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The 'Gospel of Philip' Delusion

By Olaf Hage

You have probably heard claims that a text called "The Gospel of Philip" says Mary Magdalene was the wife of Jesus and that Jesus used to kiss her on the lips so much that the Apostles were embarrassed by the couple's public sexual display. Those who claim Jesus fathered Mary Magdalene's child, also cite this Gospel as supporting that idea. Is there any truth to these contentions? Does the Gospel of Philip endorse such claims?

Hardly. By the time you finish reading this, you ought to be asking why so many powerful forces in our world are trying so hard to get us to believe this nonsense, and why they have based so much of their argument on this one book. Clearly they think they have no better ancient source than this to support their position. Let's take the issues one at a time:

1) IS 'THE GOSPEL OF PHILIP' A GOSPEL?

No. It is a gnostic teacher's essay or catechism that everyone agrees was written at least 150 years or more after the Crucifixion. The only text of it is in Egyptian Coptic and dates around the start of the 4th century, at the earliest. It is not the story of Jesus or a 'gospel' in any sense of the term, and no scholar says that it is. The first thing any scholarly version says about it is that it is not really a gospel at all [THE NAG HAMMADI LIBRARY, ed. James M. Robinson (Harper, San Francisco, 2004) p. 139]. Anyone who reads the text will recognize this immediately.

2) WAS 'THE GOSPEL OF PHILIP' WRITTEN BY PHILIP?

No. Both the Apostle Philip and Philip the Deacon mentioned in the New Testament had died long before the birth of the gnostic teacher who wrote 'The Gospel of Philip.' No one disputes this fact.

3) WAS 'THE GOSPEL OF PHILIP' WRITTEN IN ARAMAIC?

No. The only known manuscript of it is in Coptic, which uses the Greek alphabet to render an Egyptian dialect. It is believed the original was composed no earlier than 180 AD and was written in Greek [Ibid. p. 141].

4) DOES THE TEXT SAY JESUS KISSED MARY MAGDALENE ON THE LIPS?

No. There is a broken off corner of the codex (book) that results in a missing portion on nearly every page. By chance, this part of the passage in question is the missing portion on that page. So no one knows where Jesus was kissing her. It could have been "on the mouth" or "on the hair" or "on the cheek" or "in the house" or "by the tree" or "on the foot," for all we know.

No scholar has ever inserted the missing words to say "on the LIPS." The scholar who first inserted the words "on the MOUTH" revised that and left it blank in his second edition 18 years ago [THE NAG HAMMADI LIBRARY, ed. James M. Robinson (Harper, San Francisco, 1981) p. 138 (1990) p. 148]. This portion of the text has some two dozen missing or damaged words that scholars have restored or had to leave blank, and this includes most of Mary Magdalene's own name [THE GOSPEL OF PHILIP (Inner Traditions, Rochester VT, 2004) pp. 82-83].

5) DOES THE TEXT SAY MARY MAGDALENE WAS MARRIED TO JESUS?

No. Neither this text nor any other known ancient text has ever said Jesus was married to anyone but the spiritual body of Christ [Eph 5:23-32; Rev 19:7, etc.]. The preceding text in question uses the term "companion" to describe someone, not necessarily identifiable, in relation to Jesus. During the Gospel of Philip itself, even Jesus' own mother is identified by this term "companion," which cannot, therefore, be understood to mean Jesus' "wife" [Robinson, op cit. p. 140].

In a somewhat more recent European scholarly edition, the term "companion" in this passage is not about Mary Magdalene at all, but "Sophia," a feminine spirit of "Wisdom" [THE NEW TESTAMENT APOCRYPHA, vol. 1, ed. Wilhelm Schneemelcher, trans. R. McL. Wilson (Westminster/John Knox Press, Louisville, 1991) p. 194]. Those who argue that "companion" in this text clearly indicates a marital state between Jesus and Mary Magdalene are therefore misrepresenting the views of most scholars.

6) DO THE APOSTLES CRITICIZE JESUS FOR KISSING MARY?

Assuming this text was an accurate historic account of some genuine conversation between Jesus and the Apostles (which is an idea that no mainstream scholar has ever endorsed), the Apostles in this text are criticizing the time and attention Jesus is devoting to this woman he is kissing, apparently Mary Magdalene. But they would have no right to criticize Jesus if Mary were really his wife.

Thus, the very assertion of such criticism would be proof that Jesus and Mary were NOT married. The Apostles would have no right to tell Jesus not to kiss his own wife.

Paul himself asserts that he too has a right to be married and have his wife accompny him as he goes about teaching, as many of the other Apostles did [1 Cor 9:5]. It would certainly be hypocritical for them to criticize Jesus for having his wife around if they were accostomed to doing the same thing, and even regarded it as an inherent right. So if such a criticism of Jesus by the Apostles actually had occurred, it would be evidence that Jesus was devoting attention to a woman who was not his wife.

7) AREN'T THE APOSTLES JEALOUS OF JESUS KISSING MARY SO OFTEN?

