Don’t be mislead by the intriguing title: this is a scholarly work that delves into the relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene on many different levels. Filled with footnotes and references to early Christian works, The Sacred Embrace of Jesus and Mary appears to be meticulously researched. The author spends much time examining the root words of Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic phrases in order to present a relationship in context with the historical timeline and the religious values and customs of first century Galilee.
Since there is little historical evidence of a marriage between Jesus and Mary, the author takes the Gospels, the Gnostic Gospels and the Nag Hammadi and Dead Sea Scrolls as well as writings by St. Augustine and other early church fathers, and pieces together what may have been the way Jesus viewed his disciples and in particular, Mary Magdalene. The author examines the contradictory phrases used to describe Mary, and the postulates that Jesus’ radical acceptance of Mary among his disciples was not so uncommon, given that it would have been exceeding strange for a man to be single during that time unless he was member of a particular religious sect. That Jesus was able to unconditionally love all his disciples and have “deeper” relationships with Mary and others is the main thrust of this book. This also touches on the ancient argument as to whether Jesus was completely divine, or completely human, with sexual urges.
That being said, I found it very hard to read because of the great detail and emphasis on words and texts that surround the live of Jesus of Nazareth and Mary Magdalene. There is nothing sensational about the book, and if you are looking for an in-depth perspective on this topic, this book is a great start. For example, the author devotes an entire chapter to studying the opening lines of the Gospel of John, “And the Word was made flesh,” taking the phrase apart in the many language in which the text was written, and providing commentary along the way. Scholarly, but very intense.
~review by Karen Phillippi
Author: Jean-Yves Leloup
Inner Traditions, 2006
pp. 150, $14.95