*CHAPTER 2* The Gospel of MaryTHE GOSPEL OF MARY is a Gospel known from the Coptic version ina Berlin gnostic codex (Papyrus Berolinensis 8502, the first trac-tate) and from two Greek fragments (Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 3525and Papyrus Rylands 463). The Coptic version is the most com-plete text, but the Coptic Gospel of Mary is missing six manu-script pages at the beginning and four manuscript pages in themiddle. Presumably the Gospel of Mary was originally composedin Greek, but the date and place of composition are unknown.Karen King has suggested that the original Gospel of Mary mayhave been penned in the late first or early second century, per-haps in Syria or Egypt. This suggestion is rather general, but thismay be the best estimate that can be offered at this time. The extant texts of the Gospel of Mary present a dialogue inwhich the savior (Jesus) discusses various topics with his disciples,particularly Mary (almost certainly Mary Magdalene) and Levi,whounderstand correctly,. and Peter and his brother Andrew, whodo not understand and do not accept Marys teaching. The textbegins with a discussion of the nature and destiny of matter, and 16
MARYthe savior declares that all creation will return back to the root ofits nature. Further, says Jesus, there really is nothing like sin, if sinis thought to be simple wrongdoing. Sin, if we may call it that, isactually cosmic adultery—that is, it is getting improperly con-nected in the world. Sin in this sense means allowing the goodspiritual nature to get mixed up with what is contrary to nature,and such mingling makes people become sick and die. The savior then goes on, in the Gospel of Mary, to giveencouragement and offer peace to the disciples. He advises themnot to be distracted by looking here and there, but rather to lookwithin themselves, where. the child of humanity (or son of man, asthe phrase traditionally has been translated) is to be found. Thisshould be the gospel the disciples preach, not a legalistic set ofrules and regulations. And having said this, the savior leaves, in away that recalls either the crucifixion or the ascension of the sav-ior in other texts. In either case, he is gone. The disciples are disturbed by the departure of the savior. Theyfear for their own lives, for if the savior was crucified, they mightalso be in danger. Mary, however, rises to comfort and assurethem. Peter admits that the savior loved Mary more than otherwomen, and so he asks her to recount what the savior told her butnot the other disciples. She recalls how she saw the master in avision—and then, unfortunately; the text breaks off for four pages.When the text resumes, Mary is still rehearsing the vision: as sherecounts it, the soul of a person, on its way—or on her way, sincethe soul is usually personified in ancient literature as being femalein gender—to the realm above, is interrogated by the powers ofthe cosmos, and overcomes the powers and ascends beyondthem. In this way the soul in the vision is liberated from passionand ignorance, and returns to the spiritual realm of the divine. Andrew and Peter appreciate none of this, and Peter doubtsthe veracity of Marys teaching. Mary in turn complains bitterly, 17
THE GOSPELS OF MARYand Levi comes to Marys defense, noting that the savior knewand loved Mary. Levi rouses the disciples to put on perfecthumanity and go out to preach. In the Rylands papyrus Levileaves to teach the good news; in the Coptic version (translated inthis chapter) the other disciples also proclaim the gospel. In the Gospel of Mary the words of Mary Magdalene areuttered clearly and profoundly to communicate teaching and rev-elation. The conflict between Peter and Mary, also well knownfrom the Gospel of Thomas and Pistis Sophia, highlights the cen-tral place of Mary Magdalene as beloved disciple of Jesus andpreeminent leader in the early church.FOR FURTHER READING: Esther A. de Boer, The Gospel ofMary; Karen L. King, The Gospel of Mary of Magdala; Karen L.King, "The Gospel of Mary"; Anne Pasquier, LEvangile selonMarie; R. McL. Wilson and George W. MacRae, "The GospelAccording to Mary"
The Gospel of MaryTHE DISCIPLES DIALOGUE WITH THE SAVIOR "Will matter be destroyed or not?" The savior replied, "All natures, all formed things, all crea-tures exist in and with each other, and they will dissolve intotheir own root. The nature of matter is dissolved into the rootof its nature. Whoever has ears to hear should hear. Peter said to him, "You have explained everything to us. Tellus also, what is the sin of the world?" The savior replied, "There is no such thing as sin, but youcreate sin when you mingle as in adultery, and this is called sin.For this reason the good came among you, to those of everynature, in order to restore nature to its root." He continued, "That is why you become sick and die, for[you love] (8) what [deceives you]. 6 Whoever has a mind shouldunderstand. "Matter gave birth to passion that is without form, becauseit comes from what is contrary to nature, and then confusionarose in the whole body. That is why I told you, Be of goodcourage? And if you are discouraged, be encouraged in the pres-ence of the diversity of forms of nature. Whoever has ears tohear should hear." When the blessed one said this, he greeted all of them andsaid, "Peace be with you. Receive my peace. 9 Be careful that noone leads you astray by saying, look here or Look there. Thechild of humanitr° is within you." Follow that." Those whoseek it will find it. Go and preach the .good news of the king-dom. Do not (9) lay down any rules other than what I have 19
