In this series, we are looking at the non-canonical gospel accounts of Jesus’ life. While not considered scripture, they can give us a look at what different early Christians taught and believed about Jesus.
The Gospel of Mary
The gospel of Mary is a book of teachings or “sayings” of Jesus. It is not a “Gospel” in the sense we are used to. The main focus of the text is a dialogue/argument between Mary and Peter. There is debate about which “Mary” is supposed to have authored the text as well. Was it Mary the mother of Jesus? Mary Magdalene? The author is never identified in the gospel, but most conclude the Mary in this gospel is Mary Magdalene.
While some scholars such as Karen L. King have suggested that the gospel was written within the lifetime of Christ Himself, most others agree that it was penned in the mid- second century. There is no compelling evidence to suggest the early dating of this text.
Who wrote the gospel of Mary? We don’t have a clear answer. It was written too late in history to have been authored by anyone intimately associated with Jesus.
The most likely authors were Coptic gnostic Christians. The reason we think this is because many of the sayings in the document echo the Gnostic teachings of the time. It is similar to the Gospel of Thomas; in that it describes many “sayings” of Jesus.
Why Was It Rejected?
There are several reasons the gospel of Mary is not considered authentic. As stated above, it was written much too late in history for it to have originated from an eyewitness. It is also consistent with other non-canonical gnostic gospels that were written later in history. And it is not named in any of the early lists of canonical books of the New Testament by the Church fathers.
What Does The Gospel Tell Us About The Real Jesus?
The gospel gives very few details about Jesus Himself. It is not a “life of” type of gospel. We do get confirmation of other Biblical persons such as Andrew, Peter and Mary. But beyond that, there is little additional credible information about Jesus.
As with all of the non-canonical gospels we’ll be looking at, the gospel of Mary offers us some insights into the people who wrote it, but very little about the actual historical Jesus.
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