This article is just an update for those of you who have read part 1 and part 2. Since writing those, I have come across some material on the Ancient Origins website which, while certainly not conclusive, is interesting. Here is a brief summary; for full details follow the links in the bibliography.
Firstly, in September 2012, a fragment of papyrus was made public. It contained the phrase: “Jesus said to them, my wife…” Scientists have concluded that it is not a modern forgery, and have dated it to approximately 700 to 800 AD, although the scholars involved have suggested that it is a transcription of earlier versions, suggesting that this was not the date of original composition.
Secondly, there is an ancient manuscript at the British Library, “dating from the 6th century but translated from much earlier Greek writing”,which says that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and had two children.
Thirdly, a weathered limestone box, now known as the James Ossuary, was found in the 1970s. It contains an Aramaic inscription that reads “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus”. The question is whether the box should be linked to the Talpiot tomb in Jerusalem which was opened in 1980, where “many names… correspond with names found in the Bible relating to Jesus”. Chemical analysis of trace elements has suggested that this is the case. (The article does not suggest directly that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, saying merely that he may have been “a real man who potentially had wed and had a child”.)
What is interesting in each case are the responses, sometimes of the authorities, sometimes of other scholars. In the case of the papyrus, it was declared a fake by an editorial in the Vatican’s newspaper and by other scholars, one of whom had merely looked at a newspaper photograph, without waiting for the scientific analysis.
In the case of the manuscript, the professor who discovered it said that “scholars have known about it for almost 200 years, but have not known what to make of it.” It is not hard to know what to make of it; it says what it says. It would seem more likely that they were reluctant to bring it to public attention, for whatever reason. Also, the Church of England dismissed it, saying that “it is closer to popular fiction than an accurate historical account. ‘This appears to share more with Dan Brown than Matthew, Mark, Luke or John’, a church spokesman told the Sunday Times”.
Let’s look at that statement a little more closely. The Da Vinci Code, although a fictional novel, was claimed to be based on history. As Bart Ehrman has shown (1), much of the detail was inaccurate. However, that should not distract us from the main thesis, that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, which, as I have argued, is very credible. Also, what planet is this spokesman living on, if he thinks that the canonical gospels are accurate historical accounts? Has he never read any New Testament scholarship?
In the case of the burial box, the Israel Antiquities Authority tried to prove in court that the items were forged, but they failed in their ruling and tried, unsuccessfully, to gain ownership of the item. It was also alleged that “the item was vandalized by the Israeli government before being returned to its owner”. What on earth is going on? What is the agenda of these people?
(1) Truth and Fiction in the Da Vinci Code, OUP, 2006