Sion was based on a hoax, that the
authors actually believed in at that time, the remaining parts, especially the
part that concerns Jesus' possible lineage, was based on the authors research
in biblical and nonbiblical sources. The other book I read was a 1970 book by
William Phipps, "Was Jesus Married - the Distortion of Sexuality in the
Christian Tradition." Both books arrived at the same conclusion, namely that
Jesus was actually married. Since then many other researchers have reached the
same conclusion, and probably even more have reached the exact opposite.
The four canonical gospels do not mention with a single word that Jesus was married,
and neither do any of the apocryphal texts. At least not directly. Both sides of
the discussion use this as an argument for their own point of view. Those who
claim that Jesus was not married argue that if he were, then surely it would
have been mentioned in the gospels. Those, who believe he was married use the
argument that if he weren't married, it would have been so extraordinary for the
Jews of that time that it would have been noticed if he wasn't married. So the
absence of information can be used as an argument both for and against a
The canonical gospels
Let me take a look at what the sources are
actually saying about the issue. As mentioned above, the four canonical gospels do not mention
anything about Jesus being married. In Matthew 19:18, Jesus tells a young man to
keep the commandments. When the man asks what commandments, Jesus mentions these,
including "you shall not commit adultery". Earlier in the same chapter, Jesus is
quoted for answering some Pharisees who ask him about divorce: "“Haven’t you
read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’
and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united
to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but
one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate." (Matt.
19: 4-6) And a few verses later, in a conversation with the disicples: "Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were
hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who
divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman
commits adultery.” The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between
a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.” Jesus replied, “Not everyone can
accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For there are
eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs
by others — and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of
the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.” (Matt.
The last quote is interpreted differently by different scholars. Some interpret
it as if Jesus says that he himself has chosen to live like a eunuch and that it
is a good thing, but not everyone can live up to it. Others believe that Jesus
is trying to say that those who live like eunuchs for the sake of the "kingdom of
heaven" have misunderstood what it takes to enter the kingdom. They thus
interpret this sentence as meaning that those who were eunuchs from birth or
have been made eunuchs by others may enter the kingdom, while those who make
themselves eunuchs will not.
The apocryphal writings
Papyrus fragment containing the
so-called "Gospel of Jesus' Wife", that are most likely a late forgery. The
papyrus cabon date back to medieval times. The fragment contains the line: "...Jesus
said to them, 'My wife...she is able to be my disciple'".
Dan Brown suggests in
his novel that if you look at the apocryphal writings, these contains several
elements that suggest that Jesus was married. And not only was he married, but
was married to Mary Magdalene. However, it is not that easy. In fact, none of
the apocryphal writings (gospels and other) mention anything about Jesus'
The Gospel of Thomas, which is believed
to be one of the earliest apocryphal writings,* contains primarily some
statements from Jesus, but no action and therefore no context. A Mary is mentioned two places in the
gospel, first time in verse 21 (the gospel has no chapters). In this case she
asks Jesus "Whom are your disciples like?" (another translation has "What
are your disciples like?") and Jesus replies with a longer explanation that
the disciples are like servants living in a field that they do not own ... "
(and in another translation the word "servants" is translated to "children").
Like most statements in Thomas the reply is very esoteric and many of the
question/answer dialogues seem a bit what we in Denmark would call a "Goddag
mand, økseskaft" (English "Hello man, ax handle!" - click
to get an explanation of the expression) type of answers. But the answers
would probably have made sense to a Gnostic audience in the second century. An
example: The disciples have asked Jesus if they should enter the Kingdom of
Heaven as babies. To this Jesus answers: "Jesus said to them, "When you make
the two into one, and when you make the inner like the outer and the outer like
the inner, and the upper like the lower, and when you make male and female into
a single one, so that the male will not be male nor the female be female, when
you make eyes in place of an eye, a hand in place of a hand, a foot in place of
a foot, an image in place of an image, then you will enter the kingdom."
(Thomas, 22). This statement is often taken as proof that Jesus is arguing for
marriage ("make male and female into a single one"). The second time Mary is
mentioned is in the last "verse", which is possibly a later addition. Here Simon
Peter says to them (the disciples): "Make Mary leave us for females don't
deserve life!" Jesus chooses to refrain from defending women's right to life,
but instead responds, "Look, I will guide her to make her male, so that she
too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every female who makes
herself male will enter the kingdom of Heaven." (Thomas 114). Jesus probably
don't intend to make Mary become a man physically (sex change was not on the
agenda in those days), but rather symbolically, and the passage may need to be
understood as if that Jesus will teach her to understand the Kingdom of God in
the same way a man understands it. I should probably add that neither of the two
places talk about Mary being Magdalene. It is later interpretations that it was
she who was in question.
* Some scholars date the Gospel of Thomas as
early as around year 60 AD, that is, as early as or even earlier than the
canonical gospels. Others date it as late as 140 AD. However, many scholars
agree that the oral tradition underlying the gospel goes back a long way. When
it is difficult to date, it is because it consists only of isolated statements
The Gospel of Peter only mentions Mary
in connection with the resurrection and discovery of the open tomb. In this
gospel the name Magdalene is mentioned, but she is only mentioned as a female
disciple of Jesus. (Gospel of Peter, 50). This gospel dates from the end of the
In The Gospel According to Mary or just
the Gospel of Mary, Peter says, "Peter said to Mary, Sister we know that the
Savior loved you more than the rest of woman". (Mary 5.5.) Later in the
gospel, Andrew doubts whether Jesus actually had said what Mary claims he had
said: "Say what you wish to say about what she has said. I at least do not
believe that the Savior said this. For certainly these teachings are strange
ideas" (Mary 9.2), and Peter wonders "Did He really speak privately with
a woman and not openly to us? Are we to turn about and all listen to her? Did He
prefer her to us?" (Mary, 9.4). The gospel is believed to have been written
sometime in the second century and scholars do not actually agree on which Mary
gave the name to the gospel. Most believe that it must be Mary Magdalene, while
others believe that this may not be the case, but do not name which else Mary it
may be, though the Mary mentioned may have been Jesus' own mother, whom he
probably loved more than most other women.
Other apocryphal writings that mention Mary
Magdalene include Sophia of Jesus Christ (or "The Wisdom of Jesus Christ"),
and Pistis Sophia ("The Faith of Sophia" or "The Faith of Wisdom").
Sophia is a female "deity", whom the Gnostics claimed was a female equivalent of Jesus.) In the
latter, Jesus says of Mary Magdalene that "her heart is more focused on the
Kingdom of Heaven than all her brothers (the disciples)" and later that "she
is blessed more than any other woman on earth." Mary is the Blessed, who
will inherit the whole "Kingdom of Light" Mary is also mentioned in the book "The
Dialogue of the Savior", which is a conversation between the "Savior" who is
never called neither Christ nor Jesus in this book, and his disciples, including
Mary. None of these writings mention anything about a marriage between Mary
Magdalene and Jesus.
