Friday, April 27, 2007


More from the book pictured below to wet your whistle with:

Is there any evidence in the Gospels, direct or indirect, to suggest 
that Jesus was indeed married? There is, of course, no explicit statement to the effect that he was.
 On the other hand, there is no explicit statement to the effect that he
 was not—and this is both more curious and more significant than it might at first appear. As Dr. Geza Vermes of Oxford University points out, “There is complete silence in the Gospels concerning the
 marital status of Jesus. . . Such a state of affairs is sufficiently
 unusual in ancient Jewry to prompt further enquiry.”

The Gospels state that many of the disciples—Peter, for example—were married. And at no point does Jesus himself advocate celibacy, 
On the contrary, in the Gospel of Matthew he declares, "Have you
 not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female. . . For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?" (19:4-5) Such a statement can hardly be reconciled with an injunction to celibacy. And if Jesus did not preach celibacy, there is no 
reason to suppose that he practiced it. According to Judaic custom at the time it was not only usual, but almost mandatory, that a man be
 married. Except among certain Essenes in certain communities,
 celibacy was vigorously condemned. During the late first century one 
Jewish writer even compared deliberate celibacy with murder, and he does not seem to have been alone in this attitude. And it was as obligatory for a Jewish father to find a wife for his son as it was to ensure that his son be circumcised. [May I point out that Jesus may have been an Essene?]

If Jesus was not married, this fact would have been glaringly conspicuous. It would have drawn attention to itself and been used to characterize and identify him. It would have set him apart, in some significant sense, from his contemporaries. If this were the case surely at least one of the Gospel accounts would make some mention of so marked a deviation from custom? If Jesus were indeed as celibate as later tradition claims, it is extraordinary that there is no reference to any such celibacy. The absence of any such reference strongly suggests that Jesus, as far as the question of celibacy was concerned, conformed to the conventions of his time and culture—suggests, in short, that he was married. This alone would satisfactorily explain the silence of the Gospels on the matter. The argument is summarized by a respected contemporary theological scholar:
Granted the cultural background as witnessed. . . it is highly improbable that Jesus was not married well before the beginning of his public ministry. If he had insisted upon celibacy, it would have created a stir, a reaction which would have left some trace. So, the lack of mention of Jesus' marriage in the Gospels is a strong argument not against but for the hypothesis
 of marriage, because any practice or advocacy of voluntary celibacy would in the Jewish context of the time have been so 
unusual as to have attracted much attention and comment.
The hypothesis of marriage becomes all the more tenable by virtue of the title of "Rabbi," which is frequently applied to Jesus in the Gospels. It is possible, of course, that this term is employed in its very broadest sense, meaning simply a self-appointed teacher. But Jesus' literacy—his display of knowledge to the elders in the temple, for example—strongly suggests that he was more than a self-appointed teacher. It suggests that he underwent some species of formal rabbinical training and was officially recognized as a rabbi. This would conform to tradition, which depicts Jesus as a rabbi in the strict sense of the word. But if Jesus was a rabbi in the strict sense of the word, a marriage would not only have been likely, but virtually certain. The Jewish Mishnaic Law is quite explicit on the subject. "An unmarried man may not be a teacher.”

In the Fourth Gospel, there is an episode relating to a marriage that may, in fact, have been Jesus' own. This episode is, of course, the wedding at Cana—a familiar enough story. But for all its familiarity, there are certain salient questions attending it that warrant consideration. From the account in the Fourth Gospel the wedding at Cana would seem to be a modest local ceremony—a typical village wedding whose bride and groom remain anonymous. To this wedding Jesus is specifically "called"—which is slightly curious, perhaps, for he has not yet really embarked on his ministry. More curious still, however, is the fact that his mother "just happens," as it were, to be present. And her presence would seem to be taken for granted. It is certainly not in any way explained.

What is more, it is Mary who not merely suggests to her son, but in effect orders him, to replenish the wine. She behaves quite as if she were the hostess. "And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come." (John 2:3-4) But Mary, thoroughly unperturbed, ignores her son's protest. "His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it." (5) And the servants promptly comply—quite as if they were accustomed to receiving orders from both Mary and Jesus.

Despite Jesus' ostensible attempt to disown her, Mary prevails; and Jesus thereupon performs his first major miracle, the transmutation of water into wine. So far as the Gospels are concerned, he has not hitherto displayed his powers, and there is no reason for Mary to assume he even possesses them. But even if there were, why should such unique and holy gifts be employed for so banal a purpose? Why should Mary make such a request of her son? More important still, why should two "guests" at a wedding take on themselves the responsibility of catering—a responsibility that, by custom, should be reserved for the host? Unless, of course, the wedding at Cana is Jesus' own wedding. In that case it would indeed be his responsibility to replenish the wine.

There is further evidence that the wedding at Cana is in fact Jesus' own. Immediately after the miracle has been performed the "governor of the feast”—a kind of major-domo or master of ceremonies—tastes the newly produced wine. "The governor of the feast called the bridegroom, And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now." (John 2:9-10. Our italics. [My colors.]) These words would clearly seem to be addressed to Jesus. According to the Gospel, however, they are addressed to the "bridegroom." An obvious conclusion is that Jesus and the "bridegroom" are one and the same.

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