The Gospel of Mary Magdalene
The Gospel of Mary Magdalene by Karen L King came out in 2004. German Scholar Dr. Carl Reinhardt bought a copy of The Gospel of Mary Magdalene in 1896 in Cairo, Egypt at an antiquities market. It was in the language of Coptic, but was originally written in Greek. It was a codex on Papyrus rolled into sheets that were stacked and placed into a leather cover. The Greek fragment of the Gospel of Mary was also discovered. It was put in Ryland’s Library in Manchester, England in 1917. Then it was published in 1938.
In The Gospel of Mary Magdalene there is no hell or eternal punishment mentioned. God is the Good and not a father or male figure. Jesus says that there is no sin or crime against God. The end result is that the Gospel of Mary does not teach that people need to suffer in order to gain salvation, nor do people deserve to suffer because they sin.
The Gospel of Mary is different in themes, but the language and style of writing is similar to the canonical gospels. It also reveals the words and life of Jesus, but it disagrees with Paul’s version.
The Apostles mentioned were Levi, Andrew, Peter and Mary in the Gospel of Mary. Levi is a tax collector and defender of Mary. He was not in the Gospel of John, but was in the Gospel of Phillip. Andrew is the brother of Peter and a follower of John the Baptist. Peter is also Simon and a Cephas Fisherman. He was married and traveled through out Asia. He denies Jesus, but is one of the apostles to see Christ rise.
It is missing six pages and opens in the middle of the scene so the circumstances are unclear. King believes, however, that references to the death of the Savior and the commissioning scene later in the narrative indicate the setting in the first section of the text is a post resurrection appearance of the Savior.
As the narrative opens, the Savior is engaged in dialogue with his disciples, answering their questions on the nature of matter and the nature of sin. At the end of the discussion, the Savior departs leaving the disciples distraught and anxious. According to the story, Mary speaks up with words of comfort and encouragement. Then Peter asks Mary to share with them any special teaching she received from the Savior, “Peter said to Mary, ‘Sister, we know that the Savior loved you more than the rest of the women. Tell us the words of the Savior which you remember—which you know (but) we do not, nor have we heard them.” Mary responds to Peter’s request by recounting a conversation she had with the Savior about visions.
(Mary) said, “I saw the Lord in a vision and I said to him, ‘Lord, I saw you today in a vision.’” He answered and said to me: “Blessed are you that you did not waver at the sight of me. For where the mind is, there is the treasure.” I said to him, “So now, Lord, does a person who sees a vision see it <through> the soul <or> through the spirit?”
In the conversation, the Savior teaches that the inner self is composed of soul, spirit/mind, and a third mind that is between the two which sees the vision. Then the text breaks off and the next four pages are missing. When the narrative resumes, Mary is no longer recalling her discussion with the Savior. She is instead recounting the revelation given to her in her vision. The revelation describes an ascent of a soul, which as it passes on its way to its final rest, engages in dialogue with four powers that try to stop it.
Her vision does not meet with universal approval. Andrew answered and said to the brethren, “Say what you think concerning what she said. For I do not believe that the Savior said this. For certainly these teachings are of other ideas.”
Peter also opposed her in regard to these matters and asked them about the Savior. “Did he then speak secretly with a woman, in preference to us, and not openly? Are we to turn back and all listen to her? Did he prefer her to us?”
However Levi defends Mary Magdalene and quells Peter’s attack on her. In the text, Peter appears to be offended by the discovery that Jesus selected Mary above the other disciples to interpret his teachings.
Karen King never calls The Gospel of Mary a Gnostic Text. Gnosticism didn’t exist as a specific order. It meant a group that committed heresy against the early church. The label means nothing here, so King never uses it. But it does represent many of the principles that have come to be known as Gnostic.
Karen King considers the work to provide, “an intriguing glimpse into a kind of Christianity lost for almost fifteen hundred years…[it] presents a radical interpretation of Jesus’ teachings as a path to inner spiritual knowledge; it rejects His suffering and death as the path to eternal life; it exposes the erroneous view that Mary of Magdala was a prostitute for what it is—a piece of theological fiction; it presents the most straightforward and convincing argument in any early Christian writing for the legitimacy of women’s leadership; it offers a sharp critique of illegitimate power and a utopian vision of spiritual perfection; it challenges our rather romantic views about the harmony and unanimity of the first Christians; and it asks us to rethink the basis for church authority.”