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Mary Magdalene & the Gnostic Gospels

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Author Topic: Mary Magdalene & the Gnostic Gospels  (Read 6063 times)
Mia Knight
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« Reply #15 on: April 05, 2007, 11:13:04 pm »

Shrine of Mary Magdalene, Vezelay, France

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Mia Knight
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« Reply #16 on: April 05, 2007, 11:17:37 pm »

Anthony Frederick Augustus Sandys. Mary Magdalene. Ca. 1860.


Later texts support these early portraits of women, both in exemplifying their prominence and confirming their leadership roles (Acts 17:4, 12). Certainly the most prominent among these in the ancient church was Mary Magdalene. A series of spectacular 19th and 20th century discoveries of Christian texts in Egypt dating to the second and third century have yielded a treasury of new information. It was already known from the New Testament gospels that Mary was a Jewish woman who followed Jesus of Nazareth. Apparently of independent means, she accompanied Jesus during his ministry and supported him out of her own resources (Mark 15:40-41; Matthew 27:55-56; Luke 8:1-3; John 19:25).

Although other information about her is more fantastic, she is repeatedly portrayed as a visionary and leader of the early movement.( Mark 16:1-9; Matthew 28:1-10; Luke24:1-10; John 20:1, 11-18; Gospel of Peter ). In the Gospel of John, the risen Jesus gives her special teaching and commissions her as an apostle to the apostles to bring them the good news. She obeys and is thus the first to announce the resurrection and to play the role of an apostle, although the term is not specifically used of her. Later tradition, however, will herald her as "the apostle to the apostles." The strength of this literary tradition makes it possible to suggest that historically Mary was a prophetic visionary and leader within one sector of the early Christian movement after the death of Jesus.

The newly discovered Egyptian writings elaborate this portrait of Mary as a favored disciple. Her role as "apostle to the apostles" is frequently explored, especially in considering her faith in contrast to that of the male disciples who refuse to believe her testimony. She is most often portrayed in texts that claim to record dialogues of Jesus with his disciples, both before and after the resurrection. In the Dialogue of the Savior, for example, Mary is named along with Judas (Thomas) and Matthew in the course of an extended dialogue with Jesus. During the discussion, Mary addresses several questions to the Savior as a representative of the disciples as a group. She thus appears as a prominent member of the disciple group and is the only woman named. Moreover, in response to a particularly insightful question, the Lord says of her, "´You make clear the abundance of the revealer!'" (140.17-19). At another point, after Mary has spoken, the narrator states, "She uttered this as a woman who had understood completely"(139.11-13). These affirmations make it clear that Mary is to be counted among the disciples who fully comprehended the Lord's teaching (142.11-13).

In another text, the Sophia of Jesus Christ, Mary also plays a clear role among those whom Jesus teaches. She is one of the seven women and twelve men gathered to hear the Savior after the resurrection, but before his ascension. Of these only five are named and speak, including Mary. At the end of his discourse, he tells them, "I have given you authority over all things as children of light," and they go forth in joy to preach the gospel. Here again Mary is included among those special disciples to whom Jesus entrusted his most elevated teaching, and she takes a role in the preaching of the gospel.

In the Gospel of Philip, Mary Magdalene is mentioned as one of three Marys "who always walked with the Lord" and as his companion (59.6-11). The work also says that Lord loved her more than all the disciples, and used to kiss her often (63.34-36). The importance of this portrayal is that yet again the work affirms the special relationship of Mary Magdalene to Jesus based on her spiritual perfection.

In the Pistis Sophia, Mary again is preeminent among the disciples, especially in the first three of the four books. She asks more questions than all the rest of the disciples together, and the Savior acknowledges that: "Your heart is directed to the Kingdom of Heaven more than all your brothers" (26:17-20). Indeed, Mary steps in when the other disciples are despairing in order to intercede for them to the Savior (218:10-219:2). Her complete spiritual comprehension is repeatedly stressed.

She is, however, most prominent in the early second century Gospel of Mary, which is ascribed pseudonymously to her. More than any other early Christian text, the Gospel of Mary presents an unflinchingly favorable portrait of Mary Magdalene as a woman leader among the disciples. The Lord himself says she is blessed for not wavering when he appears to her in a vision. When all the other disciples are weeping and frightened, she alone remains steadfast in her faith because she has grasped and appropriated the salvation offered in Jesus' teachings. Mary models the ideal disciple: she steps into the role of the Savior at his departure, comforts, and instructs the other disciples. Peter asks her to tell any words of the Savior which she might know but that the other disciples have not heard. His request acknowledges that Mary was preeminent among women in Jesus' esteem, and the question itself suggests that Jesus gave her private instruction. Mary agrees and gives an account of "secret" teaching she received from the Lord in a vision. The vision is given in the form of a dialogue between the Lord and Mary; it is an extensive account that takes up seven out of the eighteen pages of the work. At the conclusion of the work, Levi confirms that indeed the Saviour loved her more than the rest of the disciples (18.14-15). While her teachings do not go unchallenged, in the end the Gospel of Mary affirms both the truth of her teachings and her authority to teach the male disciples. She is portrayed as a prophetic visionary and as a leader among the disciples.
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Mia Knight
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« Reply #17 on: April 05, 2007, 11:20:22 pm »

From my friend Jill:

Mary Magdalene's remains play a big role in the Da Vinci Code. Let's take a look at what history says what happened to them!

St. Mary Magdalene was the sister of St. Lazarus and St. Martha and is referred to as "The Penitent." Mary lived in a town called Magdale. She was known as a sinner. Mary Magdalene met Jesus at the house of Simon the Pharisee, where she bathed Jesus' feet with her tears, wiped them with her hair, and anointed his feet with ointment. Because of the great love she showed, her sins were forgiven. Jesus told Mary that her faith saved her (Luke 7:44-50). From that night on, Mary Magdalene was one of several Galilean women who accompanied Jesus and the Apostles as they preached and proclaimed the good news.
Mary Magdalene was present at the crucifixion of Jesus and at his burial. In the Gospel of Mark, we learn that Jesus "appeared first to Mary Magdalene" (Mark 16:9).

Following the ascension, Mary Magdalene accompanied the Apostles. During the persecution of Christians, she left Palestine with Martha and Lazarus and other disciples. The group crossed the Mediterranean Sea and landed in southern France. Lazarus remained in Marseilles and Martha traveled inland to Tarascon. Mary Magdalene lived a contemplative life in the hills of La Saint Baume. Maximin, Sidonius, Suzanna and Marcella were her companions and helped spread the word of God.

Mary Magdalene died in the year 75, approximately, and was buried by Maximin in Villalata, a town that was later named St. Maximin. Between the third and fourth centuries her body was placed in a white marble tomb, where it remained until 710. Cassian monks who founded a monastery were guarding Mary Magdalene's remains. When France was invaded and Christian symbols were destroyed, the monks completely buried the tomb as well as their chapel. The invaders left in 973, but the relics could not be found.

Charles, the nephew of King Louis XI, discovered Mary Magdalene's remains in 1279. Her remains were transferred to a crypt on May 5, 1280. Since 1295 the Dominicans have been guardians of her remains and the Basilica of Ste. Madeleine in St. Maximin. Her skull is displayed in the basilica and carried in procession on her feast day, which is a day of celebration in St. Maximin.]

Pilgrims and visitors fill the squares and streets of St. Maximin on July 22. On the eve of the celebrations, the golden reliquary cradling the head of Mary Magdalene is removed from behind the grille over the tomb in the crypt and placed in yet a larger reliquary sculptured as a bust. It takes 12 men to carry the reliquary through the streets to the Monastery of Saint Mary Magdalene, home of the cloistered Dominicans. Hundreds follow the procession to the gardens of the Monastery where special religious services are held. The relics are either taken back in procession to the Basilica or remain overnight in the Monastery and are returned for the Feastday Mass the following morning.

The religious celebrations give way to the local traditional festivities when the people of St. Maximin and surrounding villages wear 13th century costumes, sing ancient hymns, and dance to the sounds of flutes, drums, cymbals, and the joyous bursting of firecrackers.


Saint Mary Magdalene,
woman of many sins, who by conversion
became the beloved of Jesus,
thank you for your witness
that Jesus forgives
through the miracle of love.

You, who already possess eternal happiness
in His glorious presence,
please intercede for me, so that some day
I may share in the same everlasting joy.

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Mia Knight
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« Reply #18 on: April 05, 2007, 11:24:46 pm »

Mary Magdalene in Provence

Let’s descend into the small crypt of the Basilica in St. Maximin. To your left and to your right you see four marble sarcophagi, dating from the 4th century. They are believed to contain the remains of Mary Magdalene and four other saints, including St. Maximin. In the rear of the crypt you discern a golden statue with a darkish mask. Coming closer you discover that the mask is in effect a skull, its eyesockets staring at you in defiance or reprimand. With trembling hand you consult your guidebook and read that this is the cranium of Mary Magdalene! How did these relics get here, you wonder?

Suspend your disbelief for just a moment, and follow the legend of Mary Magdalene in Provence. We’ll start with her departure from the shores of Palestine and end in the crypt of the Basilica in Saint-Maximin.

First a brief history of Mary Magdalene’s pre-Proven¸al life. The Gospels have little information on her. We read that she followed Jesus, had seven demons exorcised from her, was present at the Crucifixion, and was the first person to see Jesus after his Resurrection. Christian tradition weaves a further tale: she was a woman of loose morals, to say the least, who repented after she encountered Jesus, then led a life of faithfulness and purity.

Rembrandt drawing: Mary Magdalene, Jesus and Martha

In the same tradition, Magdalene’s legend expands: persecuted by the Jews of Jerusalem, she and a group of other disciples are cast off in a boat without sails or oars. In this group we also find Mary, mother of James, another Mary, mother of James Major and John, Maximinus, Lazarus and Sarah, an Egyptian servant. Miraculously they survive the perilous voyage and safely land on the shores of southern Provence, in what is now known as the Camargue.

Soon afterwards, the group splits up. Mary Magdalene travels north to the region of Ste. Baume. The two other Marys stay behind in the place where they landed, together with Sarah, the servant girl. Their residence is now the town of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, a place of pilgrimage to honor the arrival of the three Marys, and the buriel of two. Every year, gypsies, who have adopted Sarah as their patron saint, participate in the processions in full color and glory. But that’s a subject for another story!

Mary Magdalene, in the meantime, travels throughout the Provence, preaching the gospel. Then she retires to a cave near Ste. Baume for a life of retreat and contemplation. After 33 years she dies, having received the last rites from Maximinus (the later St. Maximin), who buries her in the grotto. Her resting place becomes a centre of pilgrimage. Then in the 11th century her remains disappear. First it was thought that they had been stolen and taken to Vézelay (relics were important business in the Middle Ages; they attracted thousands of pilgrims and added to the wealth of the Church). However, in 1279 the Count of Provence, Charles d’Anjou, discovers her remains in a sarcophagus beneath the simple church at St. Maximin, after the saint herself appeared in a dream. Whether this was a convenient way of taking the business away from Vézelay or a genuine discovery, we do not know. But let’s not be cynical and follow what happened after this miraculous recovery.

With the blessing of the Pope, Charles d’Anjou begins to build the enormous Basilica on the site of the crypt. Onto it, a monastery, to house the Domincan friars, who are in charge of the relics of Mary Magdalene (until 1957). The work starts in 1295 and continues until 1532. As with many churches at that time, it was never finished; it lacks a bell tower, for instance. But its imposing size, its history and its interior make it a special place in Provence.

Today, visitors and pilgrims continue to flock to the Basilica and the relics of Mary Magdalene. Not in the droves of medieval times, but substantial all the same, particularly on the day when her relics are carried through the town. This procession takes place on the Sunday closest to Mary Magdalene saints day (July 22). Then the cranium is covered by a golden mask, its visage almost androgynous. Her looks are stern, but also serene. This Mary has come a long way!

