Was Jesus Married ?

1) The Marital Status of Jesus
Is there any evidence in the Gospels, direct or indirect, to suggest that Jesus was indeed married? There is, of course, no explicit statement to the effect that he was. On the other hand, there is no explicit statement to the effect that he was not and this is both more curious and more significant than it might first appear. As Dr. Geza Vermes of Oxford University points out, "There is complete silence in the Gospels concerning the marital status of Jesus ... Such a state of affairs is sufficiently unusual in ancient Jewry to prompt further enquiry." The Gospels state that many of the disciples Peter, for example were married. And at no point does Jesus himself advocate celibacy. On the contrary, in the Gospel of Matthew he declares, "Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female ... For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?" (19:4-5J Such a statement can hardly be reconciled with an injunction to celibacy. And if Jesus did not preach celibacy, there is no reason either to suppose that he practised it. According to Judaic custom at the time it was not only usual, but almost mandatory, that a man be married. Except among certain Essenes in certain communities, celibacy was vigorously condemned. During the late first century, one Jewish writer even compared deliberate celibacy with murder, and he does not seem to have been alone in this attitude. And it was as obligatory for a Jewish father to find a wife for his son as it was to ensure that his son be circumcised.

If Jesus were not married, this fact would have been glaringly conspicuous. It would have drawn attention to itself, and been used to characterise and identify him. It would have set him apart, in some significant sense, from his contemporaries. If this were the case, surely one at least of the Gospel accounts would make some mention of so marked a deviation from custom? If Jesus were indeed as celibate as later tradition claims, it is extraordinary that there is no reference to any such celibacy. The absence of any such reference strongly suggests that Jesus, as far as the question of celibacy was concerned, conformed to the conventions of his time and culture - suggests, in short, that he was married. This alone would satisfactorily explain the silence of the Gospels on the matter. The argument is summarised by a respected contemporary theological scholar: Granted the cultural background as witnessed ... it is highly improbable that Jesus was not married well before the beginning of his public ministry. If he had insisted upon celibacy, it would have created a stir, a reaction which would have left some trace. So, the lack of mention of Jesus's marriage in the Gospels is a strong argument not against but for the hypothesis of marriage, because any practice or advocacy of voluntary celibacy would in the Jewish context of the time have been so unusual as to have attracted much attention and comment."

The hypothesis of marriage becomes all the more tenable by virtue of the title of "Rabbi', which is frequently applied to Jesus in the Gospels. It is possible, of course, that this term is employed in its very broadest sense, meaning simply a self-appointed teacher. But Jesus's literacy his display of knowledge to the elders in the Temple, for example strongly suggests that he was more than a self-appointed teacher. It suggests that he underwent some species of formal rabbinical training and was officially recognised as a rabbi. This would conform to tradition, which depicts Jesus as a rabbi in the strict sense of the word. But if Jesus was a rabbi in the strict sense of the word, a marriage would not only have been likely, but virtually certain. The Jewish Mishnaic Law is quite explicit on the subject: "An unmarried man may not be a teacher."

In the Fourth Gospel there is an episode related to a marriage which may, in fact, have been Jesus's own. This episode is, of course, the wedding at Cana - a familiar enough story. But for all its familiarity, there are certain salient questions attending it which warrant consideration. From the account in the Fourth Gospel, the wedding at Cana would seem to be a modest local ceremony a typical village wedding, whose bride and groom remain anonymous. To this wedding Jesus is specifically "called' which is slightly curious perhaps, for he has not yet really embarked on his ministry. More curious still, however, is the fact that his mother "just happens", as it were, to be present. And her presence would seem to be taken for granted. It is certainly not in any way explained. What is more, it is Mary who not merely suggests to her son, but in effect orders him, to replenish the wine. She behaves quite as if she were the hostess: "And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus with unto him, They have no wine. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come." (John 2:3-4) But Mary, thoroughly unperturbed, ignores her son's protest: "His mother saith unto the servants, "Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it." (5) And the servants promptly comply quite as if they were accustomed to receiving orders from both Mary and Jesus. Despite Jesus's ostensible attempt to disown her, Mary prevails; and Jesus thereupon performs his first major miracle, the transmutation of water into wine. So far as the Gospels are concerned, he has not hitherto displayed his powers; and there is no reason for Mary to assume he even possesses them. But even if there were, why should such unique and holy gifts be employed for so banal a purpose? Why should Mary make such a request of her son? More important still, why should two "guests" at a wedding take on themselves the responsibility of catering a responsibility that, by custom, should be reserved for the host? Unless, of course, the wedding at Cana is Jesus's own wedding. In that case, it would indeed be his responsibility to replenish the wine. There is further evidence that the wedding at Cana is in fact Jesus's own. Immediately after the miracle has been performed, the "governor of the feast" - a kind of majordomo or master of ceremonies tastes the newly produced wine, "the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now." (John 2:9-10) These words would clearly seem to be addressed to Jesus. According to the Gospel, however, they are addressed to the "bridegroom". An obvious conclusion is that Jesus and the "bridegroom" are one and the same.

