The Lost Gospel that Isn’t

The Lost Gospel by Jacobovici and Wilson puts a modern spin on an ancient tale.

The Lost Gospel by Jacobovici and Wilson puts a modern spin on an ancient tale.

Here we go again. Simcha Jacobovici’s new book, The Lost Gospel: Decoding the Sacred Text that Reveals Jesus’ Marriage to Mary Magdalene, is due out tomorrow (11/12/14). Based on the subtitle, it’s hard to imagine that the book won’t be stuffed full of distortions and outright lies.

Jacobovici is probably best known for his book, The Jesus Family Tomb, and corresponding film titled The Lost Tomb of Jesus. These works have been thoroughly discredited by conservative, liberal, and skeptical scholars alike. His conclusions were often built on falsehoods. I dedicated one chapter to refuting his claims in my book on the Resurrection (In Defense of Easter). But in a world where The da Vinci Code, with all of its revisionist history, sexism, conspiracy theories, and blasphemous slander of Jesus Christ and His church, can sell over 80 million copies, Jacobovici’s latest tome will undoubtedly find fertile soil to take root.

Although he makes many claims about archaeology and ancient texts, Jacobovici has no formal training in either field. He did earn an M.A. in International Relations and has made some successful documentaries.

Since the book will not be released until tomorrow, I have not been able to read it in its entirety so a full critique will not be made here. However, I have looked through the preview available on Amazon, and what I have read so far warrants plenty of skepticism toward the premise of the book.

What Is this “Lost Gospel”?

The focus of The Lost Gospel is an ancient book called The Story of Joseph the Just and Aseneth his Wife.1 Scholarly consensus has not been found concerning the book’s origin. The dating of the book has been placed anywhere from the first century BC to the sixth century AD. It is generally believed to be a Jewish work, but some scholars, like Richard Bauckham, believe it was written by a Christian.

Joseph and Aseneth reads much like other apocryphal books penned during or soon after the Second Temple period. If taken in a straightforward manner, the book provides a fictitious backstory to the life of Joseph’s wife Asenath, the daughter of Poti-Pherah mentioned in Genesis 41:50. Numerous spellings exist for her name depending upon the language of the manuscript used for translation. I will use the NKJV spelling, Asenath, unless I am referring to the title of the book, which spells her name as Aseneth.

According to the ancient tale, Asenath was the most beautiful woman in the land. This young virgin despised all of the suitors who sought her hand in marriage. Kept in a tower for much of her life and attended by seven maidens who shared her birth date, Asenath spent her time worshiping her false gods. Her parents arrived and told her she was to become Joseph’s wife. Asenath angrily refused such a proposition and returned to her chamber. Looking out the window, she saw Joseph and was instantly lovestruck. Upon being introduced to him by her father, Asenath attempted to kiss Joseph, but he rebuffed her since he used his mouth to bless God, and she used her lips to bless dead and dumb idols. Joseph took pity on her and prayed for her. She returned to her room, threw out all of her idols, fasted, mourned, and sat in ashes for seven days. On the eighth day, she was visited by an angel who told her that God had purified her and that she would become Joseph’s wife.

Joseph marries Asenath and they have two children, Ephraim and Manasseh. Then Pharaoh’s son, who had earlier sought to marry Asenath, plotted to kill Joseph and take her to be his wife. Scheming with some of Joseph’s brothers, Pharaoh’s son sought to kill his own father, but after being turned away by the guards, he was wounded by Benjamin, and eventually succumbed to his wound.

The story is kind of a fun read, and it provides some insight into how Joseph and his wife were viewed two millennia ago. The writer clearly knew the Old Testament and included some interesting details drawn from Genesis, Judges, and 1 Samuel. For example, Benjamin hurled a large round stone drawn from a brook and struck Pharaoh’s son on the left side of his forehead. This sounds like a mix between David and Goliath and the 700 left-handed Benjamites described in Judges 20:16 who were deadly stone slingers.

Is This Really a Lost Gospel?

