Did Jesus Have Sex with Mary Magdalene?

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Mary Magdalene by Goshka Datzov

The companion of the Son is Miriam of Magdala.

The teacher loved her more than all the disciples;

He often kissed her on the mouth…

~ Gospel of Philip

The passage above is from one of the many Gnostic gospels. While most of us are familiar with the four gospels found in the Bible, in the early years of Christianity there were dozens of gospels that made the rounds, each written to declare their own perspective of Jesus’ life and teachings.

As James P. Carse points out in The Gospel of the Beloved Disciple, while the original Christian churches were guided by a rich tapestry of gospels, this all abruptly changed in the year 325.

“Constantine, emperor of Rome, called a conference…to settle the disputes dividing Christendom and threatening the stability of the empire. Four gospels–Matthew, Mark, Luke and John—were designated canonical. All others were excluded.”  

As I pointed out in a previous post, there was a determined effort by the early Roman church to destroy every last copy of the banned gospels in order to get all Christians literally on the same page. But in spite of the best efforts of the book burners, many of these texts survive today. A treasure trove of them were discovered in 1945 in Nag Hammadi, Egypt.

Among the most interesting passages found in these gospels are those that deal with Mary Magdalene.

As author Thomas Moore states in Writing in the Sand, while Mary was at one time confused with a prostitute by the same name in the bible (it seems intentionally by some haters in the church), she is now recognized by many as a saint—“perhaps the beloved disciple to whom the Gospels never refer by name, and a figure of great importance in the earliest leadership of Jesus’ followers.”

 Levi said to the other disciples: “Surely the Lord knew her very well. That is why he loved her more than us.” ~ Gospel of Mary

There is no doubt that Mary Magdalene was tight with Jesus; several of the Gnostic gospels reveal her to be one of his most trusted disciples. In both the gospels of Mark and John, she is one of the few to watch his execution. She is also the first witness to the resurrection of Jesus, the only one to stick around his burial site after all the other disciples had left, obviously grieving over the loss of someone whose life was so intertwined with her own.

Peter said to Mary, “Sister, we know the savior loved you more than any other woman. Tell us the words of the savior that you remember, which you know but we do not, because we have not heard them.” ~ Gospel of Mary

Over the years, the legend of Mary Magdalene has grown and there have been books written that make the case that she and Jesus were even husband and wife. Several, including Holy Blood Holy Grail, lay out evidence that after the death of Jesus, a pregnant Mary traveled to France, gave birth and began a long line of Jesus’ descendants.

But to me, what is most intriguing is not what happened after the death of Jesus, but the relationship Jesus and Mary Magdalene had in life. As Moore points out:

 “What is shocking about the new view of Mary Magdalene and Jesus, of course, is the implication that Jesus was not celibate. People who see Jesus in an entirely spiritual light may have trouble considering the possibility that he was a sexual being as well. Yet…if you’re going to acknowledge Jesus’ humanity, you have to include his sexuality.”

This sexuality, or a least sensuality is on full display in a bible passage cited by Moore from the gospel of Luke. Here, Jesus reprimands his host for mistreating a female guest in the house, who the host believes to be unworthy of Jesus’ time:

“Do you see this woman? When I came into your house, you didn’t offer me water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You didn’t kiss me, but the woman hasn’t stopped kissing my feet since I arrived. You didn’t offer me oil for my head, but she has poured oil on my feet.” ~ Luke 7:43-46

Drying the feet of Jesus with her hair, kissing his feet and then pouring oil on them? It all sounds pretty sensual. And to me, regardless if he had a romantic relationship with Mary Magdalene or not, it presents a Jesus that is easier to relate to, a Jesus that knows first-hand not just the foibles of our flesh and blood experience, but also its pleasures.

I’ll again turn to Thomas Moore for some closing thoughts:

“How you imagine Jesus’ sexuality may depend on how you feel about sex. If you think it’s contemptible or at least a low part of human nature, you may not want a sexual picture of Jesus. If you see the beauty and full significance of sexuality, you may understand how important it is to allow Jesus his sexuality. Anything less acknowledges his incarnation except for sexuality—and that makes no sense.”