2) Jesus' Wife
If Jesus was married, is there any indication in the Gospels of the identity of his wife? On first consideration there would appear to be two possible candidates, two women, apart from his mother, who are mentioned repeatedly in the Gospels as being of his entourage. The first of these is the Magdalene or, more precisely, Mary from the village of Migdal, or Magdala, in Galilee. In all four Gospels this woman's role is singularly ambiguous and seems to have been deliberately obscured. In the accounts of Mark and Matthew she is not mentioned by name until quite late. When she does appear it is in Judaea, at the time of the Crucifixion, and she is numbered among Jesus's followers. In the Gospel of Luke, however, she appears relatively early in Jesus's ministry, while he is still preaching in Galilee. It would thus seem that she accompanies him from Galilee to Judaea or, if not, that she at least moves between the two provinces as readily as he does. This in itself strongly suggests that she was married to someone. In the Palestine of Jesus's time it would have been unthinkable for an unmarried woman to travel unaccompanied - and, even more so, to travel unaccompanied with a religious teacher and his entourage.

A number of traditions seem to have taken cognisance of this potentially embarrassing fact. Thus it is sometimes claimed that the Magdalene was married to one of Jesus's disciples. If that were the case, however, her special relationship with Jesus and her proximity to him would have rendered both of them subject to suspicions, if not charges, of adultery. Popular tradition notwithstanding, the Magdalene is not, at any point in any of the Gospels, said to be a prostitute. When she is first mentioned in the Gospel of Luke, she is described as a woman "out of whom went seven devils". It is generally assumed that this phrase refers to a species of exorcism on Jesus's part, implying the Magdalene was "possessed". But the phrase may equally refer to some sort of conversion and/or ritual initiation. The cult of Ishtar or Astarte the Mother Goddess and "Queen of Heaven" involved, for example, a seven-stage initiation. Prior to her affiliation with Jesus, the Magdalene may well have been associated with such a cult. Migdal, or Magdala, was the "Village of Doves", and there is some evidence that sacrificial doves were in fact bred there. And the dove was the sacred symbol of Astarte. One chapter before he speaks of the Magdalene, Luke alludes to a woman who anointed Jesus. In the Gospel of Mark there is a similar anointment by an unnamed woman. Neither Luke nor Mark explicitly identify this woman with the Magdalene. But Luke reports that she was a "fallen woman", a "sinner". Subsequent commentators have assumed that the Magdalene, since she apparently had seven devils cast out of her, must have been a sinner. On this basis the woman who anoints Jesus and the Magdalene came to be regarded as the same person. In fact they may well have been. If the Magdalene were associated with a pagan cult, that would certainly have rendered her a "sinner" in the eyes not only of Luke, but of later writers as well. If the Magdalene was a "sinner", she was also, quite clearly, something more than the "common prostitute" of popular tradition.

