The Gospel of Mary Magdalene

The Gospel of Mary Magdalene

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Overview

Restores to the forefront of the Christian tradition the importance of the divine feminine

• The first complete English-language translation of the original Coptic Gospel of Mary, with line-by-line commentary

• Reveals the eminence of the divine feminine in Christian thought

• Offers a new perspective on the life of one of the most controversial figures in the Western spiritual tradition

Perhaps no figure in biblical scholarship has been the subject of more controversy and debate than Mary Magdalene. Also known as Miriam of Magdala, Mary Magdalene was considered by the apostle John to be the founder of Christianity because she was the first witness to the Resurrection. In most theological studies she has been depicted as a reformed prostitute, the redeemed sinner who exemplifies Christ's mercy. Today's reader can ponder her role in the gospels of Philip, Thomas, Peter, and Bartholomew--the collection of what have come to be known as the Gnostic gospels rejected by the early Christian church. Mary's own gospel is among these, but until now it has remained unknown to the public at large.

Orthodox theologian Jean-Yves Leloup's translation of the Gospel of Mary from the Coptic and his thorough and profound commentary on this text are presented here for the first time in English. The gospel text and the spiritual exegesis of Leloup together reveal unique teachings that emphasize the eminence of the divine feminine and an abiding love of nature over the dualistic and ascetic interpretations of Christianity presented elsewhere. What emerges from this important source text and commentary is a renewal of the sacred feminine in the Western spiritual tradition and a new vision for Christian thought and faith throughout the world.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780892819119
Publisher: Inner Traditions/Bear & Company
Publication date: 02/01/2002
Edition description: Original
Pages: 208
Sales rank: 83,475
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Jean-Yves Leloup is the founder of the Institute of Other Civilization Studies and the International College of Therapists. His other books include Absurdity and Grace, Lack and Fullness, and a commentary on the Gospel of Thomas. He lives in France.

Read an Excerpt

from the Introduction:

Although historians of early Christianity now have many gospels in their catalogues, those of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John remain the best known. For most churches, they are still the only ones authorized to communicate to us the echoes and interpretations of the events and teachings that took place in Galilee and Judaea about twenty centuries ago.

The recent discovery in 1945 of the library of Nag Hammadi in Upper Egypt has enabled us to broaden our horizons and enrich our knowledge of certain aspects of Christianity that had previously been hidden or suppressed by the orthodoxies. The gospels contained in this library are written in the Sahidic Coptic language (the word Copt comes from the Arabic qibt, which in turn is a contraction of the Greek Aiguptos, or Egypt). Most of them are attributed to direct disciples of the Galilean rabbi Yeshua, considered by some to be the Messiah foretold by Hebraic scriptures, by others as a prophet or a teacher, and by still others as the universal Savior.

Today we are able to study these other gospels of Philip, Peter, Bartholomew, and most especially of Thomas, right alongside those of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. As with some other gospels that came later, it has been established that the Gospel of Thomas (Thomas being also the name of the evangelist of India whose tomb is believed to be in Madras) contains certain logia, or simple sayings, that are likely to be older than the revisions of the canonical texts, and may have been skillfully used by the editors of the latter.

Among these other gospels, which have recently become much better-known, there is one that does not seem to have attracted the attention it deserves from specialists and is still practically unknown to the public at large. It is the Gospel of Mary, attributed to Miriam of Magdala (Mary Magdalene). Because she was the first witness of the Resurrection, she was considered by the apostle John as the founder of Christianity, long before Paul and his vision on the road to Damascus.

By all apostolic accounts, Yeshua of Nazareth himself was certainly not a founder of any "ism," nor of any institution. He was the Annunciator, the Witness, and some would go so far as to say the Incarnation of the possible reign of the Spirit in the heart of this space-time, the manifestation of the Infinite in the very heart of our finitude, the voice of the Other within the speech of human-ness.

The Gospel of Mary comprises the first part of the so-called Berlin Papyrus. This manuscript was acquired in Cairo by C. Reinhardt, and has been preserved since 1896 in the Egyptology section of the national museum of Berlin. It probably came from the area of Akhmin, since it first appeared in an antique shop in that town. According to C. Schmidt, this copy was made in the early fifth century. The papyrological analysis of the manuscript was done by W. C. Till, following the work of C. Schmidt, and then corrected and completed by H. M. Schenke. The scribe wrote down twenty-one, twenty-two, or twenty-three lines per page, with each line containing an average of twenty-two or twenty-three letters. Several leaves are missing from the document: pages 1 to 6, and 11 to 14. This renders its interpretation particularly difficult.

Like the other writings in the Berlin Papyrus, and also like the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Mary is written in Sahidic Coptic, with a number of dialectical borrowings. Several faulty transcriptions and other errors have been discerned in the writing.

