Mary Magdalene In The Gospel of Philip

The Gospel of Philip is an elusive text. It is part of the Gnostic texts of New Testament apocrypha. It is clearly a work of great theological depth, though much of its teaching is lost on modern ears. Only a portion of the text survives. It was a popular but controversial early Christian text that was lost for nearly a thousand years until it was accidentally discovered among other texts at Nag Hammadi.

Formally, the text is vastly different from the canonical gospels. It reads more like a theological treatise, not a narrative about the life of Jesus. It discusses the theological origins of mankind, as well as other sayings attributed to Jesus, and important cultural practices, like marriage as a “sacred mystery.”

The author of the text has traditionally been held to be Philip, the Apostle. However, the text was likely written sometime between 150-350 AD by a group of Gnostics clutching to their sacred and “hidden” teaching about the world. The part of the text that has captivated the modern imagination (largely due to the conspiracy-laden writings of Dan Brown and other wild adventure tales, like Indiana Jones) is a section in which Mary Magdalene is described as Jesus’s companion:

“There were three who always walked with the Lord: Mary, his mother, and her sister, and Magdalene, the one who was called his companion. His sister and his mother and his companion were each a Mary.”

There is also another badly damaged section that may or may not refer to Jesus kissing Mary Magdalene, an act that leads to jealousy among the other disciples. However the true meaning of this section of the text is lost and poorly damaged. We cannot know what was meant.

This “companion” (koinônos) language has led the modern popular imagination to suppose that Mary was perhaps the wife, lover, girlfriend, or even the mother of Jesus’s offspring (a la the Da Vinci Code). The objective of this perspective, as always, is to lower Jesus’s claims of divinity by portraying him as a sexual being. The goal for these supposed archaeologists is to titillate and debase authority, wherever it may be found. Secret texts found out in the hills and in caves make for an excellent story, but they hold little sway over the established authority of the canon. “Seek and ye shall find” – and if you seek out texts that can level the authority of Jesus by modern standards, even these can be found.

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