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JUDAS AND MARY MAGDALENE

JUDAS AND MARY MAGDALENE
In comparative recent years there has emerged a re-evaluation of the long accepted view of the above major New Testament figures. A reading of the synoptic Gospels gives the clear impression that Judas was to say the least a wicked betrayer and that Mary Magdalene was a (reformed) sinner, with  a dubious moral background. This teaching was fostered by the Catholic Church (and others) as it , put simply, suited their book. For two thousand years this fiction has been believed by adherents of the major Christian religions. In the case of Judas, if one accepts the version of events narrated in the Gospels, Christ was led to his death at Judas` instigation. All four of the writers of the first four Books of the New Testament, agree on this ‘fact’.

But who exactly were the authors of these Books? And are they completely trustworthy and reliable? The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls might suggest that all they wrote could not be relied upon, since the Scrolls often give a different interpretation of biblical events. With regard to Mary Magdalene, the RC `s notorious misogyny is explicit. Fathers of the Church could not accept that a female could play a significant role in the life of Jesus and so she had to be downgraded. Indeed, Mary Magdalene is mentioned several key times in the synoptic gospels but readers are left in no doubt of her less than worthy past – a figure upon whom Jesus bestowed compassion, but (as the  apostles thought) not  deserving of the status of  close companion.

 

          REFERENCES IN THE FOUR SYNOPTIC GOSPELS

 

 

Without any preamble (26;14) in Matthew`s gospel we are told that “one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot went to the chief priests” and agreed to betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver by greeting him with a kiss. As we know this happened and Jesus was arrested. Later (27;3) Judas repented, returned the pieces of silver and hanged himself.  – so we are told.

At Jesus` death, we read that there were many women there who had followed Jesus from Galilee and had provided for him. “Among them were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Jesus….” Meanwhile all the Apostles  “had deserted him and fled”. . After the body of Jesus had been placed in the tomb, “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb”. After the Sabbath, Mary Magdalene went “to see the tomb” and discovered Jesus was not there. They ran to tell his disciples,

but on the way they met the risen Jesus, who greeted the women. Later on he appeared to his disciples. Clearly Mary Magdalene plays a prominent role in Jesus` latter days; more prominent than that of the disciples. The other three gospel writers largely repeat this narrative but it is Mark (16;9) who refers to the casting out of seven demons from Mary Magdalene. What could be a very significant passage is encountered in John where we read that  as Jesus was dying on the cross he was aware  of his mother and “the disciple whom he loved” , namely, Mary Magdalene. Nowhere in these four gospels is there any mention of Mary Magdalene being a reformed prostitute

 

The four gospel writers, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, all make reference to Judas as the one who would betray Christ. John also adds the words that “the devil having now put into the heart of Judas” ( the determination to betray Jesus): 12:14.. Luke also echoes these words.in 22:3. Matthew and Mark relate how Judas went to the chief priests to apprise them of his purpose. John speaks of the moment at the Last Supper, when Jesus identifies which one will betray him: “He it is to whom I shall give a sop when I have dipped it. And when he had dipped the sop , he gave it to Judas Iscariot….” (13:26).  . It is clearly shown in these instances that all four writers believed implicitly in Judas` betrayal of Jesus. This is the accepted view of Judas for two millennia – according to those Books thought worthy of being included in the “canon”. As is well known the bibles and their contents differ a good deal from each other, reflected in the differing “bibles” used by individual Christian religions. Who decided their several contents- those considered for acceptance, and those for exclusion? . Of course it was largely subjective: what fitted, what best reflected the current view, what reinforced the teachings of the Churches. Christian and Jews alike decided on a collection most consonant with their own dogmas and traditions. This “winnowing” process took  place over hundreds  of years, but mostly in the first millennium, so that by and large the “canons” were established for the second millennium. The personnel who had this task were the hierarchy of the Churches, led of course in the case of the Catholic Church by the Pope of the time. Also it is important to remember that we do not know for sure that the four main gospels were written by the people whose names are given to them. More important still is the fact that neither do we know for certain when the gospels were written.

 

However the question arises: did Jesus need someone to act as catalyst to further his mission to die , and thereby atone,   for the sins of humanity. This is the viewpoint of those who do not, or no longer, accept the traditional portrayal of Judas. This view was dramatically given a boost when in the spring of 2006 the text of the Gospel of Judas was promulgated after being hidden from public eyes for decades. The gospel was discovered in 1970 in Egypt but was not really identified as the Gospel of Judas until 2000, and from then on it underwent a variety of adventures. It had first to be restored and then translated into English from the Coptic.  The text is not the original but a translation of a Greek text probably dating from about 170 AD or later,  written by a Christian or Christians, members of an early (dissident) sect.

