So did Mary Magdalene carry ‘with her a secret so powerful that if revealed it threatened to devastate the very foundation of Christianity’ (Da Vinci Code page 322)? The contention of the book is that Mary Magdalene was Jesus’ wife and they had a child. The church has covered up this secret which is contained in the Gnostic gospels but deleted in the four Gospels in the New Testament.
As I have already mentioned, one of the main sources of The Da Vinci Code is the book, The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail (Jonathan Cape, London). This book puts forward the claim that the Holy Grail is the royal blood line through the supposed marriage of Jesus and Mary Magdalene. It goes further than the Da Vinci Code in making the very significant link between Mary Magdalene to the cult of Astarte of ancient Babylonian rituals and the idea of the ‘Goddess’ and the ‘Queen of Heaven’:
‘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’ 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 (the seven veils). 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.’ Baigent, Leigh & Lincoln, The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail
Another influence on The Da Vinci Code is ‘The Goddess in the Gospels,’ by Margaret Starbird written in 1998. This is Margaret Starbird’s follow-up to ‘The Woman with the Alabaster Jar’, the 1996 book which first presented the writer’s view on the Jesus and Mary Magdalene marriage theory, and the significance she believes it might have, for the Catholic church in particular. Margaret Starbird came to this belief after going through a nervous breakdown as a result of her struggle to reconcile her realisation of the way that women and the feminine principle have been mistreated by the Catholic Church down the years, with both her strong Catholic faith. Her idea that Jesus was married and had children did not come about through scholarship or research but through a ‘revelatory encounter’ which convinced her that this was true. She was involved in a Catholic charismatic group which encouraged the belief that ‘words’ and signs given to the participants were messages from God.
One of the things that one discovers when you look at all the influences (and there are many others I have not mentioned) behind this theory is that the people responsible are either plainly deceptive (Planchard, Henry Lincoln) or into some kind of alternative spirituality – including New Age, wicca (witchcraft), yoga and the Catholic charismatic movement.
Was Jesus married?
In early Christianity there were various heretical sects which taught that Jesus was married. Hippolytus said Song of Solomon was a prophecy of a supposed marital union between Christ and Mary Magdalene. Those putting forward this view have noted the special relationship of Mary Magdalene with Jesus in Gospels. It is said that Mary Magdalene and Mary of Bethany are the same person and that the story of Mary with alabaster jar in John 12 is a witness to their marriage, following an ancient ceremony to seal the marriage between a king and his priestess spouse. It is also claimed that the burial account with the anointing of His body with spices by Mary would have been done by his wife and the intimacy of the resurrection account in John 20 is said to point to this as the case. It is also claimed that Jewish customs required rabbis to be married.
Mainline Christianity has always rejected this as an impious suggestion. In the early church Justin Martyr and Clement of Alexandria believed a married Christ was inconsistent with his role as Saviour of the World. Not that marriage in itself sinful, but His mission was too demanding and heavenly to allow him opportunity of marriage. The Da Vinci Code story actually gives two good reasons for Jesus not to be married from human point of view. Firstly Jesus knew he was going to be crucified aged 33 at age when a wife would be expected to have children and need the care of a husband to help her bring up her family. Secondly if he did have children they would be considered semi divine and treated as special in following generations.
From the point of view of the divinity of Jesus it is unthinkable that as God he could enter into sexual union with a woman. Of course a major reason for putting forward this idea is to attack the divinity of Jesus as we have already seen. Neither the Bible nor any other historical text (including the Gnostic gospels) identifies Mary Magdalene as the wife of Jesus. A married woman at the time would have gone by her husband’s name, but Mary was referred to as being from the town of Magdala. Karen King, a leading authority on Mary Magdalene and professor at Harvard Divinity School has said, ‘This notion that shes talked about as being from this place indicates that she was independent. The really odd thing would be to have Mary married to Jesus and have them next to each other in the same text [in the Bible] and for it not to be mentioned. That for me is quite conclusive that they were not married.’
