I've been asked numerous times recently to detail some of my theological objections to Scotty Roberts' book The Rise and Fall of the Nephilim. I think this is a good request and one I should meet, as I have been an open critic of the author's work. After doing so this will be my final article on this topic, as I've grown quite weary of answering the questions. Roberts attempts to utilize scripture in his writing, but does so within the framework of fringe theology and ancient alien thought, as witnessed by his frequent reference to Nephilim as “aliens” and “lesser gods”. Throughout the book Roberts demonstrates a severe and egregious inability to understand scripture, either within its ancient Hebraic context nor within its Christian context. What follows are some specific theological problems with the book. First is the Serpent Seed Heresy: This theory is most popular in the Christian Identity Movement, a white racist movement that promotes the same heresy in an effort to cast non-whites and Jews as being less than human and children of Satan in a literal sense. A repugnant "theology" at best. However, nowhere in the Genesis account can this idea be supported. One of the problems Roberts faces is that if Cain were indeed the child of Nachash (the Serpent, Satan), he would certainly have been a Nephilim (giant) like the offspring written of in the Book of Enoch. Furthermore, if Cain was a child of Satan, why would he even care that his offering was not acceptable to God? Why would he even make an offering? And finally, why would God place a mark on Cain to protect his life if he was a Nephilim? Christian Identity heretics claim that mark was dark skin, by the way. Then we get to Roberts' idea that The Fall Involved Sexual Activity: The idea that Eve had sexual relations with the Serpent is a key element in Roberts' theology, and one he shares again with Christian Identity. The question is, if Eve’s sin was adultery, what was Adam’s sin? Despite Roberts' Gnostic ideas (which he also shares with Sun Myung Moon, founder of the Unification Church cult), Adam’s sin brought death into the world because he sinned willfully; whereas, according to Paul, Eve sinned because she was deceived by the serpent. In other words, she was lied to and fell for the lie. Being deceived and being tricked are two very different things. The totality of scripture is clear that the sin was disobedience and did not involve sex. Next are his oddball comments about Moses: Roberts' version of Moses is bizarre to say the least. Moses comes across in this book as an egotistical, power hungry sociopath who sought to be the equivalent of the Pharaoh to the Israelites. Meanwhile, Sacred Scripture (which Roberts pretends to use responsibly) says Moses was compassionate and willingly gave up his royal position in Egypt, willingly went into exile, and ultimately suffered for and with his fellow Israelites. Rather than being the power hungry person Roberts implies he was, Moses attempted to avoid being the leader of the Israelites. Roberts states that Moses’ “face to face” encounters with God were nothing more than mere political theater, designed to put him in a place of authority with the Israelites that could not be easily challenged. What emerges from such a critique is not an honest approach to scripture, but more Roberts' own psychology struggling with his admitted (in the book itself) lack of faith. Of course, no attack on Christianity would be complete without the claim that Jesus was Married: This is a favorite claim of Roberts'. He offers no proof but claims that Jesus was married. He claims that Jewish tradition maintains a rabbi must be married. Since the publication of the best selling book 'Holy Blood, Holy Grail', authored by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln, the hypothesis that Jesus was married has gained considerable attention. This isn't a new heresy, but one taught by some ancient Gnostic sects. Fringe personalities point to this as a central problem that cannot be brushed under the rug. The hypothesis can be simplified to the following; the historical Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, very probably at the wedding feast at Cana mentioned in the Gospel of John, and as a result of this marriage they had children. They claim as evidence the following passages in the Gospel of John: “And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there: And both Jesus was invited, and his disciples, to the marriage. And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what does this have to do with you and me? mine hour is not yet come. His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it. And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece. Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it. When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) 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. This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.” (John 2:1-11)
From peripheral evidences and this passage the “Married Jesus Hypothesis” posits the following:
- To be a rabbi in first century Judea, one needed to be married. This was not a demand of Torah, per se, but strong Israelite tradition.
- It was the groom's family that was responsible for providing wine at a first century Jewish wedding. Still is tradition today. Thus Mary going to Jesus when the wine ran out is evidence that this was the wedding of Jesus.
