That is the striking -- to some, blasphemous -- claim at the heart of the new book “The Lost Gospel: Decoding the Ancient Text That Reveals Jesus’ Marriage to Mary the Magdalene."
This “lost gospel” is already getting a lot of attention. Conan O’Brien quipped on Tuesday night: “In other words, he suffered even more than we thought.”
At the British Library in London today, Authors Simcha Jacobovici and Barrie Wilson made their case that they have uncovered the greatest secret in the history of Christianity—a real-life “Da Vinci Code.”
They say they have in fact “decoded” a 1500-year-old manuscript that lays out the story of Jesus’ love life -- and lots more.
In brief: They’ve newly translated a sixth-century manuscript that tells the dense, symbolic story of the love between “Joseph” and “Aseneth.”
That old story—from Genesis—has been twisted and embellished in this weird text in ways that have long puzzled scholars. But—with a simple key--Jacobovici and Wilson say they’ve unlocked its meaning.
The key: Every time the text says “Joseph,” they replace it with “Jesus.” Every time the text says “Aseneth,” they replace it with “Mary Magdalene.”
That’s right: Nowhere in this ancient text does the word "Jesus" appear. Or the words "Mary Magdalene."
And there’s more.
Reading the text through this speculative allegorical lens, the two authors say it reveals that Jesus, far from being a lowly carpenter’s son hailing from the tiny town of Nazareth, was instead a player -- a powerful political figure at the highest levels of the Roman Empire. And, years before the crucifixion, they say, there was a plot to kill him, rape Mary Magdalene, and slaughter their kids.
“It returns Jesus to history, it returns Mary Magdalene to the story,” Jacobovici said today. “Not only is he married -- but [the manuscript] celebrates his sexuality. She, his wife, is not just Mrs. Jesus she’s actually a goddess. He’s the son of God, she’s the daughter of God.”
Jacobovici is an Emmy-winning investigative producer and filmmaker who has a long history of provocative projects. He has claimed in the past to have found the actual tomb of Jesus with the actual bones of Jesus still inside; the actual nails that actually nailed Jesus to the actual cross; and the Lost City of Atlantis.
“What I do is very simple,” Jacobovici says. “I wasn’t born yesterday. ... I just use the tools of investigative journalism in the context of history and archaeology. So what I suddenly find is that a lot of this stuff has already been found -- it’s just that people are just too chicken to talk about it.”
Wilson is a New Testament scholar who has long argued that Jesus’ message and ministry were distorted by Saint Paul, and that there were different, more sensual, less ascetic Christian faiths in the early communities of the followers of Jesus.
“Traditional Christianity believes in Jesus both as divine and as human,” Wilson said. “The perception however is mostly that he’s a divinity, that he sort of floats through life in a kind of an ethereal kind of way. This text, which acknowledges divinity, says let’s focus on his humanity, his full humanity, and that’s in keeping with the Christian theology.”
Whatever the truth, “The Lost Gospel” has already proved one thing: After 2,000 years, the power of the life of Jesus to inspire great faith and great controversy abides.