In Part 1 we left off in discussing the "one-down" role of women in civilization and how this impacted the Christian church in general and its depiction of Mary Magdalene in particular.
The discovery of the Nag Hammadi texts provided a much more complete picture of the body of materials rejected in the earliest history of Christianity. Many of these are now receiving renewed attention (and have been validated by Biblical scholars), and include the Gospel of Mary, Philip and Thomas. The translation drawn upon in this essay is from the Coptic to French to English by Jean-Yves Leloup, a scholar and monk with a deep intellectual and spiritual understanding. Most scholars believe that the Coptic texts were translations from Greek originals.
The materials that refer to Mary Magdalene (Miriam of Magdala) appear in two sources - the canonical Gospels of the New Testament, and a group of papyri that have come to be known as the Gnostic Gospels. The latter were rejected and suppressed by the Catholic Church in a scenario that reads like a novel, involving book burnings, secret meetings of small sects - which when discovered by the authorities, involved executions, torture and exile.
The greatest suppression of early Christian literature began when Constantine became emperor of Rome and declared Christianity the religion of the entire Roman Empire. In 325 AD he convened the council of Nicaea to officially decide which materials would be suppressed. The bishops at this council who disagreed with Constantine's choices were exiled on the spot.
Be this as it may, this suppression was not completely successful. Interestingly, at the end of World War Two, a stash of alternative texts was found in a large clay jar in the desert at Nag Hammadi, near Phou, Egypt. These would be called the Gnostic Gospels, following the Greek word, gnosis, which means "inner/direct knowing" or "self- knowledge," and the idea that spiritual growth is achieved through inner development.
The Gnostic Gospels were already there, but lay in oblivion for many centuries, buried in the sands of Nag Hammadi in Upper Egypt. They appear to allow a return to the sources of a tradition thought to be known, but which in reality has been largely ignorant of its own roots.
This is akin to Freud's concept of the "return of the repressed." In Freud's conceptualization the "unconscious" is what is beneath consciousness - and may unknowingly influence or direct conscious awareness and behavior.
In this sense we might speak of the "unconscious Gospels." These rejected gospels - reappearing in our own time - can be considered manifestations of a return of Christianity's repressed material.
To be clear: it was the canonical gospels which were the foundation for building the church institutions, and which essentially staked claim to the entire territory of Christianity, fencing in a land that was once open and free.
One of the essential questions raised by the Gnostic Gospels concerns the sexuality of Jesus.
From the Gospel of Philip: "the Teacher loved Miriam... He often kissed her on the mouth."
In the Hebrew scripture, especially the Song of Songs, to kiss means to "breathe together," to share the same breath or spirit. Despite the profound intimacy this implies, it does not, in itself, imply a sexual relationship. However, the tone of the Nag Hammadi texts appears to contradict the canonical gospels, which deny Jesus an intimate relationship with a woman.
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