Monday, May 29, 2006

Appendix

Some of the things that some of the non-canonical texts may perhaps say about Mary Magdalene

The following are cited in M.R James' "Apocryphal New Testament"

1: Fragment of a lost work quoted by Tertullian

John has said that "the teacher" did not permit women to take the Eucharist. "Martha said "It was because of Mary, because he saw her smiling. Mary said "I laughed not yet: for said unto us before that: That which is weak shall be saved by means of that which is strong."

2: Egyptian fragment called "The Twentieth Discourse of Cyril of Jerusalem" in which Mary Magdalene is said to be the same person as the Virgin Mary and Mary the Wife of Clophas.

3: A document called "The Gospel of Peter" which repeats the standard Resurrection story:

"Now early on the Lord's day, Mary Magdalene, a disciple of the Lord...took with her her women friends and went unto the tomb...."

4: An extended Passion story called "Acts of Pilate" in which John tells the Virgin Mary that Christ is condemned and the Virgin goes with Martha, Mary Magdalene and Salome and to the cross.

5: A late "Epistle of the Apostles" which has another version of the resurrection story

"And thither went three women, Mary, she that was kin to Martha, and Mary Magdalene and took ointments to pour on the body."


The Nag Hammadi library of gnostic texts is slightly more interesting.

1: There are a number of writings in which different disciples ask Jesus questions, and receive obscure answers. In several of these, someone called Mary is one of the interlocutor.

Examples include but are not limited to:.

"The Dialogue of the Saviour" "

Mary said "There is but one saying I will speak to the Lord concerning the Mystery of truth. In this we have taken our stand, and to the cosmic we are transparent."

"The Sophia of Jesus Christ"

"Mary said to him "Holy Lord where did you and you disciples come from and where are they going and what should they do here?" The perfect Saviour said to them "I want you to know that Sophia, the Mother of the Universe and the consort desire by herself to bring these to existence without her male consort..."

2: The "Gospel of Phillip" contains one tantalizing non-sequitur:

"For it is by a kiss that the perfect conceive and give birth. For this reason we also kiss one another. We receive conception from the grave which is in one another. There were three who always walked with the Lord: Mary his mother and her sister and Magdalene, the one who was called his companion. His sister and his mother and his companion were each a Mary. The father and the son are single names, the holy spirit is a double name. For they are everywhere..."

3: The very brief "Gospel of Mary" contains the following dialogue:

"Peter said to Mary "Sister we know that the Saviour loved you more than the rest of the women. Tell us the words of the savior that you remember...."

After she has done so:

"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 Saviour said this. For certainly these teachings are strange ideas. Peter answer and spoke concerning these same things. He question them about the Saviour: did he really speak with a woman without our knowledge and not openly? Are we turn about and all listen to her. Did he prefer her to us?"

Then Mary wept and said to Peter "My brother Peter, what do you think? Do you think that I thought this up in my heart or that I am lying about the Saviour?"

Levi answered and said to Peter. "Peter, you have always been hot-tempered. Now I see you contending against the woman like the adversaries. But if the Saviour made her worthy, who are you indeed to reject her? Surely the Savior knows her very well. That is why he loved her more than us."

4; The Gospel of Thomas concludes with the following exchange:

"Simon Peter said to them "Let Mary leave us, for women are not worthy of life." Jesus said "I myself shall lead her in order to make her male so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every woman who will make herself male with enter the kingdom of heaven."



The texts which M.R James cites are obviously simply re-tellings of the canonical gospels; the only interesting point is that there is already an ambiguity about whether Mary Magdalene is the sister of Martha.

The Nag Hammadi texts indicate that the idea that Mary was a person of some importance; on intimate terms with or favoured by Jesus; and disapproved of by some of the other disciples, had occurred to a number of gnostic Christians in the third and fourth centuries. They might have been drawing on gossip, rumours, legends or folk-memories which might have been current at the time; and these could have had some historical basis. On the other hand, we might simply be dealing with religious fiction or gnostic allegory.


Two Random Pieces of Information
1: The name "Martha" is the Aramaic feminine of "lord", as in "Lady" or "Mistress."

2: The writer of the medieval York Mystery Play depicts the following dialogue between Mary and the resurrected Jesus. Thinking him to be the gardener, she has asked if he moved Jesus' body:

Jesus:
Woman, woman, turn thi thoght!
Wyt thou well I hyd him noght
Then bare hym nawre with me;
Go seke, loke, if thou fynde him oght.

Mary
In fayth I have hym soght,
But nawre he will fond be.

Jesus:
Why, what was he to the

In sothfastness to say?

Mary
A, he was to me --
No longer dwell I may.

Jesus
Mary, thou sekys thy God, and that am I.

Mary
Rabony, my Lord so dere!
Now am I hole that thou art here.

13 comments:

  1. Ah, those bawdy medievals:

    "Jesus: Mary, thou sekys thy God, and that am I.

