Clearly, Joseph and Aseneth is not really code for Jesus and Mary Magdalene and there has been much convincing debunking carried out (on TJB too). However, flip side to debunking these sorts of sensationalist claims can be to allow less controversial ideas to get though which are not necessarily as clear cut as some people might think. One such argument is the claim that the matronymic Jesus 'the son of Mary’ (Mark 6.3) is evidence of a stigma attached to Jesus. Such an argument is found in Christian Today in their reporting of the Jesus and Mary Magdalene story:
The truly honest answer is that we don't know whether he was married or not. It would have been unusual for someone capable of supporting a wife not to have been married by the age of 30. It has been convincingly argued that Paul was married (though widowed) as it was a requirement for rabbis. However, against this is the question of Jesus' parentage; some scholars argue that he carried a stigma of illegitimacy (in Mark 6:3 he is called “the son of Mary", not Joseph) that would have meant he was an undesirable match.
Leaving the question of Jesus’ marital status aside (on which see, of course, Anthony Le Donne, and not on which see Mark 6.1-6), the idea that Jesus didn’t have a patronymic label implies that he was deemed illegitimate, a mamzer, etc. is indeed common enough, as Christian Today suggest. Or, on a more conservative reading, Mark 6.3 has even been used as indirect evidence for Jesus being born of a virgin.
Some form of this argument has longevity and, for all I know, maybe Jesus was deemed illegitimate. But Mark 6.3 is not necessarily strong evidence because, as has been noted plenty of times before but also often ignored, matronymic labels are found in some relevant sources. For example:
- Joab, son of Zeruiah (2 Sam. 2.13), the sister of David (1 Chron. 2.15-16)
- Antipater, son of Salome (Ant. 17.230)
- The High Priest, Simon, son of Camithus [/Qimhith] (Ant. 18.34)
In this context, is Jesus ‘son of Mary’ really an indication of some sort of stigma? Might we not reverse the argument and suggest that ‘son of Mary’ reflects the idea that some had a more heightened view of Mary? Might it simply be that Joseph would have been, or understood to have been, long dead?Whatever the best answer, Mark 6.3 might not be particularly strong evidence for the idea that Jesus was deemed illegitimate.