In the first post in this series we looked at the canonical scriptures for references to who Mary Magdalen was and what we found were several references to her presence at the Crucifixion and the Resurrection, but nothing that provides any background information other than one reference to her having been cured of demons by Jesus. Although we do not yet know who Magdalen was we can safely say there is no scriptural evidence to support the tradition of Magdalen as a whore. So if Magdalen was not a whore then is she the Holy Grail? In order to answer that, we need to specify what we mean by the Holy Grail. Most people equate the Holy Grail with the chalice that Jesus used at the last supper, thereby instituting perhaps the most important of christian sacraments: the Eucharist (or Holy Communion), a ritual consumption of bread and wine in commemoration of the Crucifixion. but there is another Grail tradition supported by a bevy of Grail scholars, as anyone who has read either the Da Vinci code, a historical fiction, or Holy Blood, Holy Grail knows, this tradition says that the Holy Grail is not a cup, but a person (or persons). this alternative tradition says that Mary Magdalene was not only not a whore but that she was the wife of Jesus and was carrying his child at the time of the Crucifixion. the Holy Grail is the royal blood line of Jesus; his descendants who still exist today.
I agree that this seems a rather farfetched idea, but let s try to keep an open mind and look for references to Magdalena in other Christian scriptures. the so-called Gnostic Ggospels from Nag Hammadi (which have been dated to the fourth or fifth century and which may very well be Coptic translations of texts that are much older than that) may even predate the canonical Gospels. wWhat do these Gospels have to say about Magdalena? Before we look at specific references, I want to nip in the bud any categorical rejections of these texts because they are supposedly heretical or non canonical. Hopefully by now you are familiar enough with my writings to know that I feel that any decisions on the canonicity of any text was not “Divinely ordained” but was rather the result of the sociopolitical machinations of the men who we, 1500 plus years later, recognize as the fathers of the Church and who (contrary to the received tradition) had their own political agendas. The what and why of those agendas will be the focus of future posts after we look at some of the other principal characters in the Christian community immediately following the cCrucifixion. For now, let me just remind you that history is written by the winners and orthodoxy and the canonical scriptures were the winners of the political struggles of the early Christian community, and that victory is written in the canonical scriptures. Had the Gnostics been victorious in that political struggle, I guarantee the bible would look very different.
From the Gospel of Phillip
As for the Wisdom who is called “the barren,” she is the mother of the angels. And the companion of the […] Mary Magdalene. […] loved her more than all the disciples, and used to kiss her often on her mouth. The rest of the disciples […]. They said to him “Why do you love her more than all of us?” The Savior answered and said to them,”Why do I not love you like her? When a blind man and one who sees are both together in darkness, they are no different from one another. When the light comes, then he who sees will see the light, and he who is blind will remain in darkness.”
The Gnostic Gospel of Philip presents Mary Magdalene as the favored disciple and as the companion of Jesus, which some scholars like Elaine Pagels interpret as meaning the wife of Jesus. The mention of kissing her often on the mouth can certainly be taken to imply a sexual relationship! Not only did Jesus not disapprove of alcohol and dancing (see the wedding at Cana where he turned water into wine and danced), but he was not against sexual contact with members of the opposite sex, and possibly even condoned premarital relations since the evidence for his marriage to Magdalene is much more circumstantial than the evidence for their romantic relationship. I’m sure this gives a lot of Puritans apoplexy!
From the Gospel According to Mary Magdalene, Chapter 9
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.
Not only does this text support the statement from the gospel of Philip that Jesus loved Magdalena more than the others, but it also sets up the framework for the political struggle that ultimately saw Magdalene denigrated from most beloved companion to repentant prostitute: the battle of the sexes. Male chauvinism is what underpins the battle between orthodoxy and heresy. so the evidence from the heretical Gnostic Gospels clearly identifies Mary Magdalene as the love interest (if not the wife) of Jesus, and (to shock the ultra-orthodox even further) she is identified not only as his favorite disciple, but also his most advanced in understanding his message. She, not Peter or Paul, was the one meant to lead the fledgling Christian community. but as the Gospel According to Mary Magdalene points out, the idea of a woman leading them was met with opposition by certain male disciples like peter. Just imagine what the church would look like had Mary been able to win out! No male dominated clergy, no debate over the ordination of women, probably no celibacy for the clergy either. Personally, i think it would make for a much happier world
the Gospel of Phillip