The Lost Gospel of Mary Magdalene and Its Implications About Early Christianity

Mary Magdalene, a prostitute considered to be a side-character in the new testament, could have played a much bigger role in early Christianity than the Bible lets on. In 1896, a German Scholar purchased a seemingly insignificant ancient codex from a salesman in Cairo. The text, which was written on papyrus pages in the coptic language, was dated around the fifth century. The text contains a telling of events in which the disciples were afraid to spread his word, fearing it would result in persecution, or even execution as happened to Jesus. Seeing their worry, Mary attempts to help them understand his teaching, by explaining instructions she received from Jesus in a vision. However, other disciples challenge her, suggesting that she is lying about the teachings and that Jesus would never give such exalted instructions to a woman. The exchange begs the question; why was this account of Mary Magdalene excluded from the bible? Assuming the recount of events is authentic, since there have been other fragments found of the codex translated into different languages, this seems like a major part of Christian history. It would mark Mary as a key player in spreading the gospel, somebody who was so close to Jesus, she received special instructions in a vision from him. Karen King suggests the implications of the text were not fitting of the message 5th century Christian leaders piecing the Bible together wanted to advance. King writes that “it (The Gospel of Mary) 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. All written in the name of a woman.” The view that sexism played a role in eliminating Mary’s story is not outlandish, since the church has historically been and remains patriarchal, only allowing men to hold positions in the priesthood and clergy, and with the assumption that God is male or “The Father,” despite him being a supernatural being who’s form contains no ties to the human concept of sex.

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