    Mary : Rabony, my Lord so dere! Now am I hole that thou art here. "

    Clearly, Dan Brown is right. Holey Grail, indeed.

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  2. ...I have just double-checked that, and that is according to the Penguin "English Mystery Plays" selection (page 589) and not my typo. Not that medieval spelling was especially consistent.

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  3. I more or less enjoyed The Da Vinci code, until my mother-in-law tried to explain why it opened her eyes to all this truth she had never realized before.

    It's fiction, and tolerable fiction in a Tom Clancy meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer sort of way.

    Its popular for some reason, and I can't quite vocalize it well, but maybe somebody else can figure out what I am trying to say, or just tell me I have no clue what I am talking about. (writing about)

    People for some reason, possibly it's an inborn trait, really want to believe in the numinous. (Maybe I recall reading something by Lewis on this...) Anyway, in the modern world we have pretty much done away with a sense of the numinous. Christianity is passe, Legends are just for children, etc., etc., and so on.

    So when something like this comes along, or a 'new secret gospel' is uncovered it captures people's imaginations.

    This sounds really familiar like Andrew said something along these lines in one of his essays.

    Anyway, it's like the church has so drained its own myths of power and meaning, that its not satisfying this need people have to touch the unknown. Christianity is a mystery religion that won't allow mystery, and so people seek it where ever they can find it.

    My main peeve with Dan Brown is similar to my peeve with David Webber ripping off Horatio Hornblower stories and making them into Space Opera: they thought of it before I did.

    Dan Brown sees a market and taps it nicely.

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  4. People for some reason, possibly it's an inborn trait, really want to believe in the numinous. [...] Anyway, in the modern world we have pretty much done away with a sense of the numinous.

    As an atheist, I tend to be ...skeptical... of the idea that anything that seizes the popular imagination is an example of our hunger for the numinous. If every popular story is really a pale substitute for Christianity then the implication is that a perfectly Christian society would have no room for popular stories.

    Rather than the numinous, I'd suggest that people like to feel privy to secret knowledge and that they like their secrets to be dramatic. That would make "The DaVinci Code" just scandalous gossip on a larger scale.

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  5. Sam,

    I am suggesting that every popular story is really a pale substitute for Christianity

    Christianity could as easily be a substitute for some Ugaritic relgion for that matter.

    Though I can accept that people want to feel they have secret knowledge. That works just as well. Although I'm not sure that covers it totally. People seem to want to believe in something 'other' or larger than themselves. The world does not seem to be quite right and so we seek some external explanation.

    UFOs, Fairies, the Matrix, whatever. I think we might have hashed this exact thing out over the X-Files...maybe that was somebody else.

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  6. Whoops,

    I am NOT suggesting that everything is a substitute for Christianity...

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  7. As an atheist, I tend to be ...skeptical... of the idea that anything that seizes the popular imagination is an example of our hunger for the numinous. If every popular story is really a pale substitute for Christianity then the implication is that a perfectly Christian society would have no room for popular stories.

    As I recall, Lewis adressed a similar concern in The Great Divorce, with a painter who was told that his best work was just a partial glimpse of the wonder of Paradise. His response was something along the lines of "then what purpose is there to an artist being in Paradise, since the real thing is right here to be seen by everyone?"

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  8. Charles wrote: Its popular for some reason, and I can't quite vocalize it well, but maybe somebody else can figure out what I am trying to say, or just tell me I have no clue what I am talking about. (writing about)

    I think it is something different. He gives people just enough information so that they can 'discover' secrets for themselves, and feel pride in that discovery. As a result, they are more attached to their conclusions.

    Some of the simple codes are good examples, but the 'Last Supper' stuff is the key. The book doesn't contain a copy of the picture - you have to go off and find it yourself, and then discover that there is indeed a woman painted next to Jesus.

    The best way to counter this in my view is to adopt exactly the same tactics. Don't explain the errors in the book, but point people in directions where they can find out for themselves. For example, for the painting, I would point people at some other religious art from the Florentine school featuring young men. Having looked at some of those, people might come to a different conclusion concerning the figure in the Last Supper.

    The whole thing works like a card house - one discovery of a 'revealed' truth in the book validates the rest of it; knock out a major revelation and the whole lot falls.

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  9. I am suggesting that every popular story is really a pale substitute for Christianity

    That being the case... is there room for popular stories in the ideal Christian society? And if there is, are they just a symptom of our neccessary imperfection, to be discouraged where possible?

    (This is a problem with a certain kind of absolutism, of course, and not just with Christianity - it's essentially the same problem as where the poets fit in Plato's republic.)

    People seem to want to believe in something 'other' or larger than themselves.

    Hm. Again, I find that a little vague. People like to make sense (or at least stories) of things that happen, and people like to be part of a community of people who share their opinions, and people like to take vicarious pride in others' achivements, and to feel that they are right, and so on... but I don't personally think all those motivations are just aspects of one deeper need. Perhaps it's a matter of point-of-view: I think religions are the wider universe misunderstood as part of human society; you think religions are a way of making human society part of the universal order?

