Item description for The Gospels of Mary: The Secret Tradition of Mary Magdalene, the Companion of Jesus by Marvin W. Meyer...
Overview With the recent surge of interest in Mary Magdalene brought forth by Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code," a renowned scholar delves into Mary's significance for understanding the origins of Christianity. This is a new translation of the Gospel of Mary, as well as Marvin W. Meyer's translations of significant portions of other Gnostic gospels and text in which Mary Magdalene plays a major part as Christ's closest disciple.HarperSanFrancisco
Mary Magdalene, Jesus's Closest Disciple
Marvin Meyer, one of the foremost scholars of the Gnostic Gospels:
translates and introduces the Gnostic and New Testament texts that together reveal the story and importance of Mary Magdalene
includes new translations of the Gospels of Mary, Thomas, Philip, and related texts about Mary Magdalene
discloses, with Esther A. De Boer, the long-suppressed story of Mary's vital role in the life of Jesus and in the formative period after his crucifixionpresents as authentically as possible the real Mary Magdalene
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Marvin W. Meyer is Professor of Religious Studies at Chapman University. He has written and edited several books, including The Unknown Sayings of Jesus and Ancient Magic and Ritual Power. He is a research project director at the Institute for Antiquity and Christianity, Claremont Graduate School, and codirector of the Albert Schweitzer Institute.
Reviews - What do customers think about The Gospels of Mary: The Secret Tradition of Mary Magdalene, the Companion of Jesus?
Scholarship imitates (bad) art. Jun 16, 2006
The idea of putting together all the texts for the Mary Magdalene tradition is an interesting one; if you're really interested in that subject, you might find this book worth your time and money.
I am, however, losing patience with the misdirection and disingenuity of the growing "Gnostic Gospel" racket. Dan Brown is rightly criticized, as a novelist, for playng fast and loose with history; as a scholar, Meyer ought to care primarily about historical fact, which is more remarkable in this case than the fantasies. But he shows a soft spot for the merely sensational.
Meyer introduces his texts as follows: "This book presents English translations of the earliest and most reliable texts that shed light on this remarkable woman and the literary traditions about her." In fact, only the canonical Gospels (some would add parts of Thomas) have any claim to telling us about the woman; the rest are about the tradition - as Meyer and every serious scholar knows. (Like Karen King, whose parallel book on Mary plays similar, but less blatant linguistic games.) But unlike King, Meyer allows his readers to glide through the entire text of his book without once honestly marking the line between history and legend.
Meyer does draw a line between canonical and extra-canonical works: "Within these texts Mary Magdelene plays a leading role, but often, particularly in the New Testament, the centrality of her role may be obscured by the interests of the authors of the Gospels, who advance the cause of the male disciples (especially the Twelve) and the place of Peter." So it seems the NT texts "obscure" the truth about Mary for political gain, while the latter are more willing to give her a fair shake.
What could it possibly mean to say the Gospels "obscure" a "fact" that would not be invented for decades, or centuries, after they were written? Did they have time machines with which they went forward a century, read the Gnostic texts, and returned to the 1st Century to deconstruct them?
Meyer repeatedly commits such gross anachronism (first among deadly sins for historians). His eye for detecting "spin" is selective: he finds it in the canonical Gospels, but not in the "Gospel" of Mary. But in the Gospels, the followers of Jesus are shown in all their flaws, none more fully than Peter. In Mary, by sharp contrast, the favored disciple is presented (as King put it) as a "model disciple," while Peter, her orthodox foil, is intentionally undermined. So Meyer detects manipulation in texts that describe the "pillars of the church" in all their perversity, pigheadedness, and lack of understanding. But he sees none in later texts that present heroes and villains in bright, shiny white and black hats, nary a flaw in the one, hardly a virtue in the other!
I have no reason to doubt Meyer's competence as a translator, and the texts themselves can be interesting. (Though most are readily available elsewhere.) The "Manichean Psalms of Heracleides" was most interesting to me, partly because I had never read it before, but also because it is a nice poem about Mary at the resurrection of Jesus. Philip, Thomas, Mary, the Dialogue of the Savior and Pistis Sophia are full of metaphysics, but fortunately in small doses. The final essay by De Boer is a lot better than I expected; actually a rather balanced discussion of how both Gnostic and orthodox texts treat women, sometimes with some misogeny, but better than the norm for the times. The reason I expected worse is because earlier, Meyer repeats the ludicrous argument De Boer made elsewhere that the "beloved disciple" was Mary M. John obscured the fact, and then, after 2000 years of misunderstanding, De Boer finally figured out the truth. I am always amazed when a scholar calls the author of a Gospel a liar, then feigns to "read between the lines" of his work and tell us "what really happened." This seems particularly unfair in the case of John, accused by Elaine Pagels of undermining Thomas in a similar way, since in fact John treated male disciples much more roughly than the ladies, and gave us a picture of everyone far more rounded and realistic than any of the Gnostic texts.
