Was Mary Magdalene The Wife Of Jesus?

Factors That Indicate She Was Not

There is no record anywhere of Mary Magdalene being married to Jesus or of having a child. Asbury Theological Seminary Bible scholar Ben Witherington III states “”There is absolutely no early historical evidence that Mary’s relationship with Jesus was anything other than that of a disciple to her Master teacher” (1).

Even if Jesus did have a wife, instead of being an embarrassment, it would have been something to be celebrated. And if he did have children they would have held positions of honor in the church. There is nothing in the second century Gnostic Gospels of Mary and Philip that endorse this claim (2).

Even if these Gnostic accounts allude to a relationship that was more than just teacher-disciple these claims cannot be relied upon as they are said to have been written by people at conflict with orthodox Christianity and discarded as heretical (3). Besides, these Gnostic allusions are in no way supported by the Canonical Gospels or Josephus (4).

According to some sources Judah is said to be the son of Jesus with Mary Magdalene. That son was referred to as the “Beloved Disciple” at the “Last Supper” and he was also said to be the young boy who ran away naked from the garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:51). Judah was said to be 10-13 years at that time. Let us suppose that this is true and that Jesus was crucified in AD 30. This would mean that Judah was born around AD 17 and AD 20. If this is so then Jesus and Mary Magdalene would have been married some time between AD 16 and AD 19. This would mean that Mary Magdalene would have been about 16 and 18 years old at the time of her marriage and that she was born around 1BC and 4 AD.

As per the Acts of Philip which is generally thought to be authentic, the episode relating to the martyrdom of Philip, the brother of Miriamne, would have taken place in the 8th year of Emperor Trajan. This would mean that the martyrdom took place around AD 104. Eusebius states that the burial of Philip at Heirapolis took place around AD 100. If Mary Magdalene is the Miriamne of this story she would have been between 100 and 106 years of age when she went away to the Jordan River.

While some scholars assume that she died and was buried in Jerusalem, others think that she would have proceeded to Galilee and then onto her hometown Magdala. The argument here is that if Miriamne of the Acts of Philip is Mary Magdalene then this is not her ossuary since ossuaries ceased to be used from AD 70 (5).

If as some scholars contend, Mary Magdalene was the wife of Jesus, the Romans would have executed her when she was there at the cross during the crucifixion of Jesus since the Romans were known to have executed the heirs of anyone who tried to usurp the throne of the emperor in Rome. Even if she was not executed at the spot of the crucifixion she would have been executed by one of the host of Roman emperors through whose reign Mary Magdalene would have lived – if she is the Miriamne of the Acts of Philip she would have lived for 75 years more after the crucifixion of Jesus. Her execution by the Romans was highly likely considering that they “were very good at hunting down sons, daughters and wives.” (6)

Factors That Indicate She Was The Wife Of Jesus

The claim that Mary Magdalene was Mariamne is not totally without basis. In the 4th century Acts of Philip a woman who many think is Mary Magdalene is consistently referred to as Mariamne. So much so François Bovon, Research Professor of the History of Religion wonders if she is the sister of Philip. This version of the Acts is claimed to be “the earliest and most complete one known and is also one of the earliest known historical sources explicitly citing Mary Magdalene’s name.” According to these Acts Mary Magdalene died in Palestine, making it possible for her to have been buried in Jerusalem.

It appears that James Tabor has recently come across an even earlier source – Refutations 5.2 by Hippolytus, a second century Christian writer. He wrote “These are the heads of very numerous discourses which the Nassenes assert that James the brother of the Lord handed down to Mariamne.” This was written around 175 CE some 100 years after the destruction of Jerusalem and suggests that “Mariamne” was, at one time, the head of a ministry thereby entitling her to be addressed as “lord” or “honorable lady.” (7). Hippolytus also mentions that a group Jewish-Christian Nassenes taught “that James the brother of Jesus had handed down the secret traditions of Jesus to Mary Magdalene, who presumably carried on the mission after the death of James.” (8)

Last Supper

John 20:1 then names Mary Magdalene in describing who discovered the tomb to be empty. Mark 16:1 says she was accompanied by Salome and Mary the mother of James, while Matthew 28:1 omits Salome. Luke 24:10 says the group that found the empty tomb consisted of “Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them”. Mark, Matthew, and John say that Jesus’ first post-resurrection appearance was to Mary Magdalene. Because of this and her later missionary work she was also referred to by the title “Equal of the Apostles.” (9)

Esther A. de Boer author of the book Mary Magdalene, beyond the Myth compares the role of Mary Magdalene and concludes that “in the Gospel of Mary it is Peter who is opposed to Mary’s words, because she is a woman. Peter has the same role in the Gospel of Thomas and in Pistis Sophia. In Pistis Sophia the Mary concerned is identified as Mary Magdalene.” The last scene of the Gospel of Mary shows Levi coming to the defense of Mary telling Peter “Surely the Savior knows her very well. That is why he loved her more than us.” (10)

Fragments of bone from the “Jesus son of Joseph” ossuary and the “Mariamne” ossuary were tested and the results showed that the two were no blood relatives. From this finding the makers of the documentary “The Lost Tomb of Jesus” draw the conclusion that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were husband and wife. The probable reasoning could have been that otherwise the two would not have been buried together in a family tomb. Opponents of this reasoning argue that the finding only showed that the two were not born of the same mother. They further argue that “the remains were not dated using radiocarbon to further sustain this supposition, neither was any announced DNA testing done on the other ossuaries to see if any familial relation existed there.” The other reason for disagreement with the makers of the documentary is that the two individuals tested could have been related in any of a number of ways including father/daughter, cousins or half brother/sister (11).