THE GOSPELS OF MARYgiven you, and do not establish law, as the lawgiver did, or youwill be bound by it." When he said this, he left them.MARY CONSOLES THE DISCIPLES,AND PETER CHALLENGES MARY The disciples were grieved. They wept profoundly and said,"How can we go to the gentiles and preach the good news of thekingdom of the child of humanity? If they did not spare him,how will we be spared?" Mary14 stood up, greeted them all," and said to her brothers,""Do not weep or grieve or be in doubt, for his grace will be withyou all and will protect you. Rather, let us praise his greatness,for he has prepared us and made us truly human." When Mary said this she turned their hearts to the good,and they began to discuss the words of the [savior]. (io) Peter said to Mary "Sister, we know the savior loved youmore than any other woman.i 7 Tell us the words of the saviorthat you remember, which you know but we do not, because wehave not heard them." Mary answered and said, "What is hidden from you I shallreveal to you." She began to speak these words to them. She said, "I saw the master in a vision and I said to him,`Master, today I saw you in a vision! "He answered and said to me, Blessings on you, since youdid not waver when you saw me. For where the mind is, thetreasure is."9 "I said to him, Master, how does a person see a vision, withthe soul or with the spirit? "The savior answered and said, A person sees neither with 20
MARYthe soul nor with the spirit. The mind, which is between thetwo, sees the vision... ." *MARY RECOUNTS HER VISION OF THE SOULS ASCENT "Desire said, I did not see you descending, but now I seeyou ascending. Why are you lying, since you belong to me?2° "The soul answered and said, I saw you, but you did not seeme or know me. To you I was only a garment, 2i and you did notrecognize me. `After the soul said this, she left, rejoicing greatly "The soul approached the third power, called ignorance. Thepower questioned the soul, saying, Where are you going? You arebound by wickedness, you are bound, so do not pass judgment. "The soul said, Why do you pass judgment on me, though Ihave not passed judgment? I was bound, but I have not bound.I was not recognized, but I have recognized that all is to be dis-solved, both what is earthly (16) and what is heavenly "When the soul overcame the third power, she ascended andsaw the fourth power. It took seven forms: Thefirstforrn is darkness, the second, desire, the third, ignorance, thefourth, death wish, thefifih,fleshly kingdom, the sixth, foolishfleshly wisdom, the seventh, angry persons wisdom. "These are the seven powers of wrath. "The powers asked the soul, Where are you coming from,slayer of humans, and where are you going, destroyer of realms? "The soul answered and said, What binds me is slain, what 21
THE GOSPELS OF MARYsurrounds me is destroyed, my desire is gone, ignorance is dead.In a world I was freed (I7) through" another world, and in animage I was freed through a heavenly image. The fetter of for-getfulness is temporary. From now on I shall rest, through thecourse of the time of the age, in silence.PETER AND ANDREW DOUBT MARYS WORD When Mary said this, she became silent, since the savior hadspoken this much to her. Andrew answered and said to the brothers, "Say what youthink about what she said, but I do not believe the savior saidthis. These teachings certainly are strange ideas." Peter voiced similar concerns. He asked the others about thesavior: "Did he really speak with a woman in private, withoutour knowledge? Should we all turn and listen to her? Did heprefer her to us?"" (r8)LEVI SPEAKS ON BEHALF OF MARY Then Mary wept and said to Peter, "My brother Peter, whatdo you think? Do you think that I made this up by myself orthat I am lying about the savior?" Levi" answered and said to Peter, "Peter, you always are angry.Now I see you arguing against this woman like an adversary If thesavior made her worthy, who are you to reject her? Surely the sav-ior knows her well. That is why he has loved her more than us. "So, we should be ashamed and put on perfect humanity andacquire" it, as he commanded us, and preach the good news, notmaking any rule or law other than what the savior indicated." When (19) [Levi said] this, they began to leave [in orderto] teach and preach. 22