Yesterday, I introduced the word "koinonos" and shared how one set of translations might be rendered as "spiritual companion", "anam cara" or even "soulmate". Some scholarship has suggested that the term might also imply a spousal or sexual relationship. The idea that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were Beloveds did not originate with The Da Vinci Code. According to their Catholic enemies, this tenet was one of the "heresies" of the Cathars (along with vegetarianism, pacifism and the practice of birth control). In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, DH Lawrence, Auguste Rodin and Eric Gill all imagined a very intense erotic relationship between Jesus and Magdalene, while more recent writers (ranging from the art historian Margaret Starbird to French Orthodox theologian Jean Yves Leloup and Episcopalian priest Cynthia Bourgeault) have explored the implications of a sexual or marital relationship in a far more thorough and thoughtful manner than Dan Brown offered in his bestselling novel.
The theme of Magdalene as Bride runs deep throughout history. Even the earliest Christian liturgies for her feast day included the recitation of the Song of Songs. The most sensual book of the Bible, it begins, " Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth" and continues in language that is frankly (sometimes shockingly) erotic as it tells the story of two lovers who meet and mate amongst lilies and pomegranates. In Jewish communities, the Song of Songs is read every Sabbath evening, intended to evoke the union of Yahweh and the Shekinah, and to encourage marital coupling as an expression of divine blessing. One could argue that to include it as a part of the feastday liturgy is, well, surprisingly suggestive- as is the stained glass window in Scotland (above). This 1905 window conveys the utmost tenderness of a loving partnership while Eric Gill's lithograph and Auguste Rodin's sculpture (below) both makes visually vivid the double meaning of the word passion: Jesus is caught in the suffering of the cross while Mary's arms are outstretched in love and longing.
I'm often asked if I believe that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married. Rather than giving a yes or no answer (after all, it is impossible to either prove or disprove this idea), I find it much more interesting to discuss this question: would it change your view of either of them if they were? And if so, why?