- It seems Jesus' mother held some position of authority at the wedding, in that she went directly to her son when they were out of wine. And she was not just complaining. Their interaction indicated that she was addressing him in a tone of both responsibility and admonishment for him to do something about it.
- Jesus also seemed to have authority over the servants, as he tells them to do this and that, etc.
- And at this point, he is simply “the carpenter's son." He has no rabbinic authority established.
So the pertinent and essential questions before us are, did Jesus have to be married to be a rabbi, and was the wedding feast at Cana his wedding? The answer to both questions is a definite no when we examine the totality of evidences; something Roberts consistently fails to do in his writings. While it certainly would have been the average thing for an Israelite man to do, it was by no means an established must as we will see through an examination of rabbinic literature. We'll look closely examine at this New Testament passage for more clues as to the reality of the situation. Let's examine each of the five evidences given above for the “Married Jesus Hypothesis”.
One of the errors of the “Married Jesus Hypothesis” is it's selective reading of rabbinic literature and ignoring the fuller historical context of Judaism in the first century, which was much more diverse than it is today. While certainly not a common practice, celibacy was not unheard of even within the Pharisaical sect of Judaism as scholar, archaeologist and Biblical historian George Foot Moore tells us:
"Celibacy was, in fact, not common, and was disapproved by the rabbis, who taught that a man should marry at eighteen, and that if he passed the age of twenty without taking a wife he transgressed a divine command and incurred God's displeasure. Postponement of marriage was permitted students of the Law that they might concentrate their attention on their studies, free from the cares of supporting a wife. Cases like that of Simeon be 'Azzai, who never married, were evidently infrequent. He had himself said that a man who did not marry was like one who shed blood, and diminished the likeness of God. One of his colleagues threw up to him that he was better at preaching that at practicing, to which he replied, What shall I do? My soul is enamored of the Law; the population of the world can be kept up by others...It is not to be imagined that pronouncements about the duty of marrying and the age at which people should marry actually regulated practice."
Rabbi Simeon was clearly celibate and considered a holy man because of his focused devotion to the Torah which prevented him from marrying and having children as tradition and culture may have demanded of him. Do note that he was not disqualified to be a rabbi by virtue of his celibacy, nor did it disqualify the Essenes. This precedent is reflective of the Gospel of Matthew which says:
His disciples said to him, “If that is the relationship of a man with his wife, it’s not worth getting married!” But he said to them, “Not everyone can accept this saying, except those to whom celibacy has been granted. For some men are celibate from birth, while others are celibate because they have been made that way by others. Still others are celibate because they have made themselves that way for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can. (Matthew 19:10)
This last reason for celibacy that Jesus taught to his disciples is the exact reason given by Rabbi Simeon and the Essenes. The Essene adherents were described by contemporary historians Josephus, Philo and Pliny as being celibate. In 1st century Judaism a class of individuals who were 'allowed' or 'expected' to be celibate were prophetic figures. This is witnessed to throughout Jewish history. Examples are the prophet Jeremiah, the wilderness prophet Banus (attested to by Josephus), John the Baptist, and possibly even Elijah. Even the 2nd century Chasidic miracle-worker, the Galilean rabbi Pinhas ben Yair taught that celibacy was essential to reception of prophetic wisdom and the Holy Spirit. Rabbinical literature does indeed give witness of other celibates such as Eliezer ben Hyrcanus who said of his celibacy, "My soul is in love with the Torah. The world can be carried on by others". That such a tradition could be enshrined in the Talmud clearly suggests that celibacy, though frowned upon by the rabbis, was not unheard of in Judaism during the time of Jesus' earthly ministry. The common rationale for celibacy is an all-consuming commitment to God's will in one's whole life that precludes the usual path of marriage and child-rearing. Certainly a fitting reason for the Messiah. In view of this tradition in early Judaism, it is hardly surprising that the Jewish scholar Geza Vermes views Jesus as celibate in fulfillment of his prophetic ministry. He states, "Against such a background of first-century AD Jewish opinion, namely that the prophetic destiny entailed amongst other things a life of continence, Jesus' apparent voluntary embrace of celibacy, at any rate from the time of his reception of the holy spirit, becomes historically meaningful."
