with notes of Mary of Magdala (more famously known as “Gospel of Mary”)
(blog admin’s note: Last Wednesday, while looking at what news organizations had to say about events preceding the arrest of Jesus of Nazareth 2,000 years ago, i accidentally came across the following in-depth investigation by the National Geographic (previously embedded here as video in the Holy Wednesday post) and a comprehensive report by the British Broadcasting Corporation)
Following is a summary of the National Geographic investigation (see National Geographic episode embedded in the Holy Wednesday blogpost) of “Holy Week” events 2,000 years ago, and who Mary of Magdala was, based on a study of the ancient texts and interviews of scholars —
to summarize: 1. It is most likely that Jesus of Nazareth, being popular, had more than twelve followers. 2. The Bible mentions at least 15 individuals who constantly followed him and consistently supported him. 3. Of these 15, three were women who provided food and the provisions that allowed Jesus and his contingent to physically survive and continue with their work. 4. Of the three, one was known as Mary of Magdala. 5.Unrelated to the 15 followers, there were three female persons unnamed in the Bible who figured in the Gospels: a) one was said to have committed adultery; b) one was said to be a repentant “prostitute”; c) and one was said to be “sinful” and washed Jesus’s feet with her tears (on “Holy Wednesday”, see previous blogpost); 6. Pope Gregory “the Great” in the 6th Century (for reasons known only to him – blog admin) declared in a sermon that these three unnamed female individuals were one and the same person and none other than: Mary Magdalene. In 1969 however the Catholic Church quietly declared that Mary Magdalene was not a prostitute at all (bbc.com; etc.); but to this day, the reputation as blackened and destroyed by Gregory “the Great” remains. The following are excerpts from an investigation by the bbc.com (British Broadcasting Corporation): “Mary Magdalene is mentioned in each of the four gospels in the New Testament, but not once does it mention that she was a prostitute or a sinner. At some point Mary Magdalene became confused with two other women in the Bible: Mary, the sister of Martha, and the unnamed sinner from Luke’s gospel (7:36-50) both of whom wash Jesus’ feet with their hair. In the 6th Century, Pope Gregory the Great made this assumption official by declaring in a sermon that these three characters were actually the same person: Mary Magdalene, repentant saint. The Catholic Church did later declare that Mary Magdalene was not the penitent sinner, but this was not until 1969. After so long the reputation still lingers. “Mary Magdalene is considered a saint by the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, and Lutheran churches with a feast day of 22nd July. The Eastern Orthodox churches also commemorate her on the Sunday of the Myrrhbearers which is the second Sunday after Pascha (Easter). She is also an important figure in the Bahá’í faith. xxx Mary of Magdala “Although we know something about Jewish society in ancient Palestine 2,000 years ago, we know very little about Mary herself. The Bible provides no personal details of her age, status or family. “Her name, Mary Magdalene, gives us the first real clue about her. It suggests that she came from a town called Magdala. There is a place today called Magdala, 120 miles north of Jerusalem on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. We do know there was also an ancient place called Magdala from literature. The name occurs in the New Testament, and also in Jewish texts. Its full name is Magdala Tarichaea. Magdala seems to mean tower, and Tarichaea means salted fish. If the name of the town was Tower of Salted Fish, it’s no surprise that its main business was fishing. As a woman living in Magdala, Mary may have worked in the fish markets. (blog admin’s note: On Luke’s testimony that “seven demons” were cast out of Mary of Magdala by Jesus of Nazareth, the National Geographic interviews of the scholars established that during those times, anybody who had any kind of sickness or ailment was said to have been infected by demons, and when they were healed, it was said that demons have been cast out of them). xxx “Luke chapter 8, tells us that Mary was one of Jesus’ followers and travelled with him. “Apocryphal texts “But the Bible isn’t the only source. In 1945 at Nag Hammadi, in southern Egypt, two men came across a sealed ceramic jar. Inside, they discovered a hoard of ancient papyrus books. Although they never received as much public attention as the Dead Sea Scrolls, these actually turn out to be much more important for writing the history of early Christianity. They are a cache of Christian texts. “The Nag Hammadi texts tell us about early Christians. They were written in Coptic, the language of early Christian Egypt. As most ancient Christian texts have been lost, this discovery was exceptional. “The discovery includes the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Philip and the Acts of Peter. None of these texts were included in the Bible, because the content didn’t conform to Christian doctrine, and they’re referred to as apocryphal. They tend to concentrate on things that one doesn’t read about in the Bible. For example, New Testament gospels report that after the resurrection Jesus spent some time talking with the disciples, but you don’t learn much about what he said. In the gospels of Nag Hammadi you can read what he said. (bas relief by Sister Peggy Beaudette used here non-commercially for academic purposes)
bbc.com: xxx “For the first time in hundreds of years there was a new source of information about Mary Magdalene. She appears very frequently as one of the prominent disciples of Jesus. In certain texts where Jesus is in discussion with his disciples, Mary Magdalene asks many informed questions. Whereas the other disciples at times seem confused, she is the one who understands. “One of the documents discovered at Nag Hammadi is the Gospel of Philip, in which Mary Magdalene is a key figure. It has been the cause of one of the most controversial claims ever made about her. “Mary Magdalene appears in this text also not only as the disciple he loved most but also as a symbolic figure of heavenly wisdom. These stories of Mary – as Jesus’ closest companion and a symbol of heavenly wisdom – are in sharp contrast with the Mary Magdalene of popular imagination. “ “Apocryphal” took on very negative connotations, especially in comparison to the Bible. It often means that it’s not to be read, not to be taken seriously, not to be considered, not true. The contents of these books are regarded by many people as legends. So can we believe the Gospel of Philip? Was Mary really Jesus’ closest companion? Well, there is other evidence for this, and some of it is even in the Bible itself. xxx “Mary’s biggest moment “The Bible says that Mary Magdalene was present at the two most important moments in the story of Jesus: the crucifixion and the resurrection. Mary Magdalene was a prominent figure at both these events.