As to the dating of the original text upon which the copy was based, it is interesting to note that there exists a Greek fragment, the Rylands papyrus 463, whose identity as the precursor of the Coptic text has been confirmed by Professor Carl Schmidt. This fragment comes from Oxyrhynchus and dates from the beginning of the third century. The first edition of the Gospel of Mary, however, would likely be older than this, that is, from sometime during the second century. W. C. Till places it around the year 150. Therefore it would seem, like the canonical gospels, to be one of the founding or primitive texts of Christianity.

Table of Contents


Foreword by Jacob Needleman

Preface: Who Is Mary Magdalene?


The Gospel of Mary

List of Abbreviations

Introduction


Part One: The Gospel of Mary Magdalene

Part Two: Text with Commentary

Bibliography

What People are Saying About This

Margaret Starbird

Readers will welcome this perceptive translation of the Gnostic "Gospel of Mary" and the insightful commentary by scholar-mystic Jean-Yves Leloup. The journey of the soul and other profound and subtle teachings of Jesus and his beloved Miriam will enlighten modern seekers. (Margaret Starbird, author of The Woman with the Alabaster Jar)

Pamela Crossland

"Powerful, almost Taoist in range, this is an important book and should be read by anyone interested in Mary Magdalene or the early Church."

John Gilbert

"The commentary by Professor LeLoup is beautifully done. He is indeed a scholar of the earth Church."

Steven Sora

Leloup's commentary presents a scholarly translation with an inspirational and passionate interpretation. . . . Going beyond the gospels to the laws of the Torah and the philosophical writings of Kant, the author at once discovers the truer meanings of an ancient text and a message as important today as it was two millennia ago. (Steven Sora, author of The Lost Treasure of the Knights Templar)

Jacob Needleman

The Gospel of Mary, taken with the inspired commentary by Jean-Yves Leloup, can help toward making the teaching of Jesus once again alive. (Jacob Needleman, author of Lost Christianity and The American Soul)

Matthew Fox

One welcomes this solid telling of the story and meaning of a neglected text at the root of Christian wisdom, and of a neglected figure who had a special relationship both with the historical Jesus in his lifetime and with the Christ spirit after the death of Jesus. (Matthew Fox, author of Original Blessing)

Patricia Monaghan

" . . . the Magdalene's gospel might be embraced by contemporary seekers, both Christian and non-Christian.

Introduction

Although historians of early Christianity now have many gospels in their catalogues, those of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John remain the best known. For most churches, they are still the only ones authorized to communicate to us the echoes and interpretations of the events and teachings that took place in Galilee and Judaea about twenty centuries ago.

The recent discovery in 1945 of the library of Nag Hammadi in Upper Egypt has enabled us to broaden our horizons and enrich our knowledge of certain aspects of Christianity that had previously been hidden or suppressed by the orthodoxies. The gospels contained in this library are written in the Sahidic Coptic language (the word Copt comes from the Arabic qibt, which in turn is a contraction of the Greek Aiguptos, or Egypt). Most of them are attributed to direct disciples of the Galilean rabbi Yeshua, considered by some to be the Messiah foretold by Hebraic scriptures, by others as a prophet or a teacher-and by still others as the universal Savior.

Today we are able to study these other gospels-of Philip, Peter, Bartholomew, and most especially of Thomas-right alongside those of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. As with some other gospels that came later, it has been established that the Gospel of Thomas (Thomas being also the name of the evangelist of India whose tomb is believed to be in Madras) contains certain logia, or simple sayings, that are likely to be older than the revisions of the canonical texts, and may have been skillfully used by the editors of the latter.

Among these other gospels, which have recently become much better-known, there is one that does not seem to have attracted the attention it deserves from specialists and is still practically unknown to the public at large. It is the Gospel of Mary, attributed to Miriam of Magdala (Mary Magdalene). Because she was the first witness of the Resurrection, she was considered by the apostle John as the founder of Christianity, long before Paul and his vision on the road to Damascus. By all apostolic accounts, Yeshua of Nazareth himself was certainly not a founder of any “ism,” nor of any institution. He was the Annunciator, the Witness, and some would go so far as to say the Incarnation of the possible reign of the Spirit in the heart of this space-time, the manifestation of the Infinite in the very heart of our finitude, the voice of the Other within the speech of human-ness.

The Gospel of Mary comprises the first part of the so-called Berlin Papyrus. This manuscript was acquired in Cairo by C. Reinhardt, and has been preserved since 1896 in the Egyptology section of the national museum of Berlin. It probably came from the area of Akhmin, since it first appeared in an antique shop in that town. According to C. Schmidt, this copy was made in the early fifth century. The papyrological analysis of the manuscript was done by W. C. Till, following the work of C. Schmidt, and then corrected and completed by H. M. Schenke. The scribe wrote down twenty-one, twenty-two, or twenty-three lines per page, with each line containing an average of twenty-two or twenty-three letters. Several leaves are missing from the document: pages 1 to 6, and 11 to 14. This renders its interpretation particularly difficult.

