This brief question came in:
Hi Glenn -
I am witnessing to a friend who is a pagan and is convinced Jesus and Mary Magdalene had sex. How can I prove that they did not? Besides the Jesus being without sin thing. I looked over the index and can't find anything related to that. I would figure with all the books out on that right now there would be some question submitted. If there is can you point me in the right direction?
Thanks so much!!
My response dealt with two issues: the need for some kind of supporting evidence FOR their friend's position, and the problems with the data that is typically given for claims such as this.
Here's the first part:
“You CANT prove something like that--but there is no reason to BELIEVE IT or ASSERT it either... ask your friend WHAT HISTORICAL DATA do they base their belief on! Ask them to 'prove' that Jesus and MM had sex and to show you the historical data for you to evaluate.
If its an apocryphal gospel they are basing it on, then that is something concrete enough to evaluate (there is a TON of data on the bogus gospels)... but if its just SPECULATION -- without any real data they have--then they are just doing the 'blind faith' thing--believing they had sex WITHOUT there being any reason/data to base that belief on... you just have to get them to SEE that their position is just GROUNDLESS SPECULATION.
If they are basing their idea on some theory that Jesus and MM were married--then there are tons of books debunking that too... it is just not held by any non-fringe scholars, so I dont treat it in my Tank.
The only document that anybody says SUPPORTS that they were married is the Gospel of Philip, a gnostic document written 200 years after Jesus' life. It is a bizarre document, which no mainstream thinker takes seriously--and which doesnt actually mention a marriage of Jesus. It talks about kisses at most. When it DOES mention marriage, it is a symbolic reference to the rites of initiation into Gnostic religion.
And the second part is data about the so-called “Gospel of Philip”--which might be the ultimate 'source' of the theory:
From the Anchor Bible Dictionary (on Gospel of Philip):
PHILIP, GOSPEL OF (NHC II,3). A Valentinian Christian document included among the Nag Hammadi Coptic codices discovered in Egypt in 1945. The text is extant only in this ms (Codex II,3; pp. 51-29-86:19), very likely a translation of an original Greek work. A Syrian provenance for the Greek text is suggested in part by the interest shown in the meaning of Syriac words (63:21–23; 56:7–9). Our Coptic copy is dated ca. a.d. 350.
The text is anonymous and may bear Philip’s name merely because he is the only apostle referred to by name (73:9–14). Among gnostics, however, Philip was considered a privileged recipient and caretaker of the Lord’s revelation (Pistis Sophia 1:42). The apocryphal Acts of Philip portrays its protagonist as an ascetic who taught chastity and continence in marriage and who overcame heavenly demons by sacramental means.
Gos. Phil. is not like one of the NT Gospels. It is a compilation of statements in a variety of literary types: parable, paraenesis, narrative dialogue, dominical saying, aphorism, and analogy, along with samples of biblical exegesis, dogma, and polemics. These statements, however, are not placed into a narrative framework but are arranged in a sequence that is neither strictly topical nor predictable. Efforts to analyze the scheme of arrangement are hampered by inconvenient lacunae in the ms.
Some continuity of thought can be observed in the linkage of similar materials (e.g., 51:29–52:35, series of contrasts) or in the use of catchwords (e.g., 77:15–78:24, “love”). Abrupt changes of thought are frequent. Certain themes recur at unequal intervals (e.g., the need to rise before one dies, 56:15–20; 56:26–57:22; 66:16–23; 73:1–8), but with no obvious intervening development. There is a possibility that the compiler has broken coherent paragraphs into pieces (e.g., read in this order 70:5–9; 76:22–77:1; 66:7–29; or 75:13–14 followed by 61:36–62:5; or 63:5–11 prefixing 70:22–29).
Gos. Phil. contains eight brief, enigmatic “new” sayings of Jesus (55:37–56:3; 58:10–14; 59:25–27; 63:29–30; 64:2–9; 64:10–12; 67:30–35; and 74:25–27). In addition it quotes five sayings of Jesus from Matthew (3:15; 6:6; 15:13; 16:17; and 27:46 [= Mark 15:34]) and three from John (6:53; 8:32, 34). The only other NT passages cited are Matt 3:10; 1 Cor 8:1; 15:50; and 1 Pet 4:8. There are many allusions to NT contexts and expressions, and the early chapters of Genesis receive an ongoing exegesis. There is no disparagement of the OT in Gos. Phil., and the citation of Matt 3:10 is said to be as “the word says” (83:11).
Gos. Phil. tells several extracanonical stories about Jesus. He changed his appearance to suit the nature of those to whom he was revealing himself (57:28–58:10). His three female companions were each named Mary (59:6–11), though Mary Magdalene alone received many kisses from him (63:32–64:2). The result of mixing 72 colors together was a vat of white (63:25–30).
Gos. Phil. is very short on speculation about Sophia, the nature of the Pleroma, or the myth of creation. The tripartite division of humanity—fleshly, psychic, pneumatic—is not emphasized. Gos. Phil. speaks rather of being “a Hebrew,” or “a Christian,” or “a Christ.”
The primary interest of Gos. Phil. is the restoration of Adam’s original androgynous nature. Christ came expressly “to repair the separation” (70:12–17), which has brought death (68:22–26). The reunion is also spoken of as “the resurrection” (67:9–18) and must be attained before one dies, as pioneered by “the lord” (56:15–19). The reunion can be effected in the sacramental bridal chamber (70:17–22), where “the mysteries of truth” are revealed in type and image (84:20–21; 85:14–19).