So, although it would have been 'normal' and expected for a young Jewish man to be married, we have examples of where it was acceptable for that not to be the case. Therefore, Jesus would not need to be married even by Pharisaic thought to be a rabbi. Thus ends one myth upon which the married Jesus hypothesis is predicated.
But what of the wedding feast at Cana? Certainly it was the wedding of Jesus, possibly to Mary Magdalene, right? This claim again demonstrates a lack of comprehensive understanding with regard to not only Jewish weddings of that period, but also a dishonest picking and choosing of the totality of scriptural evidences regarding this episode in the life of Jesus. The first point in refuting this myth of Cana as the wedding of Jesus is the report of John that Jesus was invited to the wedding feast.
“On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; and both Jesus and his disciples were invited to the wedding.” (John 2:1-2)
There is no reason why a groom would have to be invited to his own wedding. To even suggest so is not only absurd, but a dishonest rendering of the internal reporting. Furthermore, a groom would certainly not leave with his mother after his wedding, since his primary responsibility would be to his wife at that point. And again, John tells us that Jesus left with his mother and family members.
“And after this he went down to Capernaeum, he and his mother and brothers and disciples; and they stayed there for a few days.” (John 2:12)
Note there is mention of every family member, yet no mention of a wife. Of course there would be no mention since he was a guest at the wedding as demonstrated in the verses previously examined. Rather than this story proving Jesus to have been married, it demonstrates that Mary was a somewhat overbearing mother, who sought to help the bridegroom at this wedding feast save face rather than run out of wine. This is where the claim that Mary going to Jesus regarding the wine is evidence that he was the bridegroom falls apart. Rather than panicking himself or demonstrating concern for what was certainly traditionally the bridegroom's responsibility, Jesus clearly states it is not his nor his mother's concern. The literal translation from the Greek text reads as follows with regard to Jesus' response to his mother. In verse three Mary rushes to Jesus and (paraphrasing here) says, “They've run out of wine! Do something!” To which Jesus responds: “What is that to me and to you, woman?” John 2:4
First, Jesus' use of the word 'woman' in response to Mary was still respectful, but considered at that time to be a maternal rebuke. In essence he was saying, “This doesn't have a thing to do with us, woman!” Hardly the response of the bridegroom, but certainly an expected response of an invited guest. Each time a phrase such as this occurs in the Greek it is always a disengagement from the situation at hand; a denial of responsibility. Rather than substantiating the claim that Mary had authority at the wedding it further demonstrates that she was being a bit of a busy body, overstepping her boundaries with regard to the situation at hand. And yet Jesus still helped the bridegroom, whoever he was, by telling the servants to fill the jars. His directing them to do this does not demonstrate his authority at the wedding, but rather the normative authority that any rabbi would have held, and indeed the panic that must have set in at the thought of running out of wine on the part of the servants and no doubt the bridegroom. And if, as some Biblical scholars believe, Jesus was associated with the Essenes for a period of time (a training period that would account for the exact number of years considered to be lost), there is also no substance to the idea that was not yet a rabbi. In short, the internal textual evidence of the New Testament accounts can only be used to substantiate a married Jesus if one ignores the totality of their reporting as well as the testimony of rabbinical literature regarding the customs of 1st century Judaism. One would have to ignore all evidences available, distort those chosen as proof texts, and avoid the reality of the situation. The net of this is that any reconstruction of the life of Jesus from the New Testament and rabbinic literature must go to great lengths to demonstrate that any traditions it cites actually are descriptive of the situation. So we have established that:
- Jesus did not have to be married as the witness of the New Testament, Rabbinical literature and history confirm.
- The Church did not cover up any marriage between Jesus and Mary Magdalene.
- Reconstructions of Jesus' life from critical usage of the New Testament and compared with rabbinic material substantiates the basics of the Gospel accounts.
- The married Jesus hypothesis fails both the tests of rabbinical history and New Testament critique.
Yet another of Roberts' Gnostic claims bites the dust.