Boedromion 18 and More about Mary

The mustai remain indoors, preparing the Kykeon, “mixture,” a tea of barley and mint, and baking pastries, probably in the shapes associated with fertility.  Outdoors, the uninitiated engage in a procession honoring Asklepios and pour libations to Dionysos. (Aristotle, Athenian Constitution, 56.4; Philostratus, Life of Apollonius, 4.18.)

Passages about Mary Magdalene

Here I’m going to post some of the most interesting passages about Mary, in order to later use them in a more detailed essay about her actual role in the beginning of the Christian movement.

 (In the Gospel According to Philip)

There were three who always walked with the Lord: Mary, his mother, and her sister, and Magdalene, the one who was called his consort. His sister and his mother and his partner were each a Mary. . . .

The consort of the [Lord was] Mary Magdalene. [He] loved her more than all the disciples, and used to kiss her often on her mouth. The rest of the disciples … said to him “Why do you love her more than all of us?” The Savior replied, “Do I love her more than you?”

 (From the Gospel according to Thomas)

Simon Peter said to them, “Make Mary leave us, for females don’t deserve life.”

Jesus said, “Look, I will guide her to make her masculine, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you men. For every woman who makes herself masculine will enter the kingdom of Heaven.”

(From the Gospel according to Mary)

[the fragment begins with a dialog about the nature of sin.]

When the Blessed One had said this, he greeted all of them, saying “Peace be with you   Receive my peace for yourselves. Take heed lest anyone lead you astray with the words, ‘Lo, here!’ or ‘Lo, there!’  for the Son of Man is within you Follow him; those who seek him will find him. Go, therefore, and preach the good news of the Kingdom… I have left no commandment but what I have commanded you, and I have given you no law, as the lawgiver did, lest you be bound by it.”

[At this point Jesus leaves.]

[The students] grieved and mourned greatly, saying, “How shall we go to the Gentiles and preach the good news of the Kingdom of the Son of Man? If even he was not spared, how shall we be spared?”

Then Mary stood up, greeted all of them, and said to her brethren, “Do not mourn or grieve or be irresolute, for his grace will be with you all and will defend you. Let us rather praise his greatness, for he prepared us and made us into men.”

When Mary said this, their hearts changed for the better, and they began to discuss the words of the [Savior].

[Peter][1] said to Mary, “Sister, we know that the Savior loved you more than [he loved the] other women Tell us the words of the Savior which you have in mind since you know them; and we do not, nor have we heard of them.”

Mary replied, “What is hidden from you I will impart to you.” And she began to say the following words to them.

“I saw the Lord in a vision and I said to him, ‘Lord, I saw you today in a vision.’

“He said to me, ‘Blessed are you, since you did not waver at the sight of me. For where the mind is, there is your countenance’

“I said to him, ‘Lord, the mind which sees the vision, does it see it through the soul or through the spirit?’

“The Savior replied, ‘It sees neither through the soul nor through the spirit, but the mind, which is between the two, which sees the vision, and it is…’”

[half a dozen leaves are missing here, and what is left of her speech is astrological speculation, which I do not believe was any part of Jesus’ teachings]

When Mary had said this, she was silent, since the Savior had spoken thus far with her.

But Andrew said to the brethren, ‘Say what you think concerning what she said. For I do not believe that the Savior said this, for these are certainly strange ideas.”

Peter asked, “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?”

Then Mary grieved 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 said, “Peter, you are always prone to anger. You are contending against this woman as if she were an adversary. But if the Savior made her worthy, who are you to reject her? Surely the Savior knew her very well. That is why he loved her more than us. We should rather be ashamed and put on the Perfect Man, to form us [?] as he commanded, and proclaim the good news, without setting forth commandments or law other than those that the Savior spoke.”

When Levi had said this, they began to go out in order to proclaim him and preach him.

 

Obviously all these fragments about Mary are related and come out of a larger context. At least one of these communities believed:

that the wedding at Cana was that of Jesus and Mary;

that he had given her the same authority that Matthew says he gave to Peter (i.e., that Martha’s confession of faith in the Gospel of John was actually made by Mary in the original version of that Gospel, and that he had given the keys to her, not to  Peter),

that she was an apostle like the men,

that she was the actual “disciple whom Jesus loved”;

that she was the author of the first version of the “Gospel of John” (I recommend you look up Ramon Jusino’s excellent essay, “Mary Magdalene: Author of the Fourth Gospel?” as well as Robert M. Price’s “Mary Magdalene: Gnostic Apostle?”)

and that their community was founded by her. Hippolytus says specifically that the faith community in Alexandria that was first to be called Gnostic had a great mass of documents that they believed Mary had received from James, whom they considered to be her brother-in-law and who would have been responsible for her welfare after Jesus was murdered.

There are some recently founded “Gnostic” churches which sincerely believe all of that, and I suppose some of it is probably true; I’m still working on that.

On the other hand, these new “Marianites” argue that Mary’s true significance was suppressed by a conspiracy orchestrated by the Roman church, which did not want to grant that a woman had any apostolic authority. I suspect that was what happened, yet it is prudent to always be suspicious about conspiracy theories.

 

 



[1] I suspect the wrong name was copied here, since the attitude toward her is very positive, like Levi’s, not negative, as in Peter’s next speech.

  • Dave Burwasser

    That bit about Jesus masculinizing Mary has always baffled me as to what it means and what theological or social point it is playing to.

    • aidanakelly

      My colleague Richard Arthur at the GTU, who did his PhD dissertation on Coptic dialects, pointed out that the phrase in question is an idiom. It meant, “Every woman who makes herself a warrior will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” The distinction here is between the meanings of “male” as gender and “masculine” as behavior. The apparently intended meaning was, “If Mary makes herself just as assertive as you men, she will enter the Kingdom as your equal.” Again, this is Jesus’ egalitarianism coming out.


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