Mary Mary, Quite Contrary
November 4, 2003 7:44 AM   Subscribe

ABC last night ran a program examining the life of Mary Magdalene and her role in Jesus' life as possible wife. The Mary-as-whore idea was debunked some time ago, but is it possible that she was made into a whore by the church to explain her intimacy with Jesus? The novel The da Vinci Code, on which this ABC program was based, explores the relationship between da Vinci and a secret society protecting the blood line of Christ, who according to some theories fathered children with his wife, Mary Magdalene. If you look at the Last Supper, the figure to the right of Jesus is so clearly a woman, and it is possible that the Holy Grail that gathered the blood of Christ is a metaphor for Magdalene's womb carrying Jesus' children. And according to Magdalene's apocryphal gnostic gospel, she knew secrets that Jesus kept from the apostles.
posted by archimago (60 comments total)
 
Crazy conspiracy theories + Jebus = talk radio crowds ultimate wet dream.

According to David Ickes Jesus was a big ass lizard too.
posted by skallas at 8:03 AM on November 4, 2003


If you look at the Last Supper, the figure to the right of Jesus is so clearly a woman

I don't think Leonardo Da Vinci was actually there.
posted by Summer at 8:04 AM on November 4, 2003


Can you link the full text to the Da Vinci code?

how do you historically "examine" someone when scholars are not sure she even lived.
so glad your mary as a whore link was there for me to debunk....with

i see nothing of a truly secretive nature, above the norm for these people back then. (meeting in secret, parables, political intrigue)

so the intrigue is about a woman in the picture, is it a woman? maybe she had something to do with it.

hmm, i remember when this story was called "Last Temptation of Christ" which IMO, is a great book and movie.
posted by clavdivs at 8:08 AM on November 4, 2003


when scholars are not sure she even lived
She? No one has yet proved that JC was an actual human.
posted by mischief at 8:14 AM on November 4, 2003


This is like finding out that Dekker was really a replicant in Blade Runner.
posted by CrazyJub at 8:18 AM on November 4, 2003


Slate has a good article on this. To wit: Brown's book is an interesting, though probably unproveable theory that rests upon shaky scholarship. The "Mary in the Last Supper" issue draws two rebuts: da Vinci (and his peers) often drew effeminate men, and if that's Mary, where's John?
posted by mkultra at 8:19 AM on November 4, 2003


there's also a theory based on paper evidence that says there were 2 men that lived aprox. 100 to 200 years apart from each other that were both considered to be the son of god in their times... when the various manuscripts were being edited together the authors used stories from each man's life to create the single jesus they found acceptable for bible inclusion. so which would mary have been married to...?

unfortunately this era of history has been so extraordinarily used and abused by the folks who had control over the documents that there's no way to get at the truth now.
posted by t r a c y at 8:27 AM on November 4, 2003


Just read "Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal" by Christopher Guest. The book humorously explores some of the same concepts, but in a much more tongue-in-cheek way. (For instance, Jesus and Biff are in a chaste love triangle with Mary Mag, and they go traipsing around Asia learning from the Zen Buddhists, Hindi Fakirs, etc.) Great book.
posted by pomegranate at 8:32 AM on November 4, 2003


I don't think Leonardo Da Vinci was actually there.

Which means that he couldn't possibly have painted a woman at the table?
posted by archimago at 8:33 AM on November 4, 2003


She? No one has yet proved that JC was an actual human.
really, ya mean thars nun thar pict tors ?
or his old Y membership card. The earliest surviving document about jesus i believe was written 30=50 years after his death. Given that his name was in greek

what am i doing, trying to...
what a sap i am.
mischief is creating mischief.

yes there is evidence of a secondary nature concerning jesus. try some google there mischief, go learn something today.

