Scholars agree that it was Paul and not Jesus who defined Christianity as it is today. The earliest extant written sources of Christianity date from decades after the alleged death of Jesus. Early Christians depended on oral traditions and writings that do no longer exist. Oral recounting is notoriously inaccurate and the evidence of redactions in the Gospels makes scholars agree on very little about Jesus of Nazareth, except that he really existed and preached around 30 AD. Perhaps the earliest written sources have been destroyed on purpose. But why? And is it possible to shed some light on the origins of some of the most peculiar dogmas of Christianity?
The earliest Christians may have believed that Jesus was a reincarnation of Adam, that Mary Magdalene was a reincarnation of Eve and that Eve is a Mother Goddess and gave birth to Adam, hence Jesus was the Bridegroom as well as the Son of God. This post is part of a series called God Is A Woman And Jesus Was Her Husband. It is advised to read the following articles first in the order suggested below:
Born of God the Father
The Gospel Of John states that Christians are born of God the Father.1 This suggests that the gender of God has been altered in the texts and that God could be a Mother. But if early Christian leaders have been removing evidence of God being a Mother then how they could have overlooked this? The answer probably is that they didn’t. The Gospels were written in Greek or translated into Greek.
Greek mythology allows for such a peculiarity. The goddess Athena was born from the head of the male god Zeus. Nevertheless, if the original sources from which the Gospels were compiled were oral stories or written texts in Hebrew or Aramaic, this phrase might reveal the gender of God, as being born from a male deity comes from Greek mythology and not from the Jewish tradition. The next question might be why? Such a construct could have made a great compromise at a time when many Christians still knew that God is a Mother.
The Jewish deity Yahweh is male so for Jews it may have been easy to accept the change. For others this may have been different. Syria was one of the first areas outside the Jewish territories where Christianity had spread. The acts of the apostles discuss the church in Antioch in 42 AD.2 As there were a substantial number of Christians in Syria already, it would have taken decades to erase an idea like God being a Mother.
The Gospel of John may have been written to cater this particular need, which may have been to bridge the gap between the newly introduced doctrine of God being a Father and the widespread belief that God is a Mother. The letters of Ignatius of Antioch indicate that the Gospel of John was widely used in the early Syrian Christian community.3 This is the Gospel referring to Christians being born of God the Father. In this gospel Jesus called his mother “woman” and not “mother”.3 Calling her “mother” would have caused confusion if Jesus referred to God as Mother too.
Perhaps the most compelling evidence can be found in the Odes Of Solomon. Ode 19 stands out as it has the following lines:
A cup of milk was offered to me: and I drank it in the sweetness of the delight of the Lord.
The Son is the cup, and He who was milked is the Father.
And the Holy Spirit milked Him: because His breasts were full, and it was necessary for Him that His milk should be sufficiently released.
And the Holy Spirit opened His bosom and mingled the milk from the two breasts of the Father; and gave the mixture to the world without their knowing.4
This clue is important for a few reasons. First, it is an old text. It already existed around 100 AD so it probably was even older. Second, it circulated amongst the earliest Christians in Syria. Third, there are no other Christian texts mentioning any gender related attributes of God. Here God is definitely depicted as female despite being called Father. It gives further substance to the argument that the phrase being born of God points at God being a Mother.
The role of Paul
Paul turned Christianity from an obscure Jewish sect into a religion with universal appeal. He altered the message of Christianity so that it was not only meant for the Jews, but for everyone. To do this he made a few compromises, most likely with the consent of other apostles. The adaptations allowed Christianity to expand outside its Jewish origins. It made Paul a controversial figure with Jewish Christians. Over time the non-Jewish Christians began to outnumber the Jews so that Paul’s views won out in the end.
Jesus referred to himself as the Bridegroom5 and the Kingdom Of God is represented as a wedding banquet.6 Hence, the wedding mentioned in the Gospel Of John could have been Jesus’ marriage. It could explain why his mother was occupied with the lack of wine at the party.7 Jesus started doing miracles at this wedding by turning water into wine.8 If Jesus had been married to God, this marriage may have turned him into the Messiah, and that might explain why he started doing miracles from this point on.
Paul was a Jewish scholar. He may have aimed to bring Christianity more in line with the Jewish religion. God being a woman and Jesus being Her husband didn’t fit into this picture. And so the idea of Jesus being married to the Church may have been invented similar the existing concept of God being married to Israel. This brought up new controversies for Jesus had to become God. These issues were resolved by introducing the Trinity, which is God consisting of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Paul came from Tarsus. A little known fact about Tarsus is that a god named Attis was worshiped there in Paul’s time. Attis was a dying and resurrecting god who was called the Good Shepard. Attis had a great love, Cybele. On their wedding night, he decided to castrate himself as a sacrifice to her. The parallel between this act and Jesus sacrificing himself for Mary Magdalene may have inspired Paul to apply the Attis-like imagery to Jesus. It may have affected Paul to the point that he advocated abstinence and did not marry. If Jesus had not been married, Paul might have used Jesus’ unmarried status as an argument for his position, but he didn’t. This too suggests that Jesus was married.
The next question may be why the early Christian leaders would have dared to alter the gender of God? It is written that Paul experienced a psychosis in which Jesus appeared to him and called him.9 He wasn’t called by Mary Magdalene. Paul joined Jesus’ followers shortly after Jesus allegedly died. According to the Gospels Jesus did all the miracles. Perhaps Jesus was the only person who experienced evidence of Mary Magdalene being God. Paul may not have believed it and other disciples may have had their doubts too. In the imagery created by Paul, Jesus became a god who sacrificed himself for his bride.
