Mary Magdalene, being directly connected with the Holy Grail, plays nearly a paramount role in The Da Vinci Code. Brown adopted the Mary Magdalene theme from the book The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, where a hypothesis is suggested that this woman was the spouse of Jesus Christ and the wife of his child, most probably a girl who was named Sarah. She became a founder of the Merovingian royal dynasty, representatives of which later on had to hide their noble origin and live under protection of a secret society known as the Priory of Sion.
This is a hypothesis, but what facts do we know about Mary Magdalene mentioned in the New Testament?
The word “Magdalene” added to her name apparently originates from the title of Magdala city. Magdalene is mentioned in New Testament texts just several times, four to be precise: in travels with Christ’s disciples, in the scene of Jesus’ crucifixion, upon his body burial, and on the Redeemer’s resurrection.
One thing can be said for sure: a deep-rooted idea that Mary Magdalene was a loose woman is absolutely false and non-complying with the truth. In the 6th century, Pope Gregory I adopted an encyclical letter stipulating Mary Magdalene had been a sinful loose woman. However, most likely, due to misinterpretation of the Gospel of Luke (7 and 8), three totally different women were merged in her image by mistake. Nonetheless, the church didn’t rush to correct the mistake, still insisting Mary Magdalene had been a fallen woman, and only in 1969 a rather modest disclaimer was released.
As Gospel texts suggest, Mary Magdalene can well be labelled as one of Christ’s disciples. She was with him three times, being present at very important events: his crucifixion, burial and resurrection. These facts mark Mary Magdalene out among other Christ’s disciples and may be an explanation of why Peter treated her with poorly hidden disapproval.
Yet, are there any proofs of a close relationship between Mary Magdalene and Christ? Unfortunately, the New Testament gives no accurate answer to this question. The Gospels as we read them nowadays contain not a single allusion to a possible marriage. But, saying this, we should remember the current version of the New Testament has undergone numerous amendments and serious editing over centuries. A lot was removed from the texts, and some points were added. Moreover, when the New Testament was translated from one language into another, unintended errors may have as well crept in. And what is told about Christ and Mary Magdalene in non-canonical gospels?
Hippolytus, one of the so-called Church Fathers, mentions Mary Magdalene in his comments to the Song of Songs, though indirectly: “In order for female apostles to come to believe in angels, Christ came to them himself, so that they could atone for the sin of their sister Eve with their humility.” Then he tells that Christ addressed male apostles and said: “I appeared to these women, and I wanted myself to send them to you.”
In the Gospel of Philip (63:33-36), one of the so-called Gnostic gospels discovered near Nag Hammadi, the possible relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene is referred to in even obscurer words. In particular, the Gospel of Philip says Jesus “loved her more than all the disciples and used to kiss her often on her mouth”; while male disciples of Christ were discontented with such his behaviour. Although these words contain no direct indication of the actual matrimony or cohabitation, in the Coptic text Mary is called koinonos which Susan Haskins in her book Mary Magdalene: Myth and Metaphor translates as “companion”.
One of Nag Hammadi texts is called the Gospel of Mary. There we find a reference to the fact that Magdalene was the recipient of revelations, to great disappointment of Christ’s male disciples. In verse 17:10-18 of the Gospel of Mary it’s mentioned Apostle Andrew doubted Mary Magdalene had indeed seen Christ’s resurrection. Peter questioned: “Did He really speak privately with a woman and not openly to us?” And later on stated: “Did He prefer her to us?” Then Levi reproached on Peter: “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.”
Contests of the aforesaid texts lead to a totally logical conclusion that Jesus gave a much higher status to female associates than some people tried to make us believe, but this sheds no light on the question whether Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene were spouses. The said texts instead throw in hypotheses which we cannot disregard due to their alluring character and urge us to think such assumptions are correct. At that, we should remember the above quotes are taken from just several sources, while all in all there are about a hundred of sources associated with the relevant historical time.
An original hypothesis was suggested by the authors of the book The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail. They assert that the story of the wedding at Kana of Galilee, when Jesus worked a miracle and turned water into wine, is a distorted, false story of Christ’s own wedding. Such hypothesis is far from being faultless, and certain important details are missing for it to be totally reliable. This point along with the fact that Jesus as true Hebrew had to get married and have family allows us drawing the following conclusions, which are as follows:
• Mary Magdalene who is mentioned in the New Testament could have closer relationship with Jesus than we suppose.
• Mary Magdalene was near Jesus at crucial moments of his life: at his crucifixion, burial and resurrection.
• The texts and gospels we know contain no direct evidence of the fact that Jesus Chris and Mary Magdalene were husband and wife.
• Even the non-canonical gospels discovered in Nag Hammadi in 1945 give no facts to support such hypothesis, except for the point that Philip called Mary Magdalene Christ’s companion.
What happened to Mary Magdalene after Christ’s death? According to Catholic dogmata, Mary Magdalene died in Ephesus, where she settled together with Jesus’ mother Mary and John (who is supposedly the author of the Fourth Gospel). However, this statement is disputable. St. Gregory of Tours mentioned there’s a 6th century legend and an earlier record stating Mary Magdalene together with Maximinus had moved to Aix-en-Provence in the south of contemporary France. It looks like this story has become a sort of a catalyst for emergence of modern hypotheses about San Greal / Sang Real (the royal blood and royal lineage of Christ). It’s also known that Mary Magdalene was highly honoured and loved in Gnostic circles. Hence, an idea inevitably comes to mind that she had a marriage union with Jesus.
This topic is elucidated in quite a detail in the book The Woman with the Alabaster Jar by Margaret Starbird. In her other book titled The Goddess in the Gospels: Reclaiming the Sacred Feminine (1993) this author asserts that, according to ancient Hebrew numerology, Mary Magdalene’s name and number 153 corresponding to it indicate she was a goddess. Starbird is confident that for rather long while Mary Magdalene lived in the prosperous and cosmopolitan city of Alexandria. This partly explains numerous myths and legends associated with her name, since Mary Magdalene cults emerged throughout the Mediterranean in first centuries A.D.
The hypothesis of Christ’s posterity is not that new perhaps, but the assumption that Mary Magdalene could give birth to Jesus’ child appears quite modern and topical. Nowadays, Mary Magdalene as an embodiment of the sacred feminine nature and the spirit of Mother Goddess has engendered a totally new vision of things. It’s a completely new approach to the hypothesis about Christ’s dynasty, which is though based upon more a metaphor and symbol than facts and real displays of the material world. It looks quite logical that Mary Magdalene was either Christ’s companion or an embodiment of the sacred feminine nature.
The story of Mary Magdalene is cloaked in myths, legends and symbols. She herself has turned into a symbol and started personifying the spirit of an ancient goddess worshiped across Europe and the Middle East millennia ago. From historical perspective now it’s impossible to prove or disclaim whether she was Jesus Christ’s spouse and gave birth to his child. Nevertheless, myths about Mary Magdalene and her relationship with the Redeemer still exist and will further ring even more convincingly. Apparently, after two thousand years of suppression of the feminine, the latter further louder makes itself known again.
Article by Simon Cox
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