Quite clearly she was a woman of means. Luke reports, for example, that her friends included the wife of a high dignitary at Herod's court and that both women, together with various others, supported Jesus and his disciples with their financial resources. The woman who anointed Jesus was also a woman of means. In Mark's Gospel great stress is laid upon the costliness of the spikenard ointment with which the ritual was performed. The whole episode of Jesus's anointing would seem to be an affair of considerable consequence. Why else would it be emphasised by the Gospels to the extent it is? Given its prominence, it appears to be something more than an impulsive spontaneous gesture. It appears to be a carefully premeditated rite. One must remember that anointing was the traditional prerogative of kings and of the "rightful Messiah", which means "the anointed one". From this, it follows that Jesus becomes an authentic Messiah by virtue of his anointing. And the woman who consecrates him in that august role can hardly be unimportant. In any case it is clear that the Magdalene, by the end of Jesus's ministry, has become a figure of immense significance.

In the three Synoptic Gospels her name consistently heads the lists of women who followed Jesus, just as Simon Peter heads the lists of male disciples. And, of co use she was the first witness to the empty tomb following the Crucifixion. Among all his devotees, it was to the Magdalene that Jesus first chose to reveal his Resurrection. Throughout the Gospels Jesus treats the Magdalene in a unique and preferential manner. Such treatment may well have induced jealousy in other disciples. It would seem fairly obvious that later tradition endeavoured to blacken the Magdalene's background, if not her name. The portrayal of her as a harlot may well have been the overcompensation of a vindictive following, intent on impugning the reputation of a woman whose association with Jesus was closer than their own and thus inspired an all too human envy. If other "Christians", either during Jesus's lifetime or afterwards, grudged the Magdalene her unique bond with their spiritual leader, there might well have been an attempt to diminish her in the eyes of posterity. There is no question that she was so diminished. Even today one thinks of her as a harlot, and during the Middle Ages houses for reformed prostitutes were called Magdalenes. But the Gospels themselves bear witness that the woman who imparted her name to these institutions did not deserve to be so stigmatised.

Whatever the status of the Magdalene in the Gospels, she is not the only possible candidate for Jesus's wife. There is one other, who figures most prominently in the Fourth Gospel and who may be identified as Mary of Bethany, sister of Martha and Lazarus. She and her family are clearly on very familiar terms with Jesus. They are also wealthy, maintaining a house in a fashionable suburb of Jerusalem large enough to accommodate Jesus and his entire entourage. What is more, the Lazarus episode reveals that this house contains a private tomb a somewhat flamboyant luxury in Jesus's time, not only a sign of wealth but also a status symbol attesting to aristocratic connections. In Biblical Jerusalem, as in any modern city, land was at a premium; and only a very few could afford the self-indulgence of a private burial site.

When, in the Fourth Gospel, Lazarus falls ill, Jesus has left Bethany for a few days and is staying with his disciples on the Jordan. Hearing of what has happened, he nevertheless delays for two days a rather curious reaction and then returns to Bethany, where Lazarus lies in the tomb. As he approaches, Martha rushes forth to meet him and cries, "Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died." (John 11:21) It is a perplexing assertion, for why should Jesus's physical presence necessarily have prevented the man's death? But the incident is significant because Martha, when she greets Jesus, is alone.

One would expect Mary, her sister, to be with her. Mary, however, is sitting in the house and does not emerge until Jesus explicitly commands her to do so. The point becomes clearer in the "secret" Gospel of Mark, discovered by Professor Morton Smith and cited earlier in this chapter. In the suppressed account by Mark, it would appear that Mary does emerge from the house before Jesus instructs her to do so. And she is promptly and angrily rebuked by the disciples, whom Jesus is obliged to silence. It would be plausible enough for Mary to be sitting in the house when Jesus arrives in Bethany. In accordance with Jewish custom, she would be "sitting Shiveh" - sitting in mourning. But why does she not join Martha and rush to meet Jesus on his return? There is one obvious explanation. By the tenets of Judaic law at the time, a woman "sitting Shiveh" would have been strictly forbidden to emerge from the house except at the express bidding of her husband. In this incident the behaviour of Jesus and Mary of Bethany conforms precisely to the traditional comportment of a Jewish man and wife.

