If you want to be spiritual, ask uncomfortable questions,’ Goddess News, Spiritual Blog, Divine Feminine,
Dr Joanna Kujawa
As the strangeness around continues and the line between what is real and what is not is becoming thinner by the minute, I have been pondering what is the right thing to write about and what is not, and have come across material that has deepened my sense that what we call reality and the authorities associated with it cannot be treated with the same serious