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Mary Magdalene and Jesus


Is it possible that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were a couple and that Mary Magdalene was pregnant with his child?  You know, I wasn’t there!  I would say no.  I can see why it’s an appealing story and it’s an appealing thing to come to.  I think one of the clues that we know about Mary Magdalene is this passage in the beginning of Chapter 8 of Luke where Mary Magdalene is associated with a city.  It doesn’t say anything there about any kind of other personal relationship that she had.  It doesn’t say anything about a husband, a spouse, any other connection to another figure.

Nor does it say anything about that to Jesus.  Now maybe she came from Magdala and then later on in tradition that wasn’t recorded the two of them got together.  It’s a very nice story and I think we like turning stories like this into romances. 

That much having been said, there is a very old tradition that says that Mary Magdalene was the partner of Jesus.  And I think this comes from again really liking sort of the male/female pair-ness and the way that those worked as a sort of male/female unit in a sense that kind of tie back to Adam and Eve in sort of interesting ways. And people are kind of drawn to that paradigm.  That Jesus is a purely celibate unmarried male isn’t as good a story as the idea of Mary Magdalene and Jesus as a couple. 

Now one of the other things that’s interesting I think about this tradition, and people don’t talk about it too much, is that it was extraordinarily unusual for a man of Jesus’ age to have been unmarried.  Now there are certain religious reasons for why he might have been unmarried.  It’s even rarer for a woman of any age past 12 let’s say to have been unmarried.

And yet, she doesn’t seem to have been.  Some people have even put out the theory that in fact Jesus was married and he just didn’t talk about his wife because it wasn’t an issue because at the time, again, the expectation that was placed on you was that you were actually married.  I think these texts are trying to do something else.  They’re not interested in the marriage question or finding out these details about Jesus’ life.  They’re interested in the different thing that he’s doing, different message that he’s bringing forth.  But I think the kind of strangeness of a single Jesus and a single Mary Magdalene help to kind of bring this romantic idea together that there was some kind of a partnership.

  • Nicola Denzey Lewis is a visiting associate professor in the Department of Religious Studies at Brown University. An award-winning teacher and researcher, she is a frequent contributor to Bible Odyssey. She is also featured in documentaries on the Bible and Early Christianity on the History Channel, the BBC, and CNN’s new six-part series, Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact, and Forgery.