Read more:
An excellent book on the legend of Mary Magdalene (and other religious mysteries):
Picknett, Lynn and Clive Prince, The Templar Revelation, Touchstone, New York, 1997
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Mia Knight
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« Reply #19 on: April 05, 2007, 11:28:42 pm »

Da Vinci's Code

Professor Christopher Witcombe, Art History


Mary Magdalen: Life, Legend, and Cult

EXCERPT FROM: The Life of Mary Magdalen, from the Legenda Aurea (13th century) by Jacopo di Voragine

"In the time of Charlemagne, approximately in 769, there was in Burgundy a Duke called Gerhard. His wife bore him no son. He therefore gave all his belongings to the poor and built many churches and monasteries. When he founded the monastery of Vézelay he and the abbot sent a monk with a worthy following to Aix and commissioned him to bring the remains of St. Mary Magdalene to Vézelay.

The monk found that Aix had been completely destroyed by the heathen. However, he found a tomb hewn entirely from marble and the tombstone indicated that St. Mary Magdalene was buried there, and in fact her history could be read because it was chiselled into the stone. When night came he opened the grave, took the remains and brought them to the place where he stayed. And it was then that Mary Magdalene appeared to him that same night saying to him that he should not be afraid but should complete the work which he had started. The monk started home but one mile before he had reached the monastery it seemed that the remains became so heavy that he could no longer carry them. Then the abbot with the monks of the monastery appeared in solemn procession and they all took St. Mary Magdalene's remains to their domicile with the greatest of honors."

According to the Legenda Aurea, the adoration of St. Mary Magdalen in the French monastery of Vézelay was accompanied by many miracles. She is supposed to have awakened a dead knight to life, to have aided the sailors, to have returned vision to a blind pilgrim when he had asked her for help in front of the church of Vézelay. She is supposed to have released a prisoner from chains and to have shown the path of virtue to a sinful priest. Besides Vézelay, she is also the patron of Autun and Marseilles.


 Images of Vézelay 


Reliquary of Mary Magdalen's Head

Reliquary of Mary Magdalen's Arm
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Mia Knight
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« Reply #20 on: April 05, 2007, 11:30:31 pm »

At the Home of Simon the Pharisee
by Phippe de Champaigne (1602 - 1674)

We praise the Good Lord for the wondrous works he has performed in this world. His ways are truly mysterious, wonderful and awe-inspiring.

From the Acts of the Apostles, we believe she witnesses the Ascension of our Lord on Mount Olive, and is in the Cenacle at Pentecost. For the next twelve years, she accompanies and shares the lot of the Apostles. Then, during the persecution of the Christians, according to oral tradition, she leaves Palestine with Martha, Lazarus and several disciples. The little group of pilgrims crosses the Mediterranean in a small boat and lands in France. They come ashore in a port near Marseilles, and Lazarus remains there. Martha travels inland and her saintly remains are now in Tarascon. The family of Christ, on pilgrims' feet, has come to preach the Gospel of Peace!

Mary Magdalene adopts a contemplative life, and lives in peace in the hills of La Saint Baume, about 40 miles northeast of Marseille, where she spent the remainder of her life. Some of her companions were Maximin, Sidonius, Suzanna and Marcella, who helped to Christianize those parts of ancient France.

Mary Magdalene died around the year 75 and was buried by Maximin in the crypt of his chapel in Villalata, later renamed St. Maximin. Between the third and fourth century, her body was placed in a magnificent white marble tomb, and remained therein until the year 710. The Cassian Monks had founded their Monastery in St. Maximin in 415 and were the guardians of the Magdalene relics. But when the Saracens invaded France, destroying all Christian symbols, the Monks transferred the relics to a more modest tomb for safety reasons. Before fleeing, they completely buried the tomb and their chapel. When the invaders left in 973, nothing could be found of the relics, though many searches were made.

On December 9, 1279, Charles, nephew of King Louis IX of France (who was canonized as St. Louis) finally uncovered the remains of St. Mary Magdalene. The transfer of the remains was made to the crypt on May 5, 1280. On July 22, the Feast day of St. Mary Magdalene, her relics were taken in procession through the streets of St. Maximin to the joy of pilgrims. This was the beginning of hundreds of years and thousands of pilgrims paying homage to Saint Mary Magdalene, the beloved of Christ, apostle to the apostles, patron of lovers, and bearer of Peace.

Father Bernard, OP, describes this holy place:

"During the many years of my priesthood in the Dominican Order, my eyes have been able to contemplate the delicate head of Mary Magdalene which is visible behind the screen in the Crypt in St. Maximin. I am not speaking of a veil, or a statue, or some work of art, but the true head of Mary Magdalene. And each time I pray in the Crypt, I remember that this is the woman who shared the Ministry of Christ, who walked and talked with Him, heard Him preach, felt His touch, stirred His heart, and saw Him die. And above all, the one who first saw our Lord risen from the dead. Here, too, in the Crypt stands her white marble tomb, the tombs of her companions, and reliquaries containing other precious remains, including strands of her hair."
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Mia Knight
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« Reply #21 on: April 05, 2007, 11:37:26 pm »

The following is a sample chapter from A Gnostic Book of Saints, the companion book to The Tarot of the Saints by Robert M. Place.

"For I am the first and the last.
I am the honored one and the scorned one.
I am the **** and the holy one.
I am the wife and the virgin."
___The Thunder, Perfect Mind

This quote from the beginning of a Gnostic poem was most likely referring to Sophia, the holy wisdom, the female aspect of God, but, as we shall see, it also fits Mary Magdalen with her contradictory and ever changing role in Christianity. Perhaps, this is because she is the embodiment of Sophia.

The Saint:
The Gnostics hailed Mary Magdalen as the companion of Christ, and looked to her above all other apostles. Early Christian writers called her "the Bride of Christ", and "the Apostle to the Apostles." However, her most enduring image is that of a repentant prostitute, a former sinner, who is crying and covering herself in her long, sensual hair. This image combined with her name has given us the word "maudlin." In the development of Christian doctrine, the legend of Mary Magdalen was carefully crafted to discredit Gnostics and to define the role of women in the Church.

The Gospels tell us that Mary Magdalen was chief among the women who followed Jesus and administered to the needs of the disciples. Jesus had cast seven devils out of her. At the crucifixion, she was prominent among a group of women who watched. On the day after the Sabbath, she went to anoint or to observe Christ's body (the Gospels disagree as to whether she was alone or accompanied by two or three other women). Three of the Gospels report that after finding the tomb empty, she becomes the first person to see Jesus after he has risen. Particularly in the Gospel of John, she is the first person to be charged with proclaiming the message of the resurrected Christ.

According to Luke, however, Mary Magdalene returned from the tomb without having met Jesus. After she delivers the news that the tomb is empty to the disciples, Peter decides to investigate. Therefore, in Luke, he becomes the first to witness the resurrection and is charged with proclaiming the message. Peter became the first Pope, and it is on this version of the story that the Papal authority rests.

With three accounts awarding her this recognition, it seems that Mary has a claim to the title of "Christ's chosen messenger." She is the ideal figure to serve as the first Papesse.

Mary Magdalen was accorded far greater importance by the Gnostics than she ever was by the Orthodox Christians who denied her the status of apostle. The Gnostics chose her as their representative. She embodies the individual visionary experience that the Gnostics valued - the experience that was the bases of their claim of Christ's continued presence. In The Gospel of Mary, a Gnostic manuscript attributed to her, it is made clear that she is the beloved of the Saviour and the leader of the apostles. In another Gnostic gospel, The Gospel of Philip, she is referred to as Christ's "koinonos," a Greek word usually translated as "companion," but it more accurately means a consort, or spouse. Mary Magdalene, of all the saints, is truly "the Bride of Christ".*

In all of the Gnostic literature, it is clear that she has received the highest gnosis, or enlightenment. In the Great Questions of Mary, it was claimed that this gnosis was brought on by secret sexual teachings that Christ taught only to her. In The Gospel of Mary, she states that Jesus made her into a man, which would mean that, by purifying her of the evils of the body, he raised her to an androgynous state. Jesus says, In the Pistis Sophia, that Mary will excel all of his disciples, and he equates her with Sophia, the embodiment of divine wisdom.

As discussed in chapter two, the ancients believed that as the incarnating soul descended from heaven toward Earth it passed through the spheres of the seven planets: the Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn. As these seven bodies circled the Earth, each on its own sphere, they formed a ladder between Heaven and Earth. At each of these spheres, the deity, or angel, of the planet clothed the descending soul with certain virtues and vices that became its body. This is the basis of the natal horoscope in astrology.

The Gnostics thought of the soul as a divine essence that entered the physical world in the form of a body. This belief could take a pessimistic form, in which the body was thought of, as a prison for the soul, or it could take an optimistic form, in which the body was thought of, as the temple of the spirit. The pessimists viewed the contributions of seven planets as a type of pollution. When a person attained gnosis, they believed that these seven influences were cast out. This is the real meaning of the line in St. Mark (16:9) that states that Jesus cast seven devils out of Mary. When we understand the hidden meaning, it attests to Mary's enlightenment, but later commentators misread this line as proof of her sinful condition.

The official church rejected the validity of the inner visions of the Gnostics and the dominance of Mary Magdalen. They even denied the existence of any female apostles. It is likely that this was the motivation for the creation of her image as a reformed prostitute. Grafting her onto three other women in the gospels produced this legend. The first was the unnamed adulteress that Jesus saved from punishment. The second was the also unnamed woman described by Luke as a sinner seeking forgiveness who came to Christ at the Pharisee's house, washed his feat with her tears, dried them with her hair, and then anointed them with ointment. The third woman was Mary of Bethany, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, who also anointed Christ's feat with oil, and wiped them with her hair. Origen, the great biblical scholar, used Mary of Bethany as an example of the contemplative life. Thus, the contemplative life was associated with Mary Magdalen as well.

From the second century on, a growing asceticism had steadily gained ground in the Church. There was a strong focus on celibacy, and the image of Mary Magdalen as an ascetic, repentant **** served this purpose. By the sixth century, this legend was firm. It was said that Mary, with Martha and Lazarus, traveled to Provence where she became an evangelist. Later, she retired to a cave where she lived in solitude meditating on her sins. It was claimed that through her great sorrow and repentance she regained her virginity. For women virginity was considered the most important requirement for sainthood, and Mary's accomplishment made her a major role model for woman aspiring to the ideal Christian life. In the Middle Ages, her visionary talents were emphasized, and she became the model and inspiration for all female mystics.

Mary Magdalen is the patron of repentant sinners and the contemplative life. Her feast day is July 22.

The Tarot Card:
The Papesse is one of most controversial cards in the Tarot. It traditionally depicts a woman in a triple Papal tiara sitting on a throne. In her lap, she holds a book closed in the hand-painted Milanese decks and open in the later French decks. A 16th century deck from Lyon awards her one of the Pope's keys. Her purpose in the deck is to serve as a female counter part or balance to the Pope card. This need for masculine and feminine balance is a major aspect of alchemical and Hermetic philosophy, and exemplifies the Hermetic message that underlies the Tarot. In addition, these early personages in the sequence of Trumps are under the domination of Love, the sixth card; therefore, it is natural that they are paired. The Catholic Church does not ordain women as priests and blocks them from higher offices as well. Only within the convent could a woman attain power by becoming an abbess. From the 7th to the 13th centuries, ecclesiastical and teachings orders of nuns flourished. This came to an end in 1545 when the Council of Trent disbanded them in favor of orders that did not educate women. However, they could not eradicate a persistent, popular legend that developed in the 9th century about an educated woman who, disguised as a man, rose through the clergy and then became Pope. Her name, Pope Joan, was sometimes associated with the Papesse card, and, although some modern scholars disagree, there is evidence that her legend is based on actual events.

