A new book has stoked controversy in the already churning cauldron of religious
conspiracy theories with its claims that Jesus was married and had two children.
The Lost Gospel, which is based on ancient religious texts held by the British Library, asserts that Jesus was married to Mary
Magdalene and they had two children.
It also reveals that there was a failed attempt to kill Jesus and the children, and rape Mary Magdalene — although it does
not reveal who was behind this heinous ploy on the holy family.
“The book also describes Jesus’s alleged
connections to top political figures in the Roman empire such as Emperor Tiberius
and his best friend, the soldier Sejanus. In
addition, it explains why Jesus was constantly on the move to avoid Herald Antipas,” writes Richard Brooks, The Sunday Times Art Editor.
The controversial book, co-authored by Israeli-Canadian writer and film maker Simcha Jacobovici and religious professor
Barrie Wilson, was released last month to a sceptical public and a dismissive clergy.
It has been termed as “speculative” and “allegorical” since the ancient manuscript it
is based on does not explicitly mention either Jesus or Mary Magdalene.
The Lost Gospel takes its cue from a new translation of a historical document, The Story of Joseph and Asenath, which was
originally written in Syriac — a 1500-year-old language that is believed to have been Jesus’s mother tongue.
While most religious and historical experts think the Syriac manuscript chronicles the life of a Hebrew patriarch named Joseph,
authors of The Lost Gospel insist that it is in fact a coded chronology of Jesus’s personal
“It returns Jesus to history, it returns Mary
Magdalene to the story,” Jacobovici said
during the launch of the book at the British
Library in London last month.
“Not only is he married — but [the
manuscript] celebrates his sexuality. She,
his wife, is not just Mrs Jesus; she’s actually
a goddess. He’s the son of God, she’s the
daughter of God.”
While the assertions that Jesus may have been a husband and father might seem blasphemous to many Christians, they are hardly new.
And although accounts of Jesus’s personal life have over the years been documented in several religious texts and, therefore, have
long been studied by religious scholars, it
was not until 1953 that these assertions
exploded into public domain when a Greek
author published a book exploring the
theme of Jesus’s marriage.
“In 1953, Nikos Kazantzakis’ book — The
Last Temptation of Christ — made the same
suggestion, but it stated that their marriage
occurred after Christ was taken down from
the cross. In 1988, Martin Scorcese made a
film of the same name,” writes Brooks in
the November 9 edition of The Sunday
However, it was not until Dan Brown wrote
The Da Vinci Code in 2006 that the world really took notice of the possibility that Jesus might have had a life that was not documented in the Bible.
In his best-seller, Brown’s central plot is that Christ was married to Mary Magdalene, and that their bloodline was continued in
the Merovingian kings of France.
The book claims that Jesus’s descendants live on even
today, but their identity is protected by a secret organisation known as the Priory of
The book’s central theme is that Mary
Magdalene is herself divine because she
carries Jesus’s bloodline, but that the
church has for centuries worked to erase
all evidence of her sacred nature, even going to the extent of depicting her as a prostitute in the Bible.
According to the novel, The Holy Grail, which is thought to be the cup from which Jesus drank during the Last Supper, is in
fact an allegorical allusion to Mary
More intriguing is the book’s assertion that while the church has for centuries fought to hide this bit of information and has gone as far as murdering those that might propagate an alternative Gospel to what is
written in the Bible, evidence of Jesus’s union with Magdalene lives on and is hidden in plain sight in famous works of both old and modern art.
Brown claims that the sacredness of Magdalene has been acknowledged not only
in the famous Mona Lisa painting by Leonardo Da Vinci, but also in the Walt Disney’s animations, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White.
Brown’s book drew harsh criticism from a section of the clergy who viewed it as an attack on the Church. The film adaptation
of the book did not fare any better.
“In the Philippines, which has Asia’s largest Christian population, the City Council of
Manila, the capital, passed a resolution banning the film in local theatres. Greek authorities banned the film for viewers under 17, saying it touched on “religious
and historical questions of major
importance that a minor is not able to evaluate.
An Athens court rejected a religious organisation’s petition for an outright ban, citing freedom of expression,” reported The
Washington Post in May 2006.
Vincent Nichols, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Birmingham, England, also
castigated the film, telling The Post: “The Da Vinci Code’ gratuitously insults Jesus Christ
and the Catholic Church, it deliberately presents fiction as fact.”
While Brown’s Da Vinci Code was
denounced even by non-religious scholars for peddling historical and scientific inaccuracies, The Lost Gospel might endure a better fate due to the strength of the work
it is based on.
“What makes this book in principle more significant is that it is based on a manuscript known as The Ecclesiastical History of Zacharias Rhetor (of Mytilene), which has been with the British Museum
and then the British Library for nearly 170 years. It was purchased originally by the British Museum in 1847 before being
transferred to the British Library about 20
years ago,” The Sunday Times reports.
That has, however, not managed to
convince the book’s critics of the veracity
of its claims. The Sunday Times reported
that when reached for comment, the
Church of England said, “It seems another
text is discovered every year as a ‘lost
gospel”. This book appears to share more
with Dan Brown than with Matthew, Mark,
Luke or John.”
Closer home, the National Council of
Churches of Kenya (NCCK) has also
rubbished the ‘truths’ revealed in The Lost Gospel, terming the book speculative and sensational.
“There is a lot of speculation that goes on about the life and person of Christ.
Unfortunately, they are not based on fact,” says the NCCK General Secretary, the Reverend Canon Peter Karanja.
“It is true that there are certain things in religion that you cannot entirely resolve. But Christians only believe what is written
in scripture. Protestant churches have the 66 books of the Bible, Catholics have added a few more, and all these books have been
authenticated to determine their veracity. We stand by what they say,” he adds.
But even as the Church fights off what it
says are fantastical works of fiction, it cannot be escaped that differing accounts of Jesus’s life keep springing up every now and
then. If there is no truth behind the
humanised life of Christ, why do they keep
“Speculation does not die off because it
presents exciting information that goes
against the grain of what is taught in
church. It keeps people fascinated. But we
must not forget that none of it is anchored in fact,” Rev Karanja says.
On a personal level, the canon is not averse to reading The Lost Gospel once it finds its way to Kenya.