Which means that he couldn't possibly have painted a woman at the table? right
how do we KNOW that he painted that picture.
posted by clavdivs at 8:36 AM on November 4, 2003


secondary nature
Already googled it. None of it is substantive.
posted by mischief at 8:40 AM on November 4, 2003


Wow - a gnostic gospel claims ownership of secret knowledge? That's so... so... so... gnostic.
posted by timbley at 8:41 AM on November 4, 2003


The whole "Jesus and Mary and Kids" premise is a common historical whiffle ball dating back to an old fraud propagated by what some would refer to as "whoowhoo" conspiracists. I like Cecil Adams's take best.
posted by brownpau at 8:46 AM on November 4, 2003


(Addendum: Besides, what's with all this Templar bull? Everyone knows "Merovingian" was the designer of the Matrix.)
posted by brownpau at 8:48 AM on November 4, 2003


pomegranate: Christopher Guest? You had me wondering where I'd been, to have missed such a Christopher Guest book, already. But then I found that the work in question was written by one Christopher Moore.
posted by raysmj at 8:53 AM on November 4, 2003


"Jesus and Mary and Kids"

OK, I'm eagerly anticipating the sitcom, which should be a homage to the Brady Bunch.

"Peter Peter Peter!"
posted by ursus_comiter at 8:54 AM on November 4, 2003


All I know is that I tried to read The Da Vinci Code and threw it aside after 50 pages. The guy makes Clive Cussler look like Umberto Eco.
posted by gottabefunky at 8:57 AM on November 4, 2003 [1 favorite]


If there were proof, we wouldn't need faith, would we? WOULD WE!!???

/raps all of your knuckles with a yardstick
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 9:01 AM on November 4, 2003


Yes you're right raysmj. Sorry for the confusion. I am ashamed and small.
posted by pomegranate at 9:10 AM on November 4, 2003


All you jaded sophistos and mavens of mefi libertine correctness yank off - I, for one, appreciated your post, archimago. It seems like any presentation or discussion of religious thought or interests around here always brings out the baying hounds - pity. Fleas arguing over who owns the dog...
posted by Pressed Rat at 9:39 AM on November 4, 2003


Rat: someone has to keep things in perspective.
posted by mischief at 9:45 AM on November 4, 2003


Which means that he couldn't possibly have painted a woman at the table?

Which makes it beside the point whether he did or didn't.
posted by Summer at 9:51 AM on November 4, 2003


...someone has to keep things in perspective

and my wife thinks I'm a control freak...
posted by Pressed Rat at 9:55 AM on November 4, 2003


Thanks Rat. Many of the comments already made remind me of one of the priests who was interviewed in the program last night. When asked why the figure on Jesus' right couldn't be a woman, he answered "Because it is not." When asked why Jesus could not have been married, he answered "Because he wasn't." Now there's serious debate!!!
posted by archimago at 9:56 AM on November 4, 2003


It's a mystery to me...perhaps that's the point, eh?
posted by Pressed Rat at 9:58 AM on November 4, 2003


The guy makes Clive Cussler look like Umberto Eco.


Tip o' the chapeau to ya, gottabefunky. My wife and m-i-l had gone on and on about how I simply had to read the novel, and when I did, I found myself humming "Is That All There Is?" most of the way through. It was mildly interesting, but geez, a runaway best seller?
posted by alumshubby at 9:58 AM on November 4, 2003


Rat: She should raise her standards.
archi: That's the nature of debating the origin of fairy tales.
posted by mischief at 9:59 AM on November 4, 2003


mischief-- you'll have to take that up with her. After 17 years of marriage I've learned that trying to speak for her motivations brings with it certain, uh, potential ramifications...;-)
posted by Pressed Rat at 10:05 AM on November 4, 2003


I highly recommend The Jesus Mysteries to anyone interested in a gnostic look at Christianity. Very compelling.
posted by Cerebus at 10:06 AM on November 4, 2003


... or lack of ramification? ;-P
posted by mischief at 10:08 AM on November 4, 2003


archimago - I dated a girl once who had an interesting theory about Jesus being married. Her reasoning was that Jesus was considered a rabbi, and rabbis are supposed to be married so someone can take care of their worldly needs, giving them time to focus on their spiritual teaching. So she figured that Jesus would have had to be married.
posted by starvingartist at 10:17 AM on November 4, 2003


a secret society protecting the blood line of Christ

Humperdido!
posted by britain at 10:18 AM on November 4, 2003


Thanks for that link, brownpau ... I read HBHG in high school when if first came out, after some documentaries on the BBC, and was fascinated at the time. That's a neat history of the tale.
posted by carter at 10:19 AM on November 4, 2003


WWJM?
posted by mathis23 at 10:21 AM on November 4, 2003


I think this says it all.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:25 AM on November 4, 2003


I don't think Leonardo Da Vinci was actually there.
Which means that he couldn't possibly have painted a woman at the table?


