Simcha Jacobovici and Barrie Wilson’s book The Lost Gospel: Decoding the Lost Text that Reveals Jesus’ Marriage to Mary Magdalene released last month, the latest in an often-sensationalized genre that continues to make historical claims that go against an orthodox understanding of who Jesus was and how he lived.

According to their interpretation of the ancient Syriac manuscript, Joseph and Aseneth, Jesus married Mary Magdalene and fathered two sons. Sound familiar? A similar claim was made in the plot of Dan Brown’s popular 2003 novel The Da Vinci Code.

Like Brown’s mystery, The Lost Gospel emphasizes Jesus’ humanity while deifying Mary. Because Jesus was chaste, it is assumed that discovering evidence of Jesus being married and having sex somehow mitigates Jesus’ divinity. And in turn, Mary—Dan Brown’s Holy Grail— becomes deified as Jesus’ consort and the womb of his divine children.

This reoccurring divine family motif of a less-than-God Jesus and a more-than-human Mary can frustrate Christians who know that it’s false. Still, when these kinds of theories come up—often around Christmas and Easter—they get people who don’t normally engage in conversations about Jesus talking about him, what the Scriptures say, and what history reveals. In the wake of sensationalized books, Christians have an opportunity to take advantage of the interest in Jesus.

Ideally, these conversations will take place in ecumenical and interfaith settings. For example, the Center for Ancient Judaism and Christian Origins and Nyack College hosted a conference in New York last month on various Mary Magdalene traditions and the archeological site of Magdala. ...

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