It's quite the press-generating claim, and one that an Oxford University professor says "sounds like the deepest bilge": that Jesus had two kids with wife Mary Magdalene. Such is the assertion of The Lost Gospel, a new book that was six years in the making, per ABC News. Professor Barrie Wilson and writer Simcha Jacobovici based their claim on a 1,500-year-old Aramaic manuscript, the "Ecclesiastical History of Zacharias Rhetor," that was added to the British Museum's collection (and sourced from an Egyptian monastery) in 1847; it was moved to the British Library two decades ago. A description of the book on Amazon outlines even more explosive claims, among them, "a previously unknown plot on Jesus’ life, 13 years prior to the crucifixion; [and] an assassination attempt against Mary Magdalene and their children."
Among the many reasons to be skeptical: The authors say they reached their findings by "decoding" the manuscript; in their view, figures named Joseph and Aseneth are stand-ins for Jesus and Mary Magdalene, reports the Washington Post, which notes that Jacobovici released a 2002 documentary on an ossuary purported to hold the bones of Jesus' brother, James—a relic the Discovery Channel later dubbed one of the 10 greatest scientific hoaxes ever. Further, the authors paint themselves as having "uncovered" the manuscript, though at the Huffington Post, Greg Carey writes that's more than a bit of a stretch: "Online databases reveal over three hundred scholarly books and articles devoted to this text, not counting book reviews." The Independent notes that the authors are holding a Wednesday press conference at the library. (Click to read about a papyrus suggesting Jesus had a wife.)