There is additional evidence for a possible marriage between Jesus and Mary of Bethany. It occurs, more or less as a non sequitur, in the Gospel of Luke: Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her. (Luke 10:38-42)

From Martha's appeal, it would seem apparent that Jesus exercises some sort of authority over Mary. More important still, however, is Jesus's reply. In any other context one would not hesitate to interpret this reply as an allusion to a marriage. In any case it clearly suggests that Mary of Bethany was as avid a disciple as the Magdalene. There is substantial reason for regarding the Magdalene and the woman who anoints Jesus as one and the same person. Could this person, we wondered, also be one and the same with Mary of Bethany, sister of Lazarus and Martha? Could these women who, in the Gospels, appear in three different contexts in fact be a single person?

The medieval Church certainly regarded them as such, and so did popular tradition. Many Biblical scholars today concur. There is abundant evidence to support such a conclusion. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and John, for example, all cite the Magdalene as being present at the Crucifixion. None of them cites Mary of Bethany. But if Mary of Bethany was as devoted a disciple as she appears to be, her absence would seem to be, at the least, remiss. Is it credible that she - not to mention her brother, Lazarus - would fail to witness the climactic moment of Jesus's life? Such an omission would be both inexplicable and reprehensible unless, of course, she was present and cited by the Gospels as such under the name of the Magdalene. If the Magdalene and Mary of Bethany are one and the same, there is no question of the latter having been absent from the Crucifixion. The Magdalene can be identified with Mary of Bethany. The Magdalene can also be identified with the woman who anoints Jesus. The Fourth Gospel identifies the woman who anoints Jesus with Mary of Bethany. Indeed, the author of the Fourth Gospel is quite explicit on the matter: Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. (It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.) (John 11:12) And again, one chapter later: Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead. There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him. Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. (John 12:1-3) It is thus clear that Mary of Bethany and the woman who anoints Jesus are the same woman. If not equally clear, it is certainly probable that this woman is also the Magdalene. If Jesus was indeed married, there would thus seem to be only one candidate for his wife one woman who recurs repeatedly in the Gospels under different names and in different roles.

3)The "Beloved" Disciple
If the Magdalene and Mary of Bethany are the same woman, and if this woman was Jesus's wife, Lazarus would have been Jesus's brother-in-law. Is there any evidence in the Gospels to suggest that Lazarus did indeed enjoy such a status? Lazarus does not figure by name in the Gospels of Luke, Matthew and Mark although his "resurrection from the dead' was originally contained in Mark's account and then excised. As a result Lazarus is known to posterity only through the Fourth Gospel the Gospel of John. But here it is clear that he does enjoy some species of preferential treatment which is not confined to being "raised from the dead'. In this and a number of other respects, he would appear, if anything, to be closer to Jesus than the disciples themselves. And yet, curiously enough, the Gospels do not even number him among the disciples. Unlike the disciples, Lazarus is actually menaced. According to the Fourth Gospel, the chief priests, on resolving to dispatch Jesus, decided to kill Lazarus as well (John 12:10). Lazarus would seem to have been active in some way on Jesus's behalf which is more than can be said of some of the disciples. In theory this should have qualified him to be a disciple himself and yet he is still not cited as such. Nor is he said to have been present at the Crucifixion an apparently shameless display of ingratitude in a man who, quite literally, owed Jesus his life. Granted, he might have gone into hiding, given the threat directed against him. But it is extremely curious that there is no further reference to him in the Gospels. He seems to have vanished completely, and is never mentioned again. Or is he?

We attempted to examine the matter more closely. After staying in Bethany for three months, Jesus retires with his disciples to the banks of the Jordan, not much more than a day's distance away. Here a messenger hastens to him with the news that Lazarus is ill. But the messenger does not refer to Lazarus by name. On the contrary, he pro trays the sick man as someone of very special importance, "Lord, behold, he whom thou lowest is sick." (John 11:3) Jesus's reaction to this news is distinctly odd. Instead of returning post-haste to the succour of the man he supposedly loves, he blithely dismisses the matter: "When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby." (11:4) And if his words are perplexing, his actions are even more so: "When he heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was." (11:6J In short Jesus continues to dally at the Jordan for another two days despite the alarming news he has received. At last he resolves to return to Bethany. And then he flagrantly contradicts his previous statement by telling the disciples that Lazarus is dead. He is still unperturbed however. Indeed, he states plainly that Lazarus's "death' had served some purpose and is to be turned to account: "Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep." (11:11) And four verses later he virtually admits that the whole affair has been carefully stage-managed and arranged in advance: "And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless, let us go unto him." (11:15)

