Regular readers will remember that I had become interested in the strange case of the French author Louis Martin, who wrote the book Les Évangiles sans Dieu (“The Gospels without God”), in which he claimed that Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene had a child together. This claim is almost boringly familiar today, but Martin was apparently the first to make it when he published his book in 1887. The only trouble is that there are very few copies of the book in circulation. The publisher printed a few hundred copies, of which far fewer survive, fewer still accessible to the public. Most are in Europe. I believe there is one in a library in North America, at Cornell University. That’s why I am extremely thankful to David Bradbury, a regular reader of this blog, who was able to review a copy of the book and provided me with the French text of the relevant pages where Martin makes his most outrageous claim.
I have translated these pages and placed them in my Library. Bradbury is working on a full translation of the entire book, which I am certain will be vastly superior to my translation efforts! Louis Martin’s style is inordinately wordy and fond of figurative language and allusion, which makes it a bit of challenge for me to translate as easily as more straightforward French. It is apparently an iron rule of fringe literature that the less one has to say the more words one uses to say it.
That said, I was shocked and surprised that Martin’s most remarkable claim—the very foundation of the Holy Bloodline mythology—is based on virtually nothing at all. I had expected that the author would have made something of an argument and at least attempted to marshal some evidence to support his claim, but in these pages nothing at all was forthcoming.
According to Martin, he chose to follow medieval legends from Provence, which told of how Mary Magdalene, after the death of Jesus, fled to the area around Aix, where she devoted the rest of her life to holy contemplation in the company of the angels, visited by Christ’s disciple Maximin, who recovered and buried her body at her death. This is an odd legend from a modern American perspective, but it was a perfectly normal Catholic belief at the time, having been sanctioned by centuries of belief. It appears, for example, in the pious Golden Legend (c. 1260), the popular medieval hagiography of the lives of the saints, and can be found as far back as 1111 in Sigebert of Gembloux’s Chronicon sive Chronographia. None of these, however, made the claim Martin added to it.
In all of the Provençal legends, Mary Magdalene is accompanied by St. Maximin, a shadowy figure who shares a name with the place where the alleged relics of Mary Magdalene were discovered in Provence in the Middle Ages, at the Church of St. Maximin. He is a local figure in Provence, unknown elsewhere, but said to have been among Christ’s seventy-two disciples (Luke 10:1) and to have accompanied the Magdalene to Aix. His supposed tomb stands beside that of the Magdalene, and has been taken as evidence that Christians in Provence venerated this figure since the early Middle Ages. However, this Maximin is likely a fabrication, conflated with and possibly originating in the legend of Maximin of Trier, who lived two centuries later. The story of his supposed visitation of the Magdalene in the wilderness and burial of her corpse in Provence closely parallels the Eastern tale of Zosimus of Palestine and Mary of Egypt, which is attested centuries before the version with Maximin and the Magdalene. St. Sophronius wrote of Mary of Egypt and Zosimus in the 630s CE, but the Magdalene-Maximin version does not appear until the 1110s, after the start of the Crusades and the influx of Eastern legends into the West.
Martin, however, disagrees and attributes to this local legend a much greater import, and denies any plagiarism from Eastern sources. Martin chooses to claim that Maximin is the love child of the Magdalene and Christ. He cites no source for this, but instead he derives the entirety of his argument from the saint’s name:
…in an outburst of maternal satisfaction, she wrapped her son in the glorious halo of his father with one of the only Latin words of which she knew the meaning, naming him “Maximin.” Maximin, from “Maximinus,” means: “descended from that which is the greatest in the world”; it means the son of a man great beyond all expression; in a word, the little one of the great one.
It sounds a little better in French, but no better supported. That’s the whole argument for a Holy Bloodline: Maximin’s name suggests the “son of the Great One” (literally, the -inus suffix would mean “belonging to” and maximus “the greatest”), so he must be Jesus’ son! That was disappointing by any measure, but as the first effort to imagine a Holy Bloodline and a son of Christ, it’s especially laughable.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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