Did he paint Jesus’ hair correctly? Because Jesus was from Nazareth it is thought he had long hair; Nazarite vow: let his hair grow long, not eat nor drink anything made of the vine. So the painting depicting Christ drinking wine pancakes his long hair. Now what about a man maybe being a woman?
Ps, thought the “whore” part of this tale was to discredit her preaching too.
posted by thomcatspike at 10:38 AM on November 4, 2003


A very simple Jewish take on the subject (from a very simple Jew): If Jesus was a serious threat to the Roman power structure, he must have had widespread local - i.e., Jewish - support. In Jewish tradition, you don't get that kind of support at the age of 30 unless you are married. Some Jewish dialogues refer to Jesus as a Rabbi - a teacher - and if so, he would have to have been married.

Except for the Hasids, most Jewish traditions simply respond to the Jesus phenomena simply with "He was a Jew." What Rome, St. Constantine, and Jerry Falwell want to do with him is out of our jurisdiction.
posted by zaelic at 10:44 AM on November 4, 2003


In Jewish tradition, you don't get that kind of support at the age of 30 unless you are married.

Not to mention that he'd have been too busy fending off blind dates set up by his mother to get much preachin' in if he weren't...
posted by Cerebus at 10:53 AM on November 4, 2003




thomcat: A person from Nazareth is a Nazarene, not a Nazirite. AFAIK, there's no relationship between the two. (On preview, what languagehat said.)
posted by ptermit at 10:55 AM on November 4, 2003


Anyone play Gabriel Knight 3: Blood of the Damned (I think that was its name)? It was a great game (I thought), and had a real in depth account of the Knights of Templar and Priory of something. Sorry for the lack of details. It was a great story that sounded believable until you had to save a risen again Jesus from like some devil thing in a cave.

I did some research a while back on it. I think if any reference to blood line exists that the Templars had to protect, it was Jesus nephew/cousin who was "bishop" of Jerusalem in the early church. The church did away with his lineage fearing that the Papal throne would be threatened if the common people in Europe found out a blood line existed. The Knights of Templar were destroyed during the Inquisition simply because they were too rich and powerful from artifacts they found in Jerusalem during excavations.

My details are probably off as I do not have the resources at this moment to go back and find my research, but that's the general story line. No real conspiracy.

I recommend anyone interested in Catholic Church conspiracies to get the game Gabriel Knight 3, and look up information on the Rennes-le-Chateau which is more shrouded in mystery about what a simple priest found that made him rich. Templar gold? Information about Mary Magdelane? Still unsolved about how he became so wealthy, though personally I doubt it had less to do with a deep, long conspiracy and some kind of bribery at the time.

I apologize for the long comment based on hazy memory and speculation.
posted by geoff. at 11:06 AM on November 4, 2003


Starvingartist, zaelic, I had thought of that as well. Jesus is often referred to as "rabbi" in the new testament, unless I am remembering incorrectly, and single men did not become rabbis. It also would have been strange for a man at that time to not be married at 30.
posted by archimago at 11:15 AM on November 4, 2003


archimago, thanks for posting this. I want to throw my limited weight in with the people who think this is an interesting area of study, which will, if nothing else expand critical thinking abilities - because you find yourself, time and again, having to evaluate data from a new perspective.

