Was Jesus Married? An interesting question that has not serioulsy been raised in the arena of scholarly Christology. Nevertheless, it raises interest by the very act of asking the question. There are three main schools of thought about the question: those who believe that he was not and could not have been. These are in the main from the mainstream of Christian scholarship. For them, the question is absurd. The absurdity may be seen as arising from the perspective that celibacy is the superior way of life, required by the Roman Church for several centuries and while Protestant denominations have cast off many of the trappings of Catholicism they have not divested themselves of Catholic attitudes to sexuality, especially sexuality and spirituality and the bearing each has upon the other.
The second group are those who do not know whether he was or not. They are quire rightly confused by the issues, and who can fail to be confused? The issues are far from clear.
The final group is that which is in no doubt that Jesus was married. This is an interesting group because of its composition. It is not found in the mainstream of Christianity. In fact, many from this group do not belong to Christianity at all, but are what may be described as hostile critics of Christianity (and most other religions), whose main purpose is to discomfort Christians by expressing volubly the unacceptable idea that Jesus was married and thereby enjoyed normal intimate relations with a woman.
Some Jewish scholars present this perspective simply from the point of view that Jesus was a Jewish man although admittedly an extraordinary one.
To this group also belong some early Latter-day Saint theologians and, it should be said, some later ones that have kicked over the traces. Their purpose is dictated by the need to demonstrate that Jesus must have been married. This theological necessity is determined by the Latter-day Saint understanding of exaltation and Godhood.
These three schools of thought are engaged in a debate without communicating with each another. Their positions are firmly entrenched and they do not yield. But, what evidence is there for these discrete positions?
Tatian, a Gnostic, and Basilides, an Alexandrian theologian with Gnostic tendencies, are said by some (Joyce, Donovan The Jesus Scroll, Sphere Books Ltd. London, 1973, p. 86) to have been the founders of the idea that Jesus was not married. … What is the evidence for Jesus having been married or not married? Is there any evidence? It has to be admitted that the most often proposed argument in favour his having married is based on arguments from silence. For obvious reasons, these are never satisfactory; one has to jump to too many conclusions to accept them with any degree of enthusiasm.
Whilst the Judaic traditions required a father to ensure that his sons were circumcised, redeemed, acquire an education, a trade, and a wife, it is by no means certain that all Jewish boys were the beneficiaries of all these. Indeed, some might have none at all. Not all the B’nei Yisrael were deeply religious at the Meridian of Time any more than the adherents or followers of any religion are.
Sanders holds that Paul was probably a zealot who had no time for marriage.( Sanders, EP Paul, OUP, 1981, Oxford) It could be argued that Jesus, like Paul had a specific and individual mission to perform, and that his mission precluded his marrying during mortality. That is, of course, speculative and speculation is the enemy of scholarship and often leads us far from truth. …
Recognising that it was not unusual for Jewish boys to have their education and religious and social duties overlooked by parents, together with the recognition that Jesus was by no means ordinary and that his unusual destiny was known to at least one of his parents, and probably to both according to the scriptural records, there is little room to feel sure that his life would follow the normative course for other boys of his generation.
The Torah (the Tanach was not in existence in Jesus’ day) laid duties upon fathers to perform certain things for their sons. About Jesus, we can only be sure about his circumcision, although his religious education does not appear to have been neglected, as the interesting vignette of the twelve-year old shows.
If Jesus was married, why is there no reference to his wife or children? References to his family are limited to his mother and his brothers and sisters, although these have been carefully interpreted by Roman Catholics to be children of the reticent Joseph by a previous marriage. This is a legal fiction. Theological necessity produces many such fictions on the grounds that "It has to be because it must be!" Similarly, if we have to have Jesus married we will read the evidence, such as it is, to reach that conclusion. This can not be done except at the cost of truth, so we need to be circumspect and honest.
Apostle Orson Hyde taught that Jesus was married, and names Mary and Martha as having been his wives.(Journal of Discourses, volume 2, 10 June 1854) The reasoning behind his opinions is the same as anti-Christian hostiles,(Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln, "Holy Blood, Holy Grail," Dell Books) who aim to embarrass Christians. What is the weight of his evidence? Are they using sound judgement or creating a monster out of smoke?
Both groups claim that the wedding feast at Cana was one of Jesus’ marriages. As to his others they are all strangely silent. Their reasons for Jesus being the bridegroom at Cana are slight and unsure. They point out that Jesus was summoned to the wedding, as a bridegroom would have been. However, wedding guests were also summoned or invited to the feast, as detailed in the parable of the wedding guests. This construction is less than convincing.
To support their viewpoint it is pointed out that Jesus’ mother asked him to supply the wine. Since the bridegroom had the responsibility to supply the wine, it is argued that the groom must indeed have been Jesus. However, Mary approached her son in extremis, after the initial supply of wine) supplied by the real bridegroom) had dried up. Although not expressed in the narrative of the Fourth Gospel, she was clearly asking him to use his supranatural power to provide further wine. He understood the request not as a bridegroom who had failed to asses the number of guests expected at his wedding – an unlikely event – but as one who had been called upon to perform, not a mere miracle, but a sign of his divinity.