Editor: Brianna Bemel


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Tom Rapsas

Tom Rapsas is a blogger on inspirational and spirituality issues for Patheos, Elephant Journal and his own site The Inner Way. A long-time spiritual seeker and student of philosophy and religion, his influences include Thomas Moore, John Templeton, Napolean Hill, Ralph Trine and Ralph Waldo Emerson. A resident of the Jersey Shore, Tom lives with his wife, daughter and nine cats. He’s the author of Life Tweets Inspirational & Spiritual Insights That Can Change Your Life, which is now available for Kindle and as a trade paperback. His next book, the spiritual fable Thaddeus Squirrel, will be published in 2014. You can reach him at [email protected] or via Twitter @TomRapsasTweets

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anonymous Apr 8, 2016 4:09pm

Theory seems probable enough to me. I have never believed in celibacy. But to go further: the son-of-god theory with him dying for our sins seems more unlikely the more I think this over. The canonical bible put together as the Hollywood version of the real story of a wise and charismatic man who was executed by Rome because he became too dangerous.

anonymous Nov 19, 2012 9:19am

A stronger case could be made that Jesus loved John ("the disciple whom Jesus loved") in a special and unique way. He reclined next to Jesus at the last supper and he was the only male disciple to stay with Jesus as he died on the cross. It's all there in the canonical Bible.

anonymous Jul 23, 2012 11:25am

[…] And I’m cool with that, having recently written about Jesus and sex. […]

anonymous Jul 12, 2012 9:06pm

[…] Did Jesus Have Sex with Mary Magdalene? (elephantjournal.com) […]

anonymous Jun 24, 2012 10:08pm

I thought it was just that the apocrypha were written at a later date. And as regards celibacy being equated with spirituality, that is an incorrect assertion — celibacy is equated with the ability to serve all beings and not to be joined in ones concerns with one person only.

anonymous Jun 24, 2012 8:03pm

[…] Did Jesus Have Sex with Mary Magdalene? (elephantjournal.com) […]

anonymous Jun 24, 2012 7:52pm

"Every religion is true one way or another. It is true when understood metaphorically. But when it gets stuck in its own
metaphors, interpreting them as facts, then you are in trouble."

— Joseph Campbell

anonymous Jun 24, 2012 3:54pm

I found a much more believable story of both Jesus and Mary Magdalene, and Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and pretty much everyone else of relevance during that time, in Laurence Gardner's "The Bloodline of the Holy Grail". Very academic, and dry, but still tells the story well enough. This post emphasizes Jesus' sexuality, but what of that of the Mary's…Both of them…??

In general, I am all about learning to embrace the truth of our own humanity in All aspects, both physical and spiritual. And, we simply need to get beyond All of our "myths", one way or another. I honestly don't think we really Need them anymore, and wonder why so many continue to cling to them anyway?

    anonymous Jun 24, 2012 7:53pm

    Arguably, because "myths" speak to the deep longings of our soul, and they guide and comfort us as we try to make sense of
    the havoc and joy that these longings bring.

      anonymous Jun 25, 2012 12:13am

      My soul was never comforted by the archetypes/myths of "Virgin Mother" and "Whore". On the contrary, it was confounded, frustrated, and bound. It felt much more Liberated by the story of two otherwise rather humble women, who were fairly "normal" in both their spirituality and sexuality, and in the love they had for their husbands, and their husbands for them.

        anonymous Jun 25, 2012 12:47am

        I understand. That's your spin on the Christian myth, and it sounds like you grew up in the Church. There are plenty of other myths around that don't involve that particular dialectic, but they still involve the dynamics of creation, a mother giving birth to the special transcendent child. etc. What Joseph Campbell has shown, most wonderfully I think, is that these same basic stories recur in different forms in nearly every culture – and not because they are being being deliberately copied. They recur because the basic archetypes they invoke are universal, and fulfill a universal need.

        By the way, pagan myths are still just that – myths? No less than Christian ones. Most of what we take for granted one way or another we have simply inherited as stories, permutated over time, often to suit political agendas, or simply as a reflection of changing social mores. Some stories we may find more "oppressive" than others. Some are remade, or in the case of the Gnostic gospels, the faithful find other sources of inspiration to challenge the received wisdom.

