There is no warrant for the belief, “Jesus was married.”
In a rough syllogism (you must forgive any rather rough roughness):
- It is better to hold beliefs with greater warrant than to hold beliefs with less warrant.
- The belief “Jesus was a bachelor” has greater warrant than the belief “Jesus was married.”
- It is better for me to believe “Jesus was a bachelor.”
Unless you are an epistemological relativist or deep skeptic, line 1 is, I think, obviously true. The burden of proof is in line 2.
As Kevin and Brian have debated in my earlier post, I believe the state of evidence in the Gospels, early church theological development (the Epistles), and early Church tradition, is such that the belief that Jesus was unmarried was generally accepted as true. The NT scholar Darrell L. Bock makes this case in an article on Beliefnet. Another respected NT scholar, Craig Blomberg, appeals to not only the silence about Jesus’ supposed marriage, but offers at least one positive argument against it. He notes:
Specifically, there is not a shred of historical evidence that Jesus ever married Mary Magdalene (or anyone else) or ever fathered children. As Darrell Bock points out in his recent Christianity Today review (January 2004, 62), such information would certainly have been included in 1 Corinthians 9 where Paul appeals to the fact that Peter and various other apostles had wives when they received material help from the churches. In supporting his right to receive such help, Paul would have wanted to appeal to an even more convincing example-Jesus-if it were available. I would add also that with the very early veneration of Mary, the mother of Jesus, in Roman Catholicism, largely out of a desire to have a quasi-divine female figure along with God the Father, had Jesus ever been married, such a woman could scarcely have disappeared without a historical trace.
Is it trite or even tautologically unimportant to offer this argument in service of the belief that Jesus was a bachelor? If the Christian worldview believes in the importance of truth, then it is not. If the evidence of a possible belief is 50/50, and the consequences of holding that belief are insignificant (like Mary’s mole on her shoulder), then it may not be as important. If we had better than 50/50 evidence to warrant Mary’s mole, then one belief should be held rather than the other even if the consequences of that belief are minimal to nonexistent. But marriage seems to me to be of a different order, and certainly the evidence is not 50/50 one way or the other.