On the idea that rabbinic law required marriage, we find that Jesus stressed the difference between his teaching and the teaching of the scribes and Pharisees (‘You have heard that it was said … but I say unto you’ – Matthew 5). Nor were all rabbis necessarily married. In the Talmud we read of Rabbi Simeon ben Azzai who was criticised by his disciples for recommending marriage but not being married himself. His reply was ‘My soul is in love with the Torah. The world can be carried on by others’ (b Yeham 63b.65). Jesus also recommended celibacy ‘for the kingdom of heaven’s sake’. Matthew 19.12.
Concerning the identity of Mary Magdalene we know little, except that she was one of the devoted followers of Jesus who had received help and deliverance from him and repaid him by loyalty and devotion shown especially by her presence at the cross, her care for his body after the crucifixion and her being the first to witness his resurrection. It is clear from Luke 8.1-3 that women played a vital part in the ministry of Jesus and he always treated them with respect. The commission to evangelise and lead the church was given to men, but that by no means excluded women from a meaningful role in Christian ministry in the early church and nor should it today.
However the issues raised by the concept of the sacred feminine in the Da Vinci Code and the Holy Grail myth go way beyond discussion of the role of women in the church. Berit Kjos in her book ‘Under the Spell of Mother Earth’ shows how an alternative spirituality is being created through radical feminist and ecological movements seeking to cause a ‘return of the Goddess’ as the answer to patriarchal society. Kjos writes: ‘Followers of the Goddess express far more anger towards our male-dominated culture. To save the earth they plan to:
- Replace the obsolete system of a Father God which they say is squeezing our planet dry of resources, with the more compassionate culture of the ancient Mother Goddess.
- Revive the ancient myths, images and rituals of the Goddess.
- Reclaim the power and sacredness of eroticism.
Ecofeminists envision a world without authority figures or male saviours ‘for the saving and sustaining power is in herself.’ Filled with earth’s psychic energies and wisdom we would each be free to do our own thing.’ (p 77)
There is evidence to link the ideas in the Holy Grail book and The Da Vinci Code with this kind of idea. Roger and Jennifer Woolger are co authors of book ‘The Wounded Goddess Within’ and also lead pilgrimages to the south of France to sites associated with Magdalene mythology. In this book they write: ‘Over the centuries a series of dire equations were established in the minds of Christians: Woman = Earth = Dirt = Sex = Sin, an idea reflected in the popular misconception that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute.’ The Woolgers attribute the churchs negative view of the body and sexuality to an oppression of the legitimacy of a goddess figure, which often is associated with fertility and a healthy sexuality.
They see the rediscovered Mary Magdalene as a goddess archetype who embodies earthly and sensuous womanhood as opposed to the unreachable virgin purity of the Roman Catholic idea of Mary, the mother of Jesus. They believe that with millions of people exposed to and enlightened by the ideas of The Da Vinci Code, ‘human consciousness is ripe for fully unravelling the lost goddess enigma. After being suppressed, denigrated, and persecuted for two thousand years, the Great Goddess is finally returning in all her beauty, wisdom, and glory—as the Magdalene.’
This ties in with the idea in Da Vinci Code of sex as a route to God and the claim that early Jewish tradition in the Temple involved ritualistic sex and female equal of God, the Shekinah (page 411). Robert Langdon says in Da Vinci Code: ‘The next time you find yourself with a woman look into your heart and see if you cannot approach sex as a mystical, spiritual act. Challenge yourself to find that spark of divinity that man can only achieve through union with the sacred feminine’ (412-3).
It also ties in with much that is going on in the occult world often under the guise of radical ecology (worship of Gaia as the earth mother) and radical feminism. It involves the myth of a peaceful Eden like world where the Goddess was worshipped before the male God of the Bible took over and brought alienation from nature, war and conflict between sexes.