I had the pleasure of meeting Dan Brown at the New England Library Association a few weeks ago. He's an interesting guy, who would be the first to tell you that he wrote a crap, formulaic mystery novel. The popularity of the book has nothing to do with the quality of the writing or the story - instead it has everything to do with the fact that people who never would have run across this theory ("conspiracy" or otherwise) are being asked to review everything they know about Jesus as an historical personage in a new way. I actually feel kind of bad for him - in even just the limited time I sat next to him, he was besieged by people wanting to tell him about their "spiritual journey". Not a position I envy, even with his royalties. (If you ask nice, I might even tell you what he told me about the movie and his next book.)

The Slate article says that Brown's scholarship is "shaky" but never explains why they think that's so. Having watched the special last night, I guarantee that he read more books on the topic than they did ... It simply says that since the historians and theologians interviewed cannot produce "conclusive proof" the entire theory must therefore be bunk.

brownpau, your 'Priory of Sion Hoax' link is interesting, but ultimately is as much speculation as Holy Blood, Holy Grail is (notice carefully which suppositions of 'fact' are footnoted and which are not). It is an article that was originally published in GNOSIS - see if you can track down issue number 6 of that publication for a different viewpoint.

If you haven't read Holy Blood, Holy Grail I strongly suggest you do so ... you don't have to believe everything it says (I certainly don't) but its a more entertaining read than DaVinci Code, if nothing else. Or, if pure scholarship is more your thing, try James, Brother of Jesus. Don't go into it saying "I'm not going to believe any of this" or "I'm going to believe all of this". Just read it. Its an interesting puzzle.
posted by anastasiav at 11:27 AM on November 4, 2003


thomcat: A person from Nazareth is a Nazarene, not a Nazirite. AFAIK, there's no relationship between the two. (On preview, what languagehat said.)

Screwed the pooch on that explanation, thinking "Dallasite" in my head. Thank you for correcting: a Nazarene lived in Nazareth, Matthew 2:23 ; A Nazarite took a Nazarite vow, Numbers 6. This is where the confusion may come about his hair length that I tried explaining.
posted by thomcatspike at 11:39 AM on November 4, 2003


So what is it exactly that makes one set of unprovable historical conjecture a conspiracy theory and another a major religion?
posted by devon at 11:41 AM on November 4, 2003


to me, the best part of last night's show was the priest/scholar who speculated that part of the reason there's so much resistance to the idea of mary being married to jesus is that christianity doesn't have a very healthy attitude towards sex. great to actually hear that from a devout and practicing christian...maybe one day things'll be different?

another book i would recommend to go along with some of the ones mentioned already is "the goddess and the alphabet" by leonard shlain. the author does a good (not great) job of examining how the female aspect of the divine suffers and is marginalized whenever sacred texts become the foundation of a religion. those who saw the show may recall how they spoke of an attack on mary m's role and importance among the apostles. shlain's book explores this also. worth reading.
posted by lord_wolf at 11:52 AM on November 4, 2003


It also would have been strange for a man at that time to not be married at 30.

So would, like, coming back from the dead and stuff. :-)
posted by jpoulos at 12:02 PM on November 4, 2003


and rabbis are supposed to be married so someone can take care of their worldly needs, giving them time to focus on their spiritual teaching. So she figured that Jesus would have had to be married.

right, but the whole point of jesus's thing was to fight the traditional rabbis. He told his disciples to leave their families and worldly lives; he overturned the merchant's tables in the temples. He was specifically not trying to live a traditional rabbinic life, according to the legend, and was specifically in a kind of political battle with the traditional leaders of judaism.

Anyway, it's all myth and legend at this point; there isn't enough historical documentation to be able to piece together a real story. He probably lived (but even that isn't definite) and it wouldn't surprise me if he had a girlfriend or wife, although it wouldn't surprise me if he didn't, either... but it's all conjecture and storytelling at this stage. Which can be fun, but shouldn't be taken too seriously.
posted by mdn at 12:14 PM on November 4, 2003


