It was bound to happen. In the wake of the huge success of The Da Vinci Code, both in novel and now in movie form, the sleuths have gotten out their magnifying glasses and have been looking for hard historical or Biblical evidence that Jesus was married. One interesting suggestion is that John 2:1–12 recounts the story of Jesus’ own wedding. After all, his mother, brothers and disciples are all there, and in the end Jesus does the catering himself—by direct miraculous intervention no less—turning Jewish purification water into gallons of Gallo. What should we think about this suggestion?
On the one hand, we know that most Jewish men did get married, but they normally did so well before the age of 30, which is about how old Jesus was when he began his ministry (see Luke 3:23). It is not true, however, that all young Jewish men married. We can think of various exceptions at Qumran and special cases like John the Baptist, who had a prophetic calling. We also have Jesus’ own teaching for his disciples in Matthew 19:10–12, which states in essence that it is fine to be celibate for the sake of the coming kingdom of God, especially if you can’t handle life-long fidelity in marriage. One wonders if the coming kingdom was Jesus’ own explanation and rationale for why he remained single, although Peter and others of his disciples were already married. We must recognize, however, that it is entirely an argument from silence to say that Jesus got married—unless John 2:1–12 says so! So we must return to this text for the rest of the discussion.
John 2:1 tells us that there is a wedding in Cana (a town near Nazareth) and that Jesus’ mother is there. This is an odd statement if she was in fact the mother of the groom. It would not need to be emphasized that she was present if this was a wedding in which she had an important role to play. Then verse 2 says that Jesus and the disciples had also been “invited” to the wedding. Again, this is very odd language if this is a story about Jesus’ own wedding (or, for that matter, a wedding of any of his brothers or sisters). Then there is the intervention of Mary when the party runs out of wine. She goes to Jesus and says, “They have no wine” (John 2:3). In verse 4 Jesus responds, “What is that to you and to me?” The implication is clearly that neither Mary nor Jesus has any obligation when it comes to the catering of this event. Yet Mary, knowing her son’s graciousness, tells the servants: “Do what ever he tells you.”
We all know the bit about the six full purification jars, each holding 20 to 30 gallons of water. We are told that Jesus’ first public miracle is turning this water into wine. The Fourth Gospel sees this in a symbolic light, signaling that Jesus is inaugurating the new covenant with new wine. Notice what the toastmaster says when he samples it: “You have saved the best wine for last” (John 2:10). This, of course, was the opposite of normal protocol. Normally hosts give their guests the best wine first, while they still have a discriminating palate and before they are too tipsy to tell or care. But for the Evangelist, it is a loaded theological comment about Jesus being the last great bringer of divine joy and salvation to earth. Notice also that the miracle is neither described nor played up. The only ones who know a miracle is involved are Mary, the disciples and the servants who poured the water and then the wine. The Fourth Gospel tells us that this was the first of Jesus’ great signs—signs that the great King and Messiah had arrived on the stage of human history.
But the clincher that this story is not about Jesus’ wedding is the last verse—verse 12. Here we are told that Jesus went down from Cana to Capernaum after the wedding celebration with his mother, his brothers and his disciples. Whatever else you say about an early Jewish wedding, one thing is sure—when it is over the groom definitely doesn’t go home with his mom, his siblings or his students!
So at the end of the day, we are not dealing with Jesus’ wedding here (or elsewhere in the New Testament) or in early Christian tradition. Even the much later and less historically accurate Gnostic gospels do not tell us that Jesus was married, much less married to Mary Magdalene. This is not because there is some theological problem with Jesus being married; it’s because historically it just never happened. The only secret the Evangelist wants to hint at in this story is that the Messiah came to the wedding and, far from being a killjoy, was actually the one who brought new life to the party. This was part of what his kingdom was meant to be all about.
It was bound to happen. In the wake of the huge success of The Da Vinci Code, both in novel and now in movie form, the sleuths have gotten out their magnifying glasses and have been looking for hard historical or Biblical evidence that Jesus was married. One interesting suggestion is that John 2:1–12 recounts the story of Jesus’ own wedding. After all, his mother, brothers and disciples are all there, and in the end Jesus does the catering himself—by direct miraculous intervention no less—turning Jewish purification water into gallons of Gallo. What should we think about this suggestion? […]