You have just alluded to Gnostic sources. But isn’t Mary of Magdala precisely presented as the wife of Jesus in these texts?
It should first be pointed out that, in Gnostic writings or assimilated texts, the full name of Mary of Magdala is hardly mentioned. She is almost always referred to as “Mary”. Therefore, specialists in these texts disagree concerning her identity. Some claim that she is Mary of Magdala, while others claim that she is the mother of Jesus.
Is it possible to distinguish them?
Most scholars support the idea that the name-form Maria, mentioned is these documents, is used for the mother of Jesus; while they consider, on the contrary, that the name-form Mariam (or its variants: Mariham, Mariamme) is used preferentially for “Mary Magdalene”.
I see. And is that correct or not?
This assumption is false. In the Greek text of the Gospels, the mother of Jesus is much more often called Mariam than Maria. Regarding Mary of Magdala, it is the opposite: she is more often called Maria than Mariam. It is exactly the same in the writings of the early Church Fathers. In fact, Maria is the Hellenised form of the Aramaic Mariam. This is also the reason why all evangelical characters we call “Mary” can be called either Maria or Mariam. In his Latin translation of the Bible – the Vulgate– Jerome only uses the form Maria, both for Mary of Magdala and for the mother of Jesus. And in the Syriac versions, both are called Mariam.
So, who is the Mary of the Gnostic writings?
The answer is elementary. It is both Mary of Magdala and the mother of Jesus: she is the same character. Trying to distinguish between them comes down to nothing more and nothing less than a disagreement between “six of one” and “half a dozen of the other” ...
Do you have a specific example?
See the Pistis Sophia. It is a manuscript of 354 folios written in Coptic and discovered in Egypt in 1773. The text could date back to the beginning of the third century. In the Pistis Sophia, several female characters are named Mary, including the mother of Jesus, Mary of Magdala and “the other Mary”, that is to say, the mother of James and Joses.
Alias Mary, wife of Clopas.
Yes, that’s it. However, the central female character is also named “Mary”, without further details. Which one is it? If you examine this document carefully you will see, in fact, that Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Mary of Magdala are never present simultaneously. The most obvious explanation, and one that has so far eluded all commentators, is that it is, in fact, one and the same character. So, in reality, in the Pistis Sophia, there are only two characters named Mary: the mother of Jesus and “the other Mary”. And it is the same in all Gnostic writings or assimilated texts which have come down to us.
But does not one read, in the Gospel according to Mary:
Peter said to Mary: - Sister, we know that the Savior loved you more than any other woman ...
Is this woman his mother?!
Yes, absolutely. This passage is best understood by placing it in its context. You will see that this Mary is none other than the mother of Jesus alias Mary of Magdala. The Gnostic revelation dialogues take place after the Resurrection. All of them claim to bring new revelations from Jesus and the main aim is to convince the reader, or the listener, of their veracity. This is the reason why they say they depend on the testimony of the mother of the Savior herself, Mary, sent by her own Son because she is the one supposed to be the guardian of these alleged mysteries.
If so, why is Mary called the “companion” of Jesus in the Gospel according to Philip?
Companion does not necessarily mean wife. Translated from the Coptic, this word is a borrowing from the Greek koinônos meaning the one “who takes part in”, “who associates with”, and therefore the “companion”, initially without sexual connotation. Anyway, in this type of writing, even the word “bride” does not necessarily mean “bride” in the carnal sense of the term!
Ah yes ... Spiritually speaking, the Church since the beginning has also been called the “bride” of Christ.
And isn’t Mary understood as the “figure” of the Church itself? From this spiritual perspective, the mother of Jesus is therefore also “the bride” of Christ.
Uh ... aren’t you going too far?
Not at all. From a Gnostic point of view, as a model, Mary can only be the companion of Jesus in the sense that Mother and Son are joined in an intimate union, a spiritual complementarity: she is his “feminine double”. She and Jesus are “soul mates”. In the Gospel according to Philip to which you have just referred, we read immediately afterwards:
Because Mary is his sister, mother and companion.
The three at the same time?
This kind of formulation, which may seem amazing, obviously only makes sense on a spiritual level. But it is not specifically Gnostic. Around the same time, Saint Ephrem the Syrian – who is not a heretic – says exactly the same thing about the Virgin Mary. She is at the same time, he says, “the sister, the mother and the bride” of Jesus. I remind you that, according to this Father of the Syriac Church, Mary of Magdala is the mother of Jesus.
What does it mean?
The idea is that Mary enjoys all the love Jesus can give to her. This love is above the love which a son bears to his mother, above the love which a brother bears to his sister, above the love which a husband bears to his wife. It is all three at the same time. It is this idea of absolute love that we see at work in the Gospel according to Philip. And this is also why it is written in the Gospel according to Mary that Jesus loved Mary “more than any of the disciples” and “more than any other woman” ...
The French expression in the original – “bonnet blanc ou blanc bonnet” – is itself a chiasma.