The apocryphal writing that most people refer
to (including Dan Brown) when arguing that Jesus was married, is The Gospel
of Philip. The gospel is strongly Gnostic in its construction and is
probably fairly late, perhaps from the end of the third century or the beginning
of the fourth. The Gospel contains some references that can be interpreted as if
Jesus was married and that Mary Magdalene was his wife. Most of the gospel is
about marriage as a sacred mystery. No less than 25 times a bridal chamber is
mentioned. Two places in the Gospel mention Mary Magdalene. The first time it
says, "There were three who always walked with the Lord: Mary, his mother,
and her sister, and Magdalene, the one who was called his companion. His sister
and his mother and his companion were each a Mary." 'His' should probably be
read here as "her", meaning that it was Jesus' aunt named Mary, not his sister,
but he can also easily have had a sister with a name, as many names were
repeated within the families. Later in the Gospel it is stated: "And the
companion of the [Lord was] Mary Magdalene. [The Lord] loved her more than all the
disciples, and used to kiss her often on her mouth. The rest of the disciples [wondered
why]. They said to him "Why do you love her more than all of us?" The Savior
answered and said to them,"Why do I not love you like her? When a blind man and
one who sees are both together in darkness, they are no different from one
another. When the light comes, then he who sees will see the light, and he who
is blind will remain in darkness." The square brackets represent words that
are missing in the original manuscripts.
It is especially the word "companion" that has given rise to a presumption that
Jesus and Mary were married. Among others, Baigent et al believe that the
original Greek word, "koinonos", can only be translated as "life companion", ie wife. Others, such as Mark D. Roberts, a Texas pastor, writer, and
blogger, argue that this is wrong and that the word simply means "partner, like
in "business partner"." It is actually correct that the word can mean "partner"
(that someone has joint ownership over something), but it can also mean "one who
shares", and implies a relationship that includes "sharing something intimate".
And it could directly mean that two parties entered into an agreement to "live a
life where everything was shared for the rest of their lives" and the word was
simply used in the sense of marriage. So we do not know exactly today in what
context the word was used in the Gospel of Philip. But that may well be the
last-mentioned meaning. However, this is not the same as saying that Jesus was
married to Magdalene. In addition, the gospel is probably too distant from the
events in time to know the facts.
First Epistle to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians)
Thirteen letters in the New Testament are
attributed to Paul. Seven of these are usually considered "genuine", while the
others are considered pseudoepigraphs, that is, written by an anonymous author
but attributed to Paul. Among the letters is "Paul's First Epistle to the
Corinthians" or just "1 Corinthians". Most scholars agree that this is one of
the genuine letters that was actually written by Paul himself around 53 or 54.
The letter was written while Paul was staying in Ephesus in present-day Turkey
and addressed to the congregation he had founded in Corinth, Greece. Chapters 7
through 14 deal with questions from the Corinthian congregation that Paul
answers. Chapter 7 begins with "Now for the matters you wrote about:
It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman. But since sexual
immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife,
and each woman with her own husband". (1 Cor. 7.1-2).
In verse 7, Paul continues, "I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of
you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that." Paul
was unmarried at this time, but it is uncertain today whether he had always been
single or whether he had become a widower at an earlier time. In any case, he is
alluding to his unmarried status. In verse 8 he continues: "Now to the
unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do.
But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to
marry than to burn with passion." (1 Cor. 7.7-9) In verses 10 and 11 Paul
writes about divorce: "To the married I give this command (not I, but the
Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must
remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not
divorce his wife." (1 Corinthians 7.10-11).
In 2006 James Tabor, Head of the Department of Religious Studies at the
University of North Carolina, published in the book "The Jesus Dynasty". In the
book he concludes that Jesus' family, that is, his (half) sisters and (half)
brothers, founded a "royal dynasty", but Tabor also concluded that Jesus himself
was not married. However, he later changed his mind, and today he believes that
the 1 Corinthians supports a presumption that Jesus actually was married. As a
starting point, he primarily uses the above passages. Elsewhere in these
chapters, Paul clearly emphasizes that he has the Lord behind him in his
statements, and he takes up Jesus' authority whenever he can, but in this very
passage he refers only to his own example. Tabor is convinced that if Paul had
known that Jesus was unmarried, he would not have failed to emphasize it, so
when he does not, Tabor perceives it as an indication that Paul knew that Jesus
was in fact married. (Tabor, James: www.jesusdynasty.com/blog - The blog
is no longer online).
A further argument Tabor found in chapter 9, verse 5, where it says, "Don’t
we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other
apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas" (By "sister" is meant here a
sister in the faith, not a sister by blood - Cephas is Simon Peter). So the other apostles were
apparently married, and so were Jesus' brothers, and their wives traveled with
Although itis not the official view of The
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, there were quite a few former
Church Fathers of the Mormon Church who believed that Jesus was actually married,
and there are still some who do. The arguments are, among other things, that
even though there is mentioned nothing about Jesus' marital relationship in the
Bible, it does not matter. The Bible does not contain the whole truth, but only
the things that are necessary for people to be saved, and Jesus' possible
marriage has nothing to do with this, therefore there was no reason to mention
it. Some members of the Church also believe (as well as do most other scholars
by the way) that the Bible, as we know it today, has been subjected to numerous
edits, conscious or not conscious, in which elements have been removed and/or
added. Church-founder Joseph Smith wrote, among other things, "Ignorant
translators, careless copyists, or manipulative and corrupt priests have made
many mistakes." (Teachings of the Prophet Josph Smith, 1843). The Church's
official position is that Jesus was neither a hermit nor an ascetic, but not
that he was necessarily married. One of the church's former leaders, Orson Hyde,
President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints from 1847 to 1875 and thus the church's supreme prophet next
to the church leader, believed that the wedding in Cana was Jesus' own wedding
(more on that below).
One of the early church fathers of the Christian Church was Irenaeus, who was
bishop of Lyon in Gaul (present-day France) in the late 2nd century. He had a
great influence on the shaping of the teachings of the early church, and he was
a sharp opponent of anything that was just reminiscent of heresy. His most
famous work is the book "Against Heresies", which he wrote around 180 AD. In
this book (five volumes) he speaks vehemently against not least Gnosticism,
which he perceived as the most serious heresy of all. Nevertheless, he himself
claimed that Jesus had undergone every critical stage of human existence, thus
sanctifying these. This included birth and death, but also marriage and
parenthood. Irenaeus thus, saw no heresy in the fact that Jesus would have been
married and fathered children. He actually had to have done that, in order to
Arguments for and against Jesus being married
One argument is often put forward by
representatives of both sides of the debate, namely the absence of information
about Jesus' possible marriage in the contemporary sources. Those who claim that
Jesus was not married argue that if he had been, it would naturally be
highlighted in the Gospels. Conversely, proponents of the idea that Jesus was
married use the absence of information to say that at that time it would have
been so unlikely that a man was not married that it would have been highlighted
if that had been the case.
Let me take a closer look at the arguments. Proponents of the "marriage theory"
stress that at that time Jewish men were usually married. On top of that, they
usually got married relatively early. Marcello Craveri, an Italian Bible scholar,
wrote in his 1966 book "The Life of Jesus" that in Judaism, marriage was a
sacred duty. In the Old Testament, those who did not marry and produce children
were from time to time compared to murderers. John Spong, a now retired
episcopal bishop and still active author from Newark, New Jersey, wrote in 1992:
"Of course, these data are not sufficient for a final conclusion, but
together they constitute an argument suggesting that Jesus may have been married.
and that Mary Magdalene ... was his wife. These data were suppressed but not
wiped out by the Christian church even before the Gospels were written down."
