Image courtesy of National Gallery ©
To download a PDF of the Gospel click here
To watch an animated video reading of the Gospel click here
For translations of this and other non-canonical texts, freely available for use in the public domain, visit Mark Mattison’s website https://www.gospels.net
Ella Rozett leads international online interfaith meditations, and co-hosts Gospel of Mary study groups with David Curtis https://interfaithmary.net/classes
Interfaith minister Fay Barratt leads online and Manchester UK based workshops, events and programmes on Mary Magdalene and The Gospel of Mary https://www.marymagdalenewisdom.com/
California-based Kayleen Asbo runs online programmes and events on Mary Magdalene and her gospel https://www.kayleenasbo.com/
Our study groups use the Friendly Bible Study Method devised by American Quakers Joanne and Larry Spears https://www.concordfriendsmeeting.org/sites/all/files/documents/220.071_FriendlyBibleStudy.pdf
Veronique Flayol offers online and in person pilgrimages to the cave at Sainte Baume, Provence where Mary Magdalene is said to have spent the last 30 years of her life in prayer https://www.magdalenesacredjourneys.com/
Gospel of Mary Bibliography
Here’s a selection of some reading matter on and around The Gospel of Mary.
Much of what has been written is by biblical scholars, and as such some of the language used can sometimes seem a bit dense or dry and academic. As the re-discovery and publication of Mary’s Gospel is relatively recent, the picture that emerges is one of a slow and gradual development of ideas over the last few decades of scholarly debate, and a range of opinions about what is being said in the gospel, and to whom. For example, earlier researchers tended to classify the text as a ‘gnostic’ treatise, and hence to group it in with some other works which came to be condemned as heretical by the developing Roman Catholic Church, such as The Gospel of Judas. (Whilst Mary’s Gospel itself was never named in any of the lists of works deemed to be heretical.) More recent scholars have often sought to break away from this classification as being inconsistent and unhelpful. Such debates are current and ongoing, and so none of these authors will be in complete agreement about how to interpret the text. Ultimately, it is our own interpretation, and the way in which the gospel speaks to us personally, that is the most useful, powerful and transformative.
Mark M Mattison, The Gospel of Mary, A Fresh Translation and Holistic Approach. A short and easy to read introduction by this independent scholar combining an academic and a spiritual approach. Mattison has generously committed translations of this and several other extra-canonical texts to the public domain for free distribution, see www.gospels.net Most recently, he has translated the freshly discovered papyrus text The Strangers Book , which shows clear parallels with the ascent of the soul in Mary’s Gospel, and which is published on his website.
Jean-Yves Leloup, The Gospel of Mary Magdalene. Arguably the easiest translation to read, with a full commentary by this Orthodox priest. Leloup takes an approach more religious than academic, both spirited and spiritual, whilst sometimes on a tangent away from the scholars. He presents his understanding of the anthropology (‘in its original, pre-modern sense of a comprehensive philosophy of human nature and its place in the cosmos) implicit in the gospel, illustrated with some interesting geometric diagrams! Other related works by Leloup include his translations and commentaries on the gospels of Thomas and of Phillip.
Elaine Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels. Written in 1979, so in some ways a bit dated, this is nevertheless a ground-breaking classic study of what was happening in the early church in the times when The Gospel of Mary and other texts were jostling for position or exclusion in the debates around the formation of what was to become orthodox church theology. She argues how the selection or rejection of certain key theologies and traditions were sometimes based on political more than spiritual considerations. Well balanced and presented in a very readable style. Pagels also appears on a number of youtube videos, with an even-handed approach that is grounded in both good scholarship and personal spiritualty.
Cynthia Bourgeault, The Meaning of Mary Magdalene, Discovering the Woman at the Heart of Christianity. Wisdom teacher and Episcopal priest, Bourgeault’s approach is similar to Leloup’s – more spiritual than scholarly, and easily readable, whilst avoiding some of the less credible extremes of new age thinking. The book covers the traditions of Mary Magdalene both in and out of The New Testament and of Mary’s Gospel. If you enjoy the book, you may also like her recorded teachings on Mary Magdalene , available here https://www.contemplative.org/product/through-holy-week-with-mary-magdalene/
Karen King, The Gospel of Mary of Magdala, Jesus and the First Woman Apostle. In this 2003 classic, King argues persuasively against the ‘gnostic’ label, and shows how Mary’s Gospel was written at a time when Christianity had no common creed, canon, or leadership structure. Bringing us up to date, she suggests that “… the story of the gospel is unfinished. Christian doctrine and practice are not fixed dogmas that one can only accept or reject; rather Christians are required to step into the story and work together to shape the meaning of the gospel in their own time.” King’s book includes photos of the original codices (papyrus manuscripts), her own translations, and discussions about key themes, as well as setting the gospel in the wider context.
