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The Gospel of Mary Magdalen

New Page – 30 April 2004

Mary Magdalen (aka Magdalene) is perhaps the most misconstrued and misinterpreted individual in the story of Jesus Christ. She is also, quite possibly, the most important – even to the point of carrying more genealogical importance than Jesus himself.

On the one hand, we have from Nazarene Way's excellent website [1] the following:

“Mary Magdalene was chosen by our Lord as a type of the Church and would be one of the first fruits taken to be with her Lord. She was the constant companion of Jesus' Ministry, to him she ministered of her substance, she anointed him for his Ministry, and for his Burial, She was the last at the Cross, and the first at the Tomb, and to her alone He gave the commission, "Go tell Peter," and wheresoever the Gospel was to be preached, her love and devotion to her Master were to be declared.” ~Gospel of the Holy Twelve

Obviously the Catholic hierarchy would be very loath to admit to Mary Magdalen's importance, lest their priests lose some of their claimed authority. Additionally, the last portion of the above quote is noteworthy in that the Papacy of the Roman Catholic Church has always proclaimed its alleged holy lineage on the basis that it was Peter who was first to witness the risen Christ. Matthew had said that Jesus said that Peter would succeed him as the founding “rock” upon which the future church would be built. This became the Catholic doctrine of Peter being the first “in the apostolic succession and was the spiritual ancestor of all subsequent popes.” [2]

This is not only contrary to the Gospel of Mary and the Gospel of Thomas -- not to mention the four mainstream gospels of the Catholic Church itself (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) -- but also ignores the fact that it was Peter who denied any knowledge of Christ in sufficient time to meet the cock crowing deadline. Also, “Not all first-century Christians agreed that Jesus named Peter as his primary successor, or identified with that founding group. The gospel we call by John's name insists, on the contrary, that no one – not even Peter – knew Jesus as well as ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved,' the mysterious, unnamed disciple who is usually assumed to be John himself.” [2]

The Gospel of Mary – at least those fragments of which we have available – paints a rather different picture. In this regard, the Nazarene Way [1] notes that:

The confrontation of Mary with Peter, a scenario also found in The Gospel of Thomas, Pistis Sophia, and The Gospel of the Egyptians, reflects some of the tensions in second-century Christianity. Peter and Andrew represent orthodox positions that deny the validity of esoteric revelation and reject the authority of women to teach. The Gospel of Mary attacks both of these positions head-on through its portrayal of Mary Magdalene. She is the Savior's beloved, possessed of knowledge and teaching superior to that of the public apostolic tradition . Her superiority is based on vision and private revelation and is demonstrated in her capacity to strengthen the wavering disciples and turn them toward the Good.

This is highly significant in placing Mary Magdalen in the proper context with respect to the other disciples. Elaine Pagels [2] concurs in the above by writing:

“The Gospel of Mary dramatizes how certain group leaders – here represented by the apostles Peter and Andrew – sometimes attacked and denounced those who claimed to see visions. Although the opening is lost, what we have of the Gospel of Mary begins with a vision in which the risen Jesus tells his disciples, ‘The Son of Man is within you . Follow after him! Those who seek him will find him.” [2]

The latter remark echoes The Gospel of Thomas (Saying 2) – not to mention Matthew (7:7-8). It is also suggestive of the far more ancient Goddess wisdom:

“And you who seek to know Me, know that your seeking and yearning will avail you not, unless you know the Mystery: for if that which you seek, you find not within yourself, you will never find it without.”

Many of the disciples were apparently at a loss on how one might find the Son of Man within, and in fact were much more worried – “were grieved, and wept greatly” – about being killed just as Jesus was. Mary, however, “turned their hearts to the good”.

“Do not weep, and do not grieve nor be afraid, for his grace will be with you completely, and will protect you. But rather let us praise his greatness, for he has prepared us, and has turned us into human beings.”

[One might wonder what they were before being turned into “human beings”!]

