The Gospel of Mary Magdalene

Following on from yesterdays videos; who was Mary Magdalene? She is certainly an enigma and many different ideas of who she actually was persist. She has been overlaid with myth and legend for 2000 years including the Catholic story in the next post where she comes from a wealthy family, the Biblical story that she was a prostitute, the story that she may have been the daughter of Nicodemus, the story that she may have been sister to Lazarus and Martha, to the persistent tales that she was Jesus’s wife and that she went on to have his child and end her days in France….finding the real Mary is likely to be difficult. This is all without her identity being changed to suit early church history! Where did she come from?

The Jewish Talmud distinguishes between two Magdalas only.

  • Magdala Gadar—One Magdala was in the east, on the River Yarmouk near Gadara (in the Middle Ages “Jadar”, now Umm Qais), thus acquiring the name Magdala Gadar.
  • Magdala Nunayya—There was another, better-known Magdala near Tiberias, Magdala Nunayya (“Magdala of the fishes”), which would locate it on the shore of the Sea of Galilee
 Soon after the time of Jesus, Magdala suffered a tragic blow. After the revolt against Rome began in AD 66, Magdala was defeated by the Romans. The historian, Josephus, recounts that the Romans under Titus conquered the city with much bloodshed.
Since Magdala was a center of boat building, many of the remaining residents fled to the sea in their vessels. A great sea battle resulted with a total of 6500 Jews slaughtered in the sea and on land. Josephus describes how the sea became bloody and full of dead bodies. Titus’ father, Vespasian, then decreed that the remaining citizens would not be spared. The old and infirm were slaughtered. Six thousand of the city’s strongest were given as slaves to Nero, and the remaining thousands were sold in the slave markets.      Somehow, Magdala continued on as a city. In later times the Talmud mentions Magdala once again as a boat-building center. The city is also characterized as one noted for its wealth and depravity.Today the ancient city of Magdala lies in ruins. However, not far from the old city is the modern farming community of Migdal. This modern community once more takes its name from the Hebrew word for “tower.” As early as 1885, new settlement was begun in the area by some German Catholic families. At the turn of the century their land was purchased by a group of Zionist Jews from Russia. Their intent was to establish a colony that could assist the Jewish people in learning agricultural techniques. By 1910, the settlement could boast itself as a successful farming area, and soon more settlers were attracted. In 1921, a construction camp was established in the area as work was begun on the Tiberias-Rosh Pina highway. This work battalion was under the direction of the legendary hero, Joseph Trumpledor. In the intervening years, the community of Migdal continued to grow and today it boasts a population of some 1500 people. Most of today’s inhabitants are occupied in the farming industry. They grow olives, citrus crops of all kinds, dates, mangoes, avocados and many other fruits. Their picturesque farms dot the Plain of Genassaret lying just below the city. Migdal also attracts many vacationers who love its beautiful and peaceful area and its proximity to the Sea of Galilee.
        Situated on the crest of Migdal’s hill and overlooking the Sea of Galilee is the GalileeStudyCenter, presently operated by the evangelical Christian ministry, Jerusalem Cornerstone Foundation. At this center, Christians from all over the world come to spend a few days. They rest, pray, study and tour near the place where Mary Magdalene once lived and where Jesus once ministered.

The Magdala Synagogue


The Gospel of Mary Magdalene:

[The Coptic papyrus, from which the first six pages have been lost, begins in the middle of this gospel.]

“…will, then, matter be saved or not?”

The Savior said, “All natures, all formed things, all creatures exist in and with one another and will again be resolved into their own roots, because the nature of matter is dissolved into the roots of its nature alone. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” [cf. Matt. 11:15, etc.].

Peter said to him, “Since you have now explained all things to us, tell us this: what is the sin of the world?” [cf. John 1:29]. The Savior said, “Sin as such does not exist, but you make sin when you do what is of the nature of fornication, which is called ‘sin.’ For this reason the Good came into your midst, to the essence of each nature, to restore it to its root.” He went on to say, “For this reason you come into existence and die […] whoever knows may know […] a suffering which has nothing like itself, which has arisen out of what is contrary to nature. Then there arises a disturbance in the whole body. For this reason I said to you, Be of good courage [cf. Matt. 28:9], and if you are discouraged, still take courage over against the various forms of nature. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” When the Blessed One said this, he greeted all of them, saying “Peace be with you [cf. John 14:27]. Receive my peace for yourselves. Take heed lest anyone lead you astray with the words, ‘Lo, here!’ or ‘Lo, there!’ [cf. Matt. 24:5, 23; Luke 17:21] for the Son of Man is within you [cf. Luke 17:21]. Follow him; those who seek him will find him [cf. Matt. 7:7]. Go, therefore, and preach the Gospel of the Kingdom [cf. Matt. 4:23; 9:15; Mark 16:15]. 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.”