(Born of a Woman: A Bishop Rethinks the Birth of Jesus). So these are modern
scholars who argue that Jesus must have been married.
argue against this, including Mark D. Roberts, whom I mentioned above. He and
several others cite some sources from the time around Jesus' active period or
shortly after. One of the three most frequently cited sources is Philo of
Alexandria, a Jewish philosopher who lived between 10 BCE and 40 AD. He tried to
reconcile Greek and Jewish philosophy, but despite the fact that Philo lived at
the same time as Jesus and was interested in Jewish sects, he does not mention
Jesus and his movement with a single word (I have an explanation for this, which
will appear in a later article). It is also in this context that Philo is used
by these opponents of the marriage theory, precisely because of his interest in
Jewish sects. He wrote extensively about, among others, the Essenes. Philo wrote
of this sect, "...they repudiate marriage; and at the same time they practise
continence in an eminent degree; for no one of the Essenes ever marries a wife,
because woman is a selfish creature and one addicted to jealousy in an
immoderate degree, and terribly calculated to agitate and overturn the natural
inclinations of a man, and to mislead him by her continual tricks." (Hypothetica:
Apology for the Jews).
The other two sources are both by the same author, Josephus or Flavius Josephus.
He was a Jewish/Roman historian who participated in the First Jewish–Roman War
(66-73), in which he served as military commander of the Jewish troops in
Galilee. After being captured by Vespasian's troops in 67, he switched sides and
became part of the court surrounding the Roman emperor. Two of his books, "The
Jewish War" and "Jewish Antiquities" were written during this period, and the
Essenes are also mentioned in these writings. In "The Jewish War" he writes,
among other things: "They neglect wedlock, but choose out other persons
children, while they are pliable, and fit for learning, and esteem them to be of
their kindred, and form them according to their own manners. They do not
absolutely deny the fitness of marriage, and the succession of mankind thereby
continued; but they guard against the lascivious behavior of women, and are
persuaded that none of them preserve their fidelity to one man" (Wars, Book
II, Chapter 8). In "Jewish Antiquities" one can read: "There are about four
thousand men that live in this way, and neither marry wives, nor are desirous to
keep servants; as thinking the latter tempts men to be unjust, and the former
gives the handle to domestic quarrels..." (Antiquities, Book XVIII, Chapter
It is therefore
a fact that there were people in Palestine who did not marry. However, not all
Essenes practiced abstinence and avoided marriage. It depends on where in
Josephus' works you read. In fact, there is some indication that the sect was
divided into two factions. One lived in secluded enclaves, often in desert areas.
In these groups they practiced the said abstinence from marriage and sexual
intercourse, and spent much of the time on religious studies and debates. The
other faction lived in the cities, where group members often acted as healers.
This faction practiced marriage, and, like other Jews at the time, had plenty of
children. Thus, it is certainly possible that Jesus may have practiced
abstinence as some Essenes, who certainly inspired him in other areas (e.g.,
healing), but most likely he was not a member of any of these groups.
Mark D. Roberts
wrote on his blog: "Unlike other Jewish teachers of that time, Jesus had
close relationships with women, many of whom were his followers, and who learned
from him," and Roberts continues, "But nothing in The New Testament
suggests that Jesus was ever married to any of these women or to any other woman
for that matter. " (Mark D. Roberts at Beliefnet:
http://blog.beliefnet.com/markdroberts/ - blog is no longer online). I quote the
Gospel of Luke who mentions the women travelling with Jesus: "After this,
Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good
news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who
had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom
seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s
household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them
out of their own means." (Luke 8.1-3).
Roberts, exactly the fact that Jesus had women in his company is considered by
others to be proof that both they and he were married. Thus, among others,
Andrew Norman Wilson, an English writer and journalist who was originally a
declared atheist (which he claimed in 1980), but who later found the faith (claimed
in 2009), wrote in 1985: "In Jesus' day almost every interaction with a woman
outside the immediate family would have led to frowns in the outside world"
(How can we Know, 1985). So it would simply not have been possible for an
unmarried woman to travel around the countryside with Jesus.
argument against Jesus being married is that his wife is not mentioned in
connection with the crucifixion. As Jesus hanged on the cross, he decided that "The
Disciple whom he loved" the (also called The Beloved Disciple) should take care
of his mother when he himself was gone, but he doesn't mention anything about
what will happen to his wife. For those who believe that "The Beloved Disciple"
was Mary Magdalene, this does not pose a problem (I have already mentioned the issue
of The Beloved Disciple in a
previous article). For those who believe that the
beloved disciple was someone else, it need not be a problem either. When Jesus
does not deal with his wife's future, it may simply be because it has already
been agreed on before he was arrested. Another possibility is that Jesus' wife
was not present at the crucifixion, in which case she was not Mary Magdalene, as
many suppose - I will get back to this below. Jesus may also have become a
widower before the crucifixion, but neither are there any indications of this in
One other argument that have been used in favor of Jesus' marriage has been that
it was not possible for him to be a teacher if he was not married. According to
the Gospels, both the disciples and others repeatedly call Jesus "rabbi",
meaning exactly "teacher". Some quote the Talmud: "An unmarried man can't be
a teacher". So if Jesus was a teacher (rabbi), he must have been married. On
the other hand, it is argued that Jesus was not a rabbi in the true sense of the
word, but was just called "rabbi" by the evangelists. But if the Talmudic
quotatiuon had been cited correctly it could be turned down more: "A man who
is unmarried should not teach children, because of the mothers who visit the
children. No woman should teach children, because of the fathers who visit the
children. The reason is that he may be tempted by the mothers who visit their
sons." (Mishneh Torah, Chapter 2, Halakha (Law) IV cf. Judaism in Practice,
Lawrence Fine). Notice that the verse does not mentions any marital status for
female teachers as they should not teach children at all. Also notice that
Talmud only applies the rule to the teaching of children, not teaching of
argument in favor of Jesus being married, which I actually think is better, is
that the Pharisees and "the teachers of the law" constantly attack Jesus for "being
and behaving different". He must defend one action and another, but the
Pharisees, who certainly did not practice celibacy, never ask Jesus to explain
why he is unmarried or why he has no children. Such a blatant breach of the
Jewish custom and religious obligation of the day would - whether Jesus were
Essene - have been used against him. Bruce R. McConkie, another member of the
Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
from 1972 to 1985, wrote in his book "The Mortal Messiah," published between
1979 and 1981: "Men Married when they were about sixteen or seventeen years
old and almost never later than when they were twenty; and women married
somewhat earlier, often when they were fourteen or younger. " (The Mortal
Messiah, Volume 1). Sidney B. Sperry could add "It is well known that the
Jews regarded marriage as a religious duty." (Sidney B. Sperry, The Letters
of Paul). This duty dates back to Genesis: "As for you, be fruitful and
increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it." (Genesis
9.7). If Jesus was not married and had children, there was every reason for his
opponents to attack him for this very thing, but they did not!
My personal position is that the arguments for Jesus being married are stronger
than the arguments that he was not. Not least because I am of the belief that
the historical Jesus was a fairly ordinary Jew who agreed to abide by the law
and follow Jewish custom. "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law
or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly
I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the
least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything
is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these
commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of
heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in
the kingdom of heaven." (Matt. 5.17-19).
The wedding in Cana
wedding at Cana, Paolo Veronese, 1562-1563, Musée du Louvre. Paris:
Was this Jesus' own wedding and if so, to whom?
If Jesus was
married, is there any mention of such a marriage in the New Testament? There is
actually a mention of a wedding, namely the wedding in Cana, which is known only
from John. (John 2.1-12). In this story Jesus and his disciples are attending a
wedding. (It should be noted that a wedding party at the time could last up to
14 days, so it is not just a short stay in Cana on that occasion). Jesus' mother
was present as well, and she behaved as if she were the host: "When the wine was
gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.” Here she implies that
Jesus, should get some more wine. Jesus is a little stubborn, but his mother
trumps him and tells the servants to do what Jesus says.