If such behaviour is bewildering, the reaction of the disciples is no less so: "Then said Thomas, which is called Didymus, unto his fellow disciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him." (11:16) What does this mean? If Lazarus is literally dead, surely the disciples have no intention of joining him by a collective suicide! And how is one to account for Jesus's own carelessness the blase indifference with which he hears of Lazarus's illness and his delay in returning to Bethany? The explanations of the matter would seem to lie, as Professor Morton Smith suggests, in a more or less standard "mystery school' initiation. As Professor Smith demonstrates, such initiations and their accompanying rituals were common enough in the Palestine of Jesus's era. They often entailed a symbolic death and rebirth, which were called by those names; sequestration in a tomb, which became a womb for the acolyte's rebirth; a rite, which is now called baptism a symbolic immersion in water; and a cup of wine, which was identified with the blood of the prophet or magician presiding over the ceremony. By drinking from such a cup, the disciple consummated a symbolic union with his teacher, the former becoming mystically "one" with the latter. Significantly enough, it is precisely in these terms that Saint Paul explains the purpose of baptism. And Jesus himself uses the same terms at the Last Supper.

As Professor Smith points out, Jesus's career is very similar to those of other magicians, healers, wonder workers and miracle-workers of the period. Throughout the Four Gospels, for example, he consistently meets secretly with the people he is about to heal, or speaks quietly with them alone. Afterwards he often asks them not to divulge what transpired. And so far as the general public is concerned, he speaks habitually in allegories and parables. It would seem, then, that Lazarus, during Jesus's sojourn at the Jordan, has embarked on a typical initiation rite, leading as such rites traditionally did to a symbolic resurrection and rebirth. In this light the disciples' desire to "die with him' becomes perfectly comprehensible as does Jesus's otherwise inexplicable complacency about the whole affair. Granted, Mary and Martha would appear to be genuinely distraught as would a number of other people. But they may simply have misunderstood or misconstrued the point of the exercise. Or perhaps something seemed to have gone wrong with the initiation a not uncommon occurrence. Or perhaps the whole affair was a skilfully contrived piece of stagecraft, whose true nature and purpose were known only to a very few. If the Lazarus incident does reflect a ritual initiation, he is clearly receiving very preferential treatment. Among other things, he is apparently being initiated before any of the disciples who, indeed, seem decidedly envious of his privilege.

But why should this hitherto unknown man of Bethany thus be singled out? Why should he undergo an experience in which the disciples are so eager to join him? Why should later, mystically oriented "heretics like the Carpocratians have made so much of the matter? And why should the entire episode have been expurgated from the Gospel of Mark? Perhaps because Lazarus was "he whom Jesus loved" more than the other disciples. Perhaps because Lazarus had some special connection with Jesus -like that of brother-in-law. Perhaps both. It is possible that Jesus came to know and love Lazarus precisely because Lazarus was his brother-in-law. In any case the love is repeatedly stressed. When Jesus returns to Bethany and weeps, or feigns to weep, for Lazarus's death, the bystanders echo the words of the messenger: "Behold how he loved him!" (John 11:36) The author of the Gospel of John the Gospel in which the Lazarus story figures does not at any point identify himself as "John". In fact he does not name himself at all. He does, however, refer to himself by a most distinctive appellation. He constantly calls himself "the beloved disciple", "the one whom Jesus loved", and clearly implies that he enjoys a unique and preferred status over his comrades. At the Last Supper, for example, he flagrantly displays his personal proximity to Jesus, and it is to him alone that Jesus confides the means whereby betrayal will occur: Now there was leaning on Jesus' bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved. Simon Peter therefore beckoned to him, that he should ask who it should be of whom he spoke. He then lying on Jesus' breast saith unto him, Lord, who is it? Jesus answered, He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it. And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. (John 13:23-6) Who is this "beloved disciple", on whose testimony the Fourth Gospel is based? All the evidence suggests that he is in fact Lazarus "he whom Jesus loved". It would seem, then, that Lazarus and the "beloved disciple" are one and the same person, and that Lazarus is the real identity of "John".