They grieved and mourned greatly, saying, “How shall we go to the Gentiles and preach the Gospel of the Kingdom of the Son of Man? If even he was not spared, how shall we be spared?”

Then Mary stood up and 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 said to Mary, “Sister, we know that the Savior loved you more than other women [cf. John 11:5, Luke 10:38-42]. 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 answered and said, “What is hidden from you I will impart to you.” And she began to say the following words to them. “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, ‘Blessed are you, since you did not waver at the sight of me. For where the mind is, there is your countenance’ [cf. Matt. 6:21]. I said to him, ‘Lord, the mind which sees the vision, does it see it through the soul or through the spirit?’ The Savior answered and said, ‘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…'”

“…and Desire said, ‘I did not see you descend; but now I see you rising. Why do you speak falsely, when you belong to me?’ The soul answered and said, ‘I saw you, but you did not see me or recognize me; I served you as a garment and you did not recognize me.’ After it had said this, it went joyfully and gladly away. Again it came to the third power, Ignorance. This power questioned the soul: ‘Whither are you going? You were bound in wickedness, you were bound indeed. Judge not’ [cf. Matt. 7:1]. And the soul said, ‘Why do you judge me, when I judged not? I was bound, though I did not bind. I was not recognized, but I recognized that all will go free, things both earthly and heavenly.’ After the soul had left the third power behind, it rose upward, and saw the fourth power, which had seven forms. The first form is darkness, the second desire, the third ignorance, the fourth the arousing of death, the fifth is the kingdom of the flesh, the sixth is the wisdom of the folly of the flesh, the seventh is wrathful wisdom. These are the seven participants in wrath. They ask the soul, ‘Whence do you come, killer of men, or where are you going, conqueror of space?’ The soul answered and said, ‘What seizes me is killed; what turns me about is overcome; my desire has come to an end and ignorance is dead. In a world I was saved from a world, and in a “type,” from a higher “type” and from the fetter of the impotence of knowledge, the existence of which is temporal. From this time I will reach rest in the time of the moment of the Aeon in silence.'”

When Mary had said this, she was silent, since the Savior had spoken thus far with her. But Andrew answered and said to the brethren, ‘Say what you think concerning what she said. For I do not believe that the Savior said this. For certainly these teachings are of other ideas.”

Peter also opposed her in regard to these matters and asked them about the Savior. “Did he then speak secretly with a woman [cf. John 4:27], 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 concerning the Savior?”

Levi answered and said to Peter, “Peter, you are always irate. Now I see that you are contending against the woman like the adversaries. But if the Savior made her worthy, who are you to reject her? Surely the Savior knew her very well [cf. Luke 10:38- 42]. For this reason he loved her more than us [cf. John 11:5]. And we should rather be ashamed and put on the Perfect Man, to form us [?] as he commanded us, and proclaim the gospel, without publishing a further commandment or a further law than the one which the Savior spoke.” When Levi had said this, they began to go out in order to proclaim him and preach him.

In the Orthodox Faith today, 22 July is her feast day. Mary is one of the myrrhbearers, one of the women taking myrrh and spices to anoint the body of Jesus in the tomb, as was the Jewish custom.  The icon below depicts these women. The myrrhbearers are celebrated in the Orthodox Church two Sundays after Easter.

And this is the piece that is read in their honour.

When You did descend unto death, O Life Immortal, then did You slay Hades with the lightening of Your Divinity. And when You did also raise the dead out of the nethermost depths, all the power in the Heavens cried out: O Life-giver, Christ our God, glory be to You.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

The noble Joseph, taking Your immaculate body down from the Tree, and having wrapped it in pure linen and spices, laid it for burial in a new tomb. But on the third day You did arise, O Lord, granting great mercy to the world.

Now and forever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Unto the myrrh-bearing women did the Angel cry out as he stood by the grave: Myrrh-oils are meet for the dead, but Christ has proved to be a stranger to corruption. But cry out: The Lord is risen, granting great mercy to the world.

Kontakion (Second Tone)

When You did cry, Rejoice, unto the Myrrh-bearers, You did make the lamentation of Eve the first mother to cease by Your Resurrection, O Christ God. And You did bid Your Apostles to preach: The Savior is risen from the grave.