Elevated Status of Mary
Several scholars assert that after Jesus' death Mary Magdalene stood out in the Gnostic texts — in particular, the Gospel of Mary — as an example of perfect discipleship and spiritual leadership. People likely gravitated to those closest to those Apostles for whom they felt a kinship or respect for correctly conveying Jesus' original teachings. Some chose to follow Peter, James the Just, or Paul. But others preferred Mary Magdalene — the Thirteenth Apostle, as the Gnostics referred to her.
Leader of a Gnostic Branch
Mary Magdalene might have been the leader of a Gnostic branch of the Jesus movement. Scholars say that Mary Magdalene was well qualified to serve because she had proven her worthiness and because her grasp of Jesus' spiritual teachings far exceeded any other disciple's. Loyal to Jesus throughout his ministry, she followed him to the cross where, in spite of concern for her own safety, she stood fearless under the watchful gaze of Jewish priests and Roman soldiers, according to the Gospel of John. After his death, instead of hiding out and giving in to despair, she took decisive action, showing everyone that she possessed a steady, confident heart. She ran to the empty tomb, was eyewitness to the risen transcendent Savior, and faithfully carried his message to the others. The Romans knew that killing the head of a movement made the movement likely to die as well, and were probably counting on that for the Jesus movement. But Mary Magdalene stepped into the void and became the cement that held the followers together. Peter and Andrew spoke of going back to their pre-Jesus lives as fishermen in Capernaum. All the disciples grieved. But Mary Magdalene remembered the “Good,” according to the Gospel of Mary, and helped the others to remember it as well.
Author of the Gospel of John?
Catholic author Ramon Jusino has theorized that Mary Magdalene may have been the Beloved Disciple of Jesus mentioned in the Gospel of John. In fact, he suggests that Mary Magdalene might have been the author of or source for that canonical gospel. He points out that if she were the author of the Gospel of John, that in no way diminishes the gospel's apostolic origin. She was most likely recognized as an apostolic authority within her community. The Roman Catholic Church has called her apostola apostolorum, the Apostle to the Apostles.
Other Sacred Texts Mention Mary Magdalene
The canonical gospels mention Mary Magdalene in the briefest way. All four of the New Testament gospels mention her central role in Jesus' resurrection. Also, she appears in several lists where a clue to her status can be found in her position (usually first) in a group of names. Some academics of ancient Christianity have theorized that references to her may have been largely edited from the New Testament but that her role in the Resurrection story was too well known for it to be completely eliminated. The canonical Gospel of John noted that three Marys stood vigil by Jesus' cross; one was Mary Magdalene.
Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! — John 19:25–26
In spite of the reference to “thy son” in John 19:26, and using Ramon Jusino's theory that Mary Magdalene might have been the Beloved Disciple, the quote presents the puzzling but interesting possibility that Jesus might have been entrusting his mother into the care of Mary Magdalene. Elsewhere in the canonical gospels, it says that Mary Magdalene and the other women provided for Jesus out of their means (their own finances). Some sources say she may have been a wealthy woman and that she and other women may have financed the earliest beginnings of Christianity.
Gospel of Philip's Revelation
The Gospel of Philip agrees with the canonical accounts that there were three Marys who always walked with the Lord. They included his mother, her sister, and Mary Magdalene. That Gnostic gospel also suggests a relationship between Mary Magdalene and Jesus that goes beyond teacher and disciple. Seeing his display of affection toward her causes the other disciples to question his love for them. The modern best-selling book The Da Vinci Code makes a case for a marriage between Mary Magdalene and Jesus, based in part on the Gospel of Philip. However, a modern Gnostic hierophant (the equivalent of bishop) and spiritual successor to the Mary Magdalene tradition asserted that it would have been unlikely that Jesus and Mary Magdalene would have been married, since in those times marriage was about a form of ownership, something neither of them would have wanted.
The Pistis Sophia Shines a Spotlight on Her
The Pistis Sophia (the text of a Gnostic myth important to the Valentinian belief system) details Sophia's mistake, her repentance, redemption, and restoration. After Jesus discusses Sophia's remarkable and complex journey through the cosmos and his mission as Savior, Mary Magdalene requests permission from him to speak “in boldness.” Jesus seems delighted and tells her that he will complete her in all that she lacks in knowledge of the divine mysteries because her heart exerts toward heaven more than those of her brother disciples. Mary Magdalene dazzles as the chief questioner of Jesus. She elaborates upon his comments. Of the forty-six questions asked in the Pistis Sophia, Mary Magdalene poses thirty-nine. Peter becomes upset that she dominates the discourse and complains to Jesus that he and the other disciples can no longer bear her because she won't let them speak. Jesus replies to Peter that anyone inspired should speak without hesitation. As if in an effort to placate Peter, Jesus gives him a hymn to decipher.
The Byzantine liturgy of Eastern Orthodox Churches allows for the intonation of Sophia's name before passages from the Gospels are read. Byzantine music such as sacred chant plays an important role in rites and ritual in the Greek-speaking world.
Mary Magdalene, the protagonist of several of the Gnostic texts, continues to be venerated by the Eastern Orthodox, the Catholic, and the Anglican churches as a saint. Her feast day is July 22. In the Eastern Orthodox tradition, Mary Magdalene went to Ephesus with Jesus' mother. After Mary Magdalene passed away, her relics were taken to Constantinople during the reign of Emperor Leo VI in
There is also a tradition of Mary Magdalene in southern France where her relics are venerated by the faithful at her sepulcher in the basilica of St. Maximin. The abbey of Vézelay also claims to have her relics. Finally, the grotto at Sainte Baume, where Mary Magdalene did penance for decades before her death, continues to be a popular pilgrimage site.