Presbyterians of the Past

Did Jesus Marry Mary Magdalene?

I was taken by surprise when asked by someone if Jesus married Mary Magdalene. I had not heard the theory recently but knew my answer was no. Some quick Internet searches showed it was the subject of recent articles and discussion. As it turned out, the press has been concerned with a single manuscript (i.e., a handwritten text) said to be ancient, but this current example is one specimen representing several conjectures through the centuries regarding the relationship of Jesus and Mary Magdalene. As a general principle, whenever there is a new single manuscript that is the only one in existence, one should be careful regarding its authenticity. It is not that a new manuscript from antiquity cannot be genuine, but for it to be a New Testament manuscript it would need to agree with other existing New Testament manuscripts. The manuscript in question is not a portion of the New Testament. The New Testament we have today is essentially that of the apostolic era and it is testified to by thousands of manuscripts ranging in size from the oldest extant fragment, 140 A.D., which is from the Gospel of John and is held by the John Rylands Library in Manchester, England, to larger portions such as the Gospels, and of course, entire New Testaments. These manuscripts are in ancient Greek, Syriac, and Latin, as well as later languages. The point is the text of the New Testament you hold in your hands has a manuscript history dating from the era of the Apostles and the Apostolic Fathers (theologians-ministers who knew the Apostles). The scribal commitment of Jews to provide accurate copies of what Christians call the Old Testament as well as the effort of Christians to give precise copies of the Old and New Testaments greatly exceeds the accuracy of transcriptions for non-biblical documents over the centuries. So, when a single manuscript of anything comes along as a new discovery, critical discernment is needed. So, my answer provided below to the question regarding Jesus’ marriage is based on the reliability of the New Testament and its textual history that has been uniquely directed by God to give us His infallible Word.

The image of text in the header that mentions Mary Magdalene is from the Gospel of John as in, The Bible, Translated according to the Ebrew and Greeke, and conferred with the best translations in divers Languages. With most profitable Annotations upon all the hard places, and other things of great importance, as may appeare in the Epistle to the Reader. London: Deputies of Christopher Barker, Printer to the Queenes most excellent Maiestie, 1594. The queen was Elizabeth I.

Mary Magdalene is mentioned in Matthew 27:56, 61, 28:1; Mark 15:40, 47, 16:1, 9; Luke 8:2, 24:10; John 19:25, 20:1, 18. What appears to be a surname today, Magdalene, in fact shows that Mary was from Magdala which was a village on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee.

Barry Waugh

An answer to the question, Were Jesus and Mary Magdalene married?

I have read six website postings from recent years regarding your concern whether or not Jesus married Mary Magdalene and they all deal with a small manuscript (handwritten text) that is about the size of a business card. This small manuscript was written in the Coptic language which developed in Egypt sometime around the second century A.D. (Ano Domini, Year of Our Lord). I think Coptic is still used by Christians living in Egypt. The fragment is said to include the words, “Jesus said to them, My wife.” The idea that Jesus married Mary Magdalene has existed for some time and it has been used in the plots of books and films. There are many religious manuscripts from the centuries of Christianity that have teachings contrary to the New Testament. During the years immediately after Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension, there was opposition to Jesus because He is the Son of God. There were those that questioned His full deity, His full humanity, and His relationship to God the Father and the Holy Spirit. The opponents of Jesus wrote manuscripts that questioned essential truths about Him. What the New Testament teaches about Mary Magdalene is that she was a follower of Jesus who was at the crucifixion; she went to the tomb where He was buried and saw that He was no longer there; and she reported her news to the disciples. You should read the 19th and 20th chapters of the Gospel of John in the New Testament to get the truth about Mary’s association with Jesus. Mary Magdalene was loved by Jesus as His faithful disciple, but that is all there was to it.

For me, the issue is whether or not the Bible including both the Old and New Testaments is what it claims to be, the Word of God. I believe the Bible is the Word of God and it does not lie or tell half truths about Jesus or anything else. Even more, the Bible’s purpose is to call us to believe in Jesus Christ to deliver us from our sins through faith, so we can worship Him and enjoy eternal life. It is a simple message that the New Testament writers, inspired by God, have provided. There have been over the centuries many that questioned the truthfulness of the Bible, the significance of its message, and other aspects of who Jesus was and what He did, so it is not surprising that somewhere along the line someone came up with the idea that Jesus married Mary Magdalene. My confidence that Jesus did not marry Mary Magdalene is based on the truth of the Bible as it expressed their relationship clearly. In the Bible, God has revealed to us His great grace. I mentioned the Gospel of John earlier in this message. In chapter three God’s love and purpose in Christ is expressed succinctly in the sixteenth verse, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.” This was Jesus’ purpose, and He calls all to believe in Him and become faithful disciples like Mary Magdalene.


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