The Gospel of Mary of Magdala: Jesus and the Fi…
The Gospel of Mary of Magdala: Jesus and the First Woman Apostle
The Gospel of Mary of Magdala is a fascinating ancient text that challenges some of the traditional views of early Christianity. It is one of the few gospels that is attributed to a woman, and it presents Mary Magdalene as a prominent disciple and leader of the Jesus movement. In this article, we will explore the main themes and messages of this gospel, as well as its historical and theological context.
What is the Gospel of Mary of Magdala?
The Gospel of Mary of Magdala is a non-canonical gospel that was discovered in 1896 in a Coptic codex in Cairo, Egypt. The codex also contained three other texts: the Apocryphon of John, the Sophia of Jesus Christ, and the Acts of Peter. The Gospel of Mary is written in Coptic, but it is based on an earlier Greek version that dates back to the second century CE. Only fragments of the Greek version have survived, and they are preserved in two papyri from the third century CE, one in Berlin and one in Oxford. The Coptic version is incomplete as well, missing pages 1-6 and 11-14. The surviving text consists of 19 pages, divided into three sections: a dialogue between Jesus and his disciples before his ascension (pages 7-10), a conflict among the disciples after his departure (pages 10-17), and a report of Mary’s vision and teaching (pages 17-19).
What does the Gospel of Mary of Magdala say?
The Gospel of Mary of Magdala presents a distinctive interpretation of Jesus’ teachings, focusing on the inner spiritual knowledge (gnosis) that leads to salvation. According to this gospel, Jesus reveals to his disciples the secrets of the heavenly realm and the nature of the human soul. He teaches them how to overcome the passions and desires that bind them to the material world and how to ascend through the seven powers that rule over creation. He also warns them about the dangers of sin, judgment, and ignorance, which can prevent them from attaining eternal life.
After Jesus ascends to heaven, his disciples are afraid and confused. They wonder how they can preach his message to the world if they are persecuted by the authorities. Peter asks Mary to share with them what she knows from Jesus, since he loved her more than them. Mary agrees and tells them about a vision she had, in which she saw Jesus and spoke with him. She says that he taught her about the nature of the soul and its journey after death. He also told her not to cling to him or to his physical form, but to seek him in his spiritual presence.
Mary’s vision sparks a controversy among the disciples. Andrew and Peter doubt her words and accuse her of lying or making up things that Jesus did not say. They also question her authority as a woman to teach them. Levi defends Mary and rebukes Peter for his hostility. He says that Peter is always angry and argumentative, and that he should respect Mary as a chosen vessel of Jesus. He also urges the disciples to follow Jesus’ commandment to preach his gospel to all nations. The gospel ends with the disciples going out to spread his message.
Why is the Gospel of Mary of Magdala important?
The Gospel of Mary of Magdala is important for several reasons. First, it offers a glimpse into the diversity and complexity of early Christianity, showing that there were different ways of understanding and following Jesus among his followers. Second, it challenges some of the dominant views of orthodox Christianity, such as the necessity of Jesus’ suffering and death for salvation, the role of apostolic authority and tradition, and the status of women in the church. Third, it highlights the figure of Mary Magdalene as a prominent disciple and leader who had a special relationship with Jesus and who received his secret teachings. Fourth, it provides an alternative perspective on spirituality and ethics, emphasizing personal experience, inner transformation, and universal love.
How can we learn more about the Gospel of Mary of Magdala?
If you are interested in learning more about this gospel, you can read it online or in print editions with translations and commentaries by