>The whole "Jesus and Mary and Kids" premise is a common historical whiffle

I think this meme hit critical mass when Holy Blood Holy Grail came out.
Michael Baigent, Henry Lincoln, and Richard Leigh, authors of The Messianic Legacy, spent over 10 years on their own kind of quest for the Holy Grail, into the secretive history of early France. What they found, researched with the tenacity and attention to detail that befits any great quest, is a tangled and intricate story of politics and faith that reads like a mystery novel. It is the story of the Knights Templar, and a behind-the-scenes society called the Prieure de Sion, and its involvement in reinstating descendants of the Merovingian bloodline into political power. Why? The authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail assert that their explorations into early history ultimately reveal that Jesus may not have died on the cross, but lived to marry and father children whose bloodline continues today.
Old news really. I'm more interested in seeing how the "end times" fascination the Xtians have today with such things like 'left behind' is going to affect the lives of non-xtians. We already have fundie US Sentators only supporting Israel because they want the end of the world to come in their lifetimes. The apostoles waited it out too, knew the guy, and didn't get it. I don't see why the hillbilly contigent thinks its going to experience the rapture. Best to invest in retirement and drop the end of the world wank fantasies.
posted by skallas at 12:20 PM on November 4, 2003


I seem to recall a history professor of mine in college explaining with exasperation that Holy Blood, Holy Grail relied heavily upon a Latin phrase from somewhere that was mistranslated.

Is Oliver Stone making the DaVinci Code movie? Because I look forward to him tieing the Vietnam War into it.
posted by pmurray63 at 1:02 PM on November 4, 2003


So what is it exactly that makes one set of unprovable historical conjecture a conspiracy theory and another a major religion?

Being officially adopted by a major imperial power usually helps.
posted by languagehat at 1:06 PM on November 4, 2003


pmurray63 - according to the IMDB, Ron Howard is directing it.
posted by starvingartist at 1:16 PM on November 4, 2003


Is Oliver Stone making the DaVinci Code movie? Because I look forward to him tieing the Vietnam War into it.

followed by-

pmurray63 - according to the IMDB, Ron Howard is directing it.

Well, crap. I was thinking that what the story really needed was a tender-prison-love-shower-scene. I bet Ron doesn't put that in.
posted by bradth27 at 1:25 PM on November 4, 2003


The answer can be found in The Life of Brian
for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear/
posted by donfactor at 4:32 PM on November 4, 2003


Come on, we all know Jesus wasn't married to Mary. He was in love with Judas, who totally sold him out. Exes are like that, the bastards.
posted by Hildegarde at 4:56 PM on November 4, 2003


Programs like this and movies with wild premises about Jesus, like "The Last Temptation of Christ", really play to those people who are of the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" mindset. Why? Because one of their big assertions is that Jews hate and wish to destroy Jesus in any way they can. They even claim it is specifically ordered in the Talmud.

So they take some Von Daniken-like speculation like this and analyze it based on the following criteria: were there *any* Jews associated with this production?, and was approval for this to be aired given by a Jew or Jews at the network? And lo and behold they discover that indeed, yes, there are Jews in Hollywood!

This really stokes their little anti-Semitic fires.
posted by kablam at 6:53 PM on November 4, 2003


Hildegarde, I hear you. This sound supiciously like my ex-husband:

the whole point of jesus's thing was to fight the traditional rabbis. He told his disciples to leave their families and worldly lives; he overturned the merchant's tables in the temples. He was specifically not trying to live a traditional rabbinic life

Yeah, they look cool and bohemian when you first meet them, but try and get them to go out and get a job when the baby comes, and you'll find otherwise.
posted by jokeefe at 9:02 PM on November 4, 2003


You'd be better to go for some blue collar too-nice-for-his-own-good type like Joseph, jokeefe.
posted by orange swan at 9:40 PM on November 4, 2003


Okay. So Mary Magdalene was three women, Jesus was more jewish than the entire Rat Pack combined, and Leonardo Da Vinci painted The Last Supper as if all the apostles were anorexic fashion models cuz he was a closet homosexual. If this isn't causing a crisis of faith in me I don't know what will.

Really. I don't.
posted by ZachsMind at 9:47 PM on November 4, 2003


You'd be better to go for some blue collar too-nice-for-his-own-good type like Joseph, jokeefe.

Yeah, so my mother always told me, but those starving artists are just so darn cute.
posted by jokeefe at 6:22 AM on November 5, 2003


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