In the thirteenth century, Gugliema of Bohemia, a Gnostic mystic, predicted that in the year 1300 a woman would become Pope, and initiate a new purified Christianity. Her prediction may have been influenced by the mystical vision of the Cistercian monk, Joachim, who foretold of a coming new age, an age of the Holy Ghost, in contrast to the age of the Son initiated by Christ. Gugliema's followers believed that she was the incarnation of the Holy Ghost, and, although she died in 1281, that she would return in 1300 to crown the first Papesse. In 1300, the sect elected Sister Manfreda as the first Papesse, and many wealthy Lombard families donated costly vessels for her mass. However, the sect was exterminated by the inquisition, and Papesse Manfreda was burned at the stake. It is interesting that Papesse Manfreda was a relative of Bianca Visconti Sforza, the noble, who commissioned the painting of one of the oldest existing Tarot decks.

In Renaissance art, the figure of a woman with a triple tiara is sometimes used as an allegorical figure representing the papacy as something separate from the pope. An orthodox interpretation of this card may be that it represents the wife of the Pope as being his own office. However, that is not in keeping with the nature of this first act of the trumps, which depicts the triumph of Cupid. In The Dream of Poliphilo, a mystical fiction written in 1467 and noted for its beautiful dream-like illustrations, we can find the figure of a woman who like the Papesse is sitting on a throne and wearing a triple layered crown and a long robe. Here she represents the priestess of Venus and can be seen counseling the Poliphilo and his love, Polia.

Tarot Wisdom:
On the card, Mary Magdalen stands in front of Christ's empty tomb after witnessing his resurrection. She is framed in the portal as the guardian of mystery. On the pilasters can be seen the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, alpha and omega. Together these form a symbol for Christ as the beginning and the end, the one whose death is the beginning of life, who is beyond the opposites, and one with the infinite. Mary, as his female counterpart, also embodies this mystery.

This card represents inner, esoteric religious experience, or mystery. A true mystery is something that the more we learn about it the more we know that we can not know it. We understand mystery when we accept that we can not know it. The development of a fetus in the womb is such a mystery, and that is why a woman best symbolizes it.

On a more mundane level, Mary Magdalen stands for intuition, knowledge that is hidden, or knowledge that can not be expressed in words.


*Footnote: the information in this section is derived from Haskins, Susan; Mary Magdalen: Myth and Metaphor; New York: Harcourt Brace & Co.; 1993.

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Mia Knight
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« Reply #22 on: April 05, 2007, 11:38:30 pm »

Rome Reaps What She Has Sown

Dr Clive Gillis
THE CHURCH of Rome bears much of the responsibility for the present Mary Magdalene hysteria and it is worth reviewing the reasons in more detail than was possible in our first article.

Rome has declared Mary the mother of our Lord to have been immaculately conceived, preserved from sin in life, and assumed bodily into heaven, making her the perfect woman rather than a sinner saved by grace. As one Catholic girl quipped, “We grew up to believe she ran heaven”.

This fostered the idea that virginity was the highest state and that sexuality was somehow defiled. As a result ordinary Roman Catholic women can feel a sense of inferiority, even guilt, as they face the realities of their own burdensome lives lurching from pregnancy to pregnancy at the behest of demanding men. Many simply despair.

The Confessional

Priests traditionally fostered this consciousness of defilement in the confessional with their explicitly detailed pornographic manuals for confessors, such as that of Alfonso Maria di Liguori. Here the dubious sections traditionally remain un‑translated from the Latin as being too shameful. Indeed these manuals have often alerted innocent young women to vile practices which they would not otherwise have encountered.

As a result the Roman Catholic Church urgently needed a human, as opposed to a super human, role model to set before its women. And what better than a really depraved woman, a brazen hussy, indeed a hardened, devil possessed harlot who wonderfully repented and totally reformed herself under the ministrations of the Lord Jesus. Such an apparently attainable ideal might offer real hope to ordinary Catholic womanhood.

But there is no such character to be found in the Gospel stories. Undaunted, the popes and theologians of Rome set about inventing one. And so the myth of Mary Magdalene, the saved harlot, was born.

How it was done

The popes were key players in the “harlotization” of Mary Magdalene, though the process began amongst the Latin Church Fathers. Pope Gregory I gave his seal of approval in AD 591 when he took all the hints from the Latin fathers and plainly stated the matter.

The eastern churches, on the other hand, had carefully teased out three Mary’s from Scripture. They took pains to distinguish the “sinner” of Luke 7:37‑50 from both Mary the sister of Martha (Luke 10:38‑42 and John 11) and Mary Magdalene of Luke 8:2.

But Pope Gregory, in the west, insisted that, “She whom Luke calls the sinful woman, whom John calls Mary (of Bethany), we believe to be the Mary from whom seven devils were ejected according to Mark”. (Mark 16:9)

The myth grows

There is nothing in Scripture to indicate that Mary Magdalene was a harlot. Rome created that myth by asserting that the seven devils from which Mary was delivered were unclean spirits who drove Mary to depravity.

Mary Magdalene and the woman who was a sinner are clearly differentiated in Scrip­ture. In Luke 7:50, which is the final verse of the chapter and the end of the story, we read, “And he [Jesus] said to the woman [“the sinner”], Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace”.

The next chapter, chapter 8, commences, “And it came to pass afterward, that he [Jesus] went through every city and village, preaching and showing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God”. Only then is Mary Magdalene introduced ministering to him of her substance.

Dublin’s Magdalene laundries

So for Rome “the sinner” of Luke 7 is Mary Magdalene. The woman’s sins de­scribed as “many” become Mary Magdalene’s sins. Then, solely by prurient innuendo, her sins become sexual sins associated with her demonic possession.

The clincher for Rome is that a “Mary” is found in John’s narrative anointing Jesus feet (John 12:3). But it is noteworthy that this Mary who anointed Christ is in the company of humble Martha and Lazarus and not, as Mary Magdalene, with Joannna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and other high class women. Nevertheless Rome insists that this is Mary Magdalene.

Yet Mary Magdalene’s circle were wealthy enough to minister to Jesus of their substance. For them, outlay on anointing perfume would hardly amount to an act so selfless that Jesus declared it to be the woman’s memorial (Mark 14:9).

The passing centuries and renaissance art, often commissioned by the popes themselves, have done the rest to establish the Magdalene myth.

The recent scandal in Dublin following the finding of 133 unmarked graves in a Romanist convent, which had been one of the Magdalene Laundries where orphans perceived as the outcome of sexual sin were forced to work in inhuman conditions to redeem themselves, is just one tiny illustration of the terrible fruit of this notion of Mary Magdalene the redeemed harlot in the Romanist psyche.

The Nag Hammadi Library

But this view of Mary Magdalene was challenged soon after World War II with the discovery in December 1945 of the Nag Hammadi library near the village of that name three hundred miles south of Cairo. Seven Bedouin were engaged in extracting fertiliser rich in nitrates in the Egyptian Nile valley when they stumbled upon “a large earthenware jar, about two feet high with a bowl over the top sealed with bitumen”. The jar contained not scrolls but thirteen codices in leather pouches resembling books. The colourful events surrounding the discovery included several murders before the works came to reside peacefully in the Coptic museum in Cairo.

The Gospel of Philip

The Nag Hammadi library contained a mixture of Christian and philosophical writings including the Gospel of Philip. This apocryphal Gospel contains the notorious text, “And the companion of the [...] Mary Magdalene. [...] loved her more than all the disciples, and used to kiss her often on her [...]” The gaps in the text are holes made by white ants.

The Da Vinci Code, which is only a novel, contends that “any Aramaic scholar will tell you, the word companion, in those days, literally meant spouse”. But the document is not Aramaic but Coptic. Coptic scholars say “companion” means simply “companion”. Any interested reader can follow all the half truths and assumptions from the Da Vinci Code back to their dubious source in R McL Wilson’s The Gospel of Philip published in 1962.

The Nag Hammadi so‑called Gospels are poison from the fevered imagination of Gnostic heretics who created a fleshly line of descendants of Jesus Christ and his alleged wife, Mary Magdalene.

The Nag Hammadi find changed Mary Magdalene from a broken prostitute into a grand aristocratic priestess and wife of Christ and bearer of his priestly offspring, which fact Rome was supposed to be trying to cover up. (Conspiracy theorists lean heavily on the idea of secret sinister Vatican cover ups.)

Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln’s book Holy Blood Holy Grail setting forth this new theory suited the feminist movement at that time when women were deserting the confessional in droves. The traditional ethos of Mary Magdalene the redeemed **** was discard in favour of this even less likely idea that she was a priestess, and Christ’s wife, and mother of His children.

The Sermon of Gregory the Great

Homily 33 is recorded in Homiliarian in evangelia, Lib. 11, Patrologia Latina, vol. 76 (Puris: J.-P Migne, 1844‑1864), cols. 1238‑1246.

“We believe that this woman [Mary Magdalen] is Luke’s female sinner, the woman John calls Mary, and that Mary from whom Mark says seven demons were cast out.” (“Hanc vero quam Lucas peccatricem mulierem, Joannes Mariam nominal, illam else Marian credimus de qua Marcus septem damonia ejecta fuisse testator”)

The seven demons Gregory identified as “all the vices” (“Et quid per septem daemonia, nisi universa vitia designantur?”) by which he means the seven so‑called cardinal sins (including lust, which was understood as inordinate or illicit sexual desire). The seven cardinal sins: were first grouped as such by Gregory. The passages mentioning Christ’s casting out of the seven devils from Mary Magdalene are in Luke 8, 13, and Mark 16, 9.

Gregory then complained that the ointment used by Luke’s unnamed sinner, now Mary Magdalen, to anoint Christ’s feet had previously been used by her “to perfume her flesh in forbidden acts.” (“Liquet...quod ilicitus actibus prius mulier intenta unguentum sibi pro odore suae carnis adhibuit”)

It was Gregory who also associated her, again primarily through identification with Luke’s unnamed sinner, as a penitent when he explained that by immolating herself at the feet of Jesus, “she turned the mass of her crimes to virtues, in order to serve God entirely in penance.” (“Convertit ad virtutum numerum criminum, ut totum serviret Deo in poenitentia”)
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« Reply #23 on: April 05, 2007, 11:46:13 pm »

The Nazarene Way of Essenic Studies
The Legend of Mary Magdalene
The Life, History and Legends of Mary from Magdala


St Lazarus, Martha and Mary.
(Artist Unknown)
 Mary Magdalene was of the district of Magdala, on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, where stood her families castle, called Magdalon; she was the sister of Lazarus and of Martha, and they were the children of parents reputed noble, or, as some say, royal descendants of the House of David. On the death of their father, Syrus, they inherited vast riches and possessions in land, which were equally divided between them. 
Lazarus betook himself to the military life; Martha ruled her possessions with great discretion, and was a model of virtue and propriety, -perhaps a little too much addicted to worldly cares; Mary, on the contrary, abandoned herself to luxurious pleasures and became at length so notorious for her extravagant lifestyle that she was known through all the country round only as 'The Sinner'.

Her discreet sister, Martha, frequently rebuked her for these disorders and at length persuaded her to listen to the exhortations of Jesus, through which her heart was touched and converted. The seven demons which possessed her, and which were expelled by Jesus, were the seven deadly sins common to us all. The struggles of these seven principal faults are; first, Gluttony or the pleasures of the palate; secondly, Fornication; thirdly, Covetousness, which means Avarice, or, the love of money, fourthly, Anger; fifthly, Dejection; sixthly, "Accidie," which is the sin of spiritual sloth or sluggishness; and seventhly, kenodocila which means ego, foolish pride or vain glory.

Martha Rebuking Mary for her Vanity, by Guido Cagnacci 1660-61

Christ at Simon the Pharisee, by Pieter Pauwel Rubens 1618-20
    On one occasion Martha entertained the Saviour in her house, and, being anxious to feast him worthily, she was  'cumbered with much serving.' Mary, meanwhile, sat at the feet of Jesus, and heard his words, which completed the good work of her conversion; and when, some time afterwards, be supped in the house of Simon the Pharisee, she followed him thither and she brought an alabaster box of ointment and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hair of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with ointment - and He said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven.' 

