In this terrific and accessible book, Le Donne argues that many Christians have been right for the wrong reasons. While the gospels don't say that Jesus had a wife, neither do they say he didn't, and silence means nothing. Marriage was a cultural given in Jesus' time and place, the most important way of honoring parents, and the path to economic integrity and manhood. It was considered necessary for survival, and so we should assume that Jesus was married unless we have reason to believe otherwise.
Though that last is admittedly the rub. In scrutinizing the New Testament, it appears that Jesus was abnormal -- not on account of being too holy for sex, says Le Donne, but for having wild ideas about honor and family. By his 30s at least (i.e. by the time of his gospel ministry), he was dishonoring his blood ties and reshaping a spiritual family around him. He had embraced many (though not all) of the ascetic and non-conformist teachings of his mentor John the Baptist. He lived as if the world was coming to an end, and provision for future generations (family property rights secured through marriage) wasn't a part of his message. He said there were different kinds of eunuchs -- those who lack reproductive organs, but also those who choose celibacy for the sake of God's kingdom (Mt 19:12). "In all of these ways, Jesus subverted civic masculinity and quite possibly the institution of marriage, which stood at the center of civic masculinity (p 128)."
Le Donne allows that Jesus may well have been married prior to becoming a prophet. It's more plausible that he was married in his 20s and that his wife died in childbirth (as was extremely common), than that he would have shamefully dishonored his family by rejecting the Abrahamic blessing of progeny. Only by the time of his itinerant prophetic career was he engaged in the flagrant dishonor of severing blood ties. Of course, from his radical point of view, he wasn't being dishonorable at all: he thought of his disciples and followers as his true family; his blood relations weren't even real.
The gospels are replete on this point, and Le Donne discusses all the relevant passages. Jesus declares that his family members are not biological kin, but those who do the will of God (Mt 12:46-50; cf. Mk 3:31-35; Lk 8:19-21); that he hasn't come to bring peace but a sword -- "to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother"; that if you loved your biological family more than him, you were unworthy (Mt 10:34-36); indeed you had to hate your biological family to be a disciple (Lk 14:26). Following Jesus meant surrendering economic and social security, sacrificing inheritance rights, hating your family, and living like a shameful itinerant. Le Donne notes the irony that many modern Christians who see Jesus as "above sex" tend to be the same who champion "family values", which Jesus clearly had no use for.
The Wife of Jesus is a sober analysis devoid of sensationalism, but don't fear: sensationalist claims are addressed by the author, which makes the book fun (and amusing at times) to read. He covers the recent hoax of the Jesus' Wife fragment, noting that whoever forged it had internet access to a source with a typographical error which the forger copied. He even discusses the Secret Mark hoax, which of course depicted a gay Jesus. He traces the evolution of Mary Magdalene, who began in the gospels as a follower of Jesus, was later cast a prostitute by the church, and in recent years became the actual wife of Jesus (in the hack novel by Dan Brown). It's a concise and well-written book that couldn't be more timely, and I hope many people will read it.