But what does all of this have to do with a lost gospel? Nothing. Nothing at all! The Story of Joseph the Just and Aseneth his Wife is neither lost nor is it a Gospel. Professor Mark Goodacre has maintained an Aseneth web site since 1999. You can read the story for yourself on his site.

The subtitle explains the Jacobovici’s and Wilson’s goal. They have sought to “decode” Joseph and Aseneth so they can show the world that this ancient book was really about Jesus and Mary Magdalene being married and having two sons. It seems that the book will offer up the same tired lies that the male-dominated church of the first few centuries despised Mary Magdalene and attempted to bury the “truth” about her relationship with Jesus.

My book, In Defense of Easter: Answering Critical Challenges to the Resurrection of Jesus, examines the so-called Jesus Family Tomb. Available at www.midwestapologetics.org/shop.

My book, In Defense of Easter: Answering Critical Challenges to the Resurrection of Jesus, examines the so-called Jesus Family Tomb. Available at the Midwest Apologetics store.

Heard this before? Of course you have. It’s the same story found in dozens of books from the past few decades, including The da Vinci Code and Jacobovici’s Jesus Family Tomb. Jacobovici has simply found another ancient document to distort and spring upon a largely biblically illiterate culture that loves conspiracy theories, particularly those that impugn Christ or His church.

Jesus was never married to Mary Magdalene or anyone else. This assertion has been made frequently, but all alleged support for such a notion crumbles. Two years ago, Dr. Karen L. King, a legitimate scholar, promoted the idea that she had been handed a fourth century fragment where Jesus mentioned His wife. The credit-card sized fragment is almost certainly a fake, and even if it were legitimate, it was written centuries after the biblical Gospels which were written by eyewitnesses or men who interviewed eyewitnesses. I have elsewhere published a response to Dr. King’s claims that provides five reasons we can be confident Jesus was not married.

Mary Magdalene was certainly a faithful follower of Christ, and she enjoys the unique privilege of being the first person to see the risen Savior, but this in no way makes her His wife. There was never any early church conspiracy to blot out her memory or anything of that nature.

Finally, even the Christian scholars who believe the Joseph and Aseneth may be an allegory about Jesus do not agree with Jacobovici. They do not believe it is about Mary Magdalene. Rather, they suspect that it may be an allegory about Jesus and His church.

Based on my own reading, the ancient writing seems to be just another interesting piece of fiction about biblical characters. These stories were fairly popular in New Testament times, sort of like historical fiction novels today. I’m willing to be corrected on this, but it has the hallmarks of these tales of Old Testament heroes.

Conclusion

Simcha Jacobovici seems like the type of guy who could charm your socks off. By all accounts I’ve read he is very friendly and likeable. However, these traits make his lies even more dangerous. This man has repeatedly spread lies about the Son of God. He has shown that he is more than willing to distort the facts. He has creatively cut interviews so that those who disagree with him are made to look like they support his conjectures. Sadly, his lies will be taken as gospel truth by people eagerly looking for ideas about Jesus that contradict Scripture.

Christians have no need to worry about his claptrap. The biblical Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John have given us the truth about Jesus and His life. They explain that He was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, died a sacrificial death on the Cross, and victoriously conquered the grave three days later.

I pray that rather than repeatedly slandering Jesus, Jacobovici would repent of his sins and call upon the loving and gracious Savior who gave His life so that even the vilest of sinners could be saved.


  1. Simcha Jacobovici and Barrie Wilson, The Lost Gospel: Decoding the Sacred Text that Reveals Jesus’ Marriage to Mary Magdalene (New York, NY: Pegasus Books LLC, 2014), p. 4. 

Did Adam and Eve Walk with God in the Garden?

The only possible biblical reference to walking in the Garden of Eden is found after Adam and Eve sinned.

The only possible biblical reference to walking in the Garden of Eden is found after Adam and Eve sinned.

Why would anyone ask such a silly question? Of course, Adam and Eve walked with God in the Garden, it’s written right there in Genesis…um…ah…is it 3? I know it’s there somewhere, isn’t it?

