Huffpost Black Voices
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Reverend William E. Flippin, Jr. Headshot

Does Jesus' First Miracle Prove He Was Married? Reexamining John 2:1-12

Posted: Updated:

There's something about the Mother of Jesus? John 2:1-12

The debate of whether Jesus was married has come back in the forefront with the recent discovery of a papyrus being called Gospel of Jesus Wife. According to archaeological evidence, it was originally written in the late second century which shows that this debate was fruitful at the later stages of the formation of church doctrine and order.

This discovery has caused me to reexamine my position in affirming that Jesus was never married not in looking at it from the perspective of this document, but in the sketchy details found in the wedding at Cana as recorded by John chapter 2. Although, it records Jesus's first miracle, I have lately wondered why the mother of Jesus was so involved in the wedding. Could the underlying reason be that Jesus was the groom.

First thing that strikes me is that we are not told whose wedding it is. Not only have Jesus and the disciples been invited, but also Mary the mother of Jesus. Who invited Jesus is one of those details about which the narrator is completely indifferent. Some biblical commentators believe that Nathaniel had invited the small group while they were still near Jordan or learned that his mother and brothers were at a wedding celebration at Cana, and then went to join them. The details of the participants are sketchy in light of the vivid perceptions and recollections of the first miracle of Jesus.

In looking at this narrative why would Mary, the mother of Jesus be so adamant in having her son change the water into wine if she was merely a guest or close relative? Even if she was a wedding coordinator why would she bother Jesus? If the disciples and Jesus were uninvited, Mary wouldn't have been so adamant in requesting Jesus to perform such a miracle unless one or both of the parties involved in the story had an intimate connection to the outcome of the wedding and perception of the guests? In verse five the narrator does not explain how Mary achieved her authority in the wedding party. One thing we undoubtedly see is that the mother of Jesus does not waver in her conviction that he will help by performing some sort of deed.

But whose wedding was this? There is nothing sinister about us not being told because it would have been irrelevant to the first readers and the assumption is clear to those with understanding. Mary mother of Jesus was part of the story and so was included in the text for a definite reason.

When Essene marriage rules are considered, it is clear that this was in fact one of the marriages of Jesus to someone not mentioned. One assumption has always been Mary Magdalene (Ain Feshkha) conducted under Hellenist rules. Three marriages are required; the wedding at Cana is in fact merely a betrothal but is a little more than just an engagement. The phrase 'my time has not yet come' means that this was the feast that preceded the ceremony.

If Jesus did not preach celibacy, there is no reason to suppose he practiced it. According to Judaic custom at the time it was not only customary, but almost mandatory, that a man be married. Except among certain Essenes in certain communities, celibacy was vigorously condemned! Were Jesus not married, this fact would have been glaringly conspicuous, drawing attention to him, and been used to characterize and identify him. It would have set him apart in some significant sense from his contemporaries.

Further, if Jesus were indeed as celibate as later tradition claims, it is extraordinary that there is no reference to any such celibacy. Finally, Jesus' literacy and display of knowledge makes it clear that he underwent some species of formal rabbinical training and was officially recognized as a rabbi. And the Jewish Mishnaic Law is quite explicit on the subject: "An unmarried man may not be a teacher."

In the Fourth Gospel of John, there is the wedding at Cana. To this wedding Jesus is specifically "called" -- which is slightly curious and sketchy in light of the specific details of the miracle, since he had not yet embarked on his ministry. More curious still, however, is the fact that his mother "just happens" as it were, to be present as well. In fact, her presence would seem to be taken for granted. The plot thickens when it is Mary (Jesus' mother) who not merely suggests to her son, but in effect orders him to replenish the wine. She behaves quite as if she were the hostess. It is also noteworthy that the servants comply with Mary and Jesus' orders. In Jewish custom, servants were only obligated to listen to those in authority and hosts of the ceremony.
One might also wonder if Jesus' first major miracle, the transmutation of water into wine, could have been used for such a banal purpose as some obscure village wedding. And why should two "guests" at a wedding take on themselves the responsibility of catering -- a responsibility that, by custom, should be reserved for the host?

Unless, of course, the wedding at Cana is Jesus' own wedding. (We'll assume that Mary is not at long last marrying Joseph or having a renewal celebration.) And if the wedding at Cana is Jesus', then it would indeed be his responsibility to replenish the wine.

In my heart of hearts, I want to believe that Jesus didn't have a wife because it will make me feel that he was so committed to the Gospel that he didn't have time for a spouse or have sexual intercourse. But I think it's time for even persons like me who really want to put an end to these questions of Jesus being married as an absolute "no" to not ignore the signs that there is considerable evidence that he was. The mystery of his marriage is not in knowing if it was Mary Magdalene although she and Jesus were very close but in exploring the true reality of the wedding of Cana in light of the narrator in John's purpose in proving that Jesus is indeed the logos and affirming that mystery. That mystery is affirmed in the note immediately after the miracle: "The governor of the feast called the bridegroom, and saith unto him, every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse; but thou hast kept the good wine until now." (John 2:9-10). These words would seem to be addressed to Jesus, such that Jesus and the bridegroom are one and the same.