Luke also records that Mary "ministered" the Greek verb means "to care for" or "to provide" to Jesus and his followers "out of [her] resources. Whenever a group of women followers is listed in the canonical gospels, Mary is mentioned first, an indication of her preeminence. The gospels also relate that Mary is present at the crucifixion in Jerusalem. Finally, she is the only person to be named in all four gospels as a witness to the resurrection, subsequently qualifying her to receive the accolade of apostle.
In the late nineteenth century fragments of an extra-canonical gospel written in the name of Mary Magdalene were found. The discovery of an incomplete Coptic manuscript was followed in the early twentieth century by the recovery of additional portions of the text in Greek. Scholars generally date its composition to the second century.
The gospel portrays Mary as the recipient of a vision of Christ in which she is praised for her fidelity. Peter appears as an adversary, attacking Mary when she explains her vision. Peter asks incredulously whether Jesus really did "speak with a woman without our knowledge [and] not openly. The Gospel of Thomas , also a second-century text, depicts Peter's attempt to discredit any authority Mary possesses among the disciples, attributing to him the declaration, "Let Mary leave us, because women are not worthy of life.
For every woman who makes herself male will enter the kingdom of heaven. A large corpus of Gnostic literature found at Nag Hammadi, Egypt, in was published in the s.
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The texts include a number of extra-canonical manuscripts concerning Mary Magdalene, notably the third-century Pistis Sophia , the Gospel of Philip , and the Dialogue of the Savior. The Sophia of Jesus Christ was dated to the early fourth century, although some scholars argue that it exhibits features suggesting an earlier date of composition. These writings aroused new interest in Mary's relationship with Jesus and in her authority among early Christians. They also indicate a wide diversity of teaching during the formative years of the new religious movement.
Mary is depicted in the Gnostic works as having a particularly intimate relationship with Jesus. She is praised as worthy of having received private teaching from him and she is presented as a leader within the Christian community. Of particular interest, the Gospel of Philip portrays Mary as the one whom Jesus loved more than the other disciples and as one whom he kissed frequently.
The act of kissing as a greeting and sign of affection is well attested as a common practice among early Christians, as Paul's epistles witness.
Mary Magdalene: Wife, Prostitute or None of the Above? - HISTORY
Jesus' kiss, therefore, does not necessarily imply a sexual relationship, though some twentieth-century commentators have interpreted it that way. Peter appears in the Gnostic texts consistently opposing Mary's authority. As a result, some scholars suggest that the Gnostic writings reveal a struggle within the early church between a faction that recognizes in Mary a model for women's authority and leadership, and a Petrine group that opposes women's authority. Other scholars interpret Peter as representing the emerging orthodox position, while Mary stands for the Gnostic view. Writing in Galatians — 17, Paul intimates that an apostle is one who receives an appearance of the risen Lord and one who is commissioned to proclaim his message.
In the canonical gospels Mary is recorded as fulfilling both of these conditions. Hippolytus, a third-century bishop, is generally thought to be the first person to name her as an "apostle to the apostles. Some scholars argue that the appellation of apostle is honorific in Mary's case. However, as she meets the criteria, there seems no need to assume the title was anything less than recognition of her apostleship.
14 Steps to Awaken the Sacred Feminine: Women in the Circle of Mary Magdalene
The persistence and survival of the epithet confirm Mary's importance among early Christians. In the sixth century Pope Gregory I the Great declared that Mary Magdalene was beloved of the savior and was the leader of a group of apostles. He also proclaimed that the Galilean Mary Magdalene, the Judean Mary of Bethany, and the other Mary were one and the same person, conflating three distinct women. In the West, pious myths arose based on the conflation.
According to an eleventh-century tradition, Mary, now identified as the sister of Martha and Lazarus, introduced Christianity to France. In eastern Christianity the confusion did not arise, for the distinctions among the women were maintained. Mary's reputation as an apostle, preacher, and leader declined as male authority increased in orthodox Christianity.
Gregory I not only conflated three Marys, he also made Mary Magdalene into a prostitute, declaring her a redeemed whore in a sermon in Mary was stigmatized as a prostitute through an association with the unnamed sinner mentioned in Luke — 50, an erroneous identification that endured for fourteen hundred years. In church teaching and Christian art, Mary was portrayed as a model of repentance and was used as a propaganda tool.
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Her misrepresentation served the purposes of a church promoting asceticism, by making her into a moral paradigm: the unfaithful harlot forgiven and restored. Scholarly consensus since the s has returned Mary Magdalene to her position of authority and leadership in early Christianity. The identification of her as a prostitute has been exposed as mistaken and rejected for lack of evidence. Study of the noncanonical literature has revealed that Mary's influence endured for at least six centuries prior to her conflation with Mary of Bethany and the so-called other Mary. At the same time, the Gnostic literature has raised questions about early Christian teachings regarding the salvation of women.
Mary's canonical role as a close associate of Jesus, a faithful disciple, and a witness to the resurrection, coupled with the noncanonical accounts of her as a preacher and missionary, have revised her memory as a role model for Christian women. Boer, Esther de. Mary Magdalene: Beyond the Myth. Translated by John Bowden. Harrisburg, Pa. De Boer revisits the tradition of Mary Magdalene as a redeemed prostitute.
