Rethinking the" Gnostic Mary": Mary of Nazareth and Mary of Magdala in Early Christian Tradition

  • Shoemaker S
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Abstract

Numerous early Christian apocrypha, including several so-called gnostic texts, include a character known as Mary, whose identity is usually other- wise unspecified. Generally, this Mary appears as an associate or, some- times, as a rival, of the apostles, who is filled with knowledge of the gnostic mysteries. Although scholars have persistently identified this Mary with Mary the Magdalene, rather than Mary of Nazareth, this interpretive dogma is based on evidence that it is at best inconclusive. This article reexamines the relevant apocrypha, as well as incorporating much previously overlooked evidence to argue that Mary of Nazareth is an equally important contributor to the gnostic Marys identity. The gnostic Mary, it turns out, is a composite figure, who draws on the identities of both the Magdalene and the Virgin, rather than being the representation of a single historical individual. This new perspective will present both consequences and opportunities for feminist interpretations of early Christianity and the veneration of Mary of Nazareth.

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Authors

  • Stephen J Shoemaker

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