The synopticists are significantly silent about this event. If it had been the marriage of Jesus is it likely that it would have failed to have been mentioned, at least By Matthew who is at pains to demonstrate the Jewishness of Jesus as the promised mashiach? …
Some scholars confine Jesus to marrying that Mary, who is identified by the Roman Church as the penitent woman, Mary of Bethany and the Magdalene rolled into one. There is no textual or historical reason to confuse the women except, perhaps, to manufacture a type of woman who, whilst inferior to Mary the Virgin mother of Christ, is identifiable with all sinful women – and apart from the "Blessed Virgin Mary" - there are only sinful women.
There are no reasons apart from doctrinal necessity that indicates anything other than that Mary of Bethany and Mary Magdalene were other than upright and righteous women. Neither is there anything to suggest that Mary of Bethany was the husband of Jesus.
It is not insignificant that the appeal is again to the Fourth Gospel, the only place where the raising of Lazarus is recorded. Much is made of the fact that Mary remained in the house until she was ‘called’ by Jesus through the voice of Martha. We do not know enough of the circumstances to determine why Mary remained in the house. It is true that a wife would not run out of the house to greet her husband until he bade her do so. However, it is equally certain that unless Mary was aware that Jesus was outside she would remain where she was unless she had good reason to do otherwise.
Again, we must remember that we are not reading biography, although much of the content of the Fourth Gospel is historically accurate. Other parts may not be so accurate as to be taken as verbatim accounts of events. …
Who stayed where is of little importance and is unreliable in forming an opinion as to the marital state of either Jesus or Mary. Did she call him Lord? If she did, the word has a wide semantic range. In Aramaic, the language of Jesus and Mary, it is baal, meaning, lord, master, or husband, and everything in between. The relationship between Jesus and the little family at Bethany was obviously such that they knew his mission and destiny. Calling him master was not unusual or inappropriate, even for those to whom he was not married. Men also called him master.
… Phipps argument from silence is flimsy and easy to controvert. He writes as one who believes the Gospels to be accurate biographies which they patently are not. Each of the Gospels was written for a particular purpose, the material in them being manipulated towards specific ends. This does not detract from their value; rather it ensures that readers understand the points of view of the believing community.
The title, rabbi, meant teacher. In the time of Jesus’ mortal ministry Judaism was not yet formed, at best their religion was Proto-Judaism. … The great age of rabbinism had neither yet dawned. … Reading back present forms into ancient ones is likely to lead us further from the truth rather than toward it.
Appeal to the authority of Celsus is self-defeating. This pagan philosopher mounted a bitter attack on Christianity and would be likely to say anything that put Jesus in a bad light, such as the kissing of a woman on the lips, whether married to her or not. His True Discourse (c. 178) is the earliest known literary swipe at Christianity that we know only through fragments and through references to it in Origen’s response. To Celsus, the doctrines of Incarnation and Crucifixion were repugnant. He was the first anti-Mormon author!
The Gospel of Phillip is part of that literature – of which there is a mountain – known as the pseudepigrapha, meaning writings claiming to have been written by famous people, but which are known to be spurious. It is unreliable in the extreme as anyone familiar with it has discovered. Its main use is to show what later Christians, and sometimes non-Christians or heretics, thought the Church ought to teach. Writings in the name of some famous figure from the past were more likely to be accepted as authoritative by believers. …
We need to be circumspect when appealing to them for they are not trustworthy. Likewise when relying on tombstone inscription to determine who was buried in them or what the inscriptions really mean. Martha and Jesus were common enough names and we need not imagine that because the location seems right, that these inscription refer to characters from the pages of scripture. …
Dr Udley’s assertion that Simeon ben Jesus was Bishop of Jerusalem until his death in AD 106 beggars belief. One would expect that a Master of Theology would be aware that Jerusalem was destroyed in AD 70 by the Roman Army under General Sylvius, the Jews in Jerusalem either slaughtered or taken into slavery, the city ploughed up, and that was the end of the Jerusalem branch of the Church of Christ. It disappeared from the stage of history. … One tends to suspect the Doctor’s academic credentials!
Well, [Nathan Taylor] that’s a pretty good hatchet job on your essay! It still does not address the question. Of whether Jesus was married. The answer to that question is, "I don’t know!" I do know that we should be. Section 131 makes that abundantly clear, and we have no excuse for non-compliance once we are aware of the doctrine.
I know that Jesus will become married if he is not already. Could he have been married before he came to earth through the Incarnation? "And the Word was God." The scriptures are silent, and the inferences we may draw may give us comfort, but may not be reliable. The indices of his marital status are too slight to be safe. The argument from silence is never satisfactory. Silence can be understood in so many ways.