Does the Gospel of Mary Magdalene belong in the New Testament?

by Ryan Turner

What is the Gospel of Mary Magdalene?

The Gospel of Mary Magdalene (also known as the Gospel of Mary) is a Gnostic work written in the second century around 120-180 A.D.1 Though supposedly written by Mary Magdalene, the Gospel is actually regarded by modern scholars as anonymously written by someone in Gnostic circles. It was common for anonymous writers in the second century to attribute the name of a popular New Testament figure to their Gospel in order to gain credibility. This same phenomenon occurs with the Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Peter, Gospel of Philip, and other second century writings.

Only fragments of the Gospel of Mary actually survive today. There were approximately nine chapters originally written in the Gospel, but chapters 1-3, part of 4 and 5, and all of 6-8 are lost.2

Since it was written so late, the Gospel of Mary could not have been included in the New Testament canon which is composed of books written in the first century either by apostles or associates of apostles. Due to their earlier date and connection with the historical Jesus, the Gospels of the New Testament give us a much more historically reliable portrait of Jesus than the Gospel of Mary.

What does the Gospel of Mary Magdalene Teach?

  1. Mary Magdalene has special teaching that supersedes the male disciples.
    1. In contrast, the New Testament teaches that if anyone received special instruction it was most likely Peter, James, and John who were part of the inner circle. This is not to deny that Mary Magdalene certainly received instruction from the Lord, but she was not given preeminence over all of the other followers of Jesus whether female or male.
  2. The material world is corrupt and is going to be destroyed.
    1. In contrast, the New Testament teaches that the material world will be reassembled. It does not teach that the material world is evil in and of itself. For example, the body is not evil but will be physically resurrected (cf. Lk. 24:39; Jn. 2:19-21).
  • 1. gives this rough date. Darrell Bock, The Missing Gospels: Unearthing the Truth behind Alternative Christianities, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2006, pp. 218-19, likewise states that the Gospel of Mary dates from the "early to late second century."
  • 2. See: for details.