It’s Good Friday—Time to Roll Out Obscure Gnostic Propaganda

Mary Magdalene Praying, a 19th century painting by Ary Scheffer

No surprise here:  The BBC has chosen the noon hour on Christianity’s most reverent of days, Good Friday, to air a documentary suggesting that Jesus had a sexual relationship with Mary Magdalene.

In the program, author and broadcaster Melvyn Bragg relies on accounts from the Gnostic Gospel of Mary, in which Jesus kisses his friend and disciple Mary Magdalene on the mouth and may, in fact, have taken her as his wife.   Bragg, who calls himself a Christian, believes that Jesus’ intimate relationship with Magdalene was “airbrushed” out of the four gospels in the canonical scriptures.

Bragg’s assertion that Mary had a sexual relationship with Jesus is a familiar meme:  It was the underlying motif in Martin Scorsese’s film The Last Temptation of Christ and, more recently, Dan Brown’s best-selling novel The DaVinci Code.

Clearly, Lord Bragg has a political agenda.  Referring to the project in an interview last week with The Daily Telegraph, Bragg spoke of the effect which revelations in his film might have on the Church.  “What then?” he asked.  “What then for the celibacy which has led the organized Church into so many abuses and crimes and distorted lives?”

Harsh Criticism

Bishop Nazir-Ali, Pakistan-born cleric who is the first non-white bishop in the Church of England, worried that the program could cause problems for Christians living in Muslim countries, where they already face persecution.  He asked why the network would choose noon on Good Friday to air such inflammatory, anti-Christian broadcast.

And Andrea Williams, director of the evangelical British group Christian Concern, chastised the BBC for its bewildering programming decision, calling for a letter-writing campaign by Christians, and demanding an orthodox program in response which is based on sound scholarship, rather than the “pseudo-scholarship” popularized by the Dan Brown novels.

A Faithful Alternative

The BBC’s silly propaganda piece is one more reason to tune in to Roma Downey and Mark Burnett’s serialized drama The Bible, the last episode of which airs on The History Channel on Easter night.  Whether you like the casting of a “beefy model” as  Jesus or the head-turning transitions from one Bible story to another, you’ve got to admit:  The project really attempts to be faithful to Scripture in its presentation of Old and New Testament stories.

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