She became afterward one of the most devoted of his followers, always by his side and 'ministered to him of her substance' (provided the groups finances.)  She attended him to Calvary, stood weeping at the foot of the cross and was the first to see the Christ risen. Extra-biblical and Gnostic traditions about Mary Magdalene holds that she was the wife of Jesus, a fact which was omitted by later revisionist editors of the Gospels.

There is good argument which supports the idea of their marriage. Bachelorhood was very rare for Jewish males of Jesus' time, being generally regarded as a transgression of the first mitzvah (divine commandment): "Be fruitful and multiply". Mary Magdalene appears with great frequency (especially as compared with other women in the Gospels) and is shown as being a close follower of Jesus.

In the scene of the wedding at Cana, the names of the nuptial couple are not mentioned, but Jesus acts as a groom would be expected to act at such a wedding. For example, by giving instructions to the servants (in fact, those servants were told by Mary his mother to obey his instructions). Finally, Mary's presence at the Crucifixion and Jesus' tomb is consonant with a role as grieving wife and widow.

After the Crucifixion she watched by his tomb, and was the first to whom he appeared after the resurrection; her unfaltering faith, mingled as it was with the intensest grief and love, obtained for her this peculiar mark of favour. It is assumed by several commentators that Jesus appeared first to Mary Magdalene, because she, of all those whom he had left on earth, was his beloved and in most need of consolation:-' The disciples went away unto their own; but Mary stayed without the sepulcher and wept.'

Mary Magdalen in the Grotto, by Jules Joseph Lefebvre 1876

Tradition relates that afterwards in Italy, Mary Magdalene visited the Emperor Tiberias (14-37 AD) and proclaimed to him about Christ's Resurrection. According to tradition, she took him an egg as a symbol of the Resurrection, a symbol of new life with the words: "Christ is Risen!" Then she told Tiberias that, in his Province of Judea, Jesus the Nazarene, a holy man, a maker of miracles, powerful before God and all mankind, was executed on the instigation of the Jewish High-Priests and the sentence affirmed by the procurator Pontius Pilate. Tiberias responded that no one could rise from the dead, anymore than the egg she held could turn red. Miraculously, the egg immediately began to turn red as testimony to her words. Then, and by her urging, Tiberias had Pilate removed from Jerusalem to Gaul, where he later suffered a horrible sickness and an agonizing death.

Suggestions of commentators and legend continues her story. Fourteen years after the ascension, Lazarus with his two sisters, Martha and Mary; with Maximin, one of the seventy-two disciples, from whom they had received baptism; Cedon, the blind man whom our Saviour had restored to sight; and Marcella, the handmaiden who attended on the two sisters, were by the Jews set adrift in a vessel without sails, oars, or rudder; but, guided by Providence, they were safely borne over the sea till they landed in a certain harbour which proved to be Marseilles, in the country now called France.

The people of the land were pagans, and refused to give the holy pilgrims food or shelter; so they were fain to take refuge under the porch of a temple and Mary Magdalene preached to the people, reproaching them for their senseless worship of  idols; and though at first they would not listen, yet being after a time convinced by her eloquence, and by the miracles performed by her and by her sister, they were converted and baptized. And Lazarus became, after the death of the good Maximin, the first bishop of Marseilles.

The Abbey of Sainte-Baume

Chapel in the Cave at St. Baume where Mary Magdalene is believed to have lived for 33 years as a hermit following the death of Jesus

These things being accomplished, Mary Magdalene retired to the cliffs not far from the city. It was a frightful barren wilderness and in the midst of horrid rocks she lived in the caves of Sainte-Baume; there for thirty years she devoted herself to solitary penance for the sins of her past life, which she had never ceased to bewail bitterly. During this long seclusion, she was never seen or heard of, and it was supposed that she was dead.

Assumption of Mary Magdalene, by José Antolinez
 She fasted so rigorously, that but for the occasional visits of the angels, and the comfort bestowed by celestial visions, she might have perished. She was given the Holy Eucharist by angels as her only food. Every day during the last years of her penance, the angels came down from heaven and carried her up in their arms into regions where she was ravished by the sounds of unearthly harmony, and beheld the glory and the joy prepared for the sinner that repenteth.
One day a certain hermit, who dwelt in a cell on one of those wild mountains, having wandered farther than usual from his home, beheld this wondrous vision-the Magdalene in the arms of ascending angels, who were singing songs of triumph as they bore her upwards; and the hermit, when he had a little recovered from his amazement, returned to the city of Marseilles, and reported what he had seen.

Chapel on the cliff above the Caveat St. Baume where Mary Magdalene is believed to have been carried to heaven by angels.

According to Church tradition, Mary Magdalene remained in Rome until the arrival of the Apostle Paul, and for two more years still, following his departure from Rome after the first court judgment upon him. From Rome, Mary Magdalene, moved to Ephesus where she unceasingly laboured the holy Apostle John, who with her wrote the first 20 Chapters of his Gospel (John 1-9, John 10-20). There the saint finished her earthly life and was buried. Mary was transported miraculously, just before she died, to the chapel of St. Maximin, where she received the last sacraments. She died when she was 72.

In 899 the Emperor Leo VI translated her alleged relics to a monastery in Constantinople. It was not until the tenth century that devotion to Mary Magdalene, the composite saint, took root in the west.

About 1050 the monks of Vézelay, an abbey recently reformed and affiliated to Cluny, began to claim her body, brought, they related, from the Holy Land either by a ninth-century saint, Badilo, or by envoys despatched by their founder. A little later a monk of Vézelay believed that he had detected in a crypt at St. Maximin in Provence, carved on an empty sacrophagus, a representation of the unction at Bethany. The monks of Vézelay pronounced it to be Mary Magdalene's tomb from which her relics had been translated to their abbey. Thus the **** of one of the finest examples of Romanesque architecture was made possible by pilgrims to a spurious relic.   

The crypt containing Magdalene's relics at Vézelay

The Mary Magdalene Reliquary (above left) is located in a crypt beneath the Basilica to Mary Magdalene in Saint Maximin de Provence, France (above center) where Mary Magdalene is purportedly buried.  The reliquary contains what  many believe is Mary Magdalene's skull (above right).

The Provençals, however, took full advantage of this development and outstripped Vézelay by pilgrimages to three places henceforward associated with Mary Magdalene. One of these was St. Maximin, where the crypt still contains sacrophagi attributed to the Magdalene, St. Maximin and St. Sidonius. The representation of the anointing has, however, disappeared.

Another is the Sainte Baume, a grotto in the face of a cliff, where Mary Magdalene is said to have spent long years in penance and ecstatic contemplation, whose detail was suggested by the life of the penitent Mary of Egypt.

The third is a church on the coast, built and fortified against pirates in the twelfth century. Dedicated originally to St. Mary (our Lady) of the Sea, its title became The Three Marys of the Sea--'Les Saintes Maries de la Mer." A legend originating about the year 1200 informs us that Mary Magdalene, driven out to sea by the Jews, landed there together with Mary, mother of James, Mary Salome, her sister Martha, their maid Sara, Lazarus, Maximin, one of the seventy-two disciples, and Sidonius, the man born blind. In fact Maximin and Sidonius were saints of Auvergne, the latter being the fifth century man of letters and bishop; Lazarus was a fifth century bishop of Aix; Martha, the two Martyrs and Sara were Persian martyrs of the fourth century whose relics were brought later to southern Gaul.

Detail of Mary Magdalene in Da Vinci's 'Last Supper'
 In legend and artistic representation Mary Magdalene is often depicted with flowing red hair and grieving at the loss of her beloved. At once sensuous and spiritual, she made a powerful appeal to the Baroque mentality, as she became a typical figure of devotion, literature and art.


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« Last Edit: April 05, 2007, 11:48:36 pm by Mia » Report Spam   Logged
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« Reply #24 on: April 05, 2007, 11:50:05 pm »

The above post is pretty cool in that it also has a link to a picture of what is believed to be Mary Magdalene's skull.
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« Reply #25 on: April 05, 2007, 11:53:25 pm »

The Ancient Roots of Our Judeo-
Christian Sexual Prohibitions

The roots of the Judeo-Christian sexual prohibitions, as well as the sexual prohibitions of religions such as Islam, spring from ancient Jewish tribal law.

During early times wives were considered "property" and laws were specifically codified to protect three things: livestock, wives and dwellings. Although hard to fathom in this day of equal rights, this order was clearly spelled out in Jewish law.

Beliefs among different groups ranged all the way from the approval of prostitution, homosexuality, sex with slaves and liberal views toward divorce, to 180-degree shifts in each of these areas. Judaism also feared "diluting" the Jewish race through liaisons with non-Jews. Since marrying a Jew and having only Jewish children were central to this, scriptural law governing sex was codified to support this need. (Remember, there was no effective birth control in those days.)

Even the **** of a wife was primarily viewed as a sin against the husband and his family. In fact, most scholars agree that sexual restrictions in the Old Testament have more to do with maintaining property and the needs and survival of the Jewish race than with sex, itself.

The 4th century Bishop, St. Augustine, a man who readily admitted he had major personal problems with sex, ended up shaping Christian views on sex. His problems with sex were so pronounced that modern-day psychology would list them as obsessive-compulsive and borderline psychotic. He got the basics of his ideas from the prevailing mind-vs-body views popular at the time -- views which have long been repudiated by more enlightened thinking.

After leading a wanton and lascivious lifestyle, Augustine left his mistress and children and totally reversed himself by vowing to be celibate. Thereafter he saw the "flesh" as wicked, flawed and sinful. Augustine also saw himself as staunchly Catholic. But...

It's regrettable that St. Augustine's influence and the negative appraisal of sexuality, based on his own struggles to be chaste has so impacted negatively with Christian tradition.
Father Thomas Raush, Chair of Theological Studies
Loyola Marymount University

More modern Christian scholars use a stronger word than "regrettable" for the damage that this man's warped views have done over the centuries -- especially when it comes to the plight of women.

Why weren't St. Augustine's views attacked or just ignored by the priestcraft of the day?

Even though the original anti-sex, anti-woman views were no longer accepted in a more enlightened era, these views served the political, economic and religious interests of religious establishment. In particular they served to maintain the interests of a male-dominated religion. (We delve into this particular aspect of Judeo-Christianity at various places on this site.)

But, beyond church politics, the greater sexual capacity of women was known by men — and feared. Women who enjoyed sex were condemned as being "evil." (Later, in history they would be dealt with as "witches" and tortured and killed.) The fear of the woman's capacity for sex has been so great that in some societies the woman's clitoris was routinely removed to keep her from deriving pleasure from sex and possibly being tempted to "sin."

The priestcraft understood that by controlling the sex life of their subjects they would attain a significant degree of control over the people's personal and spiritual lives.

The threat of an eternal hell of fire-and-brimstone not only bolstered this control but it allowed the church to commercialize the forgiveness of sexual sin -- a type of "sin" that was programmed into the evolutionary predisposition of the human species.

Thus, husbands and wives were obliged to look to rabbis and priests (most of whom were celibate) rather to each other for sexual permissions. Early religious law set down very restrictive laws governing the "when and how often" of sex between married partners, even to the point of limiting sex to the so-called missionary position.

At one point the Catholic Church had "sex police." Married couples that were caught engaging in any non-approved form of sex were punished. For example, a married couple could be burned at the stake if they were caught having sex with the women on top. Sex was only for conceiving children, and for the male (and especially the female) to enjoy sex was not only deemed sinful, but could send you to hell.

Even after women were no longer considered "property," the male dominated church -- the same church that despite the lack of any supporting biblical evidence felt a need to trash Mary Madeleine as a prostitute -- felt it had to control women through religion. (Despite apparent efforts to eradicate the evidence, there is a theory that not only was Mary Madeleine Jesus' favorite disciple, "the one most loved," but that she initially was a powerful figure in the development of Christianity.)

