It seems like we can count on a popular level assault on Christianity at least once or twice per year. It happens like clockwork just before Easter. Someone rehashes an old theory to discredit Jesus or his resurrection. They prey on the faithful who may not yet be well-grounded in their faith. They provide “ammunition” for the perpetual doubters, those who are just looking for a reason not to believe. Often we see it again at other times of the year besides Easter. Like Christmas.
The latest entry into the Jesus-bashing market is The Lost Gospel: Decoding the Ancient Text that Reveals Jesus’ Marriage to Mary the Magdalene by Simcha Jacobovici and Barrie Wilson. I will link to some scholars below who offer critiques of this work but would like to give you a brief summary first.
This “lost gospel” purportedly tells the story of Jesus and his wife, Mary Magdalene (The DaVinci Code, anyone?), and their two sons and how they all lived. But the story has nothing to do with Jesus. And The Lost Gospel is neither. That is, it is neither a lost document that has been recovered after centuries, nor is it a gospel. This is a well-known story called Joseph and Aseneth. It is a fictionalized account of Joseph, son of Jacob, and his wife, Aseneth, whom Pharaoh had given to him (Gen 41:45, 50). She was the mother of his two sons Ephraim and Manasseh (the two sons in the story). The document is well-known among scholars. The particular version the authors are using is a 6th century Syriac translation of a Greek version. I suppose they chose this because “Syriac” sound mysterious. Syriac is the language that was spoken in Syria, north of Israel. The gospel had clearly spread there shortly after Jesus had ascended to heaven. It was on the road to Damascus (in Syria) that Saul of Tarsus was struck blind by Jesus as he (Saul) journeyed there to persecute Christians. (Incidentally, the Christians currently being put to death by ISIS in Iraq are descendants of those Christians.)
In any event, the key to this lost gospel is to substitute Jesus for Joseph and Mary for Aseneth as you are reading. Voila! A story about Jesus and Mary being married with children. It’s just as simple as that.
Fellow saints, do not let your hearts be troubled. Jesus is still on the throne and he is still waiting for his one and only bride, the Church.
Robert Cargill is a professor or Religious Studies at the University of Iowa. His critique is here.