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Saturday, November 16, 2013

Feminine Divine ~ "13"


The Nag Hammadi Discovery

Even though I know the story, I still shudder to think that one of the most important discoveries of our time, was partially burned and used to cook food and burned to keep warm.   The Gospels, before they were discovered, were buried for over 1,600 years, before their 1945 discovery! The Gospels gave many scholars around the world new insight into the role and life of Mary Magdalene.

 Desert region in Upper Egyptian town of Nag Hammadi,
where the Gnostic Gospels were found, in 1945 
The Nag Hammadi Library, named for the location from which it was discovered (in upper Egypt) is a collection of 52 codices (books) that contain the "Gnostic Gospels" - "texts once thought to have been entirely destroyed during the early Christian struggle to define 'orthodoxy' - scriptures such as the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Philip, and the Gospel of Truth."  They were discovered by a man named Muhammad 'Alí who had gone into the Egyptian desert, in search of fertilizer for his crops.

It should be noted that Egypt made a perfect repository for such large Christian texts, as the dry desert aided in their preservation, and it was not uncommon for such sites to store sacred and/or important documents or objects during that time. 

pbs.org explains the discovery:  "Digging around a massive boulder, they hit a red earthenware jar, almost a meter high. Muhammad 'Alí hesitated to break the jar, considering that a jinn, or spirit, might live inside. But realizing that it might also contain gold, he raised his mattock, smashed the jar, and discovered inside thirteen papyrus books, bound in leather. Returning to his home in al-Qasr, Muhammad 'All dumped the books and loose papyrus leaves on the straw piled on the ground next to the oven. Muhammad's mother, 'Umm-Ahmad, admits that she burned much of the papyrus in the oven along with the straw she used to kindle the fire."  - http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/story/pagels.html

Fortunately, over an exciting series of events, the remaining volumes were eventually given to the scholars, who began translation of theses important codices.  The publication of the "Gnostic Gospels" in the mid 1970's, gave the world a much different view of Mary Magdalene.

The Gnostic Gospels show there were early Christian communities that traced their beliefs back to a figure known as Mary Magdalene -- which had nothing to do with the traditional figure of a repentant prostitute.      

Mary Magdalene easily remains one of the most controversial females in history and remains an enigma. 

The controversy rages on....

Mary Magdalene, also known as  Mary of Bethany, was the sister of Martha and Lazarus. 

She was present when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.

We also have read in the New Testament that Jesus had cast seven demons out of her (Luke 8:2), which solidified the tradition that she had been a prostitute before she met Jesus.  

Since the 6th Century, she has been depicted by and officially sanctioned by the Catholic church, as a prostitute and sinner who repented after Jesus saved her from being stoned by a mob.

In the Gospel of Luke it is written: "Her sins, which were many, are forgiven, for she loved much."  She was the "unnamed penitent woman" who anointed Jesus's feet (Luke 7:36-48), who purportedly wore expensive perfume while she bathed His feet with costly ointment, her tears and her hair.  At this time, Jesus proclaimed that her sins were forgiven.   

Mary Magdalene - the one who witnessed the Crucifixion of Jesus, who remained weeping at his feet, while the disciples fled for their own lives in fear of being arrested.  

She remained for his burial, and she was the one to whom Jesus first appeared after His Resurrection.   

Mary Magdalene, whose faith in her Savior never wavered or stopped, even after his death.  

She was the 13th, the "Beloved", and "most loved" disciple. 

"(But Christ loved) her more than (all ) the disciples, and used to kiss her often on her (mouth). The rest of the disciples were offended by this. They said to him, “Why do you love her more than all of us?” The Savior answered and said to them, “Why do I not love you as much as I love her?”" - From the Gospel of Philip / Gnostic Gospels

Elaine Pagels, one of the most celebrated and most respected authors pertaining to the translation of the Gnostic Gospels writes, "Sources that include the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Philip,  the Wisdom of Faith, and the Dialogue of the Savior--unanimously picture Mary as one of Jesus’ most trusted disciples. Some even revere her as his foremost disciple, Jesus’ closest confidant, since he found her capable of understanding his deepest secrets."

Elaine Pagels continues:  "First, the Gospel of Mary Magdalene pictures Mary taking a leading role among the disciples. Finding the male disciples terrified to preach the gospel after Jesus’ death since they feared that they, too, would be arrested and killed, Mary stands up to speak and encourages them, “turning their hearts to the good.” 

When Peter, acknowledging that “the Lord loved you more than other women,” asks Mary to “tell us what he told you” secretly, Mary agrees. 

When she finishes, Peter, furious, asks, “Did he really speak privately with a woman, and not openly to us? Are we supposed to turn around and all listen to her? Did he love her more than us?” 

Distressed at his rage, Mary replies, “My brother Peter, what do you think? Do you think that I thought this up myself in my heart, or that I am lying about the Savior?” 

Levi breaks in at this point to mediate the dispute: “Peter, you have always been hot-tempered. Now I see you contending against the women like (our) enemies. But if the Savior made her worthy, who are you to reject her? Surely the Lord knew her very well; that is why he loved her more than us.” 

The Gospel of Mary ends as the others agree to accept Mary’s teaching, and the disciples, including Mary, go forth to proclaim the gospel."

"Here is a fact that few people seem to know: The Bible never explicitly says that Mary Magdalene was ever a prostitute at any point in her life. Luke does not name her in his narrative about the "penitent whore" who washes the feet of Jesus with her hair (7:36-50). Nor is she named as the woman who was caught in the act of adultery and saved from being stoned to death by Jesus (John 8:1-11). She is identified as once having been demon-possessed (Luke 8:2). However, the assumption that her sinful past consisted primarily of sexual sin is a presumption that is not usually made about the men who are identified as former sinners." -http://ramon_k_jusino.tripod.com/magdalene.html 

Mary Magdalene - The Goddess

The website northernway.org writes about playwright-performer Anita Stenger Dacanay writing a play about Magdalene:  

 "After a year of reading every book she could corral about Mary Magdalene -- both scholarly and fictional -- Dacanay wrote a play about her, titled “Qadishtu.” The word is Akkadian, the Semitic language of Mesopotamia, and refers to women who lived in temples in the goddess-worshiping civilizations of the Holy Land and parts of the Middle and Near East.

Scholars have labeled these women “prostitutes,” probably because of their liberal sexual practices.  She has learned that the literal translation for qadishtu is “sanctified” or “holy women.” 

What if these women were, as some scholars hold, priestesses in the tradition of goddess worship? 

Could Mary Magdalene have been one of them? 

What was her relationship to Jesus? 

The playwright is also concerned about Mary’s significance to women of today. She’s convinced that Mary Magdalene represents every Christian woman. 

Her depiction as a sinful penitent -- the classic fallen woman -- is part of the heritage that has been yoked to women in the church for centuries, up to and including our own." - northernway.org 

"When Israel’s prophets and poets spoke of the divine spirit and wisdom, they recognized the feminine gender of Hebrew terms. The Biblical Book of Proverbs speaks of wisdom as a feminine spiritual presence who shared with God the work of creation:

The Lord created me at the beginning of his work…before the beginning of the earth; when there were no deep waters, I was brought forth.…before the mountains had been shaped, I was there…when he marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside him, like a master worker; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world, and delighting in the human race."  - Elaine Pagels