Ann Graham Brock, Mary Magdalene, The First Apostle: The Struggle for Authority. Brock investigates how the authority of Mary Magdalene in early Christian texts came to be gradually reduced over time, as the prominence of Peter grew in stature. Certain texts were rewritten, and the role of Mary was deliberately eroded. In particular, Mary’s early status as apostle came to be diminished which, Brock argues, had serious implications for the ordination and position of women. In the example of the Acts of Philip, Mary Magdalene is shown as exercising apostolic leadership in the earlier Greek text, and then her character is directly and completely replaced by Peter in the later Coptic rewriting.
Elizabeth Schrader, Was Martha of Bethany added to the Fourth Gospel in the Second Century? Recent research paper by Schrader, looking at many examples of ‘textural irregularities’ in which Mary Magdalene was literally edited out of significant sections of the canonical gospels during scribal copying of some of the earliest known editions. See https://dukespace.lib.duke.edu/dspace/handle/10161/18592 and several talks on youtube , e.g. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_b3Y3cJ0Ic8
Deborah Niederer Saxon, The Care of the Self in Early Christian Texts Saxon’s scholarly work looks at The Gospel of Mary, alongside other texts, through the lens of philosophers Michel Foucault and Pierre Hadot, focussing on divergent or complementary practices rather than beliefs of the early church. She highlights how Mary models the practice of speaking truth to power (parrhesia) as a method of radical self-care linked to concerns for social justice. This is contrasted with the active promotion of the practice of martyrdom in other schools of early Christianity. She compares the ‘ascent of the soul’ in Mary’s Gospel to other contemporary practices of concentrated meditation, suggesting the possibility that the vision may have been used as an imaginative spiritual exercise to develop proper perspective.
Sarah Parkhouse, Eschatology and the Saviour, The Gospel of Mary among Early Christian Dialogue Gospels. Parkhouse’s 2019 book builds on King’s earlier work in rejecting the ‘gnostic’ classification, and instead offers a model of early Christian texts as ‘dialogue gospels’ in which Jesus engages in dialogue with his disciples. Such writings are seen as connected in an acentric rhizomatic network of evolving and changing relations, as links between different religious people and thoughts grew, changed and dissipated with no fixed centre of command. Parkhouse reads Mary’s Gospel as an essentially Christian text. Whilst acknowledging divergence on some issues (such as the rejection of a future end time eschatology, in favour of a view of the kingdom of heaven already present within), she sees the gospel at heart agreeing with the canonical gospels on ‘the single fundamental theological issue: the saving role of Christ.’ Parkhouse interprets Mary’s gospel as revealing a two-fold (‘bipartite’) eschatology, in which the world of created matter is dissolved whilst simultaneously the individual soul journeys to find rest in its heavenly home. Elsewhere (Connecting Gospels, Beyond the Canonical/ Non-Canonical Divide) Parkhouse suggests that the vision of the ascent of the soul may have been used as instruction for Christ’s followers in the context of a ritual baptismal or initiation setting. The book includes Parkhouse’s translations of both the Coptic and Greek texts.
Esther de Boer, Mary Magdalene, Beyond the Myth In this 1996 book, De Boer dismantles and rejects the mistaken identification of Mary Magdalene as penitent prostitute, and searches in Mary’s gospel and elsewhere for a better-founded picture of the woman behind the myth.
Esther de Boer, The Gospel of Mary, Listening to the Beloved Disciple Exploring the representation of Mary Magdalene as revealed in both the Gospel of Mary and in the canonical gospels. De Boer finds particular links with the Gospel of John; she discusses and further develops Ramon K Jusino’s article (Mary Magdalene: Author of the Fourth Gospel?) which argues in favour of the possibility that Mary Magdalene could be the un-named beloved disciple and author. This book includes De Boer’s own translation of Mary’s Gospel.
Christopher Tuckett, The Gospel of Mary In this academic work, Tuckett stands against current trends in arguing (albeit unpersuasively) in favour of retaining the classification of Mary’s Gospel as a ‘gnostic’ text. He also interprets the account of Mary weeping in response to Peter’s attack, as being a sign of her fallibility and weakness, and an indication that “Mary’s character is not quite as perfect as some have suggested.” However one might view these points, the work does have merits as a reference book, and is currently free to download here https://maryourhelp.org/e-books/marian-ebooks/The-Gospel-of-Mary.pdf Includes translations and facsimiles of both the Coptic and Greek texts.
Peeter Vahi, Maria Magdalena. This is the Gospel of Mary set to music by Estonian composer Peeter Vahi. Ambitiously, the oratorio is sung in the original Sahidic Coptic, a language no longer spoken, and the orchestra includes several Egyptian percussion instruments. The Gospel has also inspired an opera by Mark Adamo, which premiered in San Francisco in 2013, The Gospel of Mary Magdalene