Text fragment from the Gospel of Mary … from my book IN LIGHT of WOMEN
When Mary Goes to the Apostles she was quiet since it was up to this point that the Savior had spoken to her. When she speaks, Andrew responded, addressing the brothers and sisters, “Say what you will about the things she has said, but I do not believe that the Savior said these things, for indeed these teachings are strange ideas.”
Peter responded questioning them about the Savior: “Did he, then, speak with a woman in private without our knowing about it? Are we to turn around and listen to her? Did he choose her over us?” Levi answered, speaking to Peter, “Peter, you have always been a wrathful person. Now I see you contesting against the woman like the Adversaries. For if the Savior made her worthy, who are you then for your part to reject her? Assuredly the Savior’s knowledge of her is completely reliable. That is why he loved her more than us. “Rather we should be ashamed.
We should clothe ourselves with the perfect Human, acquire it for ourselves as he commanded us, and announce the good news, not laying down any other rule or law that differs from what the Savior said.” After he had said these things, they started going out to teach and preach.
For if the Savior made her worthy, who are we to reject her?
The icon, Mary Goes to the Apostles was inspired by the Gospel of Mary text above. It depicts Mary Magdalene having just come from the empty tomb and feeling confused but altogether excited after speaking with Jesus. She discovers the disciples have only questions and when she answers, they are suspicious of what she has understands. Andrew and Peter are doubtful and unable to listen intently to Mary. Yet, Levi seems to recognize the value of Christ’s love and confidence in Mary.
What drives Peter’s principle doubt?
In the icon, Peter and Andrew represent Orthodox positions that deny the validity of esoteric revelations from women. The two of them reject the authority of women to teach. Christ’s commandment urges the disciples to preach the good news, not laying down any other rule or law. In my opinion, it seems obvious that the early church settled for teaching law and authority because it was easier than teaching how to discern individual authentic interior spiritual insights from God. If we accept the Gospel of Mary found in the cave in Jordan as authentic, we can move into a place of accepting women in a new light.
What is easier, to teach written law or spirituality, morality and ethics?
The Mary Gospel text elucidates her not seeking superiority for her visions and private revelations. Mary Goes to the Apostles, Peter asks her to reveal the content of her conversations with Jesus, and she simply demonstrates her capacity to verbalize mystic thought. She is trying to strengthen the wavering disciples and turn them towards the good news. Peter and Andrew are in a predicament, she is claiming to have wisdom and insights given to her by Jesus. It must have really irked the men to have a women in their midst so tenacious and determined. She was most probably the Savior’s female beloved, as John was His male beloved.
Peter in yellow cannot comprehend any knowledge or teaching superior to his own. Andrew does not want to accept strange comments from a woman. Peter is portrayed with attribute that correspond to the established Hebrew community with bound feet, incense, and a small red box for the collection. Andrew moves back, his hands crossed over his heart as if holding on to himself because he is a sensitive man seeing perhaps that both of them may have said enough.
The icon is about Levi, who stands beside Mary and the other Apostles. He understands there can be no competition or ownership about the teachings of the good news. In the icon, Levi has an empty open scroll indicating what text has yet to be chosen.
Can you imagine the influence of women, had they been included in the hierarchy and theological discussions of the early church?
The Icon portrays Mary who Goes to the Apostles with words rolled up in a scroll, indicating her yet unheard gospel. She discovers the disciples have only questions and when she answers, they are suspicious of what she has understood. Andrew and Peter are doubtful and unable to listen intently to Mary. Levi seems to recognize the value of Christ’s love and confidence in Mary. In the icon Peter and Andrew represent Orthodox positions that deny the validity of esoteric revelations of women. If the Gospel of Mary found in Jordan had been received and honored the authority of women to teach could have been recognized. I hope the image provokes some curiosity as to what will be the sound of women’s voices in the church.
What would Mary Magdalene’s scroll teach?
Today feminine spirituality is good news, it is rewording what has always been said to include both genders and the whole of the Christ message for everyone, including gay, lesbian, divorced, broken, and lost. Elaine Pagels, a religious scholar, has argued that the controversy here among disciples reflects the tensions and conflicts in ideology as the new church was forming. I am quite aware that, at the time the Bible was becoming canonical text, the home was the domain of women, and they were the primary teachers of children. Andrew, Peter, and Levi represent what became a male-only discipleship.
The prophetic revelations, spiritual gifts, visions, and/or divine inspiration of women have been unfortunately rendered silent. It has taken 2,000 years for their voices to be raised outside of the home in cultures around the world. The radical ideas, words, and images found in the Gnostic tradition sound contemporary, but the institutional church has not allowed us to explore how Christ lives in us completely.