Yes. But that is proof that they do not view it as a sexual act. Otherwise, they would not be asking Jesus to pay similar attention to them. To see this as sexual, or to conclude that it proves Jesus and Mary are having sex, or are married, or even that they have or will have a child together, would mean that the Apostles are jealous that Jesus is not having sex with them, not married to them, and is not trying to have a child by them: Clearly absurd.

The Apostles would hardly be jealous of Jesus having a sexual relationship with his own wife, but they could be jealous of the time and private instruction Jesus might be devoting to a woman who was not his wife, but simply another disciple like themselves. This is how feminist scholars like Karen L. King and Elaine Pagels view the text.

8) THEN WHY DO SO MANY PEOPLE THINK JESUS AND MARY WERE MARRIED?

Good question. The Mormons and the Masons began promoting this idea in the early 19th century. It was picked up by European occultists and then the Nazis and eventually 'popularlized' by three British co-authors of "HOLY BLOOD, HOLY GRAIL," back in 1981. They based their book on the forged documents produced by a small group of occultists in France with fascist connections [see our related web page on The DaVinci Hoax for full documentation of this].

The forgeries were exposed long before Dan Brown incorporated their nonsense into his 2003 novel, THE DA VINCI CODE. Had Brown done adequate research, he would have discoverd that the Priory of Sion was a sham based upon forged documents and that the Jesus-Mary Magdalene marriage myth was not supported by mainstream scholars.

9) AREN'T THERE ANCIENT SOURCES, ASIDE FROM THE 'PRIORY OF SION' HOAXERS AND THE MORMONS, WHO SAY JESUS AND MARY WERE MARRIED?

The only 'ancient' text anyone cites is the Gospel of Philip, but as we have seen, it can only be used (even if one accepts out-of-date translations) to show that a late second or early third century gnostic writer thought the Apostles had criticized Jesus for kissing Mary so much on the [mouth]. And that can only be understood as meaning the Apostles did NOT regard Mary Magdalene as Jesus' wife, but as a woman he was NOT entitled to kiss this way.

10) DO THE EXPERTS AGREE?

These scholars--even the leading feminist scholars like Karen King and Elaine Pagels--say that the Gospel of Philip is NOT proof that Jesus and Mary were married. A marriage between Mary Magdalene and Jesus may seem appealing, but the Gospel of Philip is not evidence for this idea. Scholars insist that it cannot be interpreted to mean that Mary and Jesus were married.

ABC News and National Geographic and other investigators looked into the issue and also failed to find any evidence that any serious scholar had endorsed this idea, nor could they find any evidence that Jesus and Mary had been married or had had children, or that such a story had been covered up by the church.

11) DOES THE GOSPEL OF PHILIP SAY JESUS FATHERED A CHILD?

No. On the contrary, it declares that Jesus did not have any biological offspring. It goes out of its way to argue why Jesus could not have children, arguing that because Jesus was the Son of God, Jesus could not be a father without usurping the role of God the Father. Jesus, it says, "begets [spiritual] brothers, but no [biological] sons." Here is the actual passage:

"The Father begot a Son; the Son did not beget a son. Who has been begotten [by the Father] cannot beget. The Son begets brothers, not sons. All those who are begotten by the world are begotten by physical [sexual] means; [but we] others are begotten [of the Father through Jesus] by spiritual means. Those who are begotten by the Spirit hope for the fulfilment/consumation/rebirth of mankind. These others are nourished by the Promise of a higher place [in heaven?]...That is why we kiss each other, giving birth to each other [spiritually] through the gift-of-love that is in us." [Leloup, op. cit. p. 63]

In other words, these Gnostics believed that because Jesus did not have any children, they too, having been 'begotten' by His Spirit, also should not beget children, following Jesus' example. They saw their celibacy as a spiritual proof of their divine kinship with a celibate Jesus. They also saw kissing as a spiritual expression of brotherly love, not as a sexual act. Scholars like Karen King who have made a thorough study of this text point this out, but those who promote the Jesus-Mary Magdalene mythos do not want their followers to know what the Gospel of Philip really encourages: Celibacy, like the Catholic Church which the critics abhor.

12) DOES THE GOSPEL OF PHILIP PROMOTE PUBLIC SEXUAL KISSING?

The preceding excerpt shows that the Gospel of Philip did not intend for its followers to engage in sex at all, much less public sexual expression. Many of the people who misuse the Gospel of Philip seek to encourage sexual license by falsely claiming that this book proves Jesus was engaged in expressing sexual lust for Mary Magdalene in front of the Apostles, who were attacking Jesus for being so overt with his 'wife' in public. The promoters of casual sexual behavior make the specious argument that public sexuality is okay because, supposedly, Jesus did it. Obviously that is the exact opposite of what the author of the Gospel of Philip believed.

One might fairly ask how reliable the proponents of the idea that Jesus and Mary Magdalene had a child can be if they cite as their primary evidence the Gospel of Philip, a text by celibate Gnostics who plainly state that Jesus did not beget children.

On the other hand, if they have a better text to cite, where is it?