This conclusion would seem to be almost inevitable. Nor were we alone in reaching it. According to Professor William Brownlee, a leading Biblical scholar and one of the foremost experts on the Dead Sea Scrolls: "From internal evidence in the Fourth Gospel ... the conclusion is that the beloved disciple is Lazarus of Bethany." If Lazarus and the "beloved disciple" are one and the same, it would explain a number of anomalies. It would explain Lazarus's mysterious disappearance from the Scriptural account, and his apparent absence during the Crucifixion. For if Lazarus and the "beloved disciple" were one and the same, Lazarus would have been present at the Crucifixion. And it would have been to Lazarus that Jesus entrusted the care of his mother. The words with which he did so might well be the words of a man referring to his brother-inlaw: When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple. Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home. (John 19:26-7) The last word of this quotation is particularly revelatory. For the other disciples have left their homes in Galilee and, to all intents and purposes, are homeless. Lazarus, however, does have a home that crucial house in Bethany, where Jesus himself was accustomed to stay. After the priests are said to have decided on his death, Lazarus is not again mentioned by name. He would appear to vanish completely. But if he is indeed the "beloved disciple', he does not vanish after all, and his movements and activities can be traced to the very end of the Fourth Gospel.

And here, too, there is a curious episode that warrants examination. At the end of the Fourth Gospel Jesus forecasts Peter's death and instructs Peter to "follow' him: Then Peter, turning about, see th the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee? Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do? Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me. Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die, but, if I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true. (John 21:20-24) Despite its ambiguous phraseology, the import of this passage would seem to be clear. The "beloved disciple' has been explicitly instructed to wait for Jesus's return. And the text itself is quite emphatic in stressing that this return is not to be understood symbolically in the sense of a "second coming'. On the contrary, it implies something much more mundane. It implies that Jesus, after dispatching his other followers out into the world, must soon return with some special commission for the "beloved disciple'. It is almost as if they have specific, concrete arrangements to conclude and plans to make. If the "beloved disciple' is Lazarus, such collusion, unknown to the other disciples, would seem to have a certain precedent.

In the week before the Crucifixion, Jesus undertakes to make his triumphal entry into Jerusalem; and in order to do so in accordance with Old Testament prophecies of a Messiah, he must be riding astride an ass. (Zechariah 9:9-10) Accordingly an ass must be procured. In Luke's Gospel Jesus dispatches two disciples to Bethany, where, he tells them, they will find an ass awaiting them. They are instructed to tell the beast's owner that the "Master has need of it'. When everything transpires precisely as Jesus has forecast, it is regarded as a sort of miracle. But is there really anything very extraordinary about it? Does it not merely attest to carefully laid plans? And would not the man from Bethany who provides an ass at the appointed time seem to be Lazarus? This, certainly, is the conclusion of Doctor Hugh Schonfield." He argues convincingly that the arrange menu for Jesus's triumphal entry into Jerusalem were entrusted to Lazarus, and that the other disciples had no knowledge of them. If this was indeed the case, it attests to an inner circle of Jesus's followers, a core of collaborators, co-conspirators or family members who, alone, are admitted into their master's confidence. Doctor Schonfield believes that Lazarus is part of just such a circle. And his belief concurs with Professor Smith's insistence on the preferential treatment Lazarus receives by virtue of his initiation, or symbolic death, at Bethany.

