Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Gospel of Jesus’s Wife, Part II: Jesus’s Wife Rediviva


BL Add. MS 17202 dated colophon
"The date of writing is given in l. 1 and l. 3 as A.S. 880 = A.D.569. This must have been the date of the completion of the work, of which different parts were written at different times; thus 12,4 was written in 561, and 12,7 in 555; 10,12, which I have restored from Michael (see below), would appear, on the prima facie interpretation of the words to have been written in 545 ; but, since the style of the narrative makes it incredible that it was written within a year of the events recorded, " this year 8 " must be understood to mean " this year 8, with which we are now dealing." Throughout the history of Justinian's reign the author speaks of the Emperor in terms which imply that he was still living." Hamilton & Brooks, 1899, p. 5.

Simcha Jacobovici and Barrie Wilson have published a new book which is attracting considerable media attention. The monograph contends that a well-known ancient text, “Joseph and Aseneth,” is actually a coded witnesses to an early Christian tradition which believed that Jesus was not only married, but also had children. Although this text is known in Armenian, Greek (the original language), Latin and Syriac, the new thesis is primarily interested in the earliest manuscript, the Syriac witness BL Add. MS 17202. I will survey what I have been able to initially glean from this monograph via Google Books, below. Unfortunately, this medium does not allow me to accompany my quotes with page numbers.


“When interpreted in the way that ancient Christians understood their sacred writings, this is absolutely the first written document that makes the personal life of Jesus apparent.  After all, it tells the story of how Jesus met his wife, how they married, and how they had children.  More than this, it goes into details of who she was and what happened in their lives after the marriage and before the crucifixion.  It’s surprising—perhaps shocking to some—but it presents a history that has thus far been hinted at but not otherwise known.”
Most are familiar with the story of Joseph from the book of Genesis. In Genesis 41:45, Pharaoh gave Aseneth, daughter of an Egyptian priest, to Joseph in marriage. In 41:50–52, Aseneth gave birth to two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. The apocryphal account of Joseph and Aseneth describes Aseneth’s journey from pagan worship to monotheistic Israelite faith. Jacobovici and Wilson argue that this account is a coded story, which in its interpretation is actually a gospel account.

Joseph as Jesus

“In Syriac Christianity, whom does Joseph stand for?  Remarkably, we find that Syriac-speaking Christians did see Joseph as a type.  In fact, in Syriac Christianity, Joseph is a surrogate for none other than Jesus himself.”

Aseneth as Magdalene

“Aseneth is literally the woman in the tower — she’s the ‘Tower Lady,’ if you will… Since we have firmly set this story in a Christian context, we know of only one tower lady in Christian tradition, and she happens to be intimately associated with Jesus.  She is none other than Mary the Magdalene… Migdal [sic] in Hebrew (Magdala in Aramaic) means—of all things—Tower.  Translated literally, Mary the Magdalene’s name does mean Mary the Tower.”

Aseneth as Artemis

“If we are right, Mary the Magdalene was seen by her followers as the incarnation of a specific goddess—Artemis.  Jesus, therefore, would have been associated with a bee goddess and, as the Gospels record, his opponents may well have charged him of heretically healing in her name.”
The authors note Artemis is associated with bees (as Athena is associated with an owl), and Aseneth is attacked by bees in the story (ch. XVI). Likewise, Aseneth lived in a tower (mentioned thrice?), and Artemis wore a tower on her head.

The Church

“Aseneth and Mary the Magdalene are both Towers and types of the church. The logic is clear: Aseneth and Mary the Magdalene are identical, the former acting as a surrogate for the latter.”

Mark Goodacre and Richard Bauckham

Readers should note that Goodacre and Bauckham responded to this a year ago, here and earlier here.


  • Simcha Jacobovici and Barrie Wilson, The Lost Gospel: Decoding the Ancient Text that Reveals Jesus' Marriage to Mary the Magdalene. Pegasus Books: New York, 2014. (Google Books)
  • F. J. Hamilton and E. W. Brooks, eds.The Syriac chronicle known as that of Zachariah of Mitylene. Methuen & Co.,: London 1899. (
  • (Although Joseph and Aseneth was in this manuscript, this section was not translated; the editors instead cited the Greek editions, cf. p. 8, fn. 2)
  • Randall D. Chesnutt, From Death to Life: Conversion in Joseph and Aseneth. JSP Supplements 16. Sheffield Academic Press: 1995. (Google Books)
  • Ross Shepard Kraemer, When Aseneth Met Joseph: A Late Antique Tale of the Biblical Patriarch and His Egyptian Wife, Reconsidered. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998. (Google Books)
  • Angela Standhartinger "Recent Scholarship on Joseph and Aseneth (1988-2013)" Currents in Biblical Research 12.3 (2014): 353-406. (Sage Journals)
  • Joseph and Aseneth: Translated by David Cook (via Mark Goodacre),
  • Syriac Chronicle … Zachariah of Mitylene (via Roger Pearse),


  1. There was a recent article in Currents in Biblical Research by Angela Standhartinger that may be relevant: "Recent Scholarship on Joseph and Aseneth (1988-2013)", (12.3 [2014]: 353-406). There is a reference to Joseph as a symbol for Jesus (p. 368), but there, Aseneth is the Church, not Mary Magdalene. Here is a link to the article:

  2. Thanks, Elijah, that's great! I am happy to extend the bibliography with further items like this.

  3. I had not realized that Joseph and Aseneth was part of the Armenian canon.
    "Because Jos. Asen. was included in the Armenian Bible, around 50 Armenian
    manuscripts form the C13th to the C19th are known today." Standhartinger, 356.

  4. Good one Elijah, that looks really useful.

    Christian: weird fonts!