 

Far from being a traitor the Judas depicted in this document is one who acts out Christ`s wishes, sacrificing himself in the process (later) . Judas appears as one who was in fact the facilitator of Jesus` apprehension and death. It does seem as though Judas and Jesus had initiated a type of collusion whereby the stages leading to the crucifixion were agreed.  The message given by this Gospel is that Judas was only following Christ`s wishes.

 

Why therefore was Judas painted by the authors of the four main gospels in the way he was? It might be that they were simply mistaken – after all, one gospel writer followed, I do not say, copied, the other!

Or perhaps they were motivated out of jealousy arising from a perceived close relationship with their leader. Or as Judas was the “treasurer” for the group, and felt to be somewhat materialistic, he was regarded as the likeliest candidate for betrayer – if there had to be one. . Whatever, it is clear that Judas was not liked by the other apostles. The revealed document is therefore to be considered as an attempt “to put the record straight” by a sect member who clearly disagreed with the version of our four writers and may indeed have some sort of “inside” knowledge of the true circumstances, handed down to him/her.

 

The text itself begins with an account of a meeting of Judas and some of the other apostles with Jesus, set probably some time before the crucifixion.  Judas comes over as an intimate of Jesus, maybe his best (male) friend . Without the assistance of Judas,  we may surmise, Christ could not have fulfilled his destiny – this is the message.   In the conversation it is intimated that Jesus` soul  will be liberated from the body and thereby  is able to reach heaven.

 

EXTRACTS FROM THE GOSPEL OF JUDAS

 

Knowing that Judas was reflecting upon something that was exalted. Jesus said to him”Step away from the others and I shall tell you the mysteries of the kingdom. It is possible for you to reach it , but you will grieve a good deal. For someone else will replace you in order that the twelve disciples may again come to completion with their god.”

Judas said to him, “When will you tell me these things, and when will the great day of light dawn for the generation?”

But when he said this, Jesus left him.

 

(The apostles recounted a vision to Jesus which he explains, and then Judas recounts a vision and Jesus replies)

Intriguingly Jesus refers to Judas as “You thirteenth spirit” and then explains Judas` vision of twelve disciples stoning him, saying Judas , your star has led you astray. I have explained to you the mysteries of the kingdom and I have taught you about the error of the stars…”

 

Why does Jesus refer to Judas as “Thirteenth” ? Was Mary Magdalene one of the twelve?

 

Jesus said to him(Judas) you will become the thirteenth and you will be cursed by the other generations – and you will come to rule over them.

 

Having asked about his own fate, Judas is taught by Jesus about cosmology and the Spirit.

 

Jesus said, “Come that I may teach you about secrets no  person has ever seen.  For there exists a great and boundless realm…”

 

A great deal of cosmographical information is given to Judas by Jesus,

and the subjects of rulers and angels, the creation of humanity, the destiny of Adam and humanity, the destruction of the wicked. Judas asks many questions, related to these topics. Then the conversation turns to Judas and the part that he will play in the final hours before Jesus is crucified.

Judas wonders what those will do who have been baptized in Jesus` name. Jesus gives an explanation but then speaks some very significant words.

 

“But you will exceed all of them. For you will sacrifice the man that clothes me.”

A difficult line but which probably means you will sacrifice the mortal body which hides the immortal, i.e. the  Son of God.

 

And then later, Jesus addressing Judas, says, “you have been told everything . Lift up your eyes and look at the cloud and the light within it and the stars surrounding it. The star that leads the way is your star”.

Judas lifted up his eyes and saw the luminous cloud and he entered it.

 

The gospel ends with a brief account of Judas` final action in the trial of Jesus.

 

 

The text having undergone final examination and authenticated now presents a coherent narrative. It is being  made available to the public generally. Finally the Maecenas  Foundation in Switzerland , the owners of the document, will donate the document to Egypt, where it was found, to be kept in the  Coptic museum in Cairo.  A translation issued by the National Geographic Society is now available, the latest edition being in 2006.

