The sexuality of Jesus
June 19, 2011 by Bill
The judgmental moralists, thin lipped, quoting the bible, are always hard at work. Witch hunting in bedrooms. Poor things. They can hardly get out of bed in the morning without knees knocking… hands shaking… lips quivering. The sexual world that they have to face each day is filled with fantasized goblins… devils… evil spirits and bogeymen. Church history would hardly support their bigotry and bedroom witch hunts.
The Sexuality of Christ In Renaissance Art received rave reviews from all quarters. It was written by Leo Steinberg who originally delivered the material at a Lionel Trilling Seminar at Columbia University and was honored by the College Art Association of America with its annual award. Some will find it offensive… those who find all expressions of sexuality offensive.
The sexuality of Jesus is very obvious in the paintings. Jesus was a Hebrew male, a man in the fullest sense and a sexual human being in the same sense that all men are sexual human beings. And yet for some neurotic and weird reason, many want to keep this subject behind drawn shades or else locked in the closet. Many times in study groups and seminars, I have presented material that would indicate Jesus was either married or had a mistress; and after time to think it over and absorb the material, there’s a gradual relaxing with the subject from those in attendance.
Even Martin Luther faced this issue squarely, saying in his book TableTalk that Jesus no doubt had sexual relations with Mary Magdalene as well as “other women.” That Luther was a gutsy guy. He also wrote, “if your wife is cold, call the maid.”
Luther was not alone in his robust attitude toward sexuality. Pope Julius II, by a papal decree, established a “sacred” brothel in Rome that flourished under his successors, Leo X and Clement VII. The earnings of the brothel supported the Holy Sisters of the Order of St. Mary Magdalene. (Church history is not as dull as you might think.)
But, back to the sexuality of Jesus.
Ancient Judaism valued married life highly. They disdained celibacy. There are NO instances of life-long celibacy in the entire Old Testament… or the Apocrypha… the Qumran scrolls, the Mishnah or the Talmud.
Our 20th century sexual liberalism in many places is not the issue here. What is the issue are the sexual attitudes of first-century Judaism; and it is recorded that Jesus traveled around the countryside in intimate companionship with a group of women, including Mary Magdalene.
His entourage included, “women who ministered unto him of their substance.” (Luke 8, 1-3) His women followers remained faithful to him right through to the end, as compared with Judas and Peter, for instance. And our New Testament Gospels say that only Mary Magdalene and her women attended the tomb of Jesus.
The duty of becoming betrothed shortly after puberty was axiomatic in ancient Judaism. Marriage was a religious duty taken seriously, and the Gospel of Mary, discovered in Egypt, leaves no doubt about the matter, suggesting that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married.
In the Gnostic Gospel of Philip, we read, “there were three who walked with Jesus at all times. Mary, her sister Salome and Magdalene, who is called his partner.” In another sentence, Mary Magdalene is called the “spouse” of Jesus and tells how he “kisses her often.”
The treasure of the Gnostic gospels, discovered only as recently as less than 50 years ago, have many references to the sexuality of Jesus. Professor Helmut Koester of Harvard University writes that the collection of sayings in these Gospels include traditions much older than the Gospels of the New Testament, and also much closer to the actual life of Jesus.
In the Gospel of Philip are these words, “The companion of Jesus is Mary Magdalene. Jesus loved her more than all the disciples and used to kiss her often on the mouth. Jesus said to the other disciples, ‘why do I not love you as much as I love her?’ ”
This is NOT such a new theme, really. D.H. Lawrence and Nikos Kazantskis made the issue of the sexuality of Jesus central to two of their works. And of course one of the most haunting and beautiful songs to come out of “Jesus Christ, Superstar” was the tender rendition of “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” sung by Mary Magdalene to Jesus.
The Sexuality of Christ In Renaissance Art introduces readers to a very legitimate dimension of Jesus, the man who was fully human. Many will find it refreshing and far more in touch with reality than the Jesus of mythology that the Christian church has presented for year after dogmatic year…as history rather than the fiction it is.