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Discussing Mary Magdalene on the basis of the original Gospel texts

Mailis Janatuinen


Dan Brown´s book The Da Vinci Code and the film based on it have been a huge success and they have affected and modified many people´s idea of Jesus Christ. According to the book, Jesus and Mary Magdalene had an affair from which a child was born. Brown´s claim is based on the so called Gospel of Philip, written 150-200 years later than the gospels of The New Testament. It is not explicitly stated in The Gospel of Philip that Jesus and Mary Magdalene would have had an affair; the text merely calls Mary a koinoonos of Jesus. The word has a wide range of meanings: a spouse, a friend in faith, a business partner. In fact, The Gospel of Philip uses the word “shimee” when talking about someone´s wife. It is therefore unlikely that the writer of The Gospel of Philip would have considered Mary to be Jesus´ wife. Dan Brown has simply intrepreted the word “koinoonos” in a way that best suited the plot of his book.

But what do the original texts say? The four Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John wrote down the events of Jesus´ life some 30-50 years after His death. At that time many eyewitnesses were still alive who could have either comfirmed or contradicted the Gospel accounts. Philip, who wrote his narrative a century or two later can hardly be called a reliable witness, let alone Leonardo da Vinci, who lived 1400 years later than the Evangelists who wrote the original Gospel accounts.

Now let´s imagine that you were to find out what kind of affairs Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) had with women. You´d have access to a biographical novel about the love life of this great general written in 2005 and the memoirs of a close friend of his from the 1850s which gives a contemporary account of the matter. Which book would you trust more? The difference in time is as big as between the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and The Gospel of Philip.

This guide is meant for those who have read The Da Vinci Code or seen the film and want to determine how accurate and true the statements presented in them are. I have dealt with all those parts in The New Testament in which Mary Magdalene is mentioned. Because more than one Gospel text will be used in the same discussion, I recommend that the section titled “The texts” be printed or photocopied and given to all participants. When discussing other points in this guide, follow the regular Glad Tidings procedure, which is explained on this internet site. The questions within brackets are auxiliary questions meant to be presented if the main question elicits no answers.

“We love because he first loved us” (1.John 4:19)

Espoo, autumn 2006

Mailis Janatuinen

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