Refreshingly balanced and sober look at the controversial question, “Was Jesus married?”
While authors both popular and scholarly have spent the past several years taking heated sides on this controversial topic, Le Donne (Historical Jesus, 2011, etc.) smartly walks a middle road. He is clear from the outset that given what little we have in solid, original texts, no one can ever know with certainty if Jesus had a wife. The best we can do is to make educated guesses. However, the author also wisely points out that some theories are more valid than others. Early in his work, Le Donne does readers a service by tracing the history of Mary Magdalene’s reputation, arguing that modern writers abuse her memory as much as misogynistic medieval churchmen did when branding her a prostitute. The idea that Magdalene may have been Jesus’ wife—a theory made tremendously popular by Dan Brown—had its origins in Nikos Kazantzakis’ The Last Temptation of Christ (1953). It is a thoroughly modern interpretation of Magdalene’s role, and Le Donne believes that various ancient sources backing up this assertion are easily rendered moot when viewed in their historical contexts. Nevertheless, the author points out that there are many reasons for assuming that Jesus was, at some point at least, married. Quite simply, it would have been highly unusual for a Jewish man in that period not to be married, and in fact in an arranged marriage. A cultural ideal of “civic masculinity” would have dictated this course of action. Still, Le Donne allows that Jesus’ many countercultural stances make it quite possible that he may have eschewed marriage altogether. Despite a subject matter that is sure to be provocative, Le Donne manages not to take sides but also reminds readers that our ideas on Jesus’ sexuality and marital status show more about us than they do about him.
A welcome resource and fresh voice.