Like the other writings in the Berlin Papyrus, and also like the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Mary is written in Sahidic Coptic, with a number of dialectical borrowings. Several faulty transcriptions and other errors have been discerned in the writing.

As to the dating of the original text upon which the copy was based, it is interesting to note that there exists a Greek fragment-the Rylands papyrus 463-whose identity as the precursor of the Coptic text has been confirmed by Professor Carl Schmidt. This fragment comes from Oxyrhynchus and dates from the beginning of the third century. The first edition of the Gospel of Mary, however, would likely be older than this, that is, from sometime during the second century. W. C. Till places it around the year 150. Therefore it would seem, like the canonical gospels, to be one of the founding or primitive texts of Christianity.

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Gospel of Mary Magdalene 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It is always interesting to look at the scriptures which were rejected by the early church leaders. In this instance it seems that two of the more threatening elements are probably the special emphasis placed on the Presence to be discovered and allowed to grow within us as well as the central position accorded to Mary Magdalene. The format of the text is done in a highly readable style. You don't have to be an academic to understand it. The commentary is particularly good. The author highlights both the unique aspects of this gospel and also its similarities to the four canonical Gospels. Anyone interested in learning more about Mary Magdalene and the development of early Christianity will enjoy reading THE GOSPEL OF MARY MAGDALENE.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I got this book as a Christmas gift from my sister, and I didn't put it down until it was finished. The first part of the book is the actual gospel. The second part is a verse by verse commentary, which was extremely helpful. It provides a rare glimpse into early Christianity.
ManoloMV More than 1 year ago
The explanations by the Author make this book easier to understand. It requires the reader to medidate on the meanings behind the teachings.
EugeneTX More than 1 year ago
This is an excellent book whatever your persuasion might be. It depicts a side of Mary Magdalene generally unknown and allows you to be the judge of the material. My recommendation is to take this book, and a good bible such as the New Oxford Annotated Bible containing the Apocrypha, and as you read the Gospel compare with the Bible just to really see what you might have overlooked when reading the Bible for the Twentieth time. I guarantee you that Mary will come alive and become a feeling person as you make this comparison. Do not forget the Annotations which are definitely worth your reading at the same time. Read the Gospel of Mary and pay close attention to the alabaster jar with the Spikenard preservative into which Jesus' circumcision ring went and then later when Mary Magdalene annoints Jesus' using an alabaster jar and ointment. Read carefully how Jesus himself said that she would be remembered for the good service that had been done for him and that she would be remembered wherever the good news was later proclaimed. Little did Jesus know that men were going to find a way to write women out of the program. The reality is that she is hardly remembered at all and then, I am finding, mostly in a negative sense that I cannot find in the Bible. See Mark 14.8-9 for reference. If you are not anti-female, you will love this book. Don't miss it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The recent hoopla about Mary Magdalena is connected to the popularity THE DA VINCI CODE. If you¿re looking for an academic treatment on Mary Magdalene and this Gospel, this isn¿t it. This is a theological treatment of esoteric Christianity for esoteric Christians. This gospel, which was NOT part of the Nag Hammandi find, is very small and incomplete. Most of this book is an incredible but over-intellectualized explanation of the short Gospel and suppositions about Mary Magdalena by a JeanYves Deloup and translated by Joseph Rowe. So we are getting an English translation of a French version of a Coptic text. Rowe was given the task of translation by artists/writers David Tressemer and Laura-Lee Cannon; these two recommend pseudo-academic books such as HOLY BLOOD, HOLY GRAIL, Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince¿s THE TEMPLAR REVELATION: SECRET GUARDIANS OF THE TRUE IDENTITY OF CHRIST, and THE CULT OF THE BLACK MADONNA by Ean Begg. It is fascinating how these books feed on each other. The Gospel of Mary Magdalena itself can be found on the Internet. For a different and possibly more enlightening look at Mary Magdalene and her gospels try THE GOSPEL OF MARY OF MAGDALA: JESUS AND THE FIRST WOMAN APOSTLE by Karen L. King or THE GOSPELS OF MARY: THE SECRET TRADITION OF MARY MAGADALENE, THE COMPANION OF JESUS by Marvin W. Meyer. Leloup and company should not be your only source and the Gospel of Mary Magdalene shouldn¿t be the only Gnostic texts you read. -- Leslie Strang Akers.
Guest More than 1 year ago
one must have an open mind when reading this. one must understand that we don't know everything that happen 2000+ years ago because we were not there. this book just gives another more man-like views of the man we know as Jesus.
yarnspinner 4 months ago