Only “free men and virgins” may enter the bridal chamber; “animals, slaves, and defiled women” are excluded (69:1–4). A “virgin” is one never defiled by sexual intercourse (55:27–28), a “free man” does not sin (77:15–18); together they are called “Christians” (74:13–16), who possess “the resurrection, the light, the cross, the Holy Spirit” (74:18–21). Since “Christian” in the gnostic glossary normally designates the psychic rather than the pneumatic, Gos. Phil. is offering the psychic the chance to rise to the pneumatic level—by sacramental means (64:22–31; 74:12–15; 67:26–31). Even “a slave” can advance to a higher level (79:13–18).
Gos. Phil. summarizes: “The lord did everything in a mystery, a baptism and a chrism and a eucharist and a redemption and a bridal chamber” (67:27–30). This is probably the complete initiation sequence for a gnostic Christian. Initiation in the Church at the time of Gos. Phil. normally included baptism in water, chrism, and eucharist, set against a nuptial background. “Bridal chamber” in Gos. Phil. may be a covering term for the whole initiation, since a benefit of a particular sacrament (cf. 67:5–6; 69:12–14; 57:27–28) may also be associated with “bridal chamber” (86:4–11; cf. 70:5–9; 74:12–24). The converse is also the case (58:10–14; 69:4–14; 73:1–19; 75:14–24).
What the mystery of “redemption” accomplished is not explained. It is associated with both baptism and bridal chamber (69:25–27). Both Irenaeus (Haer. 1.21.2) and Hippolytus (Haer. 6.41) say that a second baptism called “redemption” was in use among Valentinians. The ritual action in the sacramental bridal chamber has been variously estimated: an act of sexual intercourse by married couples (cf. 65:1–26), or a holy kiss shared by celibates (69:1–4; 59:2–6; 63:32–64:9; 82:4–7).
And then on Mary herself (also ABD):
“Mary (Magdalene). In the Secret Gospel of Mark an unnamed woman, identified as the sister of the one loved by Jesus and raised by him at Bethany, is rebuked by the disciples and, along with his mother and Salome, not received by Jesus. In the first part of the Gospel of Mary, Mark (Gk Mariamme) greets and consoles the sorrowing disciples. In the second fragment, Mary plays a dominant role. Her communication of the secret revelation made to her by the Lord, apparently in a vision (Gk horama) of the risen Lord, is met with unbelief by Andrew and with ridicule by Peter. She is, however, defended by a certain Levi who describes her as one made worthy by the Lord, known by him and one loved by him even more than the disciples.
The role of Mary (Coptic Mariham) as a questioner of Jesus is fully exploited in the early-3d-century Pistis Sophia. Thirty-nine of the sixty-four questions addressed to Jesus in that long text are attributed to Mary, who admits her persistence in questioning: “I will not tire of asking thee. Be not angry with me for questioning everything.” Jesus replies: “Question what thou dost wish” (Pistis Sophia 139).
In the Pistis Sophia Mary is described as blessed, she whose heart is more directed to the kingdom of heaven than all her brothers, excellent, blessed beyond all women, beautiful in speech, the pleroma of all pleromas, the completion of all completions, superior to all the disciples (along with John the Virgin), and related hyperbole (Pistis Sophia 17, 19, 24, 34, 97, etc.). The Pistis Sophia also attests to Mary’s role in the resurrection story (Pistis Sophia 138) and to the competition between Mary and Peter (Pistis Sophia 36).
In the Sophia of Jesus Christ, Mary twice appears as a questioner of Jesus, once with regard to the source of superhuman knowledge and once with regard to the disciples (NHC III,4). These are the only passages in the document where a woman is mentioned by name (Mariamme in Coptic), although the document makes reference to seven women.
In The Dialogue of the Savior, another Nag Hammadi text, Mary (Coptic Mariam) is portrayed as one of three disciples chosen to receive special teaching but she is more significant than the others, Matthew and Thomas, because “she spoke as a woman who knew the All” (NHC III, 139).
In the late-3d-century Gospel of Philip, Mary is called the companion of the Lord and described as one who always walked with him (Gos. Phil. 59, 63). She is portrayed as one whom Christ loved more than the other disciples and as one who was frequently kissed by Christ. The other disciples took umbrage at this and merited a rebuke from the Lord in the form of a parable (Gos. Phil. 63–64). In the 4th-century Acts of Philip, a woman named Mariamne appears as the sister of Philip. Her role is similar to that of Mary Magdalene in the gnostic tradition. She consoles Philip, is at the risen Christ’s side when he divides the world into missionary sectors, and then accompanies Philip on his mission.
As a heroine in gnostic literature, Mary Magdalene appears as the first witness of the risen Jesus, as one particularly loved and praised by him, and as the recipient of secret revelations (many of the texts have the literary form of a dialogue with Jesus). This gnostic portrayal of Mary was apparently known to some of the Fathers, notably Hippolytus (haer. 5.7.1), Origen (Cels. 5.62.11), and Epiphanius (Haer. 184.108.40.206).
I finished with:
“There is just nothing in the historical trail that (1) says they were married/intimate; or (2) that they ever did anything more than 'kiss'---which was not a gender/romantic thing at all.
“Ask your friend to produce a passage from a historical document to show a basis for their belief, or otherwise get them to admit that its not grounded in data.