Another point of considerable importance is Jesus' charge to his disciples [1]:

“When the blessed one had said this, he greeted them all, saying, ‘Peace be with you. Receive my peace to yourselves. Beware that no one lead you astray, saying, 'Lo here!' or 'Lo' there!' For the Son of Man is within you. Follow after him! Those who seek him will find him. Go then and preach the gospel of the kingdom. Do not lay down any rules beyond what I appointed for you, and do not give a law like the lawgiver lest you be constrained by it.'  When he had said this, he departed.” - Gospel of Mary

Jesus was Jewish, and one of the primary attributes of Judaism is the law. A goodly portion of the Torah is law, rules, and the necessity of a strict adherence to the seriously extrapolated ten commandments of Moses. And yet the rabbi Jesus is instructing his disciples – and by extension the Catholic and Christian churches – “Do not lay down any rules beyond what I appointed for you, and do not give a law like the lawgiver lest you be constrained by it.” This would have been good advice for the Catholic Church when they misinterpreted the word “celebrate” to be “celibate”. It is also instructive in our modern age when statutory law goes far beyond the necessity of Common Law and/or Natural Law, and thereby unnecessarily constrains all of us to no good end.

But what of the suggestion above that Mary's persona was of greater significance than Jesus? On the one hand, Mary Magdalen's royal lineage (House of Benjamin) was genealogically superior to that of Jesus (House of David). But even from the more traditional perspective Peter admits (according to Mary's gospel):

“Sister, we know that the Savior loved you more than the rest of women. Tell us the words of the Savior which you remember – which you know but we do not, nor have we heard them.”

Peter gets far more than he asked for because Mary “startles Peter by saying that she knows not only what Peter did not happen to hear but also what Jesus chose not to tell him.” [2] “What is hidden from you, I will tell you.” Mary then goes on to note that her knowledge is based on private dialogues with Jesus and a vision of Him. The exact details, however, are mostly lost as four pages of the text are missing.

We do know that Mary's revelation was in the form of a dialogue – which begins with the nature of visions whereby a soul “sees through the mind which is between the soul and the spirit.” Once the extant text recommences the dialogue, there is a discussion about “the four powers”.

The fact that some highly critical information is missing from the text should not be ascribed purely to the vagaries of time. The missing information is sufficiently esoteric (“for the few”) that Jesus chose not to even inform his male disciples directly. It is quite possible, therefore, that ancient chroniclers may have removed this information with the clear intent to prevent it falling into the hands of the unworthy recipient. This is the standard stuff of mystery schools, and thus might be part of the process. As in the Gospel of Thomas (Saying 1):

1 And he said, "Whoever finds [‘discovers': reference 4] the interpretation of these sayings will not taste death." [2]

An understanding of the greater mysteries, the Gnosis of underlying truths, is thus the key to sovereignty, salvation, ascension, and/or enlightenment – whatever one's goals and aspirations are.

“The enlightened soul, now free of their bonds, rises past the four powers, overpowering them with her gnosis, and attains eternal, silent rest.” [1]

While much of what Mary divulged has been lost, the information was sufficient to impel both Andrew and Peter to disbelieve Mary and ask if Jesus had loved her more. Levi answers by saying pointblank, “Surely the Savior knows her very well. That is why he loved her more than us.”

The Gospel of Mary is seriously incomplete due to missing and illegible sections -- especially in the middle of the fragments preserved in the Nag Hammadi scrolls. What we do have is included in its entirely in several websites, most notably [3] and [1]. The latter has the advantage of including numerous links on the subject of Mary Magdalen. All of these lost gospels are worthy of considerable study.



[1] http://www.thenazareneway.com/the_gospel_of_mary_magdalene.htm

[2] Elaine Pagels, Beyond Belief; The Secret Gospel of Thomas , Random House, New York , 2003.

[3] http://wch.utep.edu/Wrenjohnson/WCH3302/Magdalene.htm

[4] http://www.misericordia.edu/users/davies/thomas/Trans.htm


Gospel of Thomas

The Lost Gospels

Comparative Religions

Forward to:

Cathedrals of Northern France

Gospel of Peter

The Passion

Universal Perspectives

Gospel according to Daniel



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