Was Christ Jesus Married ?

    As far as the millions of orthodox Jews in the world are concerned their Messiah has not yet come, and the popular Christian portrayal of Jesus seems very different to them from their expectations of what their Christ should be like. One glaring omission in what they would otherwise consider a perfect and exemplary life is the impression that Christ was celibate. Noted Rabbi, Emil Hirsch touched upon this subject in his book, My Religion: "Now as the life of Jesus is pictured in the New Testament, there are certain peculiar defects in that life from the Jewish point of view. His teachings are the ideal teachings of Judaism; they are not new teachings, nor new revelations. They are confirmations of Jewish thought and life. But his personal life - I am speaking respectfully; I do not think anyone should think I cast any shadow on the beauty and perfection of that life, but I can take it as it is pictured - you know he was not married, and from the Jewish point of view, that is a defect. The Jewish morality insists that a man who does not assume the social responsibility for the continuation of society, lives a life that is not complete." (p. 43-44,1925 ed.)

    Having assumed that Jesus was single many have been led to the conclusion that marriage was considered by him to be less than the holy institution Jews have always held it in regard as, and have supposed perhaps that he even encouraged celibacy by such an example. Yet the writers of the Gospels leave us in no doubt as to Jesus' views on the matter, and record him as having quoted from the first book of Moses, Genesis, on marriage being part of God's plan for man and woman upon the earth: "And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." (Matthew 19:4-6, Mark 9:6-9, see Genesis 2:23-24)

     The disciples took the counsel of their beloved prophet and leader seriously, and the New Testament speaks of many of them being married, amongst their number being Peter, John the beloved, Paul and others (Matthew 8:14, 2 John 1,13, 1 Corinthians 9:5). In fact, having a spouse was a requirement for fulfilling the responsible stations of Bishop and Deacon (1 Timothy 3:2,12). Church father, Clement of Alexandria wrote in the second century that all of the apostle were married, and Eusebius includes Paul amongst them in his list. Doubtless early Church leaders were expected to be an example in this matter. Which brings us to the question of why does it seem from a cursory overview of his life that Jesus omitted the first commandment God ever gave, that of marriage and the bringing of children into the world?

    To begin to answer that question we must first admit that the Gospels are only a partial record of all that Jesus said during his sojourn on earth. John the apostle who faithfully followed Jesus during his earthly ministry and probably knew him as well as any man could, remarked that, "there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written." (John 21:25) Because a Jewish man being unmarried at the age of Jesus would have been so unusual during the time in which Jesus lived, and because the New Testament does not explicitly say that he had no wife, some have suggested that this itself may be evidence that he was indeed married, otherwise the scriptures would have mentioned that he wasn't and why. As the Rev. Dr. William Phipps, a professor of theology, argued, "If Jesus had been a bachelor ... the Bible would surely contain some record of his being criticized for it." (Journal of Ecumenical Studies, Spring 1969, see also Newsweek, 24 March 1969)

    Beyond the speculation though, what evidence do we have of either the celibate or married Christ? And why cant Jews accept that the Messiah could be excluded from the commandment to wed? To the Jews, their human Saviour, would be an embodiment of the laws of God, he would typify them rather than being exempt from them. Just as Jesus was baptized "to fulfil all righteousness", and said that he had not "come to destroy," the law, "but to fulfil" it (Matt. 3:15, 5:17). They also expected a married Messiah, because the prophets of their Tanach (the Hebrew Bible) predicted his marital state as a feature of his life: In speaking of Israel's expectant deliverer in a passage Paul identifies as referring to Jesus, David wrote, "Kings daughters were among thy honourable women", or wives as the 1599 version of the Geneva Bible, and a 1636 Church of England Bible puts it (Ps. 45:6, see Heb. 1:8) Of him having children, Isaiah predicts, "he shall see his seed", and asks, "Who shall declare his generation?" (Isa. 53:8, see Luke 23:27-28 & Isa 53:10, see Acts 8:33 and Heb. 2:16)

