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BKLYN BookMatch: The Apocryphal Gospel of Mary Magdalene & Related Texts

The Gospel of Mary Magdalene, commonly referred to as the Gospel of Mary, is an apocryphal, or non-canonical, book from Christianity’s early period, the text of which is known to us today through one Coptic and two Greek papyrus manuscripts. The most complete of these copies is the Papyrus Berolinensis 8502, also known as the Berlin Codex, a document written in Coptic from the 5th Century AD, likely based on an earlier Greek copy. While the text of the Gospel of Mary is itself very brief (the first six pages and four middle pages are missing), there exist further apocryphal Christian texts, such as the Gnostic Gospel of Philip and the Pistis Sophia, that elevate Mary Magdalene to a place of privileged knowledge within Jesus’s ministry (as well as a place of warm familiarity, in the case of Philip). While it is debated as to whether these texts, many of them believed to have been produced in the second century and later, can reveal to us anything at all about the actual history of Jesus’ ministry and the church in the apostolic age, the Gospel of Mary and other non-canonical scriptures remain invaluable resources that shed light on how different Christian groups, later labeled as heterodox, believed and worshipped in early Christianity. This list includes books in our collection containing full-text translations of the Gospel of Mary, in addition to books discussing the historical and religious contexts in which the apocryphal gospels have developed and been interpreted. This list was created by a librarian with the Brooklyn Public Library for a reader. Would you like your own personalized list of reading suggestions? Visit Bklyn BookMatch here: www.bklynlibrary.org/readers-advisory

7 items

Essential gnostic scriptures

[compiled by] Willis Barnstone and Marvin Meyer. |

This book, completed by American scholars Willis Barnstone and Marvin Meyer, includes the full-text English translation of the Gospel of Mary, translated from the Berlin Codex and the two fragmentary Greek manuscripts (Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 3525 and Rylands Papyrus 463). Twenty other translated apocryphal texts are included in this book, including the Gospel of Philip.

The Gospels of Mary

Marvin Meyer with Esther A. de Boer. |

Written by Meyer in collaboration with de Boer, this book includes the full text of the Gospel of Mary, along with selections from the canonical New Testament and five other non-canonical texts that “proclaim the good news, or the gospel, according to Mary Magdalene in the literary traditions that reflect upon her.” Chapter 8 is an essay titled “Should We All Turn and Listen to Her? Mary Magdalene in the Spotlight” by the scholar Esther A. De Boer, who also wrote The Gospel of Mary: Listening to the Beloved Disciple (2005). While this title is unfortunately not available in our collection, it may be requested via our interlibrary loan service.

The gospel of Mary Magdalene

translation from the Coptic and commentary by Jean-Yves Leloup ; English translation and notes by Joseph Rowe ; [foreword by Jacob Needleman]. |

This book presents an original translation from the Sahidic Coptic text of the Berlin Codex into French by Jean-Yves LeLoup, a theologian and founder of the Institute of Other Civilization Studies and the International College of Therapists. Rowe’s English translation is presented side-by-side with the Coptic text. However, LeLoup’s commentary comprises the majority of this book, in which the author explains why he made certain translation choices where other translators may choose other words, as well his interpretation of the deeper spiritual meanings of the text. As expounded in the introduction and the commentary, the author believes in the spiritual necessity of a sexual relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene for the salvation of the whole human person (although this is nowhere supported in the text). LeLoup also wrote The Sacred Embrace of Jesus and Mary: The Sexual Mystery at the Heart of the Christian Tradition (Inner Traditions, 2006) and The Gospel of Philip Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and the Gnosis of Sacred Union (2004), both of which are available in our collection in eBook format.

The Gnostic gospels

Alan Jacobs ; introduction by Vrej N. Nersessian. |

Jacobs, an author, poet and student of mysticism, wrote his original, “poetic transcription” of the Gnostic texts included in this volume “in free verse form, paraphrased from the widely differing literal prose translations in existence.” The Gospel of Mary is included on page 76. An introduction by Reverend Dr. Vrej Nersessian, Curator of the Christian Middle East Section at the British Library and priest of the Armenian Apostolic Church, is included.

The gnostic Gospels

by Elaine Pagels. |

Elaine Pagels’ The Gnostic Gospels is among the most influential books to have been published in the wake of the texts discovered at Nag Hammadi in Upper Egypt in 1947. In her work, Pagels examines what non-canonical Christian scriptures (including the Gospel of Mary) reveal about the beliefs, theology and devotion of Christian communities in the religion’s first centuries before the formal codification of Roman orthodoxy in the fourth century AD. In particular, Pagels sheds light on the role of the divine feminine in early Christian communities as evidenced in the Gnostic gospels—including beliefs about the nature of God as having both feminine and masculine attributes. This title is also available in downloadable Audiobook by searching the catalog.

Hidden Gospels

Philip Jenkins. |

Written by Philip Jenkins, Distinguished Professor of History at Baylor University, this work is the scholar’s staunch, sobering critique of sensational claims that frame the non-canonical gospels as being radically subversive of our understanding of the early Church. Jenkins exposes the tendency of both scholars and media portrayals alike to impose conjectured narratives (rooted in modern ideologies or popular trends) onto these texts in order to offer revisionist histories of Jesus' ministry and the first century church, despite lacking supportive documentary evidence (especially given the late date of many of the apocryphal texts). The section that is of particular relevance to the Gospel of Mary is Chapter 6, Daughters of Sophia.

The many faces of Christ

Philip Jenkins. |

Jenkins’ most recent book examines how many of the non-canonical gospels that we sometimes think of as having been lost until the modern age were not only in popular circulation throughout various parts of the Roman-ruled Christian world (despite official condemnation from the Roman hierarchy), but had profound impacts on Christian art, devotion and popular imagination. The book covers late antiquity up through the Middle Ages to the time of the Protestant Reformation. A particularly relevant chapter here is Two Marys: How Alternative Gospels Continued to Present the Feminine Face of God.