The Da Vinci Code, Part Two

In last week’s entry I argued that there is no reliable historical evidence to support the claims of The Da Vinci Code (DVC) that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and fathered a child. But where did the theory come from? Dan Brown gets many of his ideas from an argument made in a previously published book, Holy Blood, Holy Grail. That book and others like it, stake their claim on two basic strands of “evidence”:

1). References from the so-called “Gnostic Gospels”—the Gospel of Philip and the Gospel of Mary—demonstrate that Jesus favored Mary and was even seen kissing her. In The DVC, the “historian” Leigh Teabing asserts that “Christ himself made the claim” that he was married.1

Response: These documents were composed long after the completion of the four New Testament Gospels (Mary dating from the 2nd century and Philip dating from the 3rd). The early Church deemed such texts historically unreliable and heretical, because they were written so long after the actual events in the first century. Bishop Irenaeus of Lyons condemned such Gnostic documents in the late 2nd century in his treatise Against Heresies.

But even supposing Mary and Philip were trustworthy (which they are not), there is still no evidence to be gathered from them that would suggest that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married.

In Philip 63:33-36, there is an obscure passage fragment that indicates that Jesus kissed Mary. But in context most scholars take this merely as an indication of spiritual fellowship. It is unlikely that the Gnostics would have meant that something sexual was involved.

In Mary 17:10-18:21, the primary focus is on a passage in which Peter disputes whether or not Jesus had given a special revelation to Mary. Secret knowledge (hence the term gnosis) was, after all, a key Gnostic theme. But here again, no hint is given, even in this Gnostic text, that Jesus had a marital relationship with Mary.

2). The second claim made by The DVC to support that “Jesus must have been married” comes from Jewish customs. “The social decorum during [Jesus’] time virtually forbid a Jewish man to be unmarried. . . . celibacy was condemned,” we hear Teabing say.2

Response: While it is true that men who were officially rabbis were married men, Jesus never claimed to be a rabbi, either. This was actually a sticking point with the Pharisees. As New Testament scholar Darrell Bock points out, “As far as the Jewish leaders were concerned, Jesus had no recognized official role in Judaism.”3 While His disciples did call Him rabbi, the sense of the word is simply “teacher,” as Luke’s Gospel points out. Further evidence shows that there was precedent from the Essene community in Qumran for celibacy during Jesus’ time for spiritually devoted persons. What is more, Jesus likened the call of the disciple to that of becoming a eunuch (Matt. 19:10-12).4 As Bock queries, “Why would Jesus issue such a statement, acknowledge [celibacy] as a demanding calling, and not follow it?”5

Footnotes :

1 Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code (New York: Doubleday, 2003), 242.

2 Ibid., 245.

3 Darrell Bock, Breaking the Da Vinci Code: Answers to the Questions Everyone’s Asking (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2004), 37. This book is the most helpful single volume that discredits the claims of The DVC.

4 “The disciples said to him, ‘If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.’ But he said to them, ‘Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it’” (Matt. 19:10-12).

5 Ibid., 38.

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