For years, people have speculated about Mary Magdalene and her role in Jesus’ life. While many scholars and enthusiasts have argued that she could have been Jesus’ wife, such theories have been dismissed and even suppressed by the orthodox Christian establishment. But author June Kerr begs to differ with them. In her daring new novel Rabboni, My Love, Kerr envisions Jesus and Mary Magdalene as husband and wife and parents, and as partners in Jesus’ ministry.
Although writing fiction, Kerr has spent years researching the Bible and studying with scholars to recreate her depiction of Jesus and Mary’s life and marriage during the years of his ministry. In the process, Kerr has made a powerful argument for their relationship and the idea that God would want His Son to have a full human experience, which would include love and marriage and fatherhood. The result is a portrait of Jesus and Mary’s lives which no work of nonfiction could ever accomplish.
Using their Jewish names, Joshua and Miriam, Kerr depicts Jesus and Mary as having been happily married for many years and with three children at the time Jesus begins his ministry. Kerr also is well-aware of the creative impulses behind the stories people tell, and how they are often based in one’s life experiences. In Rabboni, My Love, Jesus’ ministry is spurred on by an encounter he has with a Samaritan who saves his life after he is attacked and left to die. This act of kindness becomes the impetus to Jesus understanding how he can spread his message of God’s love to people, fulfilling the ancient prophecies and the promise of a savior that the angels made at his birth.
Throughout the novel, Kerr assembles various incidents of Jesus’ life and his parables to recreate the stories behind the gospels, taking what were often confusing, seemingly contradictory, or simply fragmented pieces of Jesus’ life to sew them into a whole. She also highlights aspects of Jewish life and traditions in the early first century, illuminating details of which Christians today are largely ignorant. I was especially impressed by the conclusions and connections she drew about the various people mentioned in the gospels, many of whom often seem like little more than names to us; insights are given into people like Barabbas and the two thieves who died with Jesus at the Crucifixion, as well as Jesus’ relatives, his family’s roles within society and the Jewish priesthood, and his interactions with the Roman government.