If Maria was not in charge of the party, there was no reason for her to be
responsible for procuring more wine, and if she did not have influence, there
was no reason for the servants to obey her. Then Jesus performs his first
miracle (in this gospel) and transforms water into wine. This miracle is so far
from those he later performs, and is to his own advantage what none of his other
miracles are, so I wonder if he has not procured the wine in some other way?
Later it is said: "They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the
water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from,
though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom
aside and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper
wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best
till now.” The master of the banquet has thus just been told by the servants
that Jesus has turned water into wine (or at least provided the wine) and yet he
addresses the bridegroom. It seems strange if the groom was not the one who had
provided the wine, ie Jesus himself. It is of course possible that the wedding
feast is celebrated for one of Jesus' brothers, but many agree that it sounds as
if it is Jesus' own wedding that is described here. But if Jesus was married,
then who was his bride? Most agrees thar the name of his wife was "Mary", but as
there a plenty of Marys in the gospels, I will take a look at those before I try
to answer this question- and I will get back to Cana in a future article about
Jesus' miracles in which I will try to come up with a scientific (or at least
rational) explanation for this and other miracles in the gospels.
Mary, Mary, Mary and ...
The name Mary is not mentioned at all in the Old Testament, but in turn several
times in the New Testament. Thus the Gospel of Matthew has seven references to
persons with the name; Mark has four; Luke has 15 and John also 15. In addition,
the name is mentioned once in the Acts of the Apostles and once in Paul's
Epistle to the Romans (normally just known as Romans). An article I read
recently tried to explain the many Marys that lived in the first century, by
claiming that women had
no significance, and therefore no effort was made to come up with different names for them,
which is why 70% of all Jewish women were named Mary - or rather Miriam, which
is the Hebrew form of the name (Maryam in Aramaic), while Mary is the English version of the Greek Maria.
I have not been
able to confirm that there were actually that many Marys in the Jewish areas at
that time from other sources, and I actually doubt it, but the name has certainly
been popular at least in some circles. No one knows exactly where the name comes
from and hence not even what it means, making it even harder to explain why it
suddenly became so popular. Some scholars believe that it may come from an
Egyptian word, 'mr' meaning "love", but it might also be linked to the Hebrew words, 'mr'
("bitter") or 'mry' ("rebellious"). If it is true that the name began its
popularity in the first century BC and the first century AD, this does not sound
unlikely. The whole area was buzzing with rebellious thoughts in the centuries
before and after the alledged time of the birth of Christ; first against the Syrians and
later against the Romans. Along the way, there were factions that rebelled
against the Maccabee rulers, against the Herodian rulers etc. In such a period
of rebellious mood, someone might have felt inspired when naming their daughters
and sons. The growing use of the name in the following centuries, on the other
hand, is of course due to the spreading of Christianity. The name and its
derived forms, eg Marie and Maria are considered to be the most common girls
name in today's western world.
But back to the
biblical Marys. At this time, surnames were not used, so you had to resort to
nicknames to distinguish people with the same name from each other. Thus also in
the New Testament. An example of another way of distinguishing occurs in John
14:22: "Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said...". Here Judas is
identified as who he is not, but that is not the ordinary way. Typically,
nicknames are used that either tell where the person originates from, who they
are related to (mother of, daughter of and so on) or a trait of those in
question, eg James the Less. Unfortunately, we do not know today whether the
different sources have used different nicknames about the same Mary, or whether
all the Marys who appear under different nicknames are actually different people.
That's what I'll look at in more detail below.
In the New
Testament, six or seven people are called Mary. When the number is uncertain, it
is especially due to one of the passages, where it is difficult to determine
whether one or two people are being referred to. More on that below. The six Marys are: Mary, mother of Jesus; Mary Magdalene; Mary of Bethany; Mary,
mother of James and Joses; Mary, mother of John Mark and Mary, wife of Clopas.
Number seven is a Mary, who is mentioned in Romans, and she is not further
identified. Some sources even have eight Marys, but I will get back to that
later. Let me take a closer look at the seven.
Mary, mother of Jesus
Here there is no doubt about the identification. Mary is referred to as "the
mother of Jesus" in most places where she is referred to. On the other hand, the
Gospels do not tell much about her. However, Matthew and Luke agree that she was
engaged to a man named Joseph (more in the article
Jesus' Parents - was Jesus a
poor carpenter). An engagement (or betrothal) had the same status as a marriage,
but the two betrothed did not live together, but stayed with their respective
parents. The engagement period was usually about a year and then the fiancés got
married and moved in together. Girls typically became engaged when they were 12
or 13 years old, while boys were usually bnetween 17 and 19 years old. Mary was presumably a completely normal Jewish girl, and thus was at most 13 when she became
engaged to Joseph. No one knows today who Maria's parents were. A tradition from
the 2nd century, mentioned in the apocryphal Gospel of James, tells that her
parents were Anna and Joachim. During Catholicism, Saint Anna was celebrated in
Denmark as one of the most important saints. In the Catholic Church, she is
referred to as the "Holy Mother of God's Most Holy Mother". The Gospel of James
tells us that Anna and Joachim were rich and pious, and that they often gave to
the poor. This is contrary to what several biblical traditionalists believe when
they claim that Mary was the daughter of poor parents from Nazareth.
Since very early times, there have been some who believe that the genealogy
mentioned in Luke (Luke 3: 23-38) is in fact not the family of Joseph, but Mary.
The one mentioned in Matthew (Matt. 1.1-17) This, of course, explains why the
two genealogies are different, but not why Joseph appears on both of them -
and not Mary.
According to Matthew, Joseph's closest ancestors were James or Jacob (his
father), Mattan (his grandfather) and Eleazar (his great-grandfather). In Luke
Joseph's father was Eli, his grandfather Mattat and his great-grandfather Levi. Mattat and Mattan are close
but probably not the same person. Interestingly, Jesus is mentioned in the Gospels as
a descendant of David - despite the fact that Joseph was not his physical father.
It is therefore strange that it is Joseph's genealogy that is interesting, not
Mary's, not least because kinship among the Jews during this period was
inherited through the mother, not the father. Two Mormon scholars, Blair van
Dyke and Ray Huntingdon, both from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, agrees that the genealogy of Luke represents Mary, but goes a step further and
equates Mattan with Mattat (even though their ancestors are not the same). In
this way they come to the conclusion that Eli and Jacob in the two genealogies
were brothers and that Joseph and Mary therefore cousins! (from "Sorting
Out the Seven Marys in the New Testament"). Other scholars also claim
that Eli/James and Joachim were cousins, so Mary was Joseph's second cousin,
but there is no proof of that from any contemporary or later sources.
Author Robert Graves believed (and used in his novel King Jesus from 1946) that Mary was a princess of Michael's lineage (a royal lineage that
goes even further back in Jewish history than the lineage of David) and that she
married Antipater, son of Herod the Great and that Antipater was the father of
Jesus. After Antipater's death, she married Joseph and Jesus grew up as his son.
Joseph Raymond ("Herodian Messiah", 2010) believes that Mary was the daughter of
Antigonus II Mattahias, the last ruler of the Hasmonean lineage, who died in 37
BC, executed by Mark Antony. According to Raymond, Mary was also of Herod's
lineage, that is, descended from the two most recent royal lineages in Judea.
But if that was the case, she was not that young when she gave birth to Jesus,
as she must have been almost 40.
No matter who Mary's parents were, there is no doubt in the Gospels that she was
the mother of Jesus. Some scholars, especially religious ones, believe that Mary
remained a virgin until her death, and that Jesus' siblings mentioned in the
gospels were not her children. Other scholars, on the other hand, believe that
it appears from Matthew that Mary did not remain a virgin. It is especially this
phrase in Matthew that is used as an explanation: "But he did not consummate their
marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus".