     Some Christian readers may be troubled by the implication of David's prophesy of the Messiah having several "honourable wives," as one of the features of pagan Roman religion that remained after its adoption of Christianity was that of monogamy, and the laws restricting one woman to one man. The Old Testament however contains many examples of righteous prophets who lived in such manner, such as Abraham, Jacob, Moses, and David. The father of the Protestant movement, Martin Luther, declared that "for a man to have two wives at once" was not "contrary to the divine law" and himself authorised a nobleman (Philip the Landgrave of Hesse) to marry a second wife, and is recorded as stating, "The Gospel hath neither recalled nor forbid what was permitted in the law of Moses with respect to marriage." (Thelyphthora 1:212, Rev. Martin Madan)

    Of course other interpretations have been made of references to Jesus in the role of father, husband, and some have supposed the Church was his symbolic bride, and that its members are his `children', as he is the `father' of their salvation. Indeed, the Catholic Church marries it's Nuns to Jesus, representing their lifelong commitment to him. Whilst such concepts have great meaning to those who believe in them, they neither rule out the possibility of Jesus being married nor explain every passage in the Old and New Testaments that seem to suggest he was. In fact, it is the four Gospels themselves that may hold the answers to whether, when, where, and who Jesus married.

    Whether Jesus was married:  In addition to all the indications already given, it is interesting to note that Jesus was referred to by a title only given to married teachers, that of Rabbi. Even his detractors had no qualms about referring to him as such, and allowed him to preach in the synagogue, a practice also limited to married men (John 1:38,49, 3:2, 6:25, 20:16).

    When Jesus was married: John in the second chapter of his book speaks of a wedding at which not only Jesus was present, but also his mother, who would have had to have traveled all the way from Nazareth especially to be there. At this event Jesus was in charge of the wine, a duty usually set aside for the groom, and if this does not make it obvious enough that it was his own wedding he was present at, we have in the sacred record that he was referred to as the bridegroom on this occasion (John 2:1-10).

    Who Jesus married: The association Jesus had with certain women would have been wholly inappropriate for a single man, but perfectly normal and accepted for a husband (Matt. 27:55, Mark 15:40-41, Luke 23:27-28). In the Greek language there is little distinction between the word woman and wife, and so therefore any (if not all) of those females who accompanied him quite possibly could have been married to him. Martha called him "Master", a title a wife would use to address her husband, and when Mary her sister was in mourning over the death of their brother, Lazarus, she sat in her home until Jesus called her out, just as was the custom that only a husband could call a woman out of her home at such a time (John 11:28). Not only did Christ fulfill the traditions and duties of a typical Jewish husband, but so did his wives, when they anointed him prior to his burial (Luke 24:1,10).

    Ancient historians, apocryphal writings, and archeological finds all confirm the evidence found in the scriptures and understood in light of early Jewish traditions: One of the earliest references to Jesus by a non-Christian was that of Aurelius Cornelius Celsus, a Philosopher and Physician, who lived until AD 38, who recorded that, "The grand reason why the gentiles and philosophers of his school persecuted Jesus Christ was because he had so many wives; there were Elizabeth and Mary and a host of others that followed him." The Gospel of Philip, a volume from the ancient Nag Hammadi library, reads, "And the consort of Christ is Mary Magdalene. The Lord loved Mary more than all the disciples, and kissed her on her mouth often." (translated by R. McL. Wilson, B.D., Ph.D.) Finally, in 1873 M. Clermont Gannaeu discovered near the village of Bethany early Christian graves, the tombstones of which bore the names of persons mentioned in the Gospels, including Martha (considered to be one of Jesus' wives). Among them was "Simeon, the son of Jesus". Who was quite possibly the second Bishop of Jerusalem and President of the Church until his death in 106 AD. (Dr. M. Zvi Udley, Th.M, Ph.D) What more evidence does the world need to accept that Jesus was indeed the married Messiah?

 

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