There is a foolproof recipe for making it rich in modern pseudo-scholarship.
The recipe is:
1. Take one dusty old text in a language few people read.
2. Stirring frequently, spin the text until it makes some sensational claim “disproving” a basic tenet of Christianity.
3. Heat in gullible mainstream media oven for as long as it takes to be considered the newest “scholarly discovery.”
4. Serve warmed over.
Now, joining the ranks of the fictional works The Last Temptation of Christ and The DaVinci Code, The Lost Gospel has launched the “shocking” (if unoriginal) claim that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and had two children by her.
The UK newspaper, The Independent, stated that “Jesus married the prostitute Mary Magdalene and had children, according to a manuscript almost 1,500 years old unearthed at the British Library.”
“If true,” the Daily Mail breathlessly reported, “this would make it the greatest revelation into the life of Jesus in nearly 2,000 years.”
The only problem is the manuscript does not say anything like this. In fact, the names “Jesus” and “Mary Magdalene” do not even appear in the text.
The authors had to “decode” the manuscript—which speaks not of Jesus and Mary Magdalene, but of two completely different people named Joseph and Aseneth. But the authors claim to have unearthed a hidden secret that no other scholars could decipher: Joseph was actually Jesus, and Aseneth was actually Mary Magdalene.
The fact that none of their claims have historical or scholarly backing would usually mean that the book would be consigned immediately to the dustbin of literary history. Such would have been its fate, were it not for the collusion of the media who will entertain any theory—no matter how silly—that purports to undermine Christian belief.
“What the Vatican feared—and what Dan Brown only suspected—has come true,” begins the book. According to Fox News Analyst, Father Jonathan Morris, “The only thing the Vatican fears is that people today could be foolish enough to believe this schlock.”
One of the authors of The Lost Gospel is Simcha Jacobovici, a professional biblical debunker who has made a good career out of fabricating sensational stories and passing them off as scholarship.
He is especially famous for his documentary The Lost Tomb of Jesus, which describes the finding of the Talpiot Tomb during a housing construction project, claiming that it was the family tomb of Jesus.
Professor Amos Kloner actually oversaw the archeological work at the Talpiot Tomb when it was discovered in 1980, and wrote the excavation report for the finding. When confronted with Jacobovici’s hypothesis, Kloner said, “I think it is very unserious work. I do scholarly work.” This film “is all nonsense.” He added, “Give me scientific evidence, and I’ll grapple with it. But this is manufactured.”
Scholars have reacted with similar disdain for Jacobovici’s latest work, The Lost Gospel.
Diarmaid MacCulloch, Professor of the History of the Church at Oxford University, called the theory “the deepest bilge.”
John Wauck, professor of Literature at Rome’s Santa Croce University, told Breitbart News:
Let me get this straight: the host of a Canadian TV show called “The Naked Archeologist” is claiming that a Syriac manuscript from the 6th century AD that never even mentions Jesus Christ or Mary Magdalene somehow proves that they were married … by the Pharaoh, no less … and had kids?
Wauck went on to note that in their approach to this manuscript, “the authors—neither of whom knows Syriac and one who has called the New Testament ‘bloated, biased and unrepresentative’— seem to have relied heavily on their imaginations and produced, not surprisingly, a work of fiction that is hostile to the Christian faith.”
Mark Goodacre, a professor of religious studies at Duke University, was similarly scornful. “I don’t think that there is any credibility in these claims at all,” Goodacre said. “There is simply no evidence in this text or anywhere else that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, much less that they had a couple of children.”
So the questions remain: Why do the mainstream media give credence to ridiculous claims that are so easily proven false? Is it laziness or malice or some combination of the two?