Some men — especially as they grew older and their sexual abilities waned — realized that a younger male could not only more adequately satisfy their wives, but were better able to fulfill the mandate to "go forth and multiply." (Sexual desire in females often increases with age.*) Male sexual prowess has long been paired with virility, and a wife who is better satisfied by another man obviously represents a major threat to a husband's status.

Two Reasonable Reasons for Sexual Prohibitions
At some point in history it was discovered that life-threatening diseases were transmitted through sex.

Many people died as a result of sexually transmitted diseases such as syphilis. It was reasoned that the spread of sexual disease could be controlled by placing limitations on sexual partners — a line of reasoning that was especially important before safe sex practices.

Next, before effective birth control, sex commonly resulted in pregnancy. Church leaders wisely observed that a woman could theoretically get pregnant every year of her marriage. Back when women generally married in their teens, this could mean a great many children. Plus, in those days a great many women died in child birth.

Although a few children may have been an asset in providing needed labor around the home and farms, it was clear that many couples could not (and did not want to) take care of a dozen or more children. Among other things, this would clearly have a negative religious and economic impact. It was therefore reasoned that sex had to be "moderated" or controlled by various means. Since the church had the only real authority over people, sexual prohibitions had to come from there.

Later, effective birth control would arrive on the scene -- but the Catholic Church in particular banned it because (some argued) it could result in enjoying sex (still seen as a major sin) without concerns about pregnancy.

Finally, we need to note that the Bible isn't nearly as "asexual" as might be assumed. In fact, the Bible contains some rather explicit references to the joy of making love. The Song of Songs, which many view as at least semi-pornographic, is the classic example (notwithstanding the clear attempts by translators to make the original text less graphic by switching around some of the body areas discussed). Despite prudish attempts to make the Song of Songs into some type of allegory, more modern thinkers feel that the Song simply demonstrates unflinching support for the joys of sex experienced by lovers.

The latter, however, has been effectively buried throughout the centuries. In fact, before the advent of the printing press, the priestcraft, who held the only readily-available copies of the scriptures, commonly "shielded" their flock from parts of the Bible that they didn't feel they should be aware of. Even today, fundamentalist Protestants who proclaim every word of the Bible is the "word of God" conveniently ignore, or try to "explain away," scriptures such as these.

Because of centuries of the "sex-is-sin" thinking — thinking that has been conveyed through what became "traditional values" and supporting law — sex has evolved into an embarrassing and taboo subject. It has only been in recent years that fundamentalist Christian belief has started to deal with human sexuality in an open and positive (although still very restrictive) way.

Those who hold to prevailing religious belief tend to fear the presence of more sexually liberated and even more morally responsible views. Consequently, they attempt to not only control their own sexual experiences, but the experiences of everyone else. In fact, "illicit" consensual sex is viewed by some as more destructive to a society than violence. (One U.S. judge in sentencing a man for engaging in oral sex with his mate said it was a crime worse then murder.)

Today, many people are questioning and abandoning these antiquated beliefs. With the availability of effective birth control the primary rationale for prohibiting sex among single people now is the risk of STD (sexually transmitted disease). Where adequate precautions are not taken, this risk is very real, and the consequences can be devastating.

Although social and religious restraints may be considered illogical and outmoded, we have to realize that because of prevailing social views violating these restraints can carry profound personal, marital, social, and even legal consequences. ("Separation of church and state" notwithstanding, many of our laws are based in prevailing religious beliefs.)

Possibly the Latin phrase that translates to, "First, do no harm," should be a guiding principle. The concept of "harm," of course, includes both you and others.

Social change comes rather slowly, but as new knowledge and understanding is gradually accepted, it does evolve.

Eventually, we can hope that sex will become a natural, open and special part of relationships, devoid of the guilt, shame, and fears that have plagued so many people for so long.


*The research on this is is mixed, due in part to the fact that the sexual needs of male partners diminish with age, and the resultant decrease in sexual activity in females generally results in diminished desire. However, evidence suggests that if desirable sexual opportunities exist, and no negative factors intervene, sexual desire typically increases. This tendency seems to be accelerating as women become liberated from centuries of sexual repression.
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« Reply #26 on: April 06, 2007, 12:05:38 am »

Mary Magdalene: Author of the Fourth Gospel?
by Ramon K. Jusino, M.A.
© 1998

This article makes a case for ascribing authorship of the Fourth Gospel (the Gospel of John) in the New Testament to Mary Magdalene. As far as I know -- no previously published work has made an argument in support of this hypothesis. Most biblical scholars today assert that the Fourth Gospel was authored by an anonymous follower of Jesus referred to within the Gospel text as the Beloved Disciple. It is posited here that, in an earlier tradition of the Fourth Gospel's community, the now "anonymous" Beloved Disciple was known to be Mary Magdalene. It is further posited that Mary Magdalene is the true founder and hero of what has come to be known as the Johannine Community (i.e., Mary Magdalene was one of the original apostolic founders and leaders of the early Christian church).

I realize that this hypothesis may seem very radical and perhaps unorthodox to you. However, I believe that it is well-founded and I respectfully offer the following in support of it. The evidence supporting this thesis includes some of the Gnostic Christian writings of the Nag Hammadi Library, and internal evidence from the text of the Fourth Gospel itself. This study also relies heavily on the Johannine Community research done by Raymond E. Brown (America's foremost Catholic biblical scholar).

I have made every attempt to write this article in such a way that it can be easily followed and understood by those without prior biblical scholarship knowledge. It is written and dedicated to those who embrace the love of God, who love and respect the church, and who are open-minded enough to investigate new ideas without feeling threatened by them. (A Works Cited list is provided for you at the end of this article.)    
Do you suspect that Mary Magdalene contributed more to the development of the early church than traditional historians have been saying?
 Yes. There are far too many unanswered questions.
 No. Traditional history has been correct about Mary Magdalene's role in church history.
 I don't know and I don't care.

To this day, Mary Magdalene remains a most elusive and mysterious figure. Speculation about her role in the development of early Christianity is not new. She has been the subject of many different theories and myths throughout ecclesiastical history. Such speculation is the result of the deafening silence from the Scriptures regarding this woman who is cited by all four Gospels as being present at both the Crucifixion of Jesus and the Empty Tomb on the morning of the Resurrection. Why is it that we know virtually nothing else about her? Has she made contributions to the development of the early church of which we are not aware?

Here is a fact that few people seem to know: The Bible never explicitly says that Mary Magdalene was ever a prostitute at any point in her life. Luke does not name her in his narrative about the "penitent ****" who washes the feet of Jesus with her hair (7:36-50). Nor is she named as the woman who was caught in the act of adultery and saved from being stoned to death by Jesus (John 8:1-11). She is identified as once having been demon-possessed (Luke 8:2). However, the assumption that her sinful past consisted primarily of sexual sin is a presumption that is not usually made about the men who are identified as former sinners. Susan Haskins has published an excellent study of the many myths and misconceptions surrounding Mary Magdalene. Her book is a "must read" for anyone who wishes to do a serious study of the Magdalene.


We begin by presupposing the following well-settled position: The many positive contributions made by women to the development of the early church have been minimized throughout history. Claudia Setzer has recently reminded us that women, especially Mary Magdalene, were essential witnesses to the Risen Christ. Setzer (259) asserts that the prominent role of female disciples was an early and firmly entrenched piece of tradition which quickly became an embarrassment to the male leaders of the emerging institutional church. Many prominent scholars have argued, quite convincingly, that there was a concerted effort on the part of the male leadership of the early church to suppress the knowledge of any major contributions made by female disciples. It is asserted here that much of Mary Magdalene's legacy fell victim to this suppression.

This study posits the theory that the Fourth Gospel, once universally believed to have been authored by John of Zebedee, was actually authored by Mary Magdalene. It is further posited that she was the Beloved Disciple of the Fourth Gospel and, therefore, the founder and leader of what has come to be known as the Johannine Community. Indeed, there is more evidence pointing to her authorship of the Fourth Gospel than there ever was pointing to authorship by John.

The research of Raymond E. Brown (1979) is used as the primary basis for this study. Brown's research on the Johannine Community is clearly second-to-none. He is readily acknowledged by most theologians today as America's foremost Catholic Scripture scholar. This study does not dispute any of Brown's essential assertions on this subject. Rather, I use much of Brown's research to substantiate the hypothesis in this article. This study builds on Brown's research by attempting to identify the author of the Fourth Gospel where Brown does not. At one time, Brown did argue that the Fourth Gospel was authored by John of Zebedee (1966: xcviii). However, Brown has since changed his view on this because he found that there was little evidence to support Johannine authorship of this Gospel (1979: 33).

Mary Magdalene is posited as the author of the Fourth Gospel in the sense in which antiquity defined authorship (Brown 1990: 1051-1052). The author is the person whose ideas the book expresses, not necessarily the person who set pen to papyrus (Brown 1966: lxxxvii). According to Brown, the Fourth Gospel was authored by an anonymous follower of Jesus referred to in the Gospel text as the Beloved Disciple. This Beloved Disciple knew Jesus personally and was in the originating group of the Johannine Community (Brown 1979: 31). The Fourth Gospel was based on this disciple's own eyewitness account (John 21:24). Brown identifies several phases in the development of the Fourth Gospel: 1) the initial pre-Gospel version authored by the Beloved Disciple; 2) the pre-Gospel work produced by "the evangelist" or main writer; and, 3) the final version written by a redactor after the death of the Beloved Disciple (1979:22-23).

I assert that Mary Magdalene's contribution to the writing of the Fourth Gospel took place within the first phase of development identified by Brown -- i.e., the initial pre-Gospel version. The Gospel went through several phases of modification. The end result of these modifications was the eventual suppression of her role as author of this Gospel and leader of their community.


Before we go any further, let us take a look at what the Fourth Gospel actually says about this Beloved Disciple. In the Gospel of John there are seven passages which refer to the beloved anonymous founder of the Johannine Community. These passages are as follows:

1. (1:35-40) This passage refers to "another disciple" who heard John the Baptist and followed Jesus along with Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter. Even though this passage does not specifically refer to the disciple as being loved by Jesus, Brown argues that this passage is a reference to the Beloved Disciple. He says that the disciple is not referred to as the beloved simply because he is not yet a disciple of Jesus at this point in the story (Brown 1979: 33).

2. (13:23-26) This passage clearly refers to the anonymous disciple as "the disciple whom Jesus loved." The disciple is sitting next to Jesus during the Last Supper. Peter nods to the disciple to get him to ask Jesus for the identity of his betrayer. The disciple asks Jesus and Jesus tells him that his betrayer is, of course, going to be Judas Iscariot.

3. (18:15-16) After the arrest of Jesus, the other disciple is allowed to enter the courtyard of the high priest with him. Peter, on the other hand, was not allowed in at first. Peter was let in only after the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, spoke to the gatekeeper. The other disciple is not explicitly referred to as the Beloved Disciple. However, Brown asserts that this passage refers to the same disciple whom Jesus loved (1979: 82).

4. (19:25-27) The Beloved Disciple is at the foot of the Cross along with the mother of Jesus, and other women including Mary Magdalene. Jesus tells the Beloved Disciple to take care of his mother. The disciple is said to have taken the mother of Jesus into his home.

5. (20:1-11) Peter and the disciple whom Jesus loved run to the Empty Tomb after being told by Mary Magdalene that the body of the Lord was missing.

6. (21:7) In this passage, several of the disciples are out fishing after the Resurrection of Christ. The Beloved Disciple is the first to notice that the man who was speaking to them was Jesus. The disciple says to Peter, "It is the Lord!"

7. (21:20-24) The Beloved Disciple's death is addressed in a conversation between Peter and the Risen Christ. The passage also asserts that the Gospel was written by the Beloved Disciple and based on his eyewitness testimony. Chapter 21 was obviously written by a redactor (or editor) after the death of the Beloved Disciple.