The find at Nag Hammadi was rather remarkable. Included was the gospel of Mary. The problem I have with this book is all the commentary. The gospel itself was incredibly short, but at the same time, incredibly insightful. It is a shame that much of it was lost and not included. But, the insinuations by all of the so called "experts" is just outrageous. They all seem to want to share the consensus that Mary was Yeshua's lover (sexually) while there is no direct evidence to suggest this in any of the gospels or writings ever found. Let's not forget that sex outside of marriage was considered (within Judaism) to be a sinful act. This being so, Yeshua would not have been followed or looked upon as the messiah. From the believer's standpoint, one would also have to consider the possibility of divine influence/interference. Would false accountings of Christ be destroyed or eliminated by God? While these have been found, they have not been generally accepted by the Christian world. Perhaps God was testing our faith? Then again, these have been unearthed. Regardless, interpreting a few mentions of Christ "loving Mary more than the other disciples" or "loving Mary differently than other women" should not be immediately received as evidence and proof that Christ and Mary M. were sexual partners. If you are a believer don't let the commentaries and opinions of others (trying to divine the gospel of Mary) influence or discourage you. Take comfort in the knowledge that God is not going to let false accountings override and super-cede the message he delivered to all of humanity through Yeshua as his chosen Christ. His will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.
madamejeanie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Let me start off by saying that my discovery of the texts found at NagHammadi and the Dead Sea Scrolls have changed the way I look at a lot ofthings, including but certainly not limited to, religion and worldhistory.Back in the third and fourth centuries, when the Christian Church was init's infancy and still finding it's way among all the different sectsand offshoots, monumental changes were brought forth. After Constantinemarried a Christian woman and learned of the massive numbers of "closetChristians" there were throughout the world, he had his big "conversionexperience. The fact that utilizing those massive numbers of Christianwarriors would almost guarantee his take-over of the Roman Empireprobably had nothing to do with it (yeah, right. ) But logic andstudy of history does convince me that Constantine and the other "powersthat be" in those days created the Church as they wished it to be inorder to control more of the masses and put forth their own concepts ofright and wrong, good and evil, and they completely ignored whatthousands had held to be the truth.The Nicene Council of bishops chose (and rewrote in some cases) the 66books that we know as the Holy Bible, and they had an agenda to putforward -- that of controlling the masses of humanity and making TheChurch the ruler of everything on this earth. Anyone with an ounce ofcuriosity and common sense, it seems to me, would be interested inknowing just what was in those texts that they discarded and latersuppressed and tried to destroy. These texts make up what has come tobe known as the Gnostic Bible, and ladies and gentlemen, there is nomore fascinating reading to be found.The Gospel of Mary Magdalene is one of those forbidden texts and thisbook explores in detail exactly who Mary was and why the Church fatherswanted her and her gospel suppressed. This text, unfortunately, did notsurvive in it's entirety, so this study is incomplete, but what doesremain is very powerful.It has long been believed among Gnostics that Mary Magdalene was thewife of Jesus, and this gospel goes a long way to proving that. Not bycoming out with it in so many words, but by the insinuation that thetruths Jesus revealed to Mary were much deeper and more mystical thanany he ever revealed to any man. Remember how the gospels agree thatMary was the first person to see the resurrected Christ on Eastermorning? And how he told her not to touch him? LeLoup in this studyopines that a world of information passed between them in those silentmoments in front of that tomb that morning, in a form of informationconduit between two joined souls. Anyone who has ever been fortunateenough to marry their "soulmate" will understand exactly how such athing can be. The other disciples, especially Peter, were exceedinglyjealous that Jesus would choose to reveal these truths to Mary, a merewoman, and not to one of them. Some of the disciples joined him in hisscoffing, but others (most notably Thomas and Bartholomew) studied atMary's feet. It was in these moments, as Mary taught them the truthsrevealed to her by Christ, that the chasm between the Gnostic Christiansand what would later go on to become the Catholic Church began.Obviously, this particular Gospel was discarded and suppressed becauseit came to us through a woman, but there is a great deal more to itthan that. It reveals the innate equality between men and women in themind and heart of God and the men who ran the church just couldn't abidethat. It also reveals certain "truths" that are diametrically opposedto what the Church wanted to embrace, pertaining to the nature of Godand spirituality itself.This gospel is a fairly short text, fragmented by the loss of time, butstill holds many powerful truths. Leloup's commentary is easy to followand understand and it is very well researched. There is much food forthought within this slim volume, which is why I would not recommend itas a "quick read." It should be eaten in small bites and chewed long.But at the end of
mzzkitee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I liked this book because of the history but it wasn't what I expected and I thought it was lacking something. it left me unsatisfied.
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