She examines both the canonical literature and the Gospel of Mary , placing the accounts in their historical, social, cultural, and theological contexts within formative Christianity. De Boer's work concludes that Mary was not a penitent whore, but a courageous and persistent disciple.
Brock, Ann Graham. Cambridge, Mass. This revised doctoral dissertation argues that the Magdalene fulfills the criteria of an apostle. Brock carefully and persuasively reexamines the canonical gospel portraits, particularly those of Luke and John, before turning to the Gnostic literature. Her treatment of a frequently hypothesized rivalry between proponents of the Magdalene and a Petrine group is especially instructive. Brock provides a comprehensive bibliography of the literature in French, German, Italian, and English.
The Biblical Record
Haskins, Susan. Mary Magdalen: Myth and Metaphor. London, Haskins explores how the story of the Magdalene has been transmitted through Christian history not only by means of biblical and early Christian texts, but also through visual representations from the mid-third century through the last decade of the twentieth century.
Haskins's analysis of the texts seems rudimentary compared to subsequent studies, but as one of the first scholarly works on Mary Magdalene, her book remains an important contribution. It is particularly valuable for its medieval representations. Jansen, Katherine Ludwig.
Walker, pp. Berkeley, Calif. Jansen notes that between the eleventh and sixteenth centuries medieval preaching circulated the story of the Magdalene as apostola.
She looks at examples that draw upon pious traditions presenting Mary as a model missionary. King, Karen. Santa Rosa , Calif. A scholar of Gnosticism, King argues the Gospel of Mary privileges inner spiritual knowledge over externally acquired knowledge. She examines the Gospel' s teaching on various topics such as the body, women's authority, and visionary experiences, pointing out that the writing rejects Jesus' suffering and death as a path to eternal life.
Marjanen, Antti. Leiden, This study, a revised dissertation, evaluates the descriptions of Mary Magdalene found in Gnostic literature. It concludes that she is presented as a prominent, even intimate, disciple of Jesus, who is a role model for women in early Christian communities. Marjanen observes a tension, however.
Although Mary Magdalene is commended, the language subversively reflects a patriarchal culture that connects the male with the spiritual, perfect, and transcendent and the female with the sensual, incomplete, and mundane. Robinson, James M. The Nag Hammadi Library in English. San Francisco , Schaberg, Jane. New York , But Christ loved her more than all the disciples, and used to kiss her often on her mouth. The rest of the disciples were offended by this. This statement, in which the Gospel of Philip pictures Mary as Jesus' companion, and perhaps even his partner, helped inspire one of Dan Brown's most controversial plot points in The Da Vinci Code.
For the purposes of his fiction Brown tends to take these suggestions literally. But had he gone on to read the rest of the Gospel of Philip, he would have seen that its author sees Mary Magdalene as a powerful spiritual presence; as one who manifests the divine as it appears in feminine form--above all as divine Wisdom, and the Holy Spirit.
Mary Magdalene as sinner
When Israel's prophets and poets spoke of the divine spirit and wisdom, they recognized the feminine gender of Hebrew terms. The Biblical Book of Proverbs speaks of wisdom as a feminine spiritual presence who shared with God the work of creation:. The Lord created me at the beginning of his work So the Gospel of Philip sees Mary as divine wisdom-hokhmah, in Hebrew, sophia, in Greek, both feminine terms--manifest in the world. Jewish mystical tradition often speaks of God's presence in the world not only as wisdom, but also as shehkina, as his presence. Over a thousand years after the Gospel of Philip was written, kabbalistic tradition, using the language of mystics throughout the world, would celebrate this feminine aspect of God as his divine bride.
So some people, he says, take this literally to mean that Jesus' mother became pregnant apart from any man, apart from sexual intercourse. Instead, continues the Gospel of Philip, Jesus was born physically, just as all humans, as the son of biological parents. Many other texts discovered with Philip echo the same language. But this early formulation of the trinity apparently reflects the Hebrew term for spirit, Ruah, as a feminine being--a connotation lost when spirit was translated into the New Testament's language, Greek, in which the word becomes neuter.
Even this quick sketch suggests the wide range of characterizations and wealth of meanings the early Christians associated with Mary Magdalene, many of which the essays in this book explore and amplify. Princeton , NJ. May, Permission to republish in Southern Cross Review was kindly granted by them. It may not be copied further without their permission. For more information, see www. Plus, like the other sources we have looked at, the Gospel of Philip attests to a rivalry between Mary Magdalene and the male disciples: The companion of the Savior is Mary Magdalene. The Biblical Book of Proverbs speaks of wisdom as a feminine spiritual presence who shared with God the work of creation: The Lord created me at the beginning of his work The Mary Magdalene Within.
Joan Norton. Advance praise for The Mary Magdalene Within : "The Mary Magdalene Within is an achingly beautiful, powerfully moving, and profoundly original story and teaching. Everyone who has been intrigued by The DaVinci Code will want to read this book.