    I should probably read what C S Lewis has to say about the numinous - would that be "Surprised by Joy", or somewhere beyond the point where I gave up on "Mere Christianity"?

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  10. Sam,

    You might try _Miracles_ by C.S. Lewis. I have to warn you that it is quite a slog.

    I'm not sure why you are trying to set me at odds with popular stories. I think you might be reading more context into my statements than is really there. I am certainly not attempting to establish the primacy of Christianity or even religion. I'm a mechanistic objectivist at least 3 days a week. I think you may have gotten confused that when I mentioned the weakness of Christianity opening the door to the Da Vinci code you took the Da Vinci Code as analogous to any popular story. I only mention Christianity here, because the Da Vinci code is pseudo-Chirstianesque. I don't think you could apply my comments to say...Harry Potter. Harry Potter does not really borrow from Christianity. It is an entity of itself (as much as anything can be) and I would not bring up a lack in Christianity to explain the popularity of Harry Potter. To be plain; I was speaking specifically about the Da Vinci Code, not about popular stories in general.

    Is there a place for popular stories in Christianity? I think that there absolutely must be. I guess a good preacher could do a sermon on Horatio Hornblower

    People like to make sense (or at least stories) of things that happen, and people like to be part of a community of people who share their opinions...

    I think you got this a little wrong. Or at least you are not talking about the Hoi Polloi that I recognize. Engineers like to make sense of the world. Scientists like to make sense of the world. Theologians and Philosophers like to make sense of the world.
    People like to claim that the obvious is obscure and that the trivial is momentous...and vice versa, I suppose. They form cults around any mystery that seizes their minds. By 'cults' I mean, of course, fan bases. Why on earth would people seek UFOs and Hidden knowledge instead of looking at the obvious explanations? Some people don't want to make sense of the world. They want it to be dark and mysterious. They want to believe that Leonardo Da Vinci held some secret knowledge and that there are secret societies out there scheming. they want to believe that there is more to life than this, whatever 'this' happens to be.

    I don't know why. Maybe it is some inborn trait. I really couldn't say.

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  11. Kevin,

    I think you are probably right as well. Tom Clancy lets people feel that they are insiders in the intelligence community.

    Dan Brown makes up a conspiracy and lets you be in the know.

    Is that what you mean? I can see that.

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  12. Sam Dodsworth said...

    As an atheist, I tend to be ...skeptical... of the idea that anything that seizes the popular imagination is an example of our hunger for the numinous. If every popular story is really a pale substitute for Christianity then the implication is that a perfectly Christian society would have no room for popular stories.

    Rather than the numinous, I'd suggest that people like to feel privy to secret knowledge and that they like their secrets to be dramatic. That would make "The DaVinci Code" just scandalous gossip on a larger scale.


    I’d agree with Sam here, with the caveat that while people probably really are after secret knowledge they tend to confuse that with the numinous. The fixation a lot of people seem to have these days with Gnosticism seems to be another example of this. It’s like a man searching for something he’s never seen, so he’s unable to recognise that it’s all about him.

    Charles’ comments probably make for an interesting juxtaposition with something I said on the previous Mary Mag thread:

    The idea that the Grail must be a physical person seems just a variant on the theme that it must be a physical object. If it’s just an idea or symbol… you know, something you couldn’t buy in the shops, it’s automatically assumed to be a lesser thing.

    I wouldn’t care at all about Brown and his dumbass book if he admitted it was all made up, but this lumpen insistence that it’s based on solid evidence… Whereas with From Hell (which works with similar themes), Alan Moore was always insistent it was and should only be treated as a work of fiction. In a recent interview he mentioned a magician coming up to him and claiming he’d performed ceremonies that proved what he’d written to be true. “That’s very nice of you” Moore replied, “but really I just made the whole thing up.”

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  13. I'm not sure why you are trying to set me at odds with popular stories.

    I think I was using you as an unwilling sounding-board while trying to develop an idea I found interesting. My apologies for that, and I'll move on.


    You might try _Miracles_ by C.S. Lewis. I have to warn you that it is quite a slog.

    If that's his attack on Naturalism, then I did read it a few years ago. I was probably too busy being unimpressed (rightly or wrongly) with his arguments to take in what he had to say about the numinous. I'll have another look.


    Engineers like to make sense of the world. Scientists like to make sense of the world. Theologians and Philosophers like to make sense of the world.

    You take a narrower view of 'making sense' than I do, here. All I mean by 'making sense of the world' is the process of finding reasons for stuff that happens - so believing that Global Warming is caused by the reptoids counts just as much as believing light sometimes acts like a wave, or that it's more likely to rain if you've left your umbrella at home. We all do it: oligarch, hoi polloi, or philosopher king.

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