In his book Simcha concedes that there is no mention in any of the gospels or elsewhere of Jesus being married and fathering children. However based purely on the ossuaries of these two individuals and their contents, he insists that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were husband and wife and that details of this must have been recorded in code (12).

Mitzwâh Be Performed Only By Women Who Are Mother, Sister Or Wife

If there was no special relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene, why would the two have been interred in the same family tomb (is there any law or tradition that requires this?). Besides this “Pharisaic rules of modesty” require that mitzwâh be performed only by women who are mother, sister or wife. One of the women performing mitzwâh in Mk. 16.1 was Mariamenou Mara. How would she have been allowed to do this if she wasn’t the wife of Jesus or perhaps even his sister? (13)

The fact that the Gospels of Matthew, John and Mark state that it was Mary Magdalene that Jesus appeared to first, is considered to be significant for several reasons. While she was considered a principle figure in Gnosticism, she was also considered to be the next most important teacher only to Jesus. Some scholars believe that Jesus chose to appear to Mary Magdalene first because of a special relationship.

The Nag Hammadi Texts Tell Us Jesus Loved Mary Magdalene More Than All The Disciples

The Nag Hammadi texts tell us that Mary Magdalene was the companion of Jesus and that he loved her “more than [all] the disciples, and used to kiss her [often] on her [mouth]”. We also learn from these texts that the other disciples were offended because of this and asked Jesus “Why do you love her more than all of us?” The Savior answered and said to them, “Why do I not love you as (I love) her?” (14)

In further support that Jesus was a family man, it may be mentioned that it was a “Pharisaic expectation that a Ribi be married.” (15)

As it was expected of Jewish ribis to marry, why would there be any mention of Jesus being married, unless there was special reason to record it. And those who argue against this have the burden of proving their point and the onus is not on those who endorse what was customary to Judaism (16).

In Sept 2012 Harvard University released a photo of a fourth century fragment of papyrus that quotes Jesus clearly referring to having a wife. According to divinity professor Karen L. King this is in all probability the only ancient text on this subject.

Carbon dating of this so called “Jesus Wife” fragment dates it to the 8th century, some five hundred years after the contents of the official Bible was agreed upon. While many of us think of the Bible as one “cohesive book” its contents were chosen from hundreds of texts.

While these hundreds of texts do not from part of the scriptures they at least tell us “about how communities worshiped and what was important to them.” (17)

Jesus wife fragment

“Jesus Wife” fragment


(1) Mary Magdalene (2012). Retrieved 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Magdalene

(2) Craig Evans, Craig & Feldman, Steven. (2007). The Tomb of Jesus? Wrong on Every Count. Retrieved 2011, from http://www.bib-arch.org/scholars-study/jesus-tomb-02-b.asp

(3) Price, Randall. (n.d.). Jesus Family Tomb Fact Sheet. Retrieved 2011, from http://www.raptureready.com/featured/price/tomb.pdf .

(4) Pfann, Stephen J. (n.d.). Mary Magdalene Is Now Missing:
A Corrected Reading of Rahmani Ossuary 701. Retrieved 2011, from http://www.sbl-site.org/assets/pdfs/Pfann.pdf

(5) Franz, Gordon. (2007). The So-Called Jesus Family Tomb ‘Rediscovered’ in Jerusalem. Retrieved 2011, from https://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2007/03/17/The-So-Called-Jesus-Family-Tomb-Rediscovered-in-Jerusalem.aspx

(6) Franz, Gordon. (2007). The So-Called Jesus Family Tomb ‘Rediscovered’ in Jerusalem. Retrieved 2011, from https://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2007/03/17/The-So-Called-Jesus-Family-Tomb-Rediscovered-in-Jerusalem.aspx

(7) Feuerverger, Andrey. (2008). STATISTICAL ANALYSIS OF AN ARCHEOLOGICAL FIND. The Annals of Applied Statistics, Vol. 2, No. 1, 3-54

(8) Feuerverger, Andrey. (2008). STATISTICAL ANALYSIS OF AN ARCHEOLOGICAL FIND. The Annals of Applied Statistics, Vol. 2, No. 1, 3-54

(9) Mary Magdalene (2012). Retrieved 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Magdalene

(10) Gospel of Mary. (2012). Retrieved 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gospel_of_Mary

(11) The Lost Tomb of Jesus. (2012).Retrieved 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lost_Tomb_of_Jesus

(12) Franz, Gordon. (2007). The So-Called Jesus Family Tomb. Retrieved 2011, from

(13) Ben-David, Yirmәyahu. (2008). Burning Issues: Talpiot Tomb Complex. Retrieved 2011, from http://www.netzarim.co.il/Museum/Sukkah03/Burning%20Issues%20Talpiot%20Tomb.htm

(14) Pagels, Elaine. (1979). The Gnostic Gospels. Vintage Books. New York .pg 17.

(15) Controversy Erupts—Again. (n.d.). Retrieved 2011, from http://www.bib-arch.org/scholars-study/jesus-tomb-01.asp

(16) Ben-David, Yirmәyahu. (2008). Burning Issues: Talpiot Tomb Complex. Retrieved 2011, from http://www.netzarim.co.il/Museum/Sukkah03/Burning%20Issues%20Talpiot%20Tomb.htm

(17) Jesus fragment article. Retrieved 31/10/2015 from    http://time.com/57705/jesus-wife-parchment-women-church/

Picture Credits:

(Fig 1) The Last Supper http://commonsenseconspiracy.com/2014/04/does-it-really-matter-if-jesus-christ-had-a-wife/

(Fig 2) “Jesus wife” fragment


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