The Gospel of Mary: Beyond a Gnostic and a Biblical Mary Magdalene (Journal for the Study of the New Testament Supplement) Hardcover – 1 May 2004
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"The author's goal is to evaluate the portrayal of Mary in the late-second-century Coptic text, 'The Gospel of Mary', and also to compare this with Mary's portrayal in the canonical gospels....-The Bible Today, May/June 2006"
."..this study is rich in detail and will repay careful consideration by all working in these broad areas of interest. The book is certainly a highly significant addition to the growing literature on the Gospel of Mary and the figure of Mary Magdalene in early Christianity." -;/div>--Sanford Lakoff "Expository Times "
'a well structured piece of research which opens the way for further questions' Neotestamentica 40.2 (2006)--Sanford Lakoff
"offers a fresh approach that is both interesting and, in many cases, convincing."--Sanford Lakoff "Journal of Religion "
"In amongst the plethora of pseudo-scholarly books concerning ecclesiastical conspiracy theories in the wake of The Da Vinci Code, this short book on the Gospel of Mary is a welcome and illuminating alternative." ANVIL 23.4 2006--Sanford Lakoff "Anvil "
About the Author
Esther de Boer completed her PhD at the Theological University of Kampen, Holland. She is the author of 'Mary Magdalene: beyond the Myth" (Trinity Press International, 1997).
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Esther passed away in July of last year (2010). When I read this book at the start of this year; I was not yet aware of the 51 year old author's untimely passing. This knowledge only confirmed to me how special this book really is, and I hope that it becomes well-known, in honour of the woman who wrote it and her incredible life of biblical scholarship which will surely outlive her for many, many years to come.
De Boer does not think that the Gospel of Mary is Gnostic. Unlike King who just dismisses the concept of Gnosticism altogether, de Boer goes into great depth to explain exactly why she does not believe it to be a Gnostic work. By analysing the discussion of the material world in the Gospel, and appealing to the ideas of Stoicism and Philo of Alexandria, she cogently argues that it does not demonstrate any evidence of dualism and creation of the material world by the Demiurge. On the section describing the ascent of the soul, de Boer remarks that these ideas are not in themselves unique to Gnostic schools. Personally I am not convinced as the example given feels rather different to what is described in the Gospel of Mary and indeed many other decidedly Gnostic works. Sadly the fragmentary state of our manuscripts means that we will probably never be able to arrive at any answer with certainty short of a future discovery of an intact copy.
Apart from the Gospel of Mary, much of the book also analyses in great depth the portrayal of Mary Magdalene and also of women in general in the canonical Gospels, and the relation to the portrayal in the Gospel of Mary. The Gospel of John is considered to be closest to the Gospel of Mary in its portrayal of Mary Magdalene, and in a slightly outlandish section the possibility of Mary being John's "beloved disciple" is mooted. De Boer notes that, contrary to what some people like to think, the portrayal of women in Gnosticism is not universally positive, nor is it always negative in canonical texts.
De Boer sees the Gospel of Mary as preserving some historical traditions about Mary, and that the purpose of the work is as an exhortation to preach the Gospel, and also to counter any tendency to dismiss the witness of women purely because of their gender.
Whilst I am not convinced by all the conclusions of de Boer, this book is essential reading for anyone studying both the Gospel of Mary itself and the portrayal of women in the canonical gospels.
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To be able to evaluate these different viewpoints on the Gnostic Mary Magdalene, the present study focuses on the Gospel of Mary, which is considered to be the most important early witness to the esteem of Mary Magdalene in Gnostic circles. Boer investigates the following aspects:
1. The dualism involved in the Gospel of Mary: is it a specific Gnostic dualism and does it contain a negative use of female imagery?
2. Mary's teaching in the Gospel of Mary: what is the specific content of her teaching?
3. The Gospel of Mary's view on Mary Magdalene; does this gospel advocate the apostolic leadership of women, an egalitarian discipleship and a non-hierarchical way of being the church?
4. The portrayals of Mary Magdalene in the Now Testament Gospels: to what extent can the portrayal of Mary Magdalene in the Gospel of Mary, her relation to the Saviour, her position among the disciples, her function in the story, be understood from the New Testament Gospels?
By addressing these questions Boer contributes to the present debate about the Gnostic Mary Magdalene. The study begins with an introduction to the Gospel of Mary. It goes into its three incomplete manuscripts of the Gospel of Mary, the provenance of the original document, its date and composition, the persons in the story and the identification of Mary as Mary Magdalene. The chapter also provides a new translation of the nine pages from the Coptic manuscript, followed by a study of the meaning of the Gospel of Mary, and of the definition of the term `Gnostic'.
Next Boer examines the purpose of and the dualism in the Gospel of Mary and the question whether it is to be seen as a Gnostic document. Boer focuses on the author's portrayal of Mary Magdalene in the Gospel of Mary. What is her relation to the Saviour, what is her position among the disciples and what is her function in the story? The author speaks from the viewpoint of Peter, of Andrew, of Levi, of the Savior, and of Mary herself. Through the interaction of these views, through the extra knowledge and view of the narrator and dialogic structure, through Mary's teaching and through certain indications in the text, Boer examines the development of the plot in which the author's view of Mary Magdalene becomes apparent.
To be able to investigate the origin of the portrayal of Mary Magdalene in the Gospel of Mary an examination of the New Testament Gospels is elaborated, since they contain the earliest written material on Mary Magdalene. First Boer studies the portrayal of Mary Magdalene in the Gospel of Mark. Almost at the end of the Gospel, Mark for the first time declares that a considerable number of women had been following Jesus. What to think of these women? What is their function in Mark's story? And what about Mary Magdalene in their midst? In order to fully consider these questions Boer not only focuses on Mark, but also on the historical situation at the time of the Gospel witness and communities Boer also investigates the Gospels of Matthew and Luke and the Gospel of John, considering their view of women and Mary Magdalene in particular as well as possible historical contexts.
Boer wraps up with an evaluation of the portrayals of Mary Magdalene in the Gospel of Mary and the New Testament Gospels, reflecting on the substantive questions enumerated above.
If you want two other books on similiar wave-lengths try reading The Woman with the Alabaster Jar by Margaret Starbird and Eclipse of Fate...my healing journey through past-life recall by Barbara Burritt. Both of these books speak about spiritual transformation coming from the nous with two completely different vantage points. Starbird takes the truths of the Magdalene and thouroughly explains the historical clues hidden in the Holy Grail and the sacred feminine teachings stemming from the Magdalene's legend in the south of France. Eclipse of Fate speaks from her first hand knowledge of gnostic truths that are in the Gospel of Mary Magdalene. Burritt took them to task and manifested her own miraculous healing from cancer.
May the sacred feminine speak from our own sub-coscious as the dispensation of the Holy Spirit is just now awakening to her full glory.
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