The Gospel of Mary Magdalene
The Gnostics claim they had been given a secret knowledge which had been hidden from others. They even believed they had a Different Knowledge Than Given to the Apostles. These Gnostics alone possessed a knowledge of secret teachings of Jesus which He did not even share with the Twelve. According to the Gospel of Mary Magdalene even Peter admitted Mary possess more intimate, inner spiritual knowledge than he did. “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’” (5:5-7). Later this gospel has Peter complaining to the other disciples about Mary’s special knowledge. “He (Peter, drv) questioned them about the Savior: ‘Did He really speak privately with a woman and not openly to us? Are we to turn about and all listen to her? Did He prefer her to us?’” (9:4).
However, in the Gospel of John, Jesus Himself promised the apostles, they were to receive all the knowledge they needed to fulfill their commission. “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you…But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me…However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come” (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13).
This spurious gospel teaches a Different Afterlife. Jesus shares some radical new knowledge with Mary about the third mind which allows one to see a vision. In the vision the soul encounters seven powers which question the soul. “The first form is darkness, the second desire, the third ignorance, the fourth is the excitement of death, the fifth is the kingdom of the flesh, the sixth is the foolish wisdom of flesh, the seventh is the wrathful wisdom. These are the seven powers of wrath” (8:19). After this the soul is able to ascend to a place of rest and silence. “In a aeon I was released from a world, and in a type from a type, and from the fetter of oblivion which is transient. From this time on will I attain to the rest of the time, of the season, of the aeon, in silence” (8:23,24). This is the ultimate or final resting place for the soul. It is akin to the Buddhists’ Nirvana which is a resting place of the enlightened ones. Next, Andrew rejects the idea that Jesus would have ever taught these strange doctrines. “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” (9:2,3).
The Gospel of Mary also proclaims a Different Form of Church Leadership. Mary claims to have special knowledge from Jesus. The idea that Jesus picked Mary over the other disciples is offensive to Peter. “He questioned them about the Savior: Did He really speak privately with a woman and not openly to us? 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 have thought this up myself in my heart, or that I am lying about the Savior?” (9:4-5). Matthew, called Levi, tries to calm the situation. “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” (9:6-9).
Mary Magdalene’s “gospel” reflects the gnostic view that women could serve the church as leaders, such as, prophetesses, preachers, etc. In fact the Gnostics referred to Mary as the thirteenth apostle. “The confrontation of Mary with Peter, [which is] a scenario also found in The Gospel of Thomas, Pistis Sophia, and the Coptic Gospel of the Egyptians. Peter and Andrew represent orthodox positions which deny the validity of esoteric revelation and reject the authority of women to teach” (King). However, the Gospel of Mary Magdalene never clearly states that Jesus ever selected her to be a leader of the early church.
In contrast to the Gnostic view of women in church leadership, Paul states that women are not to be in roles where they either teach or have authority over men. “In like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works. Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.” (1 Timothy 2:9f)
In Mary’s Gospel Jesus warns the disciples not to establish additional laws after His departure. “…as He commanded us and preach the gospel, not laying down any other rule or other law beyond what the Savior said. And when they heard this they began to go forth to proclaim and to preach” (9:9,10). The Gospel of Mary Magdalene ends with the apostles obeying Jesus’ final command. This Gnostic Gospel is in sharp contrast with the commands and promises given to the disciples given on the night of Jesus’ betrayal. He said, “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you” (John 16:13-15). Therefore, the Gospel of Mary teaches a Different View on Apostolic Authority.
A Fabricated Character
▸ Mary an Apostle
Why did the Gnostics of the second century fabricate a fictional story surrounding Mary Magdalene? It appears they wanted to undermine the teachings of the apostles and elevate Mary to the level of apostleship. Even today Mary is venerated by the Eastern Orthodox, the Catholic, and the Anglican churches as a saint. The twenty-second of July is considered her feast day. The Roman Catholic Church has called her apostola apostolorum, the Apostle of the Apostles. In Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code Mary is portrayed as along the lines of Gnostic teachings represent a “true” Christianity in contrast with “patriarchal” Christianity.
▸ Mary Married to Jesus
The Gnostics portray Mary Magdalene as having a close and even intimate relationship with Jesus. The Gospel of Philip is used today to claim Jesus had a wife named Mary Magdalene. Dan Brown has said, “the marriage of Jesus and Mary Magdalene is part of the historical record” (Brown 245). A fragment of papyrus has been found with the phrase: “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife.’” This has been coupled with Peter’s statement to Mary in the Gospel of Mary Magdalene: “Sister, we know that the Savior loved you more than the rest of the women” (5:5) as proof she and Jesus were involved in a romantic relationship. Note the Gnostic Gospel never has Mary and Jesus alone
When Jesus was crucified there were three Mary’s present at the cross (John 19:25-27). Jesus speaks out concerning His mother and her future care. However, He says nothing about Mary Magdalene. This would be an odd omission of loving concern, if the two were in fact married. Yet, even if the two were married or even very close friends this would in no way undermine the authority given to the apostles or exalt her to a position of authority in the Kingdom of God.
▸ Mary Buried in Jesus’ Family Tomb
In the documentary called The Jesus Family Tomb, Mary Magdalene’s “real name” is claimed to be Mariamne; therefore, the bones in the ossuary marked “mariamne” must have belonged to Mary Magdalene. The documentary has made some wild assumptions. First, they assume the tomb they found was actually the family tomb of Jesus. The second assumption is that this “mariamne” was the same Mary Magdalene found in the Gospels. Mary was a very common name in the New Testament. Six different Mary’s are mentioned. There is no evidence that the Gospel of Mary Magdalene is inspired by God and should be included in the New Testament on a par with the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. It is a fictionalization of a Bible character and a pseudepigraphal work by the Gnostic heretics of the second century in an attempt to undermine New Testament Christianity.
– Daniel R. Vess