Tuesday, July 15, 2008

WAS JESUS MARRIED (and does it matter) - Reprint from "The Bleeping Harald"

RePublished from The Bleeping Herald (http://www.bleepingherald.com/)
The Gods of Men, Part III
Hatred of the Way God Made Us: Jesus and Mary Magdalene
by Miceal Ledwith

The biggest difficulty that has to be faced in speaking about the relationship of Jesus to women, much less to discuss whether there is or was a messianic bloodline, is that the topic is taboo. To even raise the question is often considered impious, disrespectful or sacrilegious because in the tradition of Christian teaching sexuality has become defiled.

Just after What the Bleep came out, I was interviewed by a religious magazine that took some pride in considering itself at the cutting edge of left wing radical Christian thought. The interviewer asked me at the end of our session, “But don’t you think that if Jesus was married it would interfere with his divinity?” I was tempted to say “No more than being a man would interfere with it,” but instead I thought it more to the point to ask, “On what disastrous estimate of womanhood does your question rest?”

The Church in its early years steadfastly proclaimed that the uniqueness of Jesus consisted in the fact that he was fully divine, but also fully human. Despite that, through most of Christian history since then the true humanity of Jesus seems to have become an acute embarrassment to most Christians. In fact you begin to suspect that what really plagues Christianity is a distortion caused by nothing less than a hatred of the way God made us.

For that reason the idea of a Savior who was married will never rest easy in the traditional Christian mind, irrespective of what historical evidence or lack of it there may be, for the matter has long since had much more to do with prejudice than with history.

I have watched several distinguished biblical scholars being asked on television if there was any evidence in the New Testament that Jesus was married, and the answer has almost always been that there is none.

If you believe it is as easy for us to read and understand the New Testament as it is to read and understand the morning newspaper, then you would probably have to concede that this is so. But the Bible, even the New Testament, comes out of a time and culture that is as far removed from us today as it is possible to imagine. Its techniques of communication have little in common with the techniques of the New York Times or The Washington Post. It is far more close to the techniques used by fiction writers of genius in our own day, such as JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis, or Jonathan Swift in former times.

Nowhere does the New Testament state in words that Jesus was married, nor would I expect it to, given the context out of which the New Testament came. Neither does the New Testament tell us whether he cried as a child, or laughed with his companions around the campfire during their three years of wandering the countryside around the Lake of Galilee . Are we then to assume from that fact that humor and laughter are sinful, or are we to assume something different entirely? Or have we forgotten that allegories, images, symbols, and allusions communicate much more deeply than words?

In the New Testament you can read a letter by the brother of Jesus, Jude Thomas. He warned that certain trends among the very early Christians were causing them to lose sight of the original message about Jesus. They were introducing novel elements into the message which were not there originally. These people believed they were exalting Jesus; in fact they were betraying both what he was and what he came to do. “These dreams revile the flesh, scorn lordship and revile glorious beings.” (Jude 8). The Emperor Constantine, three hundred years later, is often blamed for altering the truth of Christianity when he established the Christianity of Paul as the state religion, but he was only recognizing what had already long existed. The statements of Jude Thomas became a remote and mute witness to what used to be the Way.

If the New Testament appears to be silent about the relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene perhaps it is because it was formulated in the period after the Bar Kochbar rebellion and the final destruction at Jerusalem and Masada . It was a period when it became imperative to placate the Romans and accuse the Jews of being the cause of the hostility which the message of Jesus aroused. In the later era when the Gospels were formed, incidents and their significance in the life of Jesus would come to be missed. But they would have been clear as crystal when the early Christian movement was still predominantly a Jewish or eastern Semitic thing. If the New Testament, as we have it, wished to be silent on the relationship between Jesus and Mary, it did not realize the significance which the Eastern mind would read into in the several incidents which are recounted in the New Testament. If their implications had been realized they would have been removed.

