In the age of #YesAllWomen and #MeToo, I believe that it is important to look at how women are portrayed today, and how they were portrayed in the past. Mary, the Magdalene, is a woman branded by history as something she probably wasn't at all - a prostitute, an 'easy' woman, a whore as modern-day people might describe her.
Yet upon reading the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, one's views may change, if only a little. While it's never been an official or unofficial gospel, the fragmented pieces of writing today known as the Gospel of Mary Magdalene shed a light on the Magdalene's role... And it may be different from what you expect...
A large part of the Gospel of Mary Magdalene is missing, including the parts that directly follow the quote I've included further down. Yet Mary who hailed from the town of Magdala on the Lake of Galilee, judging by the Gospel that bears her name, was one hell of an interesting woman. The Gospel was written in Sahidic Coptic, a dialect of Coptic that used the Greek alphabet (with a few additions) and was the leading Coptic dialect in pre-Islamic times, as well as the dialect in which most Coptic texts were written. The Gospel of Mary was written around the time of the other more well-known Gospels, yet is not included in today's version of the Christian Bible, nor in the Apocrypha.
"Few people today are acquainted with the Gospel of Mary. Written early in the second century CE, it disappeared for over fifteen hundred years until a single, fragmentary copy in Coptic translation came to light in the late nineteenth century. Although details of the discovery itself are obscure, we do know that the fifth-century manuscript in which it was inscribed was purchased in Cairo by Carl Reinhardt and brought to Berlin in 1896. Two additional fragments in Greek have come to light in the twentieth century. Yet still no complete copy of the Gospel of Mary is known. Fewer than eight pages of the ancient papyrus text survive, which means that about half of the Gospel of Mary is lost to us, perhaps forever."
Source: Gospel of Mary of Magdala: An ancient manuscript, a radical interpretation of Jesus' teachings | Beliefnet
Some of the parts of the Gospel of Mary Magdalene that are missing are pages 1 to 6, containing chapters 1 to 3. The part of the Gospel that is known to us today starts on page 7 of the actual text, with chapter 3. Also missing are pages 11 to 14. The Gospel of Mary is nine chapters long, yet only parts of it survive to this day. The surviving pages, however, show that Mary was part of Jesus' inner circle and learnt directly from him. The ideas put forth in the Gospel of Mary Magdalene may not at all be what one might think... Here's a sample:
1) But they were grieved. They wept greatly, saying, How shall we go to the Gentiles and preach the gospel of the Kingdom of the Son of Man? If they did not spare Him, how will they spare us?
2) Then Mary stood up, greeted them all, and said to her brethren, Do not weep and do not grieve nor be irresolute, for His grace will be entirely with you and will protect you.
3) But rather, let us praise His greatness, for He has prepared us and made us into Men.
4) When Mary said this, she turned their hearts to the Good, and they began to discuss the words of the Savior.
5) Peter said to Mary, Sister we know that the Savior loved you more than the rest of woman.
6) Tell us the words of the Savior which you remember which you know, but we do not, nor have we heard them.
7) Mary answered and said, What is hidden from you I will proclaim to you.
8) And she began to speak to them these words: I, she 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,
9) Blessed are you that you did not waver at the sight of Me. For where the mind is there is the treasure.
10) I said to Him, Lord, how does he who sees the vision see it, through the soul or through the spirit?
11) The Savior answered and said, He does not see through the soul nor through the spirit, but the mind that is between the two that is what sees the vision and it is [...]
Source: The Gospel According to Mary Magdalene | Gnosis.org
The four gospels included in most versions of the Christian Bible (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) all refer to Mary Magdalene. Just as 'Jesus of Nazareth' refers to Jesus who hailed from Nazareth (his hometown, although indeed perhaps not his birthplace), Mary of Magdalene indicates that the Mary mentioned refers to a Mary who was from Magdala. As Wikipedia explains, "Magdala (Aramaic: מגדלא / Magdala, meaning "elegant", "great", or "tower" (viz. "great place"); Hebrew: מגדל / Migdal, meaning "tower"; Arabic: قرية المجدل / Qariyat al-Majdal)" refers to a fishing town on the Lake of Galilee which is right smack in the area in which Jesus lived and preached. As a number of Jesus' followers were from this general area, it only makes sense that another prominent follower of Jesus of Nazareth, namely Mary Magdalene (as opposed to Jesus' mother who was also called Mary), hailed from the area in which Jesus lived, preached, healed the sick and taught.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, to me is the following part, which is also the last part:
1) When Mary had said this, she fell silent, since it was to this point that the Savior had spoken with her.
2) 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.
3) Peter answered and spoke concerning these same things.
4) 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?
5) 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?
6) Levi answered and said to Peter, Peter you have always been hot tempered.
7) Now I see you contending against the woman like the adversaries.
8) But if the Savior made her worthy, who are you indeed to reject her? Surely the Savior knows her very well.
9) That is why He loved her more than us. Rather let us be ashamed and put on the perfect Man, and separate as He commanded us and preach the gospel, not laying down any other rule or other law beyond what the Savior said.
10) And when they heard this they began to go forth to proclaim and to preach.
Source: The Gospel According to Mary Magdalene | Gnosis.org
The words "that is why he loved her more than us" remain with me, and make me wonder why Jesus, reportedly an unmarried man and according to modern Christianity, the son of God, chose Mary Magdalene as the one to speak to and to impart wisdom to. As the Gospel of Mary Magdalene states (above), "Did he prefer her to us?" Was she special? Was she perhaps, as fiction recounts, the wife of Jesus? Was she a childhood friend? Was she a confidante of Jesus? The answer to question of who Mary Magdalene was exactly is buried in history.
Perhaps Jesus did prefer Mary to some of the other disciples in certain matters. After all, sometimes it is easier to speak to one person than to another. Sometimes a woman seems to grasp things that men do not believe and accept as readily. Seeing we are talking about events that happened more than two thousand years ago, what happened exactly will remain a mystery unless more original texts from around the time Jesus lived come to light. One thing I hope all who read this will agree on, is that no part of the Christian Bible was written in the time of Jesus. The words of the man many call the Christ were written down after his death. In fact, much of the Christian Bible consists of letters by those who never met Jesus the man. So, why not look to the Gospel of Mary Magdalene for wisdom, inspiration and truth Why not read this extraordinary text and learn more about one of history's most well-known figures? Why not read the words of one of Jesus' most prominent followers and see them as an inspiration Why not, indeed?