The Gospel of Mary (Magdalene) – What is it?

The Gospel of Mary (or the Gospel of Mary Magdalene) is a writing discovered in 1896 in Egypt containing a Gnostic version of New Testament events alleged to have taken place, particularly in association with Mary Magdalene. Scholars date the original composition of this work to the fifth century.

The collection in which the Gospel of Mary is found also includes three additional works: 1) the Apocryphon of John, 2) the Sophia of Jesus Christ, and 3) the Acts of Peter. These writings were published in Coptic. Two additional manuscripts of the Gospel of Mary have been found in Greek; these date to the third century. Portions of the text in the Gospel of Mary are incomplete.

While the manuscripts are not entirely clear as to which Mary is supposed to have been the author, the contents suggest Mary Magdalene as the alleged author. This is based on her role as a follower of Jesus and as one of the first to see Him resurrected.

Though much is unclear regarding the background of the Gospel of Mary, it is clear by the time period of its writing that it was not written by Mary Magdalene or any other Mary from the New Testament period. It was written two centuries after the New Testament. Further, unlike the New Testament documents, there are only two early Greek copies and one Coptic copy, each with missing texts.

The contents include much emphasis on Mary, as expected, including the belief that Mary was loved more than all the apostles. Further, Gospel of Mary 5:7 shares, "Mary answered and said, 'What is hidden from you I will proclaim to you.'" Mary was featured as the one who remembered hidden teachings from Jesus that Peter and the other disciples did not. This included a vision she had of Jesus.

The emphasis in the manuscript appears to focus more on issues of the third century similar to other Gnostic writings. The ideas of secret knowledge, alternative stories regarding biblical events, and mysterious statements about God, good and evil, and the afterlife regularly contradict or add additional material than exists in the New Testament narratives.

In summary, the Gospel of Mary Magdalene offers a limited, yet important insight into the Gnostic writings. However, it is clearly not authored by Mary nor is its message consistent with the New Testament's writings. It was not accepted as authoritative by the early church and is not to be accepted as accurate information regarding the historical Mary Magdalene.

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