Jesus and Mary Magdalene were a "divine couple" that was married with two sons, according to a controversial book based on a new reading of an ancient manuscript that suggests Jesus’ wife was "ripped off."

Israeli-Canadian filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici and co-author Barrie Wilson, a York University professor, make the claims in their new book "The Lost Gospel: Decoding the Sacred Text that Reveals Jesus' Marriage to Mary Magdalene."

The book is based on the their reading of a manuscript that is at least 1,450 years old and has been housed in Britain since 1847, currently at the British Library.

The manuscript may be a copy of a first-century document. The text was translated from Syriac into English for the first time, the authors say.

The manuscript fills in some of the gaps in the New Testament, where the story of Jesus skips from his circumcision to the time in his life that he is his early 30s.

"What our gospel does is to fill in those years in a reliable and credible kind of way," Wilson told in a telephone interview from London.

The new book claims that the names Joseph and Aseneth in the manuscript are in fact code names for Jesus and Mary Magdalene. The authors say the text confirms that Jesus was indeed married to Mary Magdalene and that the couple had two sons.

It offers clues about the relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene, who are referred to as the "son of God" and the "daughter of God," Jacobovici told

"So what you have here is a gospel before the gospels that doesn’t contradict necessarily the gospels, but contextualizes it. Suddenly we realize, 'oh, they're a couple.'"

And not just a couple, he said. "A divine couple."

"Basically she gets ripped off," Jacobovici says of Mary Magdalene. "According to this text, she's basically airbrushed out of history."

The book also reports on a "previously unknown plot on Jesus' life" more than a dozen years before the crucifixion. It also offers details about a plot to rape Mary Magdalene and kill the children.

The plot is foiled, they write. But the manuscript helps connect some of the dots about the political situation in Galilee prior to the crucifixion.

The manuscript has been in Britain since 1847, when a native of Alexandria, Egypt named Auguste Pacho sold it to the British Museum in 1847.  It was later transferred to the British Library.

The manuscript had two cover letters attached, both of which were also translated into English.

Critics have already jumped on the book's claims, arguing that the manuscript does not, in fact, carry hidden messages.

Greg Cary, a New Testament professor at Lancaster Theological Seminary said the story contained in the manuscript "doesn't require any decoding."

"That's not to deny that some early Christians interpreted the story allegorically," Carey told The Associated Press. But there is no evidence for "the idea that it's about Jesus and his wife and their two children."

An Oxford University professor, Diarmaid MacCulloch, told Britain's Sunday Times that the book "sounds like the deepest bilge.

"I'm very surprised that the British Library gives these authors houseroom."

Jacobovici dismissed the criticism as "knee jerk, shoot-from-the-hip personal attacks by people who haven't read the book."

He is used to criticism of his work. A documentary called "The Lost Tomb of Jesus," which claimed to have located Jesus' tomb, was widely popular with viewers but ridiculed by scholars who said he misinterpreted an inscription.

Wilson says the story their book tells will expand Christians' understanding of Jesus.

"We begin to see him more as a human being and we begin to see him as a person to whom we can relate far more easily than if he were just a supernatural being floating through existence until his death," Wilson said. "So that to me should be a liberating thought for Christian believers."