Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Cracking the Code #2

Code Two: Was Jesus Married?

The argument put forward for supposing Jesus was married comes from the gospel of Luke 8:1-3. The suggestion is made that to travel with an itinerant teacher or to live alongside men in such a way would have been rather unusual in that culture. While this is probably true, what does it prove? That Jesus allowed women to travel with him! It doesn’t by any stretch of the imagination prove that he was married to one of them. Let’s examine the text closer to see if there is anything here to help Brown’s case.

Soon afterwards he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources.
These women were possibly supporting the ministry of Jesus financially. It is likely that it would have been scandalous for Jesus to have women travelling with him. But does that suggest that Jesus was married to one of them, or Mary Magdalene in particular? Why could not Mary be married to one of the other disciples? Some have tried to associate Mary Magdalene with the story of the sinful women in the preceding narrative of the anointing of Jesus. But again that seems highly unlikely for several reasons. Firstly, the act in Luke 7:36-50 is about an unnamed women. The story narrates that this unnamed woman came to anoint Jesus and to beg for his forgiveness. The story is portrayed as offensive. But this begs our second question. If Jesus was married to this women, would the act have been offensive? There appears to be a narrative break at Luke 8 so the inference that the women are the same as that of the previous pericope is question begging.

Lastly, why could Mary not also have embraced clear teaching in Matthew 19:12 that it is better to remain single and serve the Kingdom of GOD?
Our text reveals much that is telling:

His 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 accept this teaching, 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 others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.”
The explicit question at hand, by the disciples is “Is it better not to marry?” Jesus suggests himself as the example here to be followed. “If you can do this, then do it.” Darrell Bock poses the perceptive question: why would Jesus issue such a statement, acknowledge it as a demanding calling, and not follow it?[Bock, D. Breaking the Da Vinci Code, pg. 38]. Bock, in his article Was Jesus Married?, also notes the following historical context that we must take into account:

Traditions encouraging a dedicated single life also existed elsewhere in Judaism. Members of the ascetic Jewish sect of the Essenes were known for their emphasis on celibacy (Josephus, Antiquities; Jewish War; Philo, Hypothetica 11.14-18). At Qumran, most appear to have been celibate, although a Dead Sea Scroll about the community suggests some possibility (1QSa 1:4-10) of marriage, women, and children in the messianic times. For those Essenes at Qumran, the point of remaining single was also dedication to God.

Thus, the theory that Jesus was married lacks positive support and is shown to be begging because of Jesus’ radical teachings and example. So if we ask what the hard evidence is that Jesus was married, there really is a very short answer. There is none.
[Incidently, I was just reading Scot McKnight's essay Jesus and Prophetic Actions {Bulletin for Biblical Research 10.2 (2000) pg. 197ff} and he quickly makes the same case from Matt 19:12 as I have above... yay!]
I might add a third code later... Research is keeping me busy and Horsley's new collection of articles Paul and the Roman Imperial Order has just arrived but alas, it will be a week before I sit down with that one... ciao, s. D.

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