Was Jesus married? This is a question that puzzles many people and has for many centuries. Stories such as The Da Vinci Code create a narrative that imply that Jesus could have been married. However, we can’t find any passages of Scripture that seem to indicate that Jesus was married. I believe it is a fair question to process.
Several years ago, I was at a place where I felt that it didn’t matter whether or not Jesus was married. But over the past several years, the debate began to matter more for me. Marriage was certainly an important part of the early Church; and it was certainly a sacred establishment in God’s eyes. In order to best think about marriage, we need to look at the context in which Jesus would have lived.
1. Marriage was seen by the Jewish people as a primary part of being a good child of God. Connected directly to marriage was the goal of procreation – which was seen as the first commandment (Genesis 1:28). In this sense, it was believed by many people of Jesus’ time that single people were cursed. From what we can best understand, Jesus was a rabbi (or teacher). Because the role of a rabbi was of such high stature in the Jewish faith, it would have been unlikely for a rabbi to be unmarried (unless he was a widower). This is not conclusive evidence that Jesus was married, but it certainly was a societal pressure that would have affected his ministry.
2. According to popular interpretation, Jesus’ first public miracle occurred at a wedding. It is only found in John’s Gospel (2:1-11), where Jesus makes more wine so that the party can continue. We can assume this wedding was not Jesus’ wedding. However, there is a belief that John chose to open this section of his Gospel with this story because it connected with a marriage metaphor found throughout the rest of the Gospel. This metaphor places Jesus as the bridegroom and the Church as his bride. Beginning John’s Gospel with this story would have both signaled the initiation of Jesus’ ministry and set the stage for a metaphorical wedding celebration to begin with the incarnation of the kingdom of God.
3. Jesus seems to propose singleness as a celebrated alternative to marriage, especially when he indicates that some people have chosen to become single (or eunuchs) for the sake of the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 19:12). When challenged by the Sadducees about the marriage scenario of a woman who belonged to two different men, Jesus seems to indicate that marriage is only a temporal reality in this life. He indicates that marriage will not be part of life in the age to come (Luke 20:27-40).
4. In the Gospels, we never find any mention of Jesus’ wife, but we do find mention of his siblings, mother, and father. This leads many to believe that he was not married because it would seem unlikely to omit such a significant part of Jesus’ life. While some have hypothesized that Mary Magdalene was his wife based on Gnostic texts and exaggerated interpretations of Gospel-scenarios, I have a hard time endorsing this concept.
So, all of these ideas seem to not lead to any sort of conclusive answer. The reason? I don’t believe there is one. Jesus was likely not married because he is “married” to the Church. On one hand, Jesus wasn’t married, while on the other hand, he is married to the Church. Jesus’ love for his people is shown through this beautiful metaphor of marriage. Several places throughout the Gospels, we find Jesus referring to himself as the bridegroom. In Paul’s letters and John’s Revelation, we find allusions of the Church being likened to the bride of Christ. This imagery helps us understand the value that Jesus had for marriage and most importantly, his love for his people.
I do have to ask this question: would it have mattered if Jesus had been married? Personally, I don’t think it would have mattered. Here are a few ideas to consider though:
1. With Jesus knowing that he would be crucified, resurrected, and ascended to heaven, would it have been fair for him to marry a wife and start a family?
2. If Jesus was married and had children, would those children also be divine, or partially divine? We start to encounter a very complicated reality when we process this idea. The Da Vinci code suggests that Jesus’ descendants might still exist today. While this book is clearly fiction, it is based on what some people consider fact.
3. Could you imagine being Jesus’ child? Think about the pressure and expectations that one would have to undergo. I have often heard it said that being a pastor’s kid is hard… try being Jesus’ kid!
If Jesus was married, it certainly did not make any less of the Messiah, nor would it have affected his death and resurrection. It would not have changed the gospel the way we know. With all of that said, I’m not certain that it matters whether Jesus was married or not. I believe it was highly unlikely, but if he was, he would still be the same Jesus in whom we find hope.