there is no Apostolic connection, unless one wanted to claim that Mary was an Apostle, which is troublesome nine ways from Tuesday, so there
is at least one legitimate complaint against it.
Well, I am a literal minded person, adj
. I understand an Apostle (capital-A) to be someone who was visited by the risen Christ, and in that
visit was personally commissioned by Jesus to tell others something. I read in John
20: 15-18 that Jesus visits Mary Magdalene personally, asks
her to tell specifically the men about his travel plans, and she does so.
What's missing? Nothing, so far as I can see. I am delighted to claim that Mary was a capital-A Apostle. What's more, I believe that that was the
author's conscious intention in writing the scene, to address a controversy about the composition of the First Apostolate, probably in the context of
a larger controversy about women's competence overall. John
and the Pastorals are of roughly similar age. I believe their respective authors
are talking to each other.
Further indication of diversity of opinion among early Christians, in my view, is the curious antiparallelism to Mark
, where Mary and the other
women are depicted as being afraid to carry out their commission, which they receive from an unidentified man, versus Mary
, where it is the
boys who are hesitant to carry out their commission given by the risen Jesus.
It is entirely possible, in my view, that the authors of Mark
might have been talking to each other, too.
To this day, we hear from Christian apologists about the "embarrassment" that women would be the first witnesses to the empty tomb (actually, they
are only among
the first witnesses, depending on which Gospel). I propose that not everybody in the early church was embarrassed about that,
and I'll bet at least half of them thought it was fully appropriate.
That said, I'll throw a little twist in to the mix. I read recently (and now I can't find the source, lol) that the title character of The
Gospel of Mary isn't Mary Magdalene, but rather is Mary, the mother of Jesus. In rereading it, there's nothing that jumps out at me to say that's
impossible, so it's a bit thought provoking. A line like:
I would agree about the possibility, especially mindful that Luke specifically places Mary of Nazareth among the Cenacle community between the giving
and acting upon the commission. However, Peter in Mary
asks whether Jesus would have spoken privately with this Mary.
I venture even Peter wouldn't wonder whether a son might speak privately with his mother. That doesn't eliminate Mary of Nazareth as our
, but I think it makes the identification of Mary of Magdala more than merely tenable or fashionable. However, I would also acknowledge
that there is a history of confusing Maries, and most of this Gospel is missing.
For the record, then, Mary of Bethany would also be a candidate. Like Mary of Nazareth, this Mary, as well as her sister, is shown in John
speaking both privately and insistently with Jesus. Jealousy of Mary of Bethany is one reading of Judas' reaction to her annointing of Jesus, and it
is only in John
that discord about a woman's annointing is specified as Judas' alone.
The downside, of course, is Mariology, which I'm assured dates back to the earliest days of the church. If there was a text that was
attributed to mother Mary, we'd probably have a better preserved version of it.
It's hard to say. We don't know how Mary
stopped being in use, after two hundred years we know about. It could have been that Gnostic embrace
may have tarnished the genuine article (what I believe contributed to Thomas
's disuse). But the pattern (to me at least) seems clear: woo-woo
conspiracy theorists aside, the established church didn't "rewrite" Gospels, it simply encouraged (and probably subsidized) the copying of a book,
or else it didn't. If it didn't, and nobody else hid a copy in a "time capsule," then the unloved text simply passes out of existence, plus or
minus the occasional bonfire, which can only hasten the process along.
Kinship and discipleship are two common bases for claiming authority to be a successor to an absent leader. If our Mary
is of Nazareth, then
this gospel shows her having both sources of authority, in spades. Given that she is depicted as using some authority to say uncomfortable things, and
that her saying anything at all to those whose authority resides in discipleship alone is an insurgent act according to some, Mariology might provide
an affirmative motive for losing this text.