Based on the sheer number of people who have claimed this, it must be found somewhere in the Bible, right? I’ve heard pastors, speakers, authors, and many other Christians confidently state that Adam and Eve walked with God in the Garden of Eden.

The problem with this claim is that you’ll never find a Bible verse that teaches it. You read that correctly, the Bible never states that Adam and Eve walked with God in the Garden. You may be reaching for your Bible right now to prove me wrong. Please do look it up, and if you find it, let me know, so I can apologize and correct this post.

Where Does This Idea Come From?

Since the Bible doesn’t make this claim, it’s impossible to know for sure where people get the idea from. In all likelihood, it comes from a misunderstanding of or making an inference from Genesis 3:8: “And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day…” (NKJV).

It seems likely that many people have just remembered some of the wording in this verse and assumed that it says Adam and Eve walked with God. But that’s not at all what is going on here. This verse appears immediately after our first parents rebelled against the Creator. They are not taking a leisurely stroll with God, they are hiding from Him as He comes to announce His judgment. Here is the verse in its entirety.

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. (Genesis 3:8)

Even if this translation is accurate, which is debatable, it does not say that they walked with God.

Some people have inferred from this statement that they must have known what it sounded like to hear God walk in the Garden so they must have walked with Him before. But what did they actually hear that made them afraid? Adam said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself” (Genesis 3:10, ESV). Adam was ashamed to stand before God as he was now a sinner who was about to face his righteous God.

So what did they hear in the Garden? Was it God walking or was it something different? The ESV accurately captures Adam’s response in verse 10. It was the “sound of God” that Adam heard. The phrase translated as “the cool of the day” is better understood as a strong wind, and if this is how the phrase should be translated, then God was not simply walking through the Garden. Instead, He manifested as a violent wind, perhaps not too different than how He spoke to Job out of the whirlwind (Job 38:1). Psalm 29 also uses strong imagery to show how the sound of the Lord acts upon nature like a powerful storm, breaking and bending trees and stripping off their leaves (Psalm 29:5–9, NET). Remember that the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost with a “rushing mighty wind” (Acts 2:2).

So if the strong wind idea is actually being conveyed by the Hebrew, then there is no textual basis for claiming that Adam and Eve walked with God in the Garden in the cool of the day.

Theological Rationale

Another potential source for this idea is found in the statements made about those who did walk with God. For example, “Enoch walked with God” (Genesis 5:22, 24) and “Noah walked with God” (Genesis 6:9).  But even these passages do not necessarily imply that Enoch and Noah physically took walks with God. Yes, they could have done this if God made a physical appearance (called a theophany), as He did in other places (e.g., Genesis 12:7; 18:1). However, the “walk” in these passages should probably be understood in a figurative sense. That is, Enoch and Noah lived faithful lives.

In a similar way, we are told in the New Testament to “walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16). This walking refers to living a life that pleases God. If used in this sense, Adam and Eve did “walk” with God prior to sin because there was no fracture in their relationship with God. Perhaps some people may have this figurative sense in mind when they speak of our first parents walking with God. However, most people inevitably mention them walking in the cool of the day, so they aren’t thinking of it in the figurative sense.

Finally, there are many who use the idea of Adam and Eve actually walking with God to stress the theological point of man’s closeness to God prior to sin in order to contrast that with man’s lost condition after sin. But there is no need to make the text say something it doesn’t. From this view, Adam and Eve were with God in the Garden for a while and they had the privilege of regularly hanging out with Him.

The problem with this scenario is that Adam and Eve were almost certainly not in the Garden very long. God had told them to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28). They were created with perfect bodies and were husband and wife on the day they were created. So it would not have taken long for Eve to conceive, yet Cain was not conceived until they were banished from the Garden.

Conclusion

Could Adam and Eve have actually taken walks with God in the Garden? Of course, since God is capable of making physical appearances, but we need to be careful not to assert that the Bible teaches this. We also should not assume that God was at their beck and call so that He would come around for a stroll whenever they wanted Him there. Maybe He was physically there throughout the short time that they were in the Garden, but I have my doubts.