 

At this juncture we can address ourselves to the enigma of Mary Magdalene, who like Judas, has undergone a recent fundamental reappraisal . As we have said, the usual view of Mary Magdalene is of a reformed sinner who features but occasionally in the New Testament, and is definitely tangential to the main story. However if we look more closely at her role and put this in context we can see just how vital a part she does play. Apart  from this is the testimony of the Gospel of Mary which enables us to see Mary Magdalene in a completely different light from the traditional. This gospel was discovered in 1896 so it has been around for a long time  but it was not until the 80s that a final translation was published. The original text was written in Greek about 150AD. It is true that Mary is not often mentioned in the Bible but when she is it is always on important occasions. Thus she is the first witness of the Resurrection when she sees the stone rolled back;  she accompanies Jesus on his journeys; she is present at the crucifixion. She is the first to see Jesus after his resurrection; she is clearly well known as a disciple of Jesus. However, it is equally clear the Mary was not liked by some of the other disciples, especially Peter, largely because she was a woman. Much modern biblical scholarship regards the gospel as presenting “a radical interpretation of Jesus` teachings…and asks us to rethink the basis for church authority.” (Karen King)

The text of the gospel is missing several pages at the beginning and several in the middle. Consequently, the story begins in  the middle of a scene , leaving the circumstances unclear. However, various clues suggest the scene is a post resurrection one, where Christ is talking to his disciples, and answering their questions on the nature of matter and sin. After the discussion Jesus leaves and the apostles are upset and troubled.

What we have of the gospel is presented below. Before we read it we can summarise the story, beginning from the departure of Jesus. Mary attempts to comfort the disciples. Peter asks Mary to share with them any special teaching she may have got from the Savior. Peter addresses  Mary in very significant words and says that as Jesus loves her more than the other women, she could perhaps tell them (the apostles) the words of the Savior which she knew but they did not. Mary replies by recounting a conversation she had with Jesus in a vision,   In the vision, Jesus it appears is talking about the soul, the spirit and the mind, and the relationship of these to the ablity to see visions. The next few pages are missing and we take up the text where Mary is recounting a revelation given in the vision about a soul ascending to heaven but having to confront various hazards on the way: the four “powers” Her account of the vision only succeeds in arousing a degree of animosity among some of the disciples, jealousy being  one of the emotions. Certainly Peter and Andrew were offended but Levi/Matthew defends Mary.

 

`        In this text Mary certainly is seen as a fervent disciple, especially singled out for especial attention by Jesus. She is the comforter of the apostles in their mood of despair. Before the gap in the narrative, where the risen Christ is in converse with the disciples , the nature of sin is discussed. It is not an easy passage to comprehend but the message seems to be that sin is not so much a moral offence but is something that is the result of mixing the spiritual and the material, improperly. After the lacuna, we see that  Mary tells the disciples things that they did not know. Mary then describes Jesus` revelations about the soul rising and confronting the four powers (mentioned in the text) ,overcoming them and attaining eternal peace.

At the end of the gospel we are left with the impression that Mary is special to Jesus who has knowledge and the ability to teach above that of the accepted apostolic tradition.

 

THE GOSPEL OF MARY MAGDALENE

 

(Italics denote my comment. Otherwise it is the original text)

 

The disciples are in conversation with Christ sometime after the Resurrection, but as the initial part is missing, we enter the converse in the middle as it were.)

 

….Will matter be destroyed or not?

The Saviour said  , All nature , all formations, all creatures exist in and with one another , and they will be resolved again into their own roots.

For the nature of matter is resolved into the roots of its own nature alone.

He who has ears to hear , let him hear.

Peter said to him, Since you have explained everything to us , tell us this also. What is the sin of the world?

 

(Maybe at this juncture we should offer a comment.  It is important to remember that words and expressions might have undergone a change of meaning in translation. For example the “roots” reference may be better understood by the word “origin”.)

 

The Saviour said There is no sin , but it is you who make sin when you do the things that are like the nature of adultery , which is called sin.

That is why the Good came into your midst, to the essence of every nature in order to restore it to its root.

 

Then he continued and said , That is why you become sick and die , for you are deprived of the one who can heal you.

He who has a mind to understand , let him understand.

Matter gave birth to a passion that has no equal, which proceeded from something contrary to nature. Then there arises a disturbance in its whole body.

That is why   I said to you , Be of good courage , and if you are discouraged be encouraged in the presence of the different forms of nature. (i.e. all God`s creation)

He who has ears to hear , let him hear.