        One thing I think the author left out is that many women in the Catholic church pushing for female priests have looked to these earlier Gospels for inspiration to demonstrate that women like Mary all along assumed important leadership roles, and shouldn't be denied them now. They probably have paid less attention to the issue of Jesus and sexuality, and whether he and Mary Magdalene were lovers or mates.

        It makes for a spicier and more compelling title – and is thoroughly in keeping with the EJ readership's near-obsession with sexuality. It's also part of this new meme about the high-minded Guru or religious leader who preaches celibacy – but quietly does the dirty. The truth is, we have no real idea about this figure Jesus, or the status of these other Gospels, so the idea that they tell us more or less about his actual life – well, I don't think we really know, and we probably never will.

        Humanizing this Jesus figure with a recognition of his sexuality is not necessarily inconsistent with a view of his Divinity. Certainly the ex-Jesuit Thomas More, whom the author cites, doesn't think so. I just see it as another Myth, another way of telling this story, to make sense of ourselves and our world. Maybe it's a better story.

          anonymous Jun 25, 2012 8:50am

          In the end, people will believe what they want to believe, because, as you have repeated here, they need to make sense of the world and themselves in it.

          I have often challenged people with the idea that if the Truth is supposed to "set you free", and you hear or read something that is claimed to the truth, and knowing it does not make you Feel more free, then maybe it is not the truth.

          As I have tried to make clear in my comments, I did feel More Free, or "Liberated" after reading Laurence Gardner's book. Maybe you would equate that with "comfort", but that is not what it felt like to me, i.e. I would make a distinction between feeling "consoled" and/or "comforted", as compared to feeling "liberated", although it it is more comfortable to feel free than it is to feel bound…

          But going back to the issues of "myths" and stories – It really depends on what a person is "seeking" in the first place. If one is seeking comfort and consolation, then one will find that. If one is seeking Truth, then one will find that as well. Although, what is comforting and consoling (especially to egoically motivated people) may not necessarily be the Truth.

          Hope that makes sense.

            anonymous Jun 25, 2012 3:17pm

            What I hear you saying is: yes, people may turn to myths for consolation or comfort, but if their motive for doing that is fear, they may end up with something that doesn't actually help them, even it pacifies them, or gives them a way to rationalize their misery or oppression.

            I would agree. And it's as true of today's blind and uncritical submission to New Age Yoga as it is to the old-fashioned subservience to the older religions. "Don't worry, be happy" and "Detach with love" can be wise slogans – or craven crop-outs.

            Anyone who tells you to shut off your mind and just feel, let go, listen to your heart, probably wants your money and your psyche. The Nazis and the Italian fascists both preached feeling "faiths" of this kind – one reason the Nazis were so fascinated with yoga – they saw it as a way to move large masses of people, by revving up their bodies, and going around their brains.

            Don't ever turn off your critical faculties. Faith and reason are one. Run from anyone who tells you to.

              anonymous Jun 25, 2012 4:45pm

              I have had the benefit of a relationship with a spiritual master for over 15 years now, although he "died" in 2008. His first requirement of me as a devotee was to have a "functional human life", learning to be effective in handling all of the issues surrounding "money, food, and sex". He left no room for New Age "escapism", to my mind, although, I know other devotees who did not take the non-dissociative, "functional human life" discipline as seriously as I did. I went so far as to join the Navy for eight years to get my life act together and develop even more self-discipline, with the added directive from my Guru to actually learn to Be Happy under all conditions, and all circumstances, and in all relations, while I was doing that.

              I am now taking on the personal challenge of riding my bicycle across the country to very actively and deliberately promote peace, associating myself with the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (NAPF), and especially author, and Peace Leadership Director for the NAPF, Paul K. Chappell. (http://www.wagingpeace.org/, and http://www.peaceful revolution.com/, and http://theblueturtleblog.blogspot.com/ for more info on all of that.)

              What I want to add to this discussion, although we are getting a little off track, is a blog I wrote a while back on the "Biology of 'Heaven'" – http://thebluemoonturtleblog.blogspot.com/2011/09…. Given your comments above, I suspect you will appreciate it.

              For the record: I am fully "out of the womb", and I am perfectly okay with that.

