Today, I started reading Simcha Jacobovici’s The Lost Gospel: Decoding the ancient Text that reveals Jesus Marriage to Mary the Magdalene. I started reading the preface, but quickly decided to skip to the back, where they have a translation of the syriac version of the story of Asneth.
The story of Asneth appears in multiple versions in at least two recensions and the original form of the story is not extant. There is a long-standing debate as to whether this is a Christian or a Jewish story, and the latter has a great deal to commend it. The text contains numerous references to the Old Testament and the author clearly understood his Bible. Among other elements, Asneth at first rejects Joseph because he came to Egypt as a slave, and was the son of a shepherd (Genesis 46:33-34), and there are similar details scattered throughout the text.
There are a number of striking features. The first section focuses on Asneth’s repentance from idolatry for seven days. Idolatry was a major focus in Jewish literature during the period following the Babylonian captivity, and dominates numerous works, such as the Wisdom of Solomon. Similarly the comparison of Asneth to the wives of the patriarchs is a matter of Jewish interest. The bridal imagery is striking as well, while it is tempting to view this as a reference to the Church as the bride of Christ, it should be remembered that the Bride of Christ language is a continuation of similar discussions within the Old Testament.
What is also striking in the later section is the importance of Levi, in the text, Levi prevents Simeon from attacking the son of Pharaoh with words of wisdom, and later binds the wounds inflicted on Pharaoh’s son and Pharaoh bows to Levi, likely this is symbolic of submission to the law of Moses, though this is not certain.
There are some elements that some suggest might be of Christian origin, though if these elements are actually Christian, they are likely later additions to the text. Christians in fact may have adapted this work from Jewish sources for devotional reasons in a similar manner to some in the early church who rejected the inspiration of the apocrypha but stated they were “useful.” In general, however, this text is similar to other pieces of Jewish literature I have read during my seminary days.
There is absolutely nothing in the text itself to indicate that this discusses a marriage between Jesus and Mary Magdalene; Jacobovici and Wilson have made this up out of whole cloth. One of the other striking examples of reading the translation was reading some of the footnotes in the Secret Gospel. The footnotes are imaginative and forced. In many places, they draw major conclusions from minor details, for example, they claim the reference to Joseph being the son of a shepherd is evidence that Jesus was compared to the pagan deity Attis. His notes also seem to draw from his previous hoax, the Jesus Family tomb.
In some places I do get the sense that there is some allegorical significance to this work, but if so, Asneth is unlikely to represent a person, the reason why I say this is that she is described as becoming “A City of Refuge” and similar expressions are used later, which to my way of thinking is far better to be understood as either the Church (if viewed from a Christian perspective) as gentiles who have been brought into the church from outside of it and formerly worshiped idols, or as Israel, (if this is as I suspect originally a Jewish work) who in turning to idols after the seventy years in Babylonian captivity (where Israel permanently gave up idolatry) is restored to a husband – as noted a common Old Testament as well as New Testament reference. One also might view this as gentile proselytes to Judaism. All of these make better sense then the idea that this is Mary Magdalene.