You may note at this point that in the above cited passages from the Gospel of John, the Beloved Disciple is clearly male. Also, in 19:25-27 and 20:1-11 the Beloved Disciple and Mary Magdalene appear in the same scenes simultaneously. How can I allege that Mary Magdalene is the Beloved Disciple in light of this? The answer will be addressed in detail below. But for now: The reason that the Beloved Disciple was turned into a man in the text was because this disciple was clearly the founder and hero of the community that produced this Gospel. At some point after the death of Jesus, the emerging male leadership of that community simply became embarrassed about having a female founder. (Remember, we're dealing with male attitudes towards women 2,000 years ago.) In order to "mainstream" their community, they suppressed some of the more radical practices that Jesus taught them through his example -- such as treating everyone with equal dignity and respect, including the sick, the poor, the oppressed, the outcast, and women. Jesus apparently did not object to men and women sharing power and positions of leadership. Some of his successors, however, were not courageous enough to be so radical. So, in the case of the Gospel of John, the female Beloved Disciple had to become male. I will elaborate on just how I believe this happened below.

One fact is very clear: For some reason, the writer of the Gospel of John wanted to keep the identity of the Beloved Disciple a secret. This disciple was obviously an extremely important figure in the history of their community. Why, then, is the name of this disciple concealed? Was the goal to protect this disciple from persecution? Hardly -- after all, the disciple was clearly deceased when the final draft of John's Gospel was produced (21:20-24). Is it possible that the writer of the final draft had forgotten the name of their beloved founder? Not very likely. This is, indeed, an interesting mystery.


Today, the majority of biblical scholars, both Catholic and Protestant, assert that St. John of Zebedee did not write the Gospel that bears his name. They ascribe authorship to the "anonymous" Beloved Disciple. So, if the evidence pointing to John as author of this Gospel is so flimsy -- how, then, did this book become known universally as the Gospel of John?

The Fourth Gospel was initially accepted earliest by "heterodox" rather than "orthodox" Christians (Brown 1979: 147). The oldest known commentary on the Fourth Gospel is that of the Gnostic Heracleon (d. 180). The Valentinian Gnostics appropriated the Fourth Gospel to such an extent that Irenaeus of Lyons (d. 202) had to refute their exegesis of it. Brown well notes the relationship between the Fourth Gospel and the early Christian Gnostics when he writes that there is "abundant evidence of familiarity with Johannine ideas in the...gnostic library from Nag Hammadi" (1979: 147). In contrast to this, Brown points out that clear use of the Fourth Gospel in the early church by "orthodox" sources is difficult to prove (1979: 148). This would seem to suggest that the contents of the Fourth Gospel, at one point, were not attractive to "orthodox" Christians yet very attractive to Gnostic Christians for some reason. In fact, the earliest indisputable "orthodox" use of the Fourth Gospel was by Theophilus of Antioch, c. 180 A.D., in his Apology to Autolycus. This strong connection between the Fourth Gospel and Gnostic Christians provides significant support for my thesis.

If you are unfamiliar with Gnostics, I suggest that you look them up. They were branded as heretics by the emerging institutional church very early on in ecclesiastical history. Of significance to this study is the following: Many Gnostic groups practiced radical egalitarianism. They believed that God acted and spoke through both men and women. Both men and women were known to be leaders and/or prophets in their communities. Many men, including those in the church, felt threatened by them.

The popularity of the Fourth Gospel among Gnostics made it important for the early church to pursue the question of its apostolic authorship (Perkins: 946). It was Irenaeus who defended the apostolicity of the Fourth Gospel by appealing to a tradition circulating in Asia Minor which, he claimed, linked John of Zebedee to the Fourth Gospel. The testimony of Irenaeus, however, makes for very tenuous evidence establishing John of Zebedee as the Fourth Gospel's author. First of all, it turned out that Irenaeus confused John of Zebedee with a presbyter from Asia Minor who was also named John. Secondly, Irenaeus claimed that he got his information about Johannine authorship of the Fourth Gospel when he was a child from Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna (d. 156) (Perkins: 946). The church tradition that established John as the author of the Fourth Gospel was based, primarily, on Irenaeus' childhood recollections! It is mainly for this reason, in the absence of other supporting evidence, that the majority of biblical scholars today assert that John was not the author of the Fourth Gospel.

Brown's research reveals that there was a schism early in the history of the Johannine Community. He posits that the community divided in two due to an internal christological disagreement. The majority of the community, whom Brown refers to as the Secessionists, defended the community's high christology and moved toward Docetism, Montanism, and Gnosticism (Brown 1979: 149). The rest of the community, whom Brown refers to as the Apostolic Christians, were amalgamated into the emerging institutional church. The Apostolic Christians became accepted as "orthodox" believers because they were willing to modify their christological beliefs in order to conform to the teachings of the emerging church hierarchy. The Secessionists, the majority of the Johannine Community, were quickly labeled as "heretics" by the institutional church because they did not make any such modifications. This schism took place before the final canonical redaction of the Fourth Gospel. The final redaction that we have today is the work of an editor belonging to the group which aligned itself with the institutional church. Both groups, however, took their pre-canonical version of the Fourth Gospel with them after the schism and claimed it as their own (Brown 1979: 149).

My hypothesis includes the assertion that, at the time of the schism, this pre-canonical version of the Fourth Gospel clearly identified Mary Magdalene as the Beloved Disciple. The Secessionists, as Brown calls them, preserved the tradition of the Magdalene as the Beloved Disciple -- the founder and hero of their community. The Secessionists brought their tradition with them to several Gnostic groups. This explains Mary Magdalene's identification as the Beloved Disciple in several ancient Gnostic documents from a corpus of literature known as the Nag Hammadi Library.

The Apostolic Christians, on the other hand, gravitated toward the institutional church and were pressured into suppressing, among other things, their tradition claiming that a woman was their founder and former leader. The end result of this suppression is the Fourth Gospel as we have it today.

The following outline charts the events which led to the dissemination of the pre-canonical version of the Fourth Gospel to both "heterodox" and "orthodox" Christians. It is based on the outline from Brown (1979: 166) on the history of the Johannine Community:

FIRST STAGE -- (mid-50s to late 80s A.D.): The originating group of the community is led by Mary Magdalene. She is highly esteemed as the primary witness to the Resurrection of Christ. She is recognized as such even by believers who do not belong to this particular community. She is known, very early on, as the companion of Jesus, and the disciple whom Jesus loved. An essential part of their proclamation of the gospel is the fact that Mary Magdalene was the first to see the Risen Christ.

SECOND STAGE -- (c. 80-90 A.D.): At this point, the community has a version of their Gospel, either written or oral, which includes the tradition that Mary Magdalene was their founder, hero, and leader. Mary Magdalene is probably deceased by this time. There is a schism in the community which is most likely the result of an internal dispute about their high christology. The community is divided into two groups which Brown calls the Secessionists, and the Apostolic Christians.

THIRD STAGE -- (c. 90-100 A.D.):
The Apostolic Christians: As the church becomes a more organized institution, this group is fearful of ostracism and persecution. They seek amalgamation with the leaders of the emerging institutional church. The claim that a female disciple of Jesus had been their community's first leader and hero quickly becomes an embarrassment. They need to obscure that fact if they are to be accepted by the male leadership of the growing organized church. A redactor in this community reworks their Gospel in order to make it consistent with this obscuration. The result of this redaction is the canonical Fourth Gospel as we have it today.

The Secessionists: They are the largest of the two groups. They hold on to their tradition which cites Mary Magdalene as the Beloved Disciple of Jesus. Many members of this community take this tradition to various Gnostic groups. Their identification of Mary Magdalene as the disciple whom Jesus loved is reflected in the Gnostic Christian writings of Nag Hammadi -- e.g., the Gospel of Philip and the Gospel of Mary.

The evidence which links authorship of the Fourth Gospel to Mary Magdalene is found in the Gnostic writings of the Nag Hammadi Library. Of particular interest are the Gospel of Philip and the Gospel of Mary (referring to Magdalene).

The Nag Hammadi Library was discovered in 1945 in the area of Nag Hammadi in Egypt. Much has been written about it since its publication in the mid-1970s. This library consists of 4th century Coptic manuscripts which are copies of manuscripts originally written in Greek. These manuscripts belonged to Gnostic Christians. Most scholars cite the mid-second century as the earliest plausible date of composition for these documents. However, a few of the documents are said by some to have been written as early as the late first century -- making them contemporary with the New Testament Gospels (Haskins: 34). The importance of this 1945 discovery cannot be overstated.

Let's look at a few important excerpts from the Nag Hammadi Library. This first passage comes to us from the Gospel of Philip:
** And the companion of the [Savior is] Mary Magdalene. [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 it [and expressed disapproval]. They said to him, "Why do you love her more than all of us?" The Savior answered and said to them, "Why do I not love you like her? When a blind man and one who sees are both together in darkness, they are no different from one another. When the light comes, then he who sees will see the light, and he who is blind will remain in darkness" (NHC II.3.63.32ff) (Robinson 1977: 138).**

Another passage from the Gospel of Philip reads as follows:
**There were three who always walked with the Lord: Mary his mother and her sister and Magdalene, the one who was called his companion. His sister and his mother and his companion were each a Mary (NHC II.3.59.6-11) (Robinson 1988: 145).**

The Gospel of Mary (referring to the Magdalene) says the following:
**Peter said to Mary, "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." Mary answered and said, "What is hidden from you I will proclaim to you." (NHC BG 8502.1.10.1-8) (Robinson 1988: 525).**

At this point in the text, Mary Magdalene goes on to tell Peter, Andrew, and Levi about her visions of the Risen Christ and her conversations with the Lord. These visions involve something which she refers to as the seven powers of wrath (NHC BG 8502.1.16.12-13) (Robinson 1988: 526). After she concludes her discourse about her revelations from the Lord, the men argue over whether to accept the authenticity of the Magdalene's vision.

The Gospel of Mary concludes as follows:
**When Mary had said this, she fell silent, since it was to this point that the Savior had spoken with her. But Andrew answered and said to the brethren, "Say what you (wish to) say about what she has said. I at least do not believe that the Savior said this. For certainly these teachings are strange ideas." Peter answered and spoke concerning these same things. He questioned them about the Savior: "Did he really speak with a woman without our knowledge (and) not openly? Are we to turn about and all listen to her? Did he prefer her to us?"

Then Mary wept and said to Peter, "My brother Peter, what do you think? Do you think that I thought this up myself in my heart, or that I am lying about the Savior?" Levi answered and said to Peter, "Peter, you have always been hot-tempered. Now I see you contending against the woman like the adversaries. But if the Savior made her worthy, who are you indeed to reject her? Surely the Savior knows her very well. That is why he loved her more than us. Rather let us be ashamed and put on the perfect man and acquire him for ourselves as he commanded us, and preach the gospel, not laying down any other rule or other law beyond what the Savior said." When [...] and they began to go forth [to] proclaim and to preach. (NHC BG 8502.1.17.7ff) (Robinson 1988: 526-527).**

For some reason, there are four pages missing from the account of her revelations in the extant text. In all, ten of the nineteen pages of the Gospel of Mary are missing (Robinson 1988: 524, 526).

Clearly, these passages establish as indisputable fact that, at least in some ancient gnostic communities, Mary Magdalene was thought of as having been the "Beloved Disciple" and the companion of the Lord. She is repeatedly singled out as the disciple whom Jesus loved the most. This would seem to contradict the assertion in the Fourth Gospel that the male founder of the Johannine Community is "the disciple whom Jesus loved" (John 13:23). How can there be two strong traditions each identifying two different people as the disciple whom Jesus loved the most? This begins to make sense only if we explore the possibility that, in reality, both of these traditions are referring to the same disciple.