“We’re told that Mary Magdalene was one of the women who kept vigil at Jesus’ tomb. It was customary at this time for Jewish women to prepare bodies for burial. Corpses were considered unclean, and so it was always a woman’s task to handle them.
“When Mary goes to the tomb, Jesus’ body is no longer there. The fullest account of Mary’s role after discovering the empty tomb is in the Gospel of John. She is in a state of shock and runs to where the disciples are gathered to tell them the news. When she reports to the disciples she is not believed. Peter and another disciple return with her to the tomb, to see for themselves.
“When they enter, Peter reacts to the sight of the discarded linen burial cloth with anger and dismay. But the other disciple understands what has happened and concludes that Jesus must have risen from the dead.
“The two of them leave without a backward glance at Mary.
“Then, something even more extraordinary happens. It is Mary Magdalene’s biggest moment.
“Mary is alone when someone asks her why she’s crying. She believes it’s the gardener, and says, “they have taken my lord’s body and I do not know where it is”. The figure says her name. And then she sees Jesus. She is overwhelmed and says “Master!” and goes forward to reach out to him, but he stops her. He says “don’t touch me”. Instead, she must go to the others and tell them that he has risen from the dead. It’s an awesome moment. Jesus stands before her, yet he’s beyond her reach. “We cannot say if Jesus really stood before her resurrected, or if Mary simply believed she had seen him. But either way, in this one moment, Mary’s experience took the movement in an important new direction. “A new concept developed, which had nothing to with what Jesus himself was preaching, and this is the concept that Jesus didn’t die – or he did but he was raised from the dead. The movement is not a failure. It is in fact a great success. The person who declares this is Mary Magdalene. “Jesus’ resurrection was the turning point for Christianity. This was when it changed from a small movement to a whole new religion. And Mary Magdalene was a key figure in this event. “You might think, then, that at the very least Mary would be recognised as an apostle – one of the early missionaries who founded the religion – as she seems to meet all the criteria set out in the Bible. “The Gospel of Mary “The reason why she is not perhaps lies in another long lost apocryphal text. In a Cairo bazaar in 1896, a German scholar happened to come across a curious papyrus book. Bound in leather and written in Coptic, this was the Gospel of Mary. “Like the books found at Nag Hammadi, the Gospel according to Mary Magdalene is also considered an apocryphal text. The story it contains begins some time after the resurrection. The disciples have just had a vision of Jesus. “Jesus has encouraged his disciples to go out and preach his teachings to the world, but they are afraid to do so because he was killed for it, and they say “if they killed him, they are going to kill us too”. It’s Mary who steps forward and says: don’t be worried, he promised he would be with us to protect us. It says she turns their hearts toward the good and they begin to discuss the words of the Saviour. “In texts like the Gospel of Philip, Mary was presented as a symbol of wisdom. However in the Gospel of Mary, she is the one in charge, telling the disciples about Jesus’ teachings. “At this point Peter asks Mary to tell them some things that she might have heard, but which the other disciples haven’t. She says “Yes, I will tell you what has been hidden from you”. She talks about a vision she had of Jesus and a conversation that she had with him. As the Gospel tells it, Mary then relates the details of this conversation, which is to do with spiritual development and the soul’s lifelong battle with evil. “At this point controversy arises, and Andrew steps in and says “well, I don’t know what the rest of you think, but these things seem very strange to me, and it seems that she’s telling us teachings that are different from the Saviour.” Peter then chimes in and he says, “Are we supposed to now all turn around and listen to her? Would Jesus have spoken privately with a woman rather than openly to us? Did he prefer her to us?” “Matthew defends Mary and quells Peter’s attack on her. In the text, Peter’s problem seems to be that Jesus selected Mary above the other disciples to interpret his teachings. Peter sees Mary as a rival for the leadership of the group itself. “Peter need not have feared. Most people think of Peter as the rock upon which the church was established. He is the main or major disciple figure, and Mary Magdalene is a kind of side figure in the cast of characters. “One of the absolutely fascinating things about the Gospel of Mary is it really asks us to rethink that story about Christian history: did all the disciples get it? Did they really understand and preach the truth? “Perhaps the Gospel of Mary was just too radical. It presents Mary as a teacher and spiritual guide to the other disciples. She’s not just a disciple; she’s the apostle to the apostles.” From the British Broadcasting Corporation at:http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/christianity/history/marymagdalene.shtml