Several authors for example have suggested that the wedding at Cana which is told in John 2: 1-5 was actually the wedding of Jesus and Mary Magdalene. I still remain to be persuaded of that, but it is undeniable that Mary the Mother of Jesus is portrayed in this passage in the role of a person who has responsibility for the catering, possibly at her son’s wedding. The stewards come to tell her they have run out of wine and Jesus does what was needed to rescue the situation.

In John 2: 20, 28, and 29 the incident is told of Jesus returning from his travels to the house at Bethany which belonged to Martha, Mary, and Lazarus who had just died. Martha goes out to meet him, but not Mary. Is it because a wife in mourning cannot go out to meet her husband returning from a journey until she is sent for? That was the Jewish custom then, and Mary did go out to meet him when she was sent for.

This would imply, for anyone of the Jewish eastern mind at that period, that they were married. A person from a western culture, such as those who edited the Gospels, would miss that so the incidents remained in those forms in the text.

In Matthew 26 and Mark 14, we are told of the woman who anointed the feet of Jesus with oil. John Christopher Thomas, in his perceptive work, “Footwashing in John 13” points out that it was only a wife who would be permitted to engage in such an intimate act with a man and that indeed in the culture it often was a prelude to sexual intercourse between husband and wife.

In the Diatessaron, which dates from about 150-160 AD, we are told that the footwasher was the woman known as Mary of Bethany or Mary Magdalene.

In the same category is the incident told in Luke 10:39: the woman Mary who sat at the feet of Jesus. In first century Judaism it would have been considered scandalous for any woman other than a wife to do this.

In the New Testament’s seven lists of women associated with the ministry of Jesus, Mary Magdalene is named first in six of them, even ahead of the mother of Jesus. In the narratives of the appearances of Jesus in the garden after his passion, Magdalene was the first to meet him and it was within the context of an exchange of intimacies.

The original meaning of “Apostle” was “apostellein”, ‘to bear witness.’ If Magdalene was not alone just a witness, but the very first witness who saw him at that time, does it not justify her having the title not simply of “Apostle” but also that very ancient appellation often attributed to her, “Apostle of the Apostles?”

So the view of those authors who claim that the New Testament is silent about the special relationship between Jesus and Mary cannot be sustained. You could only conclude that if you believed the New Testament was as easily understood as the morning newspaper, and did not realize that a person of the western mind redacting the eastern traditions about the life of Jesus would have totally missed the implications which those incidents I have mentioned are actually asserting in the Jewish culture of the day. The early redactors missed the significance of those incidents and what they said of the relationship of Jesus and Mary; a modern western reader who is not clued in cannot fail to do the same.

In fact it was not until nearly two hundred years after the time of Jesus that early Christian writers first began to deny that he was married. It was much the same time when those same Christian writers began to be embarrassed by the awkward fact that the New Testament explicitly names four brothers of Jesus and also that he had sisters (Mark 6:3). Like the marriage, these brothers and sisters had also to be explained away when the urgency to make Mary the Mother of Jesus into a perpetual virgin was felt to be a necessity.

The linking of the doctrine of the Virgin Birth and the celibacy of Jesus did not begin to gain currency until the second century. The pagan notion then believed that because virgins were “undefiled” they were by that fact closer to God. It had never been a Jewish or a Christian notion up to that time.

In this way an essentially pagan notion carried over into the early Church which maintained that virginity was a spiritually superior state, whereas in Judaism it had always been maintained that it was the married state which was spiritually superior.

Many authors have claimed in recent years that because Jesus was a Jewish Rabbi, he would have had to be married. That would be an excellent argument were it not for the awkward fact that Jesus was not a Jewish Rabbi, but an itinerant teacher whose disciples called him by the mystery school title “Master” or “Rabboni.” His only relationship to the religious establishment was to be a thorn in its side.

Likewise nothing with regard to him being married can be adduced from his time in India and Tibet , where the tradition for a spiritual teacher was celibacy.

It’s very possible he had connections with the Essenes, as John had, but contrary to a lot of popular conviction today, they were not celibate. None of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which included the Essene, “Manual of Discipline,” makes any reference to any of their members living in a state of celibacy. Nor indeed did the teachings of Jesus have anything in common with the harsh rigors of the Essenes.

It is well known that the Nag Hammadi Gospel of Philip describes some form of romantic relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene. The Valentinian movement of the middle second century did teach that Jesus had been married and the Gospel of Philip is believed to be associated with that movement.

Among the early Church Fathers, Clement of Alexandria (c. 150-216 AD) is remarkable for his insistence on the goodness of all creation, and his equal insistence that it is not the sexual organs or sexual intercourse that is obscene, but only the immoral use of sexuality.

Clement also stated that the Apostles took their wives along with them on their missionary journeys. It should be noted that the Greek term “gune” can be translated both as ‘woman’ and as “wife.” So when we read in a modern translation of the Gospels that a ‘woman’ or “women” followed Jesus or the Apostles, we should remind ourselves that those words could just as validly be translated as “wife” or “wives.” It would be ironic indeed if Jesus set a celibate example which none of his disciples followed. Even Paul had been married before his conversion, and both Clement of Alexandria and Origen (185-254 AD) believed he married again to Lydia at Philippi , a woman to whom he referred as his “co-bearer of the yoke.” (Phil. 4:3).

Of course with St. Augustine we are fully immersed in the view that all things to do with sexuality is evidence that mankind is a fallen race. This tradition had an enormous influence on subsequent Christianity when the necessity of portraying Jesus as having absolutely nothing to do with such realities became paramount. His body came from a virginal conception, his mother was a perpetual virgin, even throughout the process of his birth, and he himself was celibate.
So contrary to what so many people believe, now it appears that the tradition that Jesus was celibate could not have come from an early Apostolic tradition, but arose to prominence only after Christianity had started to compromise its original teachings with pagan views that were hostile to both women and marriage. Thus it came about that an essentially pagan notion was to define what mattered most about Christianity and about Jesus for the majority of people, as it still does in certain quarters today. The stage was set for celibacy to become the very badge of holiness in the West, and indeed the very discussion of sexuality began to smack of the taboo in Christianity. The Age of the Gods of Men had reached its zenith and the psychosis of implicitly having as a religious duty to hate the way God made us, held center stage.

Even the interpretation of the Fall of Mankind in the Garden of Eden began at this same time to be re-interpreted as a sexual sin, even though both Christian and Jewish commentators did not see it in that way at all.

But oddly enough even this in itself would incline towards the necessity of a married savior, since if we view the Fall as a sexually transmitted disease, then a Redeemer would surely himself have to enter such a human situation in order to redeem it, along with all the other elements of human existence that stood in need of Redemption.

Given the background of the Judaism of his day and what we can glean from a much more accurate understanding of the foundational Christian texts and the early Christian tradition, it seems clear the burden of proof rests on those who would deny that Jesus was married. If some still find this difficult to accept or even incline to believe it is impious or sacrilegious to make such a suggestion, then it is really time for them to ask why they consider it so important to make hatred of the way God made us into a central religious duty.

Copyright Michael F. Ledwith 2008.

Miceal Ledwith appeared in the hit move "What the Bleep Do we know" and its sequel "Down the Rabbit Hole." He is co-author of "The Orb Project" published by Simon and Schuster/Beyond Words in November 2007, and has published three DVDs so far in his projected series, "The Hamburger Universe," 2005, "How Jesus Became a Christ," 2006, and "Orbs: Clues to a More Exciting Universe," February 2008. He has lectured extensively all over North and South America, South Africa, Australia, Europe and Japan.

He can be reached at his website: hamburgeruniverse.com [1]
Source URL:http://www.bleepingherald.com/jul2008/miceal
Links:[1] http://www.hamburgeruniverse.com


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