There is no doubt that the Beloved Disciple in the canonical version of the Fourth Gospel is an anonymous male disciple. Yet, as we have seen, the writings of the Nag Hammadi Library reflect a strong tradition repeatedly naming Mary Magdalene as the disciple whom Jesus loved. How do we explain this disturbing contradiction? There are only three possible explanations for this:
1.   There is no connection between the Fourth Gospel and the Gnostic writings cited here. They simply reflect two different traditions which cite two different people as Jesus' favorite disciple. This is simply a coincidence.
2.   Brown's explanation: The writers of the Gnostic gospels were influenced by the portrait of Mary Magdalene as an extraordinary proclaimer of the Resurrected Christ. This portrait of Mary Magdalene sparked the Gnostic writers to make her the disciple whom Jesus loved most and the chief recipient of post-resurrectional revelation (Brown 1979: 154). In other words, the Gnostic writers spawned a tradition naming Mary Magdalene as the Beloved Disciple in response to what they had read in the Fourth Gospel. In this scenario, the canonical Fourth Gospel predates the traditions revealed in the writings of Nag Hammadi.
3.   My thesis: The pre-canonical version of the Fourth Gospel clearly named Mary Magdalene as the disciple whom Jesus loved, just as the Gnostic writings still do. The Gnostic writings reflect a dependency on the pre-Gospel text which the "Secessionists" brought to the Gnostic groups after the schism (Brown 1979: 149). The rest of the community, Brown's "Apostolic Christians," also had the same pre-Gospel text. They, however, redacted their text in order to make it more acceptable to the emerging institutional church which they wished to join. They quashed references to Mary Magdalene as having been their founder. They, instead, made references in the text to a "Beloved Disciple," but turned the disciple into an anonymous male. In two passages of the text, their redaction attempts to make the Beloved Disciple and Mary Magdalene seem to be two different individuals by having them appear together in the same scenes. (Structural flaws within those passages, discussed below, support this contention.) They did this because they knew that the church leaders would not accept the authenticity of a Gospel written by a woman. As Brown has observed: "The acceptance of the (Fourth) Gospel into the canon...was only at the price of an assurance that it had apostolic origins" (1979: 149). And, in the worldview of the institutional church leaders, no woman's ministry could be deemed apostolic.

Of the three possible explanations, it is the third which is most plausible.

The first explanation can be easily refuted. There is most certainly a connection between the Fourth Gospel and the Gnostic writings cited here. Brown's research shows that the majority of the Johannine Community (the Secessionists) took a pre-canonical version of the Fourth Gospel with them to the Docetists, the Montanists, and the Gnostics (1979: 149). In addition to this, as we have seen, the Fourth Gospel was very popular among Gnostics well before its acceptance and canonization by the institutional church (Perkins: 946). And Brown points out that there is "abundant evidence of familiarity with Johannine ideas" in the Gnostic writings of Nag Hammadi (1979: 147). There was obviously much contact between the Johannine Community and Gnostic groups very early on. Therefore, it cannot be mere coincidence that Mary Magdalene is cited in the Gnostic writings as the "disciple whom Jesus loved" in much the same way as the anonymous male disciple is cited as such in the Fourth Gospel. The similarities are too striking to dismiss as unrelated.

In order to refute the second explanation, which comes from Brown, we must carefully analyze the internal evidence which supports my thesis.


As previously stated, an important assertion of mine is that a redactor carefully concealed the identity of Mary Magdalene as the Beloved Disciple, by referring to her only as an anonymous disciple. As the redactor reworked the seven passages cited above which refer to the Beloved Disciple, he simply changed any reference to Mary Magdalene by substituting it with an anonymous reference to the Beloved Disciple or to "another disciple." For most of the document this was fairly easy to do and the resulting text appeared to be congruous. Instead of seeing the Magdalene's name, the reader is simply presented with the anonymous male disciple.

Removing references to Mary Magdalene from most of the story was easy. However, in the course of his work, the redactor was confronted with a problem. The tradition placing Mary Magdalene at the foot of the Cross and at the Empty Tomb on Sunday morning was too strong to deny. The Magdalene's presence at both of these events was common knowledge among most early Christian communities. (This is evidenced by the fact that all three of the other New Testament Gospels report her presence at these events.) The redactor could not simply omit any reference to the Magdalene at the Crucifixion or any reference to her as a primary witness to the Resurrection. However, the redactor still wanted to establish the Beloved Disciple as the founder of his community and as an eyewitness to these major events in the work of salvation. This way, he could still maintain that the founder of his community was an eyewitness to the events in the Gospel even though he inexplicably fails to reveal his identity (John 21:24).

At this point, the redactor probably asked himself a question very similar to this one: How can I suppress the knowledge of Mary Magdalene having been the founder of our community without being so obvious as to remove her from the Crucifixion/Resurrection accounts, with which most Christians are already familiar?

The redactor's solution to this problem was actually quite simple. In those two events where he could not deny the presence of the Magdalene, he would rework the text so as to make it appear as if Mary Magdalene and the Beloved Disciple were two different people appearing simultaneously in the same place, at the same time. Consequently, Mary Magdalene and the male Beloved Disciple appear together in the Fourth Gospel in only two passages -- 19:25-27 (at the foot of the Cross) and 20:1-11 (at the Empty Tomb on Sunday morning). ...Isn't that interesting? And it is precisely at these two points that we find some major structural inconsistencies within the text of the Fourth Gospel. Brown discusses the inconsistencies in both of these passages. (That shows that I'm not just reading inconsistencies into passages that have none.) Notably, Brown finds no such structural defects in any of the other passages which contain references to the Beloved Disciple.


The passage from the Fourth Gospel which has Mary Magdalene and the Beloved Disciple together at the foot of the Cross reads as follows:
**Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said... (John 19:25ff)**

I cut the passage here in order to make a point. The structure of this pericope is very puzzling. In the first sentence (v. 25) we read a list of women standing by the Cross of Jesus. In the second sentence (v. 26) the writer seems to refer to the aforementioned list of women at the Cross when he calls one of them "the disciple whom (Jesus) loved." If one were to read only the portion of the passage cited above, one would readily assume that the Beloved Disciple is one of the women standing by the cross with Jesus' mother. (Read it over to yourself and see if you don't agree.)

The entire passage reads as follows:
**Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son," and to the disciple, "Here is your mother." From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. (John 19:25-27)**

The original pre-Gospel version of this passage probably referred to Mary Magdalene as the disciple whom Jesus loved. Through the use of masculine determiners and cases (in Greek), the redactor was able to change the Beloved Disciple into the anonymous male seemingly in mid-thought. The structure of this passage seems a little forced and indicates that it was probably altered as I have asserted.

Brown in no way posits the thesis proposed by me here. However, he did notice the inconsistency between v. 25 and vss. 26-27. At one point in his discussion of this passage he questions why the Beloved Disciple was not included in the list of people standing by the cross in v. 25 (Brown 1970: 922). He noted that the mother of Jesus and the Beloved Disciple were not listed by the other three Gospels as having stood by the cross. He concluded that the mother of Jesus "was specifically mentioned in the tradition that came to the evangelist, as seen in vs. 25, but that the reference to the Beloved a supplement to the tradition" (Brown 1970: 922). Brown sensed, for reasons other than those posited here, that the "Beloved Disciple" seemed oddly out of place in this passage.

If we compare John 19:25-27 with the passage from the Gospel of Philip cited previously, we notice some striking similarities.
**There were three who always walked with the Lord: Mary his mother and her sister and Magdalene, the one who was called his companion. His sister and his mother and his companion were each a Mary (NHC II.3.59.6-11) (Robinson 1988: 145).**

The Gospel of Philip makes reference to the same group of women that are standing by the Cross in the Fourth Gospel. However, the Gospel of Philip clearly cites Mary Magdalene as the "companion" of Jesus. Brown's explanation for this similarity is that the Gnostic writers were somehow influenced by the Fourth Gospel into making Mary Magdalene the disciple whom Jesus loved the most (1979: 154). In other words, as stated previously, he argues that what we read in the Gospel of Philip is a reaction to what is written in the canonical Fourth Gospel. This is highly unlikely. Asserting that the writer of the Gospel of Philip responded in this way to the Fourth Gospel does not explain why the structural inconsistency appears in this Fourth Gospel passage in the first place. Furthermore, Brown argues that the Gnostics made Mary Magdalene into the Beloved Disciple in response to her portrayal in the Fourth Gospel. However, he does not attempt to explain why the name of the Beloved Disciple in the Fourth Gospel is veiled in secrecy in the first place. I believe that the more plausible explanation is that the Gnostic literature cited here reflects the earlier tradition. The redactor of the Fourth Gospel modified that tradition for the reasons stated above.

The Fourth Gospel passage which has Mary Magdalene and the Beloved Disciple together at the Empty Tomb reads as follows:
**Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don't know where they have put him!"

So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus' head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. Finally, the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) Then the disciples went back to their homes, but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. (John 20:1-11)**

The structural inconsistencies in this passage are glaring. In his discussion of this pericope Brown observes that "there are an extraordinary number of inconsistencies that betray the hand of an editor who has achieved organization by combining disparate material" (1970: 995). This pericope has also been described as containing "both high drama and confused choreography" (Setzer: 262).

In his comments on John 20:1-11, Brown cites several inconsistencies. One, in particular, that is worth looking at for the purposes of this study is this observation by Brown: "It is not clear when or how Magdalene got back to the tomb in (v.) 11" (1970: 995). Brown notices that there is a broken trail in the travels of Mary Magdalene from one place to another in this pericope:
•   In v. 2 Mary Magdalene runs AWAY from the tomb to Peter and the "other disciple" to tell them that the body of Jesus was missing from the tomb. At this point, Mary Magdalene is AWAY from the tomb along with Peter and the "other disciple."
•   In v. 3 Peter and the "other disciple" run to the tomb. Mary Magdalene is not mentioned as having returned to the tomb with the two men. She has stayed behind -- still AWAY from the tomb.
•   In v. 11 Mary Magdalene is abruptly portrayed as remaining behind weeping at the tomb. However, there is no account of her returning to the tomb in this scene after telling Peter and the "other disciple" that the body of Jesus was missing.

When did Mary Magdalene return to the tomb? The reader loses track of her trail between v. 2 and v. 11. Brown noticed this (1970: 995). I assert that this inconsistency is due to the insertion of her alter ego, the male Beloved Disciple, in vss. 2 thru 10. It is obvious that this passage has had some extensive re-editing done to it. The redactor's effort to conceal the identity of Mary Magdalene as the Beloved Disciple, and make two individuals out of one, has created a muddled account of the Magdalene's whereabouts between vss. 2 and 10 in this passage.

Brown maintains that this passage "has undergone considerable development" (1970: 1001). He considers the possibility that Luke 24:12 reflects an earlier tradition in which Peter runs to the tomb without the other disciple. A pre-canonical version of the Fourth Gospel may have reflected this before the redactor reworked it. Brown asserts that the insertion of the Beloved Disciple into the scene in John 20 was the work of the redactor. In fact, he maintains that it is precisely the introduction of the Beloved Disciple into this text that has caused the inconsistencies which I've discussed here (Brown 1970: 1001).

Setzer describes the insertion of the Beloved Disciple in this passage as a "contrivance" (262). She notes, as does Brown, that the account of Peter and the Beloved Disciple running to the tomb together is "sandwiched between" Mary Magdalene's initial discovery of the Empty Tomb and her first encounter with the Risen Jesus. She asserts that this "contrivance" let the Gospel retain the tradition that Mary Magdalene was the first to discover the Empty Tomb while still giving the Beloved Disciple prominence as the first person to reach the Empty Tomb and believe that Jesus has risen (Setzer: 262).

Setzer's observation is very consistent with the hypothesis that I've proposed here. My thesis also alleges a contrivance on the part of the final editor of the Fourth Gospel. The redactor wanted to maintain that the Gospel was based on the eyewitness testimony of his community's founder and hero. However, he did not wish to admit that this founder and hero was a woman. Yet, he could not very well deny Mary Magdalene's presence at the Crucifixion and the Empty Tomb. So, his "contrivance," as Setzer puts it, was to change Mary Magdalene into an anonymous male disciple throughout the text except in those places where he could not deny her presence due to the strong prior tradition to the contrary. In those scenes, he placed the Beloved Disciple and Mary Magdalene together in the same passages. This accounts for the structural inconsistencies, the confused choreography, and the apparent contrivance.