All in all, this has the feel of a book Harper & Row hopes for a healthy return on a small investment of capital, time, character, or cottonwood fiber.
author, Why the Jesus Seminar can't find Jesus, and Grandma Marshall Could
Will the real Mary please stand up? Sep 22, 2005
Anyone who has heard of the Da Vinci Code (which is, by now, much of the world) will likely also know that the central idea is that Mary Magdalene was a rather different person in actual life than the person portrayed in church tradition and the gospel extrapolations.
Indeed, as has become better known in the past generation, there were many more gospels floating around the early Christian world than the canonical four (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), most of which were lost to the world through various processes. Among the stronger early traditions that later got branded as heretical was the Gnostic tradition, and in this community, Mary Magdalene had a place of honour.
Drawing from the four canonical gospels, as well as writings such as the Gospel of Peter (in fragmentary form), the Gospel of Thomas (a collection of sayings), the Gospel of Philip, the Pistis Sophia and other texts including the Gospel of Mary, Marvin Meyer presents a new look at the importance of Mary Magdalene as being one of the most important figures in early Christianity. The Eastern church has preserved her memory of prominence, often referring to her as the Apostle to the Apostles, the first to announce the resurrection and the first to witness the risen Christ. These recollections are preserved in the canonical witness.
The Gospel of Mary exists in a fragmentary form among the Nag Hammadi documents, discovered in 1947. Many pages are missing, including the beginning, middle and ending. However, the character of Mary is highlighted in many gospels; Meyer selects texts throughout the various gospels to show an extensive interaction between Jesus and Mary, the other disciples and Mary, and Mary's own prominence as a witness to the outside world.
This text presents a more realistic way of viewing the character of Mary Magdalene than sources such as Da Vinci Code/Holy Blood, Holy Grail/Woman with the Alabaster Jar present. According to Meyer, 'the sources about Mary Magdalene published here may not be as flamboyant as some of these later legends, but they are more trustworthy as witnesses to the figure of Mary and literary traditions about Mary.' Indeed, Meyer speculates that Mary might not have been only 'a' beloved disciple, but perhaps 'the' beloved disciple referred to not by name but by relationship in the canonical gospels.
This is a short text, consisting mostly of Meyer's own translations of the primary documents; Meyer's commentary is kept to a minimum, useful in its way, but he permits the texts to speak for themselves. He gives a useful index and helpful scholarly notes.
This book will be of special interest for those who want to dig deeper into the realities underpinning modern novels and explorations about the subject, and of general interest to those who want to see the diversity in Christian belief, practice and writing in the earlies centuries.
The Beloved Disciple. May 5, 2004
Since the discovery of The Gospel of Mary in the late nineteenth century in Egypt and the Nag Hammadi texts in 1947, the figure of Mary Magdalene has gained prominence in religious scholarly circles as well as popular culture.
The first to bring Mary Magdalene to a wider audience was Elaine Pagels' groundbreaking text, The Gnostic Gospels. Though, interestingly, it was the popular thriller by Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code, that really caught the imagination of a wide readership, sparking many texts, both scholarly and otherwise, to be published.
Marvin Meyer, editor of the Gospel of Thomas, has written and compiled in this text a selection of extracanonical literature, including the New Testament Gospels, revealing the central role of Mary Magdalene in the formation and history of Christianity. However, Meyer points out, that, The New Testament obscured the importance of Magdalene's role through the interest of the author's who..."advanced the cause of the male disciples (especially the Twelve) and the place of Peter." (iiv) There is no doubt that Mary Magdalene, after reading this brief though informative selection of texts, was the beloved disciple to Jesus, and for many reasons, culturally, politically or otherwise, her importance was suppressed, and only now, over two thousand years after the birth of Christianity, has her central role as apostle and teacher, is gaining prominence once again.
Meyer's has compiled a selection of Christian literature, including segments of the New Testament, Mark, Matthew, Luke and John, The Gospel of Mary, Thomas, Phillip, The Dialogue of the Savoir, excerpts from the Gnostic text, Pistis Sophia and segments from The Manichaean Psalms of Heracleides, that all mention Mary Magdalene in one context or another, emphasising her close relationship with Jesus and her pivotal role in Christs crucifixion and resurrection.
Close examination of the numerous non-canonical texts along with the New Testament, to my mind, will only strengthen one's belief and spiritual insights into the divine. There are many reasons why the figure of Mary Magdalene has been marginalized from the "official" church, however, her emergence as the beloved companion to Jesus in our modern times from the "shadows of history", can only nurture our spiritual natures, guiding us on our personal journeys.
This book is a short though quality addition to Christian literary scholarship.