Mary Magdalene Rises as a Popular Study Topic

( [email protected] ) Jun 07, 2004 01:34 PM EDT

URBANA – As Christians are showing much interest in Mary Magdalene because of the bestselling book “Da Vinci Code” by Dan Brown, Urbana Theological Seminary will be offering a new course on Mary Magdalene examining controversies surrounding her.

Adrian Lamkin and Kenneth Cuffey will together teach “Mary Magdalene: Scripture, History and “The Da Vinci Code” starting today.

Lamkin a local professor said that the confusion started early in Christian tradition. Mary Magdalene became known as a prostitute after a famous sermon by Pope Gregory around 600 A.D. identified her with The Woman Caught In Adultery.

The course will examine the role of Mary Magdalene and the relationship with Jesus. Lamkin credited Mary as an important role model for some women in recent years and said the course will examine how the view of her has changed by comparing how the early church viewed the role of women.

Students will read from Gnostic, secret gospels from a Nag Hammadi archaeological cache that was discovered in upper Egypt in 1945, which contains many Christian elements, including gospels, prayers and sayings from Jesus Christ to his disciples.

The four Gospels in the canonical text also will be examined. Lamkin said the standard thinking is they are the more reliable source for Jesus' life, since they were written relatively soon after the Crucifixion.

"The earliest Christians didn't feel the need to write a lot down, because they believed Christ would return in their lifetimes," he said.

The four Gospels are believed to be a collection of “Q” sayings of Jesus, a short for Quelle, the German word for source, Lamkin noted. Matthew and Luke also draw heavily from the Q sayings.

Lamkin said Mark is believed to be the earliest Gospel. John is believed to be the latest of the four Gospels, written to attract more educated audience, the Greeks.

As it can be seen, the first verse in John which reads: "In the beginning was the Word ..." has a very philosophical tone.

Lamkin said there are many other gospel such as “Gospel of Thomas” that were not included in the Bible. He said those works are as important since they provide different insights into the Christ story.

Lamkin made an interesting point about the Nag Hammadi text. He said the text features Mary Magdalene as a proto-feminist Christian leader and that in a way it supports "The Da Vinci Code." The text refers to Mary as Christ’s companion and whom Jesus loved most, more than the disciples.

It’s written: “He loved her more than (all) the disciples, and used to kiss her on her (mouth.) The rest of (the disciples were offended) . . . They said to him, "Why do you love her more than all of us?" The Savior answered and said to them, "Why do I not love you as (I love) her?"”