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Saturday, November 05, 2005

“Their Own Whims and Lusts” Liberal Scholars and Jesus’ Marriage

“But remember, dear friends, that the apostles of our Master, Jesus Christ, told us this would happen: ‘In the last days there will be people who…make a religion of their own whims and lusts’” (Jude v. 17-18, The Message trans.)

We quote the following exchange from an NBC Dateline with Stone Phillips presentation entitled Secrets to the Code. Our reason for quoting it is in order to demonstrate just how far some people will go in reading their own preconceived notions into the text of scripture.

Margaret Starbird: “I think they were a couple. I think he found her irresistible.”

Narrator: “Author Margaret Starbird, whose controversial research on Mary Magdalene is cited in The Davinci Code, says there’s no need to look to art for clues of an intimate relationship between Mary and Jesus. All you have to do, she says, is read the New Testament, it’s right there in the Book of John.”

Margaret Starbird: “When Mary Magdalene comes to the garden to mourn for Jesus and to anoint him, for his final anointing, and finds him resurrected in the garden she is overjoyed.”

Narrator: “Before Jesus ascends to heaven Mary reaches out to him and he tells her, ‘Do not touch me.’”

Margaret Starbird: “He’s saying I can’t stay with you now and she’s trying to hold on, it’s not just a touch it’s an embrace. If she weren’t married to him she wouldn’t of dreamed of touching him.”

It is then told that she relies on Gnostic texts such as The Gospel of Phillip, which is a Gnostic work of the late third century—circa 250 years after Jesus died. For conservative Biblical scholars it is important to get as close to the event that was recorded as possible. For liberal Biblical scholars it is important to get as far away from the event as possible hopefully reaching such a distance in time that what is written helps them to besmirch the text of scripture, the more these texts distort the person and ministry of Jesus Christ, the better. Upon these works of fantasy they bestow near infallibility.

The Gospel of Phillip is so poorly represented by manuscript evidence (or lack thereof) that there are holes all over it, literally missing text. What is being referred to in the NBC Dateline presentation is section #63 of that work. Note all of the brackets and ellipses points in the text, which represent missing and reconstructed (guessed at) text, “And the companion of the […] Mary Magdalene. […loved] her more than [all] the disciples [and used to] kiss her [often] on her […].”[1]
Another translation takes the liberty of filling in the gaps in the following way, “And the companion of the Savior is Mary Magdalene. But Christ loved her more then all the disciples and used to kiss her often on her mouth.”[2]

The obvious question is, why choose to insert the word mouth into the text instead of cheek or hand? That is the question, the answer being pure conjecture such as, perhaps it was to make it seem as if there is more going on than there really is. However, this whole discussion is secondary to the fact that we are dealing with a text that was written hundreds of years after Jesus died by someone who never knew Him personally. But what if Jesus did kiss Mary? There were, and are still, many culture in which it is perfectly normal to kiss people frequently. Someone you are meeting for the first time, and every time you greet each other and depart company, it is likewise perfectly normal for men to kiss each other.

In glorifying these texts one publication states,

“These books are rich in cosmogonies and anthropogonies. They contain apocalyptic visions and secret scrolls of Jesus’ life and sayings. The magnificent Gospel of Truth and Gospel of Thomas add greatly to the information provided by the New Testament.”[3]

The wondrous Gospel of Thomas, a fragment of which was dated to 200 AD, contains such inspirational statements such as is found in #114,

“Simon Peter said to them, ‘Let Mary leave us, for women are not worthy of life.’ Jesus said, ‘I myself shall lead her in order to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every woman who will make herself male will enter the kingdom of heaven.’”

This sort of sexist concept is utterly foreign to the true Peter, the true Jesus, and the true Gospels in general. In the true Gospels salvation is not based on sex-change operations of any sort. The Gospel of Truth is likewise of a late date, having been written about 150 years after Jesus died.

All of the apocryphal Gnostic Gospels have a few things in common: they were all written much later than even the latest New Testament book, they were all written long after the Apostles died; they all contain doctrines that betray their late authorship since they include teachings that developed in the second to fourth centuries.

Comparing the time of the event to the time of the writing, the time of the writing to the time of the earliest manuscript, the number of manuscript and many other signs of authenticity these Gospels fall far, far short of the reliability of the New Testament texts. As stated before, the liberal scholars appear to prefer these, not because they are superior in any way but, because they allow the New Testament to be besmirched, albeit in an utterly unviable manner.

The NBC Dateline presentation ends with a demonstration of the extreme difference between facts and liberal scholarship’s fantasy:

Stone Phillips: “Is there any historical evidence that Jesus fathered any children?”

Prof. Bart D. Ehrman, Ph.D.: “No, there’s not a scrap of historical evidence that Jesus fathered a child.”

Prof. Ben Witherington, III, Ph.D.: “No evidence whatsoever.”

Prof. Karen L. King, Ph.D.: “There’s no evidence at all.”

Reading one’s own preconceived notions into the text (in this case in a way that would interest Sigmund Freud) versus letting the text speak for itself and or relying on historical fact is the difference between real scholarship and very popular fiction.

[1] James M. Robinson, gen. ed., The Nag Hammadi Library (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 1978, 1988 ed.), p. 148
[2] Willis Barnstone, ed., The Other Bible (New York, NY: Harper & Row Publishers, 1984), p. 92
[3] Barnstone, p. xx

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