(Matt. 1.25). The way it is worded seems to indicate that he certainly did
consumate the marriage after the birth of Jesus, and that would be the most
natural thing, considering the attitude of the time towards marriage and
If Mary, the mother of Jesus, is the most important Mary in the Gospels, Mary
Magdalene must enter as a close runner up, if she is not actually the most
penitent Magdalene, Domenico Tintoretto, around 1600, Musei Capitolini, Rome
The nickname Magdalene is usually interpreted as if she came from a town called
Magdala. However, such a town has never existed in Palestine. The town in
question might be Migdal Nunaiya, which was located about 15 southwest of
Capernaum on the Sea of Galilee. The name meant "A tower of fish" and the town
was famous for boat building and processing of fish, eg salting. According to
Josephus, who lists the towns of Galilee, the city had up to 40,000 inhabitants
when the war broke out in 66, which is probably an exaggeration.
It is therefore
not likely that Mary was named after a town that presumably did not exist, but
she could of course have been named Maria Migdal, to indicate that she was a "tower"
that towered over the other disciples in her wisdom or her belief in Jesus or
something like that. This is how many scholars interpret the nickname, ie almost
as "Mary the Great", and this can be argued, not least because of descriptions
in a number of apocryphal writings. However, it is difficult to see from a
linguistic point of view how Migdal could change to Magdalene. Another
indication that she was hardly named after a city is the way the nickname is
given in the gospels. Other people, who are named for their geographical
affiliation, are always called nn of yy, eg Joseph of Arimathea, Simon of
Cyrene, Lazarus of Bethany and so on. Moreover, place names in the Gospels are
always associated with men, not women. In the Gospel of Luke (Luke 8.2), Mary is
referred to in this way: "Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had
come out;" and King James' Bible has: "Mary called Magdalene, out of whom
went seven devils," and everywhere else in the Gospels where the wording "was
called" is included, it is a nickname, not a geographical reference, eg Jesus,
who was called Christ, Simon, who was called the Zealot, Judas, who was called
Iscariot, etc. It has also been argued that if Mary came from a place called
Magdala, her name in Greek should have been Magdalaia, not Magdalene.
Gardner directly states "Magdalene was a distinction, not a surname and had
nothing to do with a place." (Laurence Gardner, The Magdalene Legacy) and
Margaret Starbird, American feminist, believe that the nickname was chosen
deliberately, so that according to Jewish gematria (a system that assigns
numerical values to letters), it gets the number 153, which was the number of
fish that Jesus captured after his resurrection and a sacred number for Greek
mathematicians. (Margaret Starbird, The Feminine Face of Christianity).
Years ago, when
I first got interested in this subject, I read a lot of books about Jesus as a
historical person. In one of these (in my notes I have unfortunately not noted
which one, but when I find it I will reveal the source), I read another
interpretation of the nickname. The author believed that Magdalene was a distortion of
the aramaic word "maggadla", which menat "weaver", and it
was a term for a very specific person, not a weaver in general. According
to my unfortunately forgotten source, "maggadla" was the title of the woman who wove the
sacred veil that separated The Holy Place from The Holy of Holies in the Temple
in Jerusalem. If this is correct, it would first of all place Mary Magdalene in
Jerusalem or the surrounding area, and not in Galilee, and it would place her in
the upper class, as it was from the upper class that those who served in the
temple was chosen. This fits very well with the fact that most of Jesus' other
female followers belonged to the upper class, and as I have already mentioned in
the article about Jesus' parents, see above, Jesus' parents probably also
belonged to this class of people.
Like it was the
case with Mary, mother of Jesus, the gospels do not tell much about Mary
Magdalene. From the gospels of Mark and Luke we get the impression that she was
relatively wealthy, (Mark 15.40-41 and Luke 8.1-3). From the latter it appears
that Mary Magdalene (and other women) had their own means, which women usually
didn't have at the time, unless they had inherited before getting married,
or had inherited from a deceased husband. In King Jesus, the novel by Robert
Graves, which he claimed was based on sources that he unfortunately don't
disclose, Mary Magdalene is an elderly, wealthy widow, and aquaintance of both
Mary, and her parents.
Mary Magdalene appears once in Luke in connection with the quote mentioned
above. In this passage in the gospel it appears that Mary is a woman from whom
seven demons had come out. This episode leads some to believe that she has been
cured of some kind of disease, but in fact no one knows exactly how to interpret
the "seven demons". Apart from this episode, Magdalene appears only in
connection with the crucifixion and resurrection, and after this she is no
longer mentioned in the Gospels. In connection with crucifixion and
resurrection, she played a major role though. She was present at the cross and
she was one of those few for whom Jesus appears soon after being resurrected.
She plays a similar or even greater role in many of the apocryphal writings,
such as the Gospel of Mary* and the Gospel of Philip. When Mary is mentioned in
the Gospels with other women, she is always mentioned first - even though Jesus'
mother is in the group, just as Peter is always mentioned first among the male
disciples. This seems to indicate that Magdalene, was the most important among
* It should be mentioned that in the Gospel of Mary the nickname is never
mentioned, so it is not a given thing that this gospel is about Magdalene,
but most scholars assume that it is.
In 591, Pope Gregory the Great wrote that Mary was a prostitute, and this
quickly became a well-established fact, although no contemporary sources mention even
with a single word. In 1969, the interpretation was rejected by the
Vatican under Pope Paul VI. From the tenth century, Magdalene was given the
title of the Apostle of the Apostles and some modern scholars believe that she
was the leader of a faction of the early Christian movement that advocated
Mary of Bethany
In the previous paragraph about Mary Magdalene I mentioned that geographical
nicknames nn of xx were always associated with men in the gospels, and now I
introduce Mary of Bethany? But just to make this clear, this Mary is never
identified as Mary of Bethany anywhere in the gospels. The nickname is used by
modern and not so modern scholars only to distinguish her from other Marys in
the gospels, like for instance Mary Magdalene.
Christ in the House of Martha and
Mary, Jan Vermeer, around 1555, Scottish National Gallery
Mary was the
sister of Martha and Lazarus and lived in Bethany, a little more than a mile
outside Jerusalem. And that's about all we know about her. One Mary is
also mentioned in the stories about the anointment of Jesus, but unfortunately,
the scriptures do not tell much and are therefore open to interpretation.
The whole story
about the anointment has actually led some scholars to believe that Mary Magdalene and
Mary of Bethany are one and the same, but of course this cannot be the case for
those who also insist that Magdalene means "of Magdala" or Migdal. Mary can't come
from two different towns. If, on the other hand, it is correct that the name,
Magdalene, is a derivation of the "weaver", it may well be correct that a person
who worked for the temple lived in a town less than 1.5 miles from Jerusalem.
But let me take a closer look at this discussion. The linking of the two Marys
is done because the verses in the Gospels that deal with the anointing
of Jesus, so let me take a closer look at what they actually say. According to
Luke, the anointing takes place as follows: "When one of the Pharisees
invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and
reclined at the table. A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that
Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster
jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet
his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and
poured perfume on them."* (Luke 7.36-38). This takes place after Jesus
raised a widow's son in the city of Nain in Galilee and after he has been in
contact with messengers from John the Baptist. This again leads some to believe
that this must have happened somewhere in Galilee, but the episode is described
without connection to those before and after, so it may just as well have
happened somewhere else, for example in Judea. Not least because the synoptic
gospels tend to place most of Jesus' ministry in Galilee, although he must have
also spent a lot of time in Judea (cf. the Gospel of John and the fact that many
of the people he knew, lived in Judea). In the above episode, not a word is
mentioned that the one who anointed Jesus was called Mary (or any other name for
that matter), but still it is probably this episode, which together with the
passage quoted above, also from Luke, that seven demons had been driven out of
her, that has been the basis of the opinion that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute.