 

When the Blessed One had said this , He greeted them all saying , Peace be with you . Receive my peace unto yourselves.

Beware that no one lead you astray saying Lo here or lo there! For the Son of Man is within you.

Follow after him!

Those who seek him will find him.

Go then and preach the gospel of the Kingdom.

Do not lay down any rules beyond what I appointed you, and do not give a law like the lawgiver lest you be constrained by it.

 

When He said this, He departed.

 

But they were grieved, They wept greatly saying, How shall we go to the Gentiles and preach the gospel of the Kingdom of the Son of Man? If they did not spare Him how will they spare us?

Then Mary stood up , greeted them all, and said to her brethren, Do not weep and do not grieve nor be irresolute, for His grace will be entirely with you and will protect you.

But rather let us praise His greatness, for he has prepared us and made us into Men.

 

When Mary said this , she turned their hearts to the Good , and they began to discuss the words of the Saviour.

 

Peter said to Mary, Sister we know that the Saviour loved you more than the rest of woman. Tell us the words of the Saviour which you remember which you know  but we do not, not have we heard them. (denotes how special Mary was to Jesus)

Mary answered and said , what is hidden from you I will proclaim to you.

 

And she began to speak to them  these words: I, she said, I saw the Lord in a vision and I said to Him, Lord I saw you today in a vision . He answered and said to me,

Blessed are you that you did not waver at the sight of Me . For where the mind is there is the treasure.

 

I said to Him, Lord how does he who sees the vision see it, through the soul or through the spirit?

 

The Saviour answered and said, He does not see through the soul nor through the spirit, but the mind that is between the two . That is what sees the vision and it is…..(missing pages)

 

And desire said , I did not see you (i.e. the soul) descending , but now I see you ascending .Why do you lie  since you belong to me? i.e.Man`s natural concupiscence)

 

The soul answered and said I saw you You did not see me nor recognize me . I served you as a garment and you did not know me. (i.e. the soul is greater than desire)

 

When it said this it (the soul) went away rejoicing greatly.

 

Again it came to the third power, which is called ignorance.

 

The power questioned the soul , saying, Where are you going? In wickedness are you bound. But you are bound, do not judge! ( probably some kind of slur or  taunt)

 

And the soul said, Why do you judge me , although I have not judged?

I was bound though I have not bound. I was not recognized. But I have recognized that the All is being dissolved, both the earthly things and the heavenly. ( It may be that the “All” refers to something mentioned in the missing pages, or simply refers to a dissolution of the then known universe by God).

 

When the soul had overcome the third power, it went upwards and saw the fourth power, which took seven forms.

The first form is darkness, the second desire, the third ignorance , the fourth is the excitement of death , the fifth is the kingdom of the flesh, the sixth is the foolish wisdom of flesh, the seventh is the wrathful wisdom. These are the seven powers of wrath. (possible that “wisdom” as used here  is  a misplaced  or even perverted show of wisdom, and as “flesh” is used twice here in the same context the second  use denotes flesh as humanity)

 

They asked the soul , whence do you come slayer of men. Or where are you  going , conqueror of space?

 

The soul answered and said , What binds me has been slain , and what turns me about has been overcome. (i.e. the forces of evil)

And my desire has been ended and ignorance has died. (i.e. the  second and third forms above)

In an aeon I was released from a world , and in a Type from a type, and from the fetter of oblivion which is transient. (It is possible this difficult passage refers to the sacrifice  of Jesus enacted for all mankind: the “Type”. The redemption of the soul/souls will last through all eternity)

From this time on will I attain to the rest of the time , of the season, of the aeon, in silence. ( i.e. everlasting peace)

 

When Mary had said this, she fell silent, since it was to this point that the Saviour had spoken with her.

 

But 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 answered and spoke concerning these same things.

He questioned  them about the Saviour . Did He  really  speak privately  with a woman and not openly to us. Are we to 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 have thought this up myself in my heart, or that I am lying about the Saviour?

 

Levi (Matthew) answered and said to Peter , Peter you have always been hot tempered.

Now I see you contending against the woman like the adversaries.(i.e. the antagonistic powers above)

But if the Saviour made her worthy, who are you indeed to reject her? Surely the Saviour knows her very well.

That is why He loved her more than us. Rather let us be ashamed and put on the perfect Man and separate as He commanded us and preach the gospel, not laying down any other rule or other law beyond what  the Saviour said.

 

And when they heard this they began to go forth to proclaim  and to preach.