One other inconsistency which Brown points out (1970: 995) is worth noting here:
**Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) (John 20:8-9)**

The contrast between "he saw and believed" in v. 8 and "they still did not understand" in v. 9 is peculiar. Verse 9 is clearly making reference to verse 8. However, the reference is contradictory. This appears to be an attempt to blend two different traditions: one in which the disciples did not immediately understand, or believe in, the Resurrection (Matthew 28:17; Mark 16:11,13; Luke 24:11), and another in which Mary Magdalene, changed here to the "other disciple," instantly perceives the truth (Matthew 28:1,8; Mark 16:9; Luke 24:10).


Brown draws many conclusions in his research which are consistent with my thesis. Indeed, everything in Brown's profile of the Beloved Disciple is compatible with what is known about Mary Magdalene -- that is, except for her gender.

Brown notes that "the Johannine attitude toward women was quite different from that attested in other first-century Christian churches." He adds: "The unique place given to women (as proclaimers) in the Fourth Gospel reflects the history, the theology, and the values of the Johannine community" (Brown 1979: 183). May I respectfully suggest an additional explanation? Perhaps, the unique place given to women in the Fourth Gospel is due to its having been originally authored by a woman.

Brown suggests that the Johannine picture becomes more understandable if the Beloved Disciple had been a disciple of John the Baptist, and if the disciple began to follow Jesus when Jesus was in fellowship with the Baptist (1979: 32-34). This is certainly a plausible scenario which does not contradict my thesis.

Brown also notes that the Fourth Gospel contains many accurate references to Holy Land places and customs (1979: 22). These references suggest eyewitness authorship by someone who lived in the Holy Land before the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70. All of these observations by Brown are consistent with a paradigm that includes Mary Magdalene as the author of the Fourth Gospel.

Another factor which tends to support my thesis is the "one-upmanship" of the Beloved Disciple in relation to Peter in the Fourth Gospel (Brown 1979: 31). The juxtapositional relationship between Peter and the Beloved Disciple in the Fourth Gospel is very similar to the relationship between Peter and Mary Magdalene in the Nag Hammadi Corpus. This suggests that the redactor of the Fourth Gospel changed Mary Magdalene into the anonymous male disciple but kept the competition motif between the disciple and Peter.

Brown has observed that very often in the Fourth Gospel the Beloved Disciple is explicitly contrasted with Peter. Some of the examples that he points out (Brown 1979: 82-83) are as follows:
•   in 13:23-26 the Beloved Disciple is resting on Jesus' chest while Peter has to petition the Disciple to ask Jesus a question for him;
•   in 18:15-16 the Beloved Disciple has access to the high priest's palace while Peter does not;
•   in 20:2-10 the Beloved Disciple immediately believes in the Resurrection while Peter and the rest of the disciples do not understand;
•   in 21:7 the Beloved Disciple is the only one who recognizes the Risen Christ while he speaks from the shore to the disciples on their fishing boat;
•   in 21:20-23 Peter jealously asks Jesus about the fate of the Beloved Disciple.

The writings of the Nag Hammadi Library contain this same kind of "one-upmanship" between Peter and Mary Magdalene:
•   the Gospel of Mary portrays Peter as being jealous of the revelations that the Magdalene got from the Risen Christ (NHC BG 8502.1.17.7ff) (Robinson 1988: 526-527);
•   the Gospel of Thomas has Peter saying the following about the Magdalene: "Let Mary leave us, for women are not worthy of life" (NHC II.2.51.19-20) (Robinson 1988: 138);
•   in the Gospel of Philip the relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene is contrasted with Jesus' relationship with the rest of the disciples (NHC II.3.63.32ff) (Robinson 1977: 138; 1988: 148);
•   similar examples of Peter being upstaged by Mary Magdalene occur in the Gospel of the Egyptians and Pistis Sophia (Gnostic documents found prior to the discovery of the Nag Hammadi Library).


Positing Mary Magdalene as author of the Fourth Gospel does not challenge its apostolic origin. If Mary Magdalene was the leader and hero of the Fourth Gospel's community, then she was probably recognized as an Apostle within that community. Indeed, in recognition of the fact that she was the first to proclaim the Resurrection of Christ, the Roman Catholic Church has honored her with the title apostola apostolorum which means "the apostle to the apostles."

In proposing this thesis I am certainly not challenging the integrity of the Fourth Gospel. Nor do I impute specious intent upon any of the Gospel's redactors. It is well known today that the Bible is replete with pseudonymous writings: a common practice in antiquity which was not viewed as dishonest. Despite the redactions and the inconsistencies they may have caused -- the intention of the author, the evangelist, and any subsequent redactors was to proclaim the gospel "in such fashion that they told us the honest truth about Jesus" (Dei Verbum, n. 19) (Abbott: 124). They also preserved "without error that truth which God wanted put into the sacred writings for the sake of our salvation" (Dei Verbum, n. 11) (Abbott: 119). In other words, in concealing the identity of the Beloved Disciple, or making that disciple male rather than female, the redactor was not tampering with any essential tenet of the gospel of Jesus. Therefore, the redactor of the Fourth Gospel was still dispensing the Truth.

Readers should also refrain from assuming or inferring that Jesus and Mary Magdalene had any kind of illicit amorous relationship based on any of the readings cited here. We should not be too quick to look at ancient literature through a "modern lens."

I am certainly making no claim of possessing the final word on this issue. However, the conclusions of this study do not come under the rubric of the "overly imaginative deductions about ecclesiastical history" that Brown warns us about (1979: 19). There are some very compelling reasons for considering the possibility of Mary Magdalene's authorship of the Fourth Gospel:
•   there is solid extrabiblical documentary evidence which establishes a strong tradition among, at least some, Gnostic Christians naming Mary Magdalene as the disciple whom Jesus loved the most. This is strong external evidence which corroborates the identification of Mary Magdalene as the Beloved Disciple;
•   there is a well-established historical link between the Fourth Gospel and Gnostic Christians which predates both the canonization of the Fourth Gospel and the ascription of its authorship to John of Zebedee (Perkins: 946). This corroborates the hypothesis which says that the Secessionists of the Johannine Community brought their pre-canonical Fourth Gospel with them into the Gnostic Christian communities after the schism;
•   there is the strong internal evidence which shows extensive structural inconsistencies in the two passages of the Fourth Gospel which contain both Mary Magdalene and the Beloved Disciple appearing together. This corroborates the hypothesis which says that a redactor re-edited prior pre-canonical versions of the Fourth Gospel as discussed above;
•   the "one-upmanship" of the Beloved Disciple in relation to Peter in the Fourth Gospel is very similar to the relationship between Peter and Mary Magdalene in the Nag Hammadi Corpus. This helps to corroborate the hypothesis which says that the Fourth Gospel's Beloved Disciple and Mary Magdalene are, in reality, one and the same;
•   there are many accurate references in the Fourth Gospel to Holy Land places and customs which denote eyewitness authorship by someone who lived in the Holy Land before the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70 (Brown 1979: 22). Mary Magdalene was most certainly in a position to give very vivid and accurate eyewitness accounts of the events depicted in the Fourth Gospel. This might explain some striking differences between the Fourth Gospel and the Synoptic Gospels which, according to most biblical scholars, were pseudonymous and not written by eyewitnesses;
•   the unique place given to women as proclaimers in the Fourth Gospel was quite different from that of other first-century Christian churches (Brown 1979: 183). This is very consistent with the hypothesis which says that the Fourth Gospel was, in fact, authored by a woman -- i.e., Mary Magdalene.

Well...I hope that the preceding material has been a "good read" for you. I know that my hypothesis will seem very radical to you -- at least at first. However, before you dismiss it, I want you to consider a few things.

Does this thesis seem radical to you only because I propose that a woman authored one of the four Holy Gospels in the Bible? If I had a thesis which proposed that Bartholomew, or Andrew, or James, or any of the other male apostles authored the Fourth Gospel instead of John -- would that be considered very radical? Probably not. In fact, the church has no problem with the prevailing scholarship which says that a man whose name we don't even know wrote one of the most sacred Christian documents. Imagine -- even a nameless man is preferable to a woman.

What about all of the evidence that I have reviewed for you? Compare that to the basis for which authorship of the Fourth Gospel has been ascribed to John of Zebedee for almost 2,000 years. Most biblical scholars reject that evidence today. (Remember? It was the childhood recollections of Irenaeus.) That is why John's Gospel is considered anonymous by them today. But, alas, the standard of proof for establishing a woman as the author of a Gospel is much, much higher. Gnostic documents and structural inconsistencies notwithstanding -- the church-at-large will probably never acknowledge Mary Magdalene as an author of a New Testament Gospel.

Perhaps things haven't really changed that much since the earliest days of the church. Maybe authorship of a Gospel by a woman is still the embarrassment that Setzer says it would have been 2,000 years ago.

Here's something else to think about: Why is Mary Magdalene the most famous harlot in the world when the Bible never says that she was ever a prostitute at any time? Oh, you are sure you recall reading that in the Bible, are you? ...Find it. Send me the biblical citation and I will post it on this website. You'll find my e-mail address further down.

Raymond Brown has likened the quest to identify the author of the Fourth Gospel to a good detective story (1966: lxxxvii). A good detective sifts through evidence which is relevant and discards that which is not. When the evidence begins to point in a certain direction, he or she pursues leads and explores all of the various explanations and alibis. When one theory emerges as plausible and more credible than any other, the detective draws a conclusion that usually involves the naming of a suspect or suspects. The evidence supporting authorship of the Fourth Gospel by Mary Magdalene is much stronger than that which established John of Zebedee as its author for nearly two thousand years. After careful consideration of the evidence cited herein, I respectfully submit that the "prime suspect" in any quest to identify the author of the Fourth Gospel should be Mary Magdalene.


Abbott, Walter M., gen. ed.
1966. The Documents of Vatican II. New York: Guild Press.

Brown, Raymond E.
1979. The Community of the Beloved Disciple. New York: Paulist Press.

1970. The Gospel According to John (xiii-xxi). New York: Doubleday & Co.

1966. The Gospel According to John (i-xii). New York: Doubleday & Co.

Brown, Raymond E., and Raymond F. Collins.
1990. Canonicity, pp. 1034-1054 in The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, edited by Raymond E. Brown, et al. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Haskins, Susan.
1993. Mary Magdalen: Myth and Metaphor. New York: Harper Collins.

Perkins, Pheme.
1990. The Gospel According to John, pp. 942-985 in The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, edited by Raymond E. Brown, et al. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Robinson, James M., gen. ed.
1988. The Nag Hammadi Library in English. Revised edition. San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row.

1977. The Nag Hammadi Library in English. San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row.

Setzer, Claudia.
1997. Excellent Women: Female Witnesses to the Resurrection, Journal of Biblical Literature 116:259-272.


Copyright © 1998 -- Ramon K. Jusino
Email me with your questions and/or comments.
My e-mail address:

Posted: July 13, 1998
All biblical citations taken from HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION - © 1973, 1978 by the International Bible Society, used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

Published pursuant to Canon 218 of the New Code of Canon Law of the Roman Catholic Church.
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Mia Knight
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« Reply #27 on: April 06, 2007, 12:08:27 am »

St. Mary Magdalene Church
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Mia Knight
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« Reply #28 on: April 06, 2007, 12:13:37 am »

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« Reply #29 on: May 15, 2007, 11:11:15 am »

Gnostic Gospels are the only written evidence of Jesus and Mary.
The dead sea scrolls say nothing about the connection, nor do they even mention Jesus.
That makes this part of the Da Vinci code a myth......
This has been confirmed..
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