Writing from experience of America, Berit Kjos shows how this idea is entering into the educational system. She quotes an article by Sonia Nazario ‘Is Goddess worship finally going to put men in their place?’ in the Wall Street Journal (7/6/90) which makes the astonishing claim: ‘In the beginning there was no God. There was the Goddess. She peered into the great void and created the Heaven and the Earth and in this domain women ruled. The world was peaceful and both sexes worshipped her.’ Miriam Starhawk, first president of the Covenant of the Goddess wrote: ‘The model of the Goddess fosters respect for the sacredness of all living things. Witchcraft can be seen as a religion of ecology. Its goal is harmony with nature so that life may not just survive but thrive.’
The goddess is actually made in Babylon. The idea that a Patriarchal God replaced the Goddess and turned the world from a peaceful harmonious place into its present day disorder is a myth. After the Genesis Flood Noah’s great grandson Nimrod (whose name means ‘Let us rebel’) ruled in Babylon and steered his people away from God. Within a few generations people were worshipping gods and goddesses linked to the ‘host of heaven’ (the sun, moon, stars and planets). The astrological zodiac with its occult divination had supplanted God’s loving guidance. All following forms of paganism had their origin in Babylon. Barbara Walker in ‘The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets’ quotes these words from ancient Babylon: ‘In the brilliant heavens to give omens in abundance, I appear, I appear in perfection. With exultation in my supremacy, do I a goddess walk supreme. Ishtar the Goddess of the morning, am I. Ishtar who opens the portals of heaven in my supremacy.’
According to the Babylonian myth Ishtar descended into the underworld each winter to release and unite with her beloved. She always returned pregnant, bringing the promise of a bountiful harvest. Each year the sexual rites of Ishtar’s harlot priestesses celebrated her mythical union with Tammuz her consort. Human sacrifices and other bloody rituals included in the ceremony suggest that the Goddess was a cruel lover who refreshed the earth’s fertility with her consort’s blood. (Information from Berit Kjos Under the Spell of Mother Earth page 88-90).
The fact that the Holy Blood, Holy Grail book which is the source of the ideas behind the Da Vinci Code links Mary Magdalene with the cult of Ishtar shows where the real source of these ideas is – ancient Babylon. To link the Lord Jesus who by His sinless life came to save us from sin and from the corruption of Babylonian religion is the ultimate blasphemy. As happened in biblical times to Israel this will lead to God’s judgement coming upon those who follow this deception. Far from being in any way part of the original worship of the Lord in the Temple, these things are described as an abomination in the Bible. In fact Ezekiel 8.14 describes women ‘weeping for Tammuz’ as one of the reasons for the withdrawal of the Shekinah (which in fact is the glory of God or the place where God dwells) from the Temple (Ezekiel 9.3, 10.4, 1.22-23). When the glory departed the way was open for the destruction of the Temple by the Babylonian invaders as a judgement for Israel’s unfaithfulness to the Lord.
Goddess worship is actually described in Isaiah 57.3-10 and in Hosea 4.12-19 where the people go up on a ‘lofty and high mountain’ to set their beds and debase themselves in lust and sex orgies seeking false gods and goddesses. Unwanted children, the fruit of this union are then sacrificed as offerings to these gods. But this bed of lust gives no satisfaction and in the time of need these gods can do nothing to help. In New Testament times Corinth was a centre of such idolatrous worship with cult prostitutes serving the Goddess in Greek form. To counter this Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 6: ‘Now the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. … Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not. Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? … He who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body.’
This teaching is not a result of male dominating God wanting to take away pleasure from us, but of a loving heavenly Father wanting to protect us from terrible consequences of this kind of immorality. We can see it all around us today in our society – sexually transmitted diseases, broken families, disillusion, children in need, society breaking down. God wants to protect us by calling us to lead holy lives separated from corruption of this present evil world.
The link between the concept of the ‘divine feminine’ and the Goddess of ancient Babylon with all the connections of witchcraft and the demonic realm should alert us to the real agenda behind all the propaganda in the world today putting forward this idea. It is releasing onto the world the renewed power of ‘Mystery Babylon the Great, the Mother of Harlots and of the Abominations of the Earth’ described in the woman riding the beast of Revelation 17 who is ‘drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus’.