It is possible that Bethany was a cult centre, a place reserved for the unique rituals over which Jesus presided. [...] In any case, the collusion which seems to elicit an ass from the "man from Bethany' may well be displaying itself again at the mysterious end of the Fourth Gospel when Jesus orders the "beloved disciple' to tarry until he returns. It would seem that he and the "beloved disciple' have plans to make. And it is not unreasonable to assume that these plans included the care of Jesus's family, At the Crucifixion he had already entrusted his mother to the "beloved disciple's' custody. If he had a wife and children, they, presumably, would have been entrusted to the "beloved disciple' as well. This, of course, would be all the more plausible if the `beloved disciple' were indeed his brother-in-law. According to much later tradition, Jesus's mother eventually died in exile at Ephesus from whence the Fourth Gospel is said to have subsequently issued. There is no indication, however, that the "beloved disciple' attended Jesus's mother for the duration of her life. According to Doctor Schonfield, the Fourth Gospel was probably not composed at Ephesus, only reworked, revised and edited by a Greek elder there who made it conform to his own ideas." If the "beloved disciple' did not go to Ephesus, what became of him? If he and Lazarus were one and the same that question can be answered, for tradition is quite explicit about what became of Lazarus. According to tradition, as well as certain early Church writers, Lazarus, the Magdalene, Martha, Joseph of Arimathea and a few others, were transported by ship to Marseilles." Here Joseph was supposedly consecrated by Saint Philip and sent on to England, where he established a church at Glastonbury. Lazarus and the Magdalene, however, are said to have remained in Gaul. Tradition maintains that the Magdalene died at either Aix-en-Provence or Saint Baume, and Lazarus at Marseilles after founding the first bishopric there. One of their companions, Saint Maximin, is said to have founded the first bishopric of Narbonne. If Lazarus and the "beloved disciple' were one and the same, there would thus be an explanation for their joint disappearance. Lazarus, the true "beloved disciple', would seem to have been set ashore at Marseilles, together with his sister who, as tradition subsequently maintains, was carrying with her the Holy Grail, the "blood royal'. And the arrangements for this escape and exile would seem to have been made by Jesus himself, together with the "beloved disciple', at the end of the Fourth Gospel.

[...]With convincing consistency, certain other works in the Nag Hammadi collection bear witness to a bitter and ongoing feud between Peter and the Magdalene a feud that would seem to reflect a schism between the "adherents of the message' and the adherents to the bloodline. Thus, in the Gospel of Mary, Peter addresses the Magdalene as follows: "Sister, we know that the Saviour loved you more than the rest of women. Tell us the words of the Saviour which you remember which you know but we do not". Later Peter demands indignantly of the other disciples: "Did he really speak privately with a woman and not openly to us? Are we to turn about and all listen to her? Did he prefer her to us?" And later still, one of the disciples replies to Peter: "Surely the Saviour knows her very well. That is why he loved her more than us." In the Gospel of Philip the reasons for this feud would appear to be obvious enough. There is, for example, a recurring emphasis on the image of the bridal chamber. According to the Gospel of Philip, "the Lord did everything in a mystery, a baptism and a chrism and a eucharist and a redemption and a bridal chamber". Granted, the bridal chamber, at first glance, might well seem to be symbolic or allegorical. But the Gospel of Philip is more explicit: "There were three who always walked with the Lord; Mary his mother and her sister and Magdalene, the one who was called his companion". According to one scholar, the word "companion' is to be translated as `spouse'. There are certainly grounds for doing so, for the Gospel of Philip becomes more explicit still: And the companion of the Saviour is Mary Magdalene. But Christ loved her more than all the disciples and used to kiss her often on her mouth. The rest of the disciples were offended by it and expressed disapproval. They said to him, "Why do you love her more than all of us?" The Saviour answered and said to them, "Why do I not love you like her ?" The Gospel of Philip elaborates on the matter: "Fear not the flesh nor love it. If you fear it, it will gain mastery over you. If you love it, it will swallow and paralyse you." At another point, this elaboration is translated into concrete terms: "Great is the mystery of marriage! For without it the world would not have existed. Now the existence of the world depends on man, and the existence of man on marriage." And towards the end of the Gospel of Philip, there is the following statement: "There is the Son of man and there is the son of the Son of man. The Lord is the Son of man, and the son of the Son of man is he who is created through the Son of man.

[Source: Baigent, Leigh, Lincoln - Holy Blood, Holy Grail]