The Gospel of Philip and the Mary Magdalene Reference

Although in the earlier study concerning Mary Magdalene (and Judas) we looked at “revisionist” views of their role in the lifetime of Christ, we said little about the relationship given us in Philip`s  gospel, of Mary M. and Jesus. It does seem as if the traditional view of Mary M is not correct, judging from the evidence presented in some of the non-canonical writings. Indeed possibly the earliest indication that Jesus was close (if not closest) to one of his most fervent disciples, namely Mary M, is presented to us in the gospel of Philip. It might therefore be instructive now to look at this gospel.
The gospel itself is dated to about 200-300 AD but its attribution is doubtful – but probably not by Philip! It is one of the New Testament apocrypha, part of the Nag Hammadi library collection. It is not a gospel in the accepted sense but seems to be a number of Gnostic teachings. (Gnostic: a sect not approved by the official Church). One of the interesting aspects of Philip`s gospel is the theme of marriage which runs through the document – a state which may (or may not) have been endorsed by Jesus, depending on individual interpretation. But without doubt, the feature that most intrigues the reader is the reference to the seemingly close (physical) relationship of Jesus with Mary Magdalene. Indeed the (modern) inference of the above is first seen in this gospel where is the line “And the companion of the saviour was Mary Magdalene, who Christ loved more than all the disciples, and he used to kiss her often on the cheek. “ It has to be said here that “cheek” is a modern interpolation as the document has a lacuna here – of all places!!. Be that as it may , the other disciples were offended by this show of affection and reputedly said to Jesus, “Why do you love her more than all of us?” This passage has led to the speculation that Jesus and Mary M. were married (and thus carried the blood line  via the Holy Grail as suggested in Dan Brown`s novel, The Da Vinci Code.)
There are of course other differences from the accepted canonical gospels which a reading would indicate, such as its interpretation of Jesus` mission and acts on earth.
It is often said however that Mary M enjoyed a special relationship with Jesus because she was more percipient than the other disciples and understood more the true mission of Jesus on earth – and who he really was. But the fact is we do not know for sure. Partly because of this, Mary M had always a bad press at least from the Catholic Church. It was Pope Gregory in 591 AD who branded her as a whore. It was not until 1969 that the Catholic Church revoked this verdict, but the slur has stuck.
Undoubtedly a reading of this gospel does throw up several divergences from the major gospels – it is not hard to see why the document did not gain favour with the orthodoxy of the Catholic Church, for example the suggestion that Jesus had pledged his life “from the very day the world came into being” (quote from the Philip gospel). There is also the suggestion that Jesus might be a reincarnation  of Abraham or other OT individuals – indeed lived before Abraham (as in John 8.58, “before Abraham was, I am” – but as we are aware there are other interpretations of this statement!

We are faced with the perpetual dilemma when reading documents from Old and New Testament times. There is the received truth in the “Canon” (the Bible) or the “truth” – and reliability of the very many other non-canonical writings.
Present day examination (and research) reveals much which was not known earlier about biblical times and the life of Jesus. We are, it may be claimed,  more open minded than hithertofore and ,it may be,  more inclined to believe the tenor of the non-canonicals.. all seems to come down to individual faith and belief – usually coloured by a denominational creed  – or upbringing.