              Otherwise, you might also find this of interest: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k4CQQ3VukNs&fe

              My first major public speaking engagement (outside of work or my Toastmasters Club). So, a little rough around the edges from my point of view, but I think I get my points across.

                anonymous Jun 25, 2012 4:48pm

                Sorry, (darn auto correct)… That second link is http://www.peacefulrevolution.com/.

                  anonymous Jul 6, 2012 8:20pm

                  Hey, I liked your blog. The piece on the movie. Great stuff. :o)

                    anonymous Jul 6, 2012 9:06pm

                    Thanks for the feedback. I really appreciate it. : )

                anonymous Jun 25, 2012 8:58pm

                Very interesting, Lori. When i get a chance, I'll check these sites out. Toastmasters! Thanks for the dialogue – yes, adulthood is not about self-indulgence, that's for sure. YS

          anonymous Jun 25, 2012 11:45am

          You make some very interesting points, thanks for your comments. I do believe that if you're not taking the Bible as the literal word of God, which I do not–even the Bible then becomes a story of the mythology of Jesus and is very much open for interpretation. I find many passages from the Gnostic Gospels add to this rich mythology, from the Mary Magdalene passages I included in this post, to the many that reveal the key teaching of Jesus to be we can all find "the kingdom of God within", eliminating the need for the middleman (or church). Also, thanks for calling out Thomas Moore, who for years now has been putting out one deeply insightful book after another, including "Writing in the Sand" from which I pulled the quotes I used in this post. ~Tom

            anonymous Jun 25, 2012 1:15pm

            No Tom, thank you, actually, for bringing up the topic to begin with.

            I would add Thomas Moore's CARE OF THE SOUL, which first put him on the map? To my mind one of the really great works of spiritual literature in the US over the past two decades. Just a gem.

            On his web site, he makes a very intriguing point: that in today's New Age obsession with the "mind-body" connection, we have largely replaced the old overemphasis on the mind, with a new over-emphasis on the body, as mere sensuality. We've simply tried to "spiritualize" the body.

            He says what's fallen out of this matrix is the "soul." We used to talk about body, mind and SOUL. I am still reflecting on this. It's rich.

            It turns out that he's looking for a university program for his daughter where she can study yoga, social-psychology, and metaphysics together. You won't find that in your neighborhood yoga studio, that's for sure.

            Thanks again!

anonymous Jun 24, 2012 11:56am

It's been said that Mary Magdalene was a high priestess of the Isis cult and Jesus an initiate of the mystery school of Osiris. Some of his words actually appeared on temples dedicated to Isis, which were built before his time. It's also hypothesized that his "death" was an enactment of the Isis/Osiris story, and that perhaps he did not actually die on the cross, seeing as how crucifixion is an incredibly slow way to die and he wasn't left long enough, according to Biblical accounts. "The Templar Revelation" has some very interesting research regarding all of this.

This is one of my favorite areas of studies. Great article.

    anonymous Jun 24, 2012 3:59pm

    Thanks, April. It really is an interesting area. I've read The Templar Revelation—a couple of other books I'd recommend that cover similar material are "The Jesus Mysteries" and "Jesus and the Lost Goddess" by Freke & Gandy. ~Tom

    anonymous Nov 19, 2012 9:23am

    Three things that suggest Jesus did die quickly on the cross: a) in addition to being nailed to a cross, he had been severely beaten (flogged and whipped) beforehand; b) he was impaled by a spear in his side; c) it could be that Jesus willed/allowed himself to die, i.e., he simply surrendered his spirit — an instance of supreme shavasana.

anonymous Jun 24, 2012 11:42am

In my understanding, there is a rather inconvenient hole in the papyrus paper on which Philip was written, leaving the passage to say, "Jesus often kissed her on her ____." Intriguing, eh?!

    anonymous Jun 24, 2012 3:41pm

    There's lots of fascinating stuff in the Gnostic gospels, especially Phillip. It definitely gives you a fuller, richer perspective of the life of Jesus. I'll be some follow-ups in the future! ~Tom

    PS: For those new to the "Gnostic Gospels", a great place to start is the book of the same name by Princeton religious professor Elaine Pagels.

Bob Weisenberg Jun 24, 2012 10:59am

Enjoyed this provocative article, Tom. Thank you.


    anonymous Jun 24, 2012 3:36pm

    Thank you Bob, much appreciated. ~Tom