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Jesus Kissing Mary Magdalene


I know that the “Gospel of Philip does not have much if any real historical veracity to it about Jesus’ life, but does the references about Jesus and Mary Magdalene being lovers and the holes in the papyrus ‘kissing’ verse (verses 32 and 55 in your “Lost Scriptures” book), help support the view that this most likely Gnostic Christian sect truly believed and taught that Jesus and Mary M were married?


Yes, this is one of those questions I get asked about on occasion.   I have a reasonably full discussion of the relevant issues in my book Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene.   In the book I put the discussion in the context of – yes, you guessed it —  Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code, the one source many people turn to for the Gospel of Philip. (!)   Here’s what I say there:


Some of the historical claims about the non-canonical Gospels in the Da Vinci Code have struck scholars as outrageous, or at least outrageously funny.  The book claims, for example, that some of these Gospels were discovered among the Dead Sea Scrolls.  That of course is completely wrong: the Dead Sea Scrolls do not contain any Gospels, or any Christian writings of any sort.  They are Jewish texts, which never mention Jesus or any of his followers.  And the novel claims that Jesus’ marriage to Mary Magdalene is frequently reported in the Gospels that did not make it into the New Testament.  On the contrary, not only is their marriage not reported frequently, it is never reported at all, in any surviving Gospel, canonical or non-canonical.  I’ll have more to say about this in a later chapter.  For now I want to consider the Gospel of Philip, which is the Da Vinci Code’s star witness for the case that Jesus and were husband and wife.

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Abraham and Jesus?
Video: Illuminated Manuscripts and Legends about Jesus



  1. Avatar
    AmenRa  February 4, 2014

    One of your many great books on the history of the Christian faith is Lost Christianities an the Corruption of The Text. I always wondered how could there be so many discrepancies for a figure like Jesus so early? If the gnostics were so off center in their take on Jesus why did the orthodox church fear them so much to attempt to silence and destroy them? Furthermore, in light of the fact that modern science, archaeology and history has questioned the fundamentalist narrative about Jesus and Christian orgins, the Gnostic perspective offers a fresh way to read these canonical gospel and the bible in general as allegories, mythologies and symbols of man’s imagination. Just as we do other literature such as Homer’s Oddessy. We use it to explore our deepest thoughts and wishes. It just seems to me that the Gnostic writings relevant more today to help us move beyond religious dogmatism of the past to spiritual exploration of ideas for now and the future.

    How do you feel about my assestment?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  February 6, 2014

      My own view is that the Gnostic materials are historically very interesting to show the wide diversity of Christian thought and belief. But also, I find them extremely difficult to understand. Reading them is not easy! Let alone figuring out what they mean…. (Whether classic Sethian texts like the Apocryphon of John or Valentinian texts like the Gospel of Philip, etc….)

      • gmatthews
        gmatthews  February 6, 2014

        What I find interesting about that is how so many flavors of Christianity could have arisen in such a relatively short period of time although from what I understand a lot of these Gnostic versions had roots in earlier beliefs so maybe it wasn’t exactly creating a religion out of whole cloth.

  2. Avatar
    willow  February 4, 2014

    I guess I’m going to have to read the Di Vinci Code, to understand all of this. Then again, maybe not.

  3. gmatthews
    gmatthews  February 5, 2014

    I’m assuming there’s something in the ms prior to your second quote:

    And the companion of the [gap in the manuscript] Mary Magdalene. [Gap in the manuscript] her more than [gap] the disciples [gap] kiss her [gap] on her [gap].

    that indicates the passage is talking about Jesus because the bit you quote doesn’t mention him.

  4. Avatar
    RecoveringCalvinist  February 5, 2014

    Do scholars think that gnostic movements existed before Jesus’ ministry, thought his message was compelling and grafted it into their thinking? Or, did gnosticism appear on the scene as a brand new Christian movement?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  February 6, 2014

      It’s been a subject of long-standing debate. My view is that a gnostic-like view was around before or during the days of Jesus (though not, of course, in Palestine) and that it came to be crystalized into what we now think of as Gnosticism after the Christian element was grafted into it; but its origins probably lie in some kinds of religious mysticism influenced heavily by Platonic thought.

  5. Avatar
    Wilusa  February 5, 2014

    “There were three who always walked with the lord: Mary his mother and her sister and Magdalene, the one who was called his companion. His sister and his mother and his companion were each a Mary.”

    Is there a typo here, or a real contradiction in the ancient manuscript? First, the three are said to include Jesus’s mother, *her* sister, and Mary Magdalene; but in the next sentence it’s Jesus’s mother and *his* sister, plus Mary Magdalene. The second sentence is more plausible, since it’s hard to understand how two sisters could both be named Mary (unless they were really stepsisters).

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  February 6, 2014

      No typo. I think his “aunt” is being called his “sister” here…

      • Avatar
        jhague  February 15, 2019

        Why would the author call his “aunt” a “sister?”

        • Bart
          Bart  February 17, 2019

          Sorry — I’ve lost the thread. I’m not sure what I was referring to (or what you are!)

          • Avatar
            jhague  February 18, 2019

            Sorry. This is just for clarification on the following:
            “There were three who always walked with the lord: Mary his mother and her sister and Magdalene, the one who was called his companion. His sister and his mother and his companion were each a Mary.”
            Another responder asked if there was a typo due to a Mary being called both Mary his mother’s sister and Jesus’ sister. You responded that “his “aunt” is being called his “sister” here.”
            I was just asking why the author would call this Mary both Jesus’ mother’s sister and his sister?

          • Bart
            Bart  February 19, 2019

            Ha! I can’t remember what I was saying! In a newer translation of the text, “her sister” (in the first occurrence) is suggested to be a textual corruption, that originally the author wrote “his sister” (in both places). In that case, the Gospel would be saying that he actually had a sister named Mary as well. Jesus does have “sisters” in the NT (Mark 6:3), but they aren’t named. Here possibly one of them is!

  6. Avatar
    fishician  February 5, 2014

    Dr. E, as I see it there were 2 possible reasons why Jesus was not married: a) not enough women to go around, or b) his apocalyptic thinking since marriage would be unnecessary in the new age. However, Jesus is usually portrayed as being baptized by John around age 30, well past the usual marrying age in that day. Was he an apocalypticist even before meeting John? If not, seems to me that reason (a) is more plausible than reason (b).

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  February 6, 2014

      Maybe both! But we know nothing about Jesus before he met with John, unfortunately.

  7. Avatar
    EricBrown  February 5, 2014

    But we do know, as evidenced by the Passion of the Christ, that she was smoking hot, right?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  February 6, 2014

      Actually, the best Mary Magdalene is Barbara Hershey, in The Last Temptation of Christ. Fantastic.

  8. Avatar
    Wilusa  February 5, 2014

    Not related to this post, but…I remember someone asking recently whether *women* were ever crucified. I was just reading the Wikipedia article on crucifixion, and saw this:

    Apparently the most ancient image of a Roman crucifixion is a graffito found in a taberna (hostel for wayfarers) in Puteoli, dating to the time of Trajan or Hadrian. The cross is the T shape. An inscription over the individual’s left shoulder identifies her as “Alkimila.”

  9. Avatar
    Michael Burgess  February 5, 2014

    This is all very impressive but, if he kissed her in a place that “conceives” and “gives birth,” wouldn’t that be lower down? 🙂

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