This opinion became widespread in the sixth century under Pope Gregory the Great,
but it thrives to this day without any evidence for it in the New Testament. The
only name Luke gives is the name of the Pharisee whose name is Simon. Luke
himself mentions Mary Magdalene in chapter 8 verse 2 as mentioned above, but he
does not connect her in any way with the woman who anointed Jesus.
* This quotation is taken from Online Bible from Biblica, The Bible Society. The
translation in King Jemes' Bible is a bit different.
Mark also knows the episode, but contrary to Luke, he knows that it took place
in Bethany: "While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of
Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume,
made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head."
(Mark 14.3) We must assume that Simon the Leper was the same Simon who was a
Pharisee in the story in Luke. The difference between the two stories, in
addition to the geographical location, is that in Mark it is Jesus' head that is
anointed, not his feet, and we are told that the ointment that was used was very
expensive - not exactly something that suggests that the woman who was anointing
Jesus was a poor prostitute. However, we must still believe that it is the same
episode that is being referred to. John knows the name
of the woman who anointed Jesus. It was Mary from Bethany (and she was certainly
not a prostitute or anything like that). Strangely, John already tells in
chapter 11 that Mary was the woman who anointed Jesus, while he first tells
about the anointing itself in chapter 12, so either the two chapters have been
switched around or the remark "This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick,
was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair"
(John 11.2) is an addition from later editors who knew the next chapter. In
chapter 12, John relates: "Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to
Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those
reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an
expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair.
And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume." (John 12.1-3).
Here it is obvious that the anointing took place shortly before Jesus' entry
into Jerusalem and after Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead. Neither in John
are there any indications that Mary from Bethany was the same as Mary Magdalene.
But whu annoint Jesus' feet? The normal was to annoint the head. Luke and John
agree that the woman annointed the feeet, while Mark tells that she annointed
Jesus' head! According to Luke she shed tears on Jesus' feet and wiped them of
with her her before annointing them. Mark knows nother about any tears an
neither does John, but he knows that she wiped Jesus' feet with her her, so
maybe there have been a mix-up here. The woman washed Jesus' feet as it was a
normal favor to bestowe on honored guests in those days. Then she dried his feet
with her hair (or something else). Finally she annointed him - on his head as
was custom, but Luke and John got the two acts mixed up.
Those who argue
that the two Marys were the same person often use a circular argumentation. "Jesus
was anointed by a woman who was a sinner" (Luke). "Mary Magdalene was a woman
whom seven demons had cast out" (Luke) (That seven demons had been cast out of
her is not necessarily the same as that she was sinful, but I will let that one
slip). "The anointing took place in Bethany" (Mark and John). "The woman who
anointed Jesus was called Mary" (John). Therfore to prove that Mary of Bethany
was the same person as Mary Magdalene, it is assumed that the two were the same
person! Above I mentioned Gregory the Great (Gregory the First, pope between 590
and 604). Perhaps it was, in fact, he who also was the man behind the tradition
that Mary Magdalene and Mary of Bethany were one and the same person. Gregory
wrote in a commentary on the Gospel of John in 591 (Commentary number 33): "She,
whom Luke calls a sinful woman, whom John calls Mary, we believe, is the Mary
from whom seven demons were cast out according to Mark. And what then do these
demons symbolize, if not all vices? Here the pope equates the two Marys and at
the same time makes Mary a sinful woman. Incidentally, he goes on to clarify
what a sinful woman does with the ointment: "It is clear brethren that the woman
formerly used the ointment to perfume her flesh (!!) by forbidden deeds."
between scholars of who Jesus was married to - if any - is primarily "fought"
between proponents of Mary Magdalene and proponents of Mary from Bethany, but
before I delve into this "battle", I will just take a brief look at the other
Mary's mentioned in The New Testament.
mother of James and Joses and Mary, wife of Clopas
In the account of the crucifixion in the Gospel
of Mark, it says: "Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were
Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joseph" (Mark
15.40). In connection with the resurrection, Mark has "When the Sabbath was
over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that
they might go to anoint Jesus’ body" (Mark 16.1). Matthew has the following:
"Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the
mother of Zebedee’s sons" (Matt. 27.56), and in connection with the
resurrection is mentioned "After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the
week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. (Matt.
28.1). Luke does not mention any names in connection with the crucifixion, but,
does mention a Mary in connection with the resurrection: "When they came back
from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others.
It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with
them who told this to the apostles" (Luke 24.9-10).
Maria Magdalene has already been discussed so no more about her, at least not
for now. All three synoptic gospels mention another Mary. She is the mother of
James (The Younger or The Lesser) and Joses in two of the Gospels and only the
mother of James in Luke and in one quote from Mark. Interestingly, none of the
synoptic gospels mention Jesus' mother on this occasion. John, on the other hand,
does: "But at the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother's sister, Mary
the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene" (John 19:25). John is usually
reasonably well informed about the events in Judea, and not least at the
crucifixion. There is therefore reason to believe that Jesus' mother was also
present, but why do the other gospels not mention her?
Some scholars believe that they actually do,
referring to Matthew: "Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s
name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas?" (Matt.
13:55). So Jesus has four brothers, two of whom are named James and Joseph
(Joses). It leads some to believe that the Mary in question is actually the
mother of Jesus. But if that was the case, why not identify as such instead of
identifying her as mother of his brothers? If this Mary is actually Jesus'
mother, James the Little is the same as James the Righteous. This James, who was
actually the brother of Jesus, became the leader of the congregation in
Jerusalem when Jesus died. The Church Father Hieronymus believed (around the
year 400) that "brother" should actually be understood as "cousin", and that
those referred to as Jesus' brothers were in fact his cousins, and sons, not of
"Virgin Mary", but of Mary, Clopas' wife. Since some also believe that James the
Younger was the son of Clopa's wife, James the Righteous became equated with
James the Younger. But this causes a new question, for how was Mary, mother of
Jesus, related to Mary, wife of Clopas? Hegesippus, who lived at the end of the
second century, wrote that Clopas was the brother of Joseph and that his wife
and Jesus' mother were therefore sisters-in-law. Now there is actually doubt as
to whether the Greek text should be translated as Mary, Clopas 'wife or Maria,
Clopas' daughter, but in any case, the relationship was through marriage.
The Entombment of Christ,
Michelangelo Caravaggio, 1602, Vatican Pinacoteca. The woman with her arms stretched upwards is Mary, Wife of Clopas. In front her Virgini Mary (left) and
Mary Magdalene (right). The man carrying Jesus's legs is Nicodemus, and the man
carrying his upper body (almost hidden) is John, son of Zebedee.
Other scholars have a different interpretation,
which is based on the vague wording in John: "...his mother, his mother's
sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene". It is actually not
clear whether this passage mentions three women or four. Thus, some believe that
"Mary, Clopas' wife" is an extension of "his mother's sister", and that the two
Marys were sisters. As a justification, they state that it would be strange to
mention "his mother's sister" without naming her when the others are named.
Others believe that "his mother's sister" and Mary, Clopas' wife "must be two
people, as it is not likely that two sisters had the same name. Actually there
are elements that in my opinion speak for both views. Today, it would be strange
but not impossible if two sisters had the same first name. (I actually know two
sisters who share first name, and thus are known to everyone by their middle
names.) It would also seem strange if both Hegesippus was right and Clopas was
the brother of Joseph, while his wife was the sister of Mary. The latter,
however, occurs occasionally and, for example, in the nineteenth century, it was
also common in the Western world for two or more siblings to marry siblings of
each other's spouses, and even today it happens. Two of my female relatives (sisters)
are married to two brothers. Another point of view is that "the second Mary" was
the mother of the apostle James, who was called 'James, the son of Alphaeus'. If
so, she must either have been the daughter of Clopas or Alphaeus and Clopas have
been two names for the same person. Proponents of this theory argues that both
names could be garbled versions of the Aramaic name 'Hilfai". Or Alphaeus, which
actually means "Successor" could be a nickname for Clopas.
However, I don't think it needs to be that
complicated. First of all, I am convinced that 'Mary, mother of Jesus' and
'Mary, mother of James and Joses' were two different people. Both Mary, James
and Joseph were quite common names, and other people in the New Testament are
known by these names. 'Mary, the mother of Jacob and Joses', is in my opinion
probably the same one whom John calls 'Mary, Clopa's wife'. I also believe that
this Mary is the sister of the "Virgin Mary". It would also explain the somewhat
shallow and casual "the other Mary" in Matthew, if the two Marys were
sisters, and it was not the mother of Jesus that he was referring to. And if
they were actually sisters it would explain why the Synoptic Gospels mention
three women, while John mentions four. Finally, a family relationship between
the two would explain why both had children who had the same names, as the
tradition was that you named your children after parents and grandparents, who
would be shared between the two women. This is also supported by the apocryphal
Gospel of Philip, which states: "There were three who always went with the
Lord: Mary, his mother and her sister, and Magdalene, who was called his
companion. His sister and his mother and his companion were all named Mary."
However, the confusion is not lessened by the fact that first his mother's
sister is mentioned, but in the next sentence his own sister is mentioned, but
this is most likely a writing error from whoever wrote down this gospel. But it
is of course possible that Jesus' own sister was named Mary after their mother,
and that Mary's sister was named something else.
The Gospel of Matthew is the only one that
mentions the mother of the sons of Zebedee, while Mark alone mentions Salome.
Neither Luke nor John mentions these two women, but they are usually considered
to be the same person, so that the mother of the sons of Zebedee was named
Salome. Some suggest (mostly those who do not believe that two sisters can have
the same name) that it was Salome who was the sister of Jesus' mother in John,
and that can't be rejected either. Some traditions call Salome 'Mary Salome',
and believe that she was the mother of Jacob and Joses. To make it even more
muddy, the sons of Zebedee were named James and John, so here too a James is
mentioned. A tradition from the beginning of the second century, ie quite early,
namely The Greek Gospel of the Egyptians, suggests, however, that Salome was
childless, and if so she can not be the mother of the sons of Zebedee.
The so-called "Secret Gospel of Mark"* also
mentions Salome: "And the sister of the young man whom Jesus loved was there
with his mother and Salome, but Jesus would not receive them." This passage
in this apocryphal and now disappeared part of Mark, known only from quotations
in letters from the Church Fathers, deals with the resurrection of Lazarus, who
must thus be "the young man whom Jesus loved" and his sister must be either
Martha or more likely Mary from Bethany. Who their mother was is not known,
although I have an idea. And unfortunately, it also does not shed light on who
Salome was, except that she must have belonged to the inner circle around Jesus.
The Gospel of Thomas suggests that Salome was also wealthy, as Jesus at one
point shared "her bench" during a meal that must have taken place in her house,
as she was clearly not just lying on the bench, but owning it. According to the
Gospel of James, also known as the Protoevangelium of James, Salome was present
outside the stable when Jesus was born, but did not believe that Mary was a
virgin when she was told by the midwife that now the child was born.
* I will get back to this "gospel" in another
article at a later time.
Another apocryphal text, "The Book of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ," said to
have been written by the apostle Bartholomew, makes the confusion surrounding
Salome total. This apochryphical gospel says about those who were at the tomb: "Among
them were: Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, whom Jesus delivered from
Satan; Mary who served him, Martha her sister, Johanna, who renounced the
marriage bed and "Salome who tempted him." Once again Mary, mother of Jesus
is not mentioned, but in return the "book" mentions both Mary of Bethany and her
sister Martha. Also Johanna (mentioned nowhere else in any gospels in
conncection with the execution and resurrection), who is apparently divorced or
had left her husband to follow Jesus, and also Salome, "who tempted him". How
she "tempted him" it is not clear. On the other hand, in this writing it is not
Magdalene who was torn out of Satan's clutches, but instead Mary, James' mother!
Unless of course Mary Magdalene was the mother of the said James!
Before getting to the remaining two Marys, I'd better summarize, as the above
probably got a little confusing in the end :-), so here is what I believe.
Mary, mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, Mary of Bethany and Mary, mother of James
(and Joses) are all different women. The latter, however, is identical with
Maria, Clopas' wife or daughter. Salome, may well have been named Mary as well,
but I doubt it. She is probably the mother of the sons of Zebedee. I mentioned
above that I had an idea about who could be the mother of Lazarus, Mary and
Martha, and although I do not have a single evidence of that, I believe it may
have been Mary Magdalene. She was wealthy like them, her husband is never
mentioned, so she was probably widow, and in my opinion, she belongs in Judea,
not Galilee, as many otherwise think. If she was an aquaintance of Jesus'
parents it would also account for Jesus knowing her as well as her children, and
if she was a widow it could explain how she could travel together with Jesus.
Mary, mother of John Mark
and Mary from Romans
Mary, mother of John Mark, is only mentioned in Acts of the Apostles. Herod has
arrested John's brother James and had him executed, and now Peter has also been
arrested. The James mentioned is usually assumed to be the son of Zebedee, but
this is not explicitly stated. Peter escaped with the help of an angel and in
12.12 he goes to Mary's house: "When this had dawned on him, he went to the
house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had
gathered and were praying" (Acts 12.1-2) That's all we hear about this
specific Mary. Her son is mentioned again later in Acts, namely in 12.24-25,
where it is stated: "But the word of God continued to spread and flourish.
When Barnabas and Saul had finished their mission, they returned from Jerusalem,
taking with them John, also called Mark." Saul is the one who later became
known as Paul and Joseph Barnabas, was one of Paul's companions on many journeys.
Interestingly, Barnabas' nickname can be translated as "son of the prophet",
although other translations are also possible. Later Acts has (about another
travel): "Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul
did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and
had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that
they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose
Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord" (Acts
15.37-39). The story of John who left Paul and his retinue in Pamphylia can be
read in Acts 13.13, where John Mark is only called John.
John Mark is considered by many to be the same
Mark who was the author of the Gospel of Mark, but there is no evidence of this,
except for the name, and it is not obvious that this should be the case, as John
Mark traveled with Paul, while the author of the Gospel of Mark by most scholars
is believed to have been Peter's companion. Some believe that John Mark is the
same as Mark, cousin of Barnabas, mentioned in the letter of Colossians: "My
fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of
Barnabas. (You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome
him.)" (Col. 4.10) and in the Epistle to the Philemon, which reads: "Epaphras,
my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you greetings. And so do Mark,
Aristarchus, Demas and Luke, my fellow workers." (Philem. 1.23-24).
Already Hipolytes, who died in 235, believed that there were three different
persons, and I certainly agree that John Mark was not the same as the author of
the Gospel of Mark, but I will return to that later in an article on the origin
of the scriptures. Neither was he a likely cousin of Barnabas, who was from
Cyprus, while John Mark was from Jerusalem.
Actually, it is not - at least in this connection
- important who John Mark was, since this is about his mother. There is no doubt
that she was one of the first members of the Christian congregation in
Jerusalem, and that she must have been relatively wealthy, is also quite certain,
as she owned a house large enough for many to be gathered inside, and large
houses in or just outside Jerusalem, were not cheap then either. In addition,
she has at least one maid or slave girl in the house. As she herself owned the
house, it probably indicates that she was a widow, but she may also have been
unmarried and inherited the house from parents.
The events surrounding Peter's arrest took place around 41 or 42, so Mary could
easily have been one of the women who traveled with Jesus 6 to 10 years earlier,
and who is mentioned in the Gospels without being named. She may theoretically
also have been one of the above discussed Marys, but if that is the case, it is
difficult to say which one. Some of those who maintain the "cousinship" between
John Mark and Barnabas believe that she was the sister of one of Barnabas'
parents, see for example http://www.bibarch.com. However, the WebBible
Encyclopedia makes her a sister of Barnabas himnself (https://christiananswers.net/dictionary/mark.html).
The fact that Mary provided a home for the Christians must have meant that she
either had courage beyond the ordinary, since Herod Agrippa was pursuing them at
this very time. James, Zebedee's son had just been executed, Peter had been
arrested and yet she keeps an "open house" to the Christians. However, it is
also possible that she has had such good relationships that Herod would not or
could not take any action against her. Peter asks her to send a message to
James, Jesus' brother, who was the leader of the congregation, so he was not
present in the house when Peter arrived, but Mary must have known him as well.
The fact that Peter, after his escape, went directly to her house suggests that
she was close to the inner circle of the Christian congregation, so she might
well have been one of the previously mentioned Marys. Here I believe most in
Mary, Clopa's wife, but if Magdalene was the "weaver" she would have been
wealthy and live in or in the close vicinity of Jerusalem, and could easily have
a son. However she may also have been a not previously mentioned Mary.
This undoubtedly applies to the last Mary, namely the one mentioned in Romans
16.6, where it says, "Greet Mary, who worked very hard for you." A few
sources believe that she is the same as Mary, mother of John Mark, but this is
rejected by most scholars. The letter is one of those that most people agree was
actually written by Paul himself in the mid-50s. The wording of the letter
suggests that the said Mary herself lived in Rome, since the Romans were to
greet her, and Mary, the mother of John Mark, lived in Jerusalem in the early
40s, so she might have managed to travel to Rome and settle there, perhaps
because she was persecuted for her help to the Christians, but probably not.
Some believe that Paul had met Mary in Greece, but that she and other Christians
had now moved to Rome. In any case, this Maria has probably little to do with
the others mentioned.
So after going through all the different Marys
mentioned in the New Testament, let me return to the question of Jesus possible
If Jesus was married, then who was his bride?
Since Dan Brown published the novel "The da Vinci
Code", many of the readers of this novel will probably answer the question in
the header by saying Maria Magdalene, and
there are many others, even scholars who agree. On the other hand, many of those
who argue that Jesus never married, claims that he could not have been married
to Magdalene. But even if he was not married to her, he could have been married
anyway. Maybe with one of the other women mentioned in the Scripture, maybe with
a woman who is not mentioned at all. Although it is said that Simon Peter, the
other apostles, and Jesus' brothers were married, none of their spouses are
mentioned by name. On the whole, relatives are mentioned only very peripherally.
For example, we learn about Joanna, who followed Jesus, that she was married to
Chuza, an official at Herod's court. We learn about Simon Peter, that he has a
mother-in-law, and that some of the apostles are brothers, and we hear from time
to time about individual parents, but otherwise family relationships are
not often mentioned in the Gospels.
As mentioned above there is a "battle" between
those who believe that Jesus was married to Magdalene and those who believe that
he was married to Mary from Bethany, and there are some who try to settle the
schism by making the two Marys one and the same person. I have already argued
above that I don't believe that was the case, so I will not repeat that here,
but let me turn to the gospels anyway:
"Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from
Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. (This Mary, whose brother
Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped
his feet with her hair" (John 11.1-2). Here we are first told that Mary was
the sister of Martha and they were also sisters of Lazarus. We are also told
that it was Mary who anointed Jesus which I have mentioned earlier. The passage
is worded so that it appears that readers should know Maria and Martha in
advance. And so they do, though not from the Gospel of John. The Gospel of Luke
mentions two sisters named Martha and Mary. "As Jesus and his disciples were
on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to
him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what
he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.
She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to
do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered,
“you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or
indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away
from her." (Luke 10: 38-42). Some of the scholars, who believe that Jesus
was married, read the above passage as a confirmation of just that, that is,
that Mary had chosen the good part, the marriage with Jesus, and that Martha
therefore did not have to worry so much. And how could Jesus give Mary orders to
help Martha if they were not married? (In those days a husband could actually "command"
his wife to do things.)
The passage is interpreted by some scholars as if the Martha and Mary mentioned
in Luke was a different couple of sisters than the Martha and the Mary mentioned
in John. This is due to the location of the event at Luke, but the verses does
not have to be interpreted like that. The passage comes right after Jesus tells
the parable of the Good Samaritan, and begins with "As Jesus and his disciples
were on their way..." which to me indicates that this is a completely new story
that Luke begins, and that it has no connection with the preceding, neither in
time nor in place. In his section of the Gospel of Luke, there are actually a lot of
stories that are told completely without context. Personally, I think the two
Marthas and Marys in Luke are the same as the sisters mentioned in John. John
chapter 11 further states, "Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and
Lazarus." (John 11.5). That Mary and Martha were relatively well-known appears a
little later: "...and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the
loss of their brother" (Johs. 11-19). Bethany was a suburb only about 1.5
miles outside Jerusalem, where many of the Jewish upper class lived, like today
we see many wealthy people had their homes in the suburbs of large cities.
Already in the next verse follows the
introduction to the passage which gives reason to believe that Mary was married
to Jesus: "When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him,
but Mary stayed at home" (John 5.20). Mary and Martha are mourning their
deceased brother Lazarus, and Mary remains seated inside while Martha goes out
to meet Jesus. This indicates that Mary was married, as according to the custom
of the time, a married woman was not to leave "shiveh" (the period when she
stayed inside and mourned a deceased), unless she was ordered to do so by her
husband. An unmarried woman could though, if she did not have a father or
another head of household give her permission. The head of the household in this family was
Lazarus, and since it was he who had died, nothing would have prevented Martha, if she were unmarried,
from leaving the house. On the contrary, there
could be good reason for it if one of the visitors was her sister's husband. And
something actually suggests that one of the visitors was. Later the gospel has:
"After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. 'The
Teacher is here,' she said, 'and is asking for you.' When Mary heard this, she
got up quickly and went to him." (John 11: 28-29) Mary thus exhibits the
behavior that would characterize a good Jewish wife at that time. She stays
inside the house until her husband sends for her, after which she leaves the
house and seeks him out.
Michael Baigent et al (The Holy Blood, the Holy Grail) believed that Mary of
Bethany belonged to the tribe of Benjamin, while Jesus belonged to the tribe of
Judah and that Jesus therefore united two royal bloodlines. by marrying her.
So to cut a very long story
short, I believe that if Jesus was married, it was to either Mary from Bethany
or someone not known to us today, and not to to Mary Magdalene.
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