Another issue is that the idea of Eve taking Her son Adam as Her husband is lewd. It made the relationship between Mary Magdalene and Jesus problematic. Perhaps Paul and the other disciples removed the evidence of their relationship for that reason.
During the decades between the alleged death of Jesus and the time when the Gospels were written down, a lot of information was lost or distorted. After forty years most first-hand witnesses were gone and different stories were circulating. It wasn’t difficult for Paul to tweak the narrative and it may even have seemed a good idea too. The Gospels do not suggest that the Bride Of Christ was the Church. Yet, it may not have been Paul who brought his up. Ephesians, the letter in which this idea is introduced, appears to have been written a decade after Paul’s death by one of his followers. Also the seven demons that allegedly troubled Mary Magdalene were not mentioned in the oldest sources of the Gospel of Mark but were added later on.
Equality of the sexes
The surviving records of Jesus’ words and teachings indicate that Jesus believed women to be equal to men. The equality of men and women is rather peculiar within the context of a patriarchal society. Paul saw women as full partners in the Christian movement. The Didache, an early Christian text dating from the first century, implies equality of the sexes. Later on patriarchy was re-established. The texts have been edited to reflect this. For instance, 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 has been added later.10 It contains the claim that the man is the head of the family.
The Gnostic Gospels portray a close relationship between Mary Magdalene and Jesus. One passage names her as Jesus’ companion.11 Another mentions that Jesus loves her more than the other disciples and kisses her often.12 A third notes that Jesus loved her more than the other women.13 The Gnostic gospels don’t suggest that Mary Magdalene was God nor do they portray a marriage between her and Jesus.
The Gnostics were a group of mystics that claimed to have some secret knowledge about Jesus’ teachings and the nature of reality. Jesus claimed that his kingdom is of another world and can’t be observed.14 The Gnostics believed that our physical reality is a trap forged by an evil creator god that keeps us away from the Highest God. The idea of physical reality being separate from the immaterial world of ideas comes from Greek philosophers like Plato. Greek culture influenced the Jews and the early Christians. Gnosticism stressed the importance of individual experience. Gnosticism was banned after Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire.
Gnosticism developed gradually from the second century onwards. The Gnostics and the Church started out from the same sources, probably at a time when the evidence of God being a Mother was already suppressed, but not the evidence of Jesus’ close relationship with Mary Magdalene. The different agendas of both groups brought about different modifications. To the Gnostics a close relationship between Mary Magdalene and Jesus probably wasn’t a big issue. For the Church this may have been a different story as Christian theology made Jesus divine. An intimate relationship with Mary Magdalene didn’t fit into this picture.
The Gnostic Gospels suggest that Jesus loved Mary Magdalene more than the other disciples. Hence, the Beloved Disciple in the Gospel of John may have been Mary Magdalene. One verse mentions Mary Magdalene and the Beloved Disciple separately,15 which may have been a falsification to obfuscate their intimate relationship. Another verse lists three women, namely Jesus’ aunt, the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene, and then implies that the Beloved Disciple may have been one of them.16 There apparently had been rumours that the Beloved Disciple was immortal.17 This makes sense if the Beloved Disciple was God. The Gospel Of John circulated amongst the early Christians in Syria. This could support the view that this Gospel was written as a compromise at a time when many Christians still believed that God is a Mother.
The contradictions in the accounts of the life of Jesus inspired a number of books like the Da Vinci Code about an alleged conspiracy in the Roman Catholic Church to hide the relationship between Mary Magdalene and Jesus. The Da Vinci Code depends on the idea that the person at the right hand of Jesus in Leonardo da Vinci’s painting of The Last Supper is not the apostle John but Mary Magdalene. Mary Magdalene having been the most important person in Jesus’ life is modern knowledge that was not available to Leonardo da Vinci. Yet, it is peculiar that the Beloved Disciple is believed to have been John while John has a female appearance on many renaissance paintings because of his young age as there might be no coincidence in this universe.
This is a major update on a post that has been published previously.
Featured image: Bible: Only God Knows What Jesus Really Said. Loesje.org.
1. John 1:12-13 [link]
2. Acts 11:19-26 [link]
3. John 2:4 [link], John 19:25 [link]
4. The Lost Bible: Forgotten Scriptures Revealed. J.R. Porter (2001).
5. Luke 5:34 [link], Mark 2:19-20 [link], Matthew 9:15 [link]
6. Matthew 22:2 [link]
7. John 2:3 [link]
8. John 2:9 [link]
9. Acts 9:3-5 [link]
10. Forgery and Counter-forgery: The Use of Literary Deceit in Early Christian Polemics. Bart D. Ehrman (2013).
11. Gospel of Philip: There were three who always walked with the Lord: Mary, his mother, and her sister, and Magdalene, who was called his companion. His sister, his mother and his companion were each a Mary.
12. Gospel of Philip: And the companion of the saviour was Mary Magdalene. Christ loved Mary more than all the disciples, and used to kiss her often. The rest of the disciples were offended by it and expressed disapproval. They said to him, “Why do you love her more than all of us?” The Saviour answered and said to them, “Why do I not love you like her?”
13. Gospel of Mary: Peter said to Mary, “Sister we know that the Saviour loved you more than the rest of woman. Tell us the words of the Saviour which you remember which you know, but we do not, nor have we heard them”. Mary answered and said, “What is hidden from you I will proclaim to you”. And she began to speak to them these words: “I”, she said, “I saw the Lord in a vision and I said to Him, Lord I saw you today in a vision”.
14. Luke 17:20-21 [link]
15. John 20:1-2 [link]
16. John 19:25-27 [link]
17. John 21:21-23 [link]