A Christian Conundrum
There are a growing number of people who believe that not only was Jesus married, but like many of the prophets before him, had more than one wife. According to this theory, these additional wives, along with other notable women, followed him around as he went about preaching, providing sustenance for him and his twelve apostles.
From the scriptures, we know that there was a contingent of women who, in fact, did follow Jesus around. Some of them were named and some were not. Some relationships were given; others were not.
Is it possible that some of these “were nots” may have been Jesus’ wives? We can’t really know without a new revelation. And I’m wondering, if there were a new revelation, and it revealed that Jesus was, in fact, married and had several wives, how many Christians would believe it? The cry of false prophet would undoubtedly be heard throughout the land.
But back to the point. I’m aware that you’d be hard pressed to find any Christian religion or sect that openly teaches that Jesus was married, let alone that he had several wives.
Nevertheless, tackling these sorts of subjects is what this blog is all about. So, whether Jesus had several wives or not, hang onto your seats, if you dare.
To the vast majority of Christians, the idea of Jesus being married at all is somehow sacrilegious, let along his having more than one wife. Even today, the idea of anyone having more than one wife at a time is considered evil and was, in fact, criminalized by Congress and upheld by the Supreme Court in the late 1800s, aimed directly at the Mormons who practiced a plurality of wives at the time, or at least some of them did.
However, this series of posts isn’t about modern ideas regarding the subject, but about Biblical ideas on the matter.
The Gospel of Philip
Actually, this subject has been of interest to me for quite some time. While attending college back in the dark ages, I took a non-matricuated Coptic class, just to do something different. It wasn’t costing me anything, so why not?
The text was the Gnostic Gospel of Philip written in Coptic. We were to go through the text and learn as we went. However, when we got to a certain place in the text, I was just flabbergasted. I will reserve this startling revelation (to me) until the end.
I realize the Gospel of Philip has never been canonized and isn’t considered scripture to modern Christians, but it is a period piece and many Christians at the time believed it to be scripture. It is thought to have been written in the second half of the third century A.D., which places it somewhere between 250 and 299 A.D. However, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t written earlier; that’s just what some Biblical scholars think.
What follows is a relating of some early Christians’ belief at a time not far removed from when Jesus walked the earth. The conclusions I draw are based on this fact alone.
Wesley M. Isenberg Translation
I am going to offer three translations of certain passages in the Gospel of Philip, followed by what I learned in that Coptic class. In each of the translations you will note differences: some similar, some vastly different. I will label the two passages “a” and “ b”.
The Isenberg translation is taken from the book, The Nag Hammadi Library, James M. Robinson, general editor, which I have in my possession. Hopefully my editing caught all the typos in their transcription into the computer.
a) There were three who always walked with the lord: Mary his mother and her [sic] sister and Magdalene, the one who was called his companion. His sister and his mother and his companion were each a Mary. (p. 145)
b) As for the Wisdom who is called “the barren,” she is the mother [of the] angels. And the companion of the [. . .] Mary Magdalene. [. . . loved] her more than [all] the disciples [and used to] kiss her [often] on her [. . .]. The rest of [the disciples 64 . . .]. They said to him, “Why do you love her more than all of us?” The savior answered and said to them, “Why do I not love you like her? When a blind man and one who sees are both together in darkness, they are no different from another. When the light comes, then he who sees will see the light, and he who is blind will remain in darkness. (p.148)
You will note the use of the lacuna, which is “a gap or missing part, as in a manuscript, series, or logical argument” (dictionary.com). It is interesting to me how they appear in the most critical of places; in other words, the areas with the most potential interest.
Jesus’ answer is a bit cryptic and not necessary to this discussion, but it seems to reference that Mary Magdalene saw the light (i.e., Christ) when it came and the disciples didn’t, at least fully, and, thus, remained in darkness. I’m sure those more schooled in ancient writing could come up with a better interpretation, but that’s the best I could do off the top of my head.
The Other Bible Translation
The translator of the Gospel of Philip in The Other Bible: Ancient Alternative Scriptures is not given, but the Introduction is by none other than Wesley M. Isenberg. This book, with an Introduction by Willis Barnstone, is also in my possession.
a) There were three who always walked with the Lord: Mary, his mother, and his sister and Magdalene, the one who was his companion. His sister and his mother and his companion were each a Mary. (p. 90)
b) As for the Wisdom, who is called “the barren,” she is the mother of the angels. And the companion of the Savior is Mary Magdalene. But Christ loved her more than all the disciples and used to kiss her often on her mouth. The rest of the disciples were offended by it and expressed disapproval. They said to him, “Why do you love her more than all of us?” The Savior answered and said to them, “Why do not I love you like her?” When a blind man and one who sees are both together in darkness, they are no different from another. When the light comes, then he who sees will see the light, and he who is blind will remain in darkness. (p.148)
There are both subtle and major differences from the Isenberg translation, as you can plainly see. Mary Magdalene, the companion of Jesus, is clearly preferred over the other disciples in this passage and he is very intimate with her.
Applying a little logic, one might wonder why the other disciples would be offended at Jesus kissing Mary Magdalene on the mouth and loving her more than all the rest of them. It plainly doesn’t make sense . . . unless the other disciples were women who also had an intimate relationship with him. I just can’t see men disciples being jealous in this scenario.
You might see things differently, but that’s how I see it.
Paterson Brown Translation
This version I got off the Internet. It can be found at: http://www.metalog.org/files/philip.html .
a) 36. There were three Mariams who walked with the Lord at all times: his mother and [his] sister and (the) Magdaleneº—this one who is called his Companionº. Thus his (true) Mother and Sister and Mate¹ is (also called) ‘Mariam’. (¹i.e. the Sacred Spirit; Mk 3:35, Th 101, Ph 59; hyperlinear)
b) 59. The wisdom which (humans) call barren is herself the Mother of the Angels.¹ And the companion of the [Christ] is Mariam the Magdalene. The [Lord loved] Mariam more than [all the (other)] Disciples, [and he] kissed her often on her [mouth].² The other [women] saw his love for Mariam,c they say to him: Why do thou love [her] more than all of us? || The Saviorº replied,³ he says to them: Why do I not love you as (I do) her? (¹Pro 8:12+32, Lk 7:35!!, Ph 40; ²Pro 24:26, S-of-S 1:2/6:9, Th 61b/107, Ph 35/36, Lewis Wallace, Ben Hur, V.16: ‘He kissed her. Was it only a kiss of peace?’; ³asyndeton; hyperlinear)
60. (While¹) a blind (person) and one who sees are both in the dark, they do not differ from one another. When the light comes, then he who sees shall behold the light, and he who is blinded shall remain in the darkness. (¹asyndeton; Jn 9, Th 34; hyperlinear)
In this translation, the first thing you will notice is the word, “Mate.” This gives a little more meaning to the previously used “companion.” A companion can be many things, even one who is kissed on the mouth. However, a mate can mean only one thing—in this case, a wife.
In the previous two translations, “disciples” was used throughout. You can see in the Brown translation that “disciples” was used in the first instance and “[women]” is used in the second. That’s very significant.
The use of “[women]” would certainly make more sense than the use of “disciples” in the two previous translations. Again, why would men disciples be jealous of Jesus kissing Mary Magdalene, his “Mate,” on the mouth, or even loving her more than he does them?
Jealousy would do it, but only from the viewpoint of those who would also have an intimate relationship with Jesus. Otherwise, who would care?
Coptic Class Translation
Unfortunately, I no longer possess the Coptic manuscript from the class, it having been lost or thrown out sometime over the past several decades and moves. However, such was the impression on me that I remember exactly this one point: The Coptic word translated as “companion,” according to the instructor, should have been translated as “consort.”
The dictionary.com’s definition of consort is: “a husband or wife; spouse, especially of a reigning monarch.”
And is Jesus Christ not a reigning monarch? In the highest sense!
Reading onward, we come across this same Coptic word, which, in the first two instances, was translated as “disciples.” Applying the instructor’s translation of “consorts,” we come up with an entirely different scenario.
So, according to the instructor and the Coptic manuscript I had before me at the time, the scenario becomes an unknown number of Jesus’ wives complaining to him in a fit of jealousy about his favoritism of Mary Magdalene. And this makes the most sense of all, at least to me.
However, as to whether Jesus was married, or whether he was married and had more than one wife, I will leave it up to you to decide for yourself.
There were many early Christians who believed that this was the case, as the Gnostics were a fairly large and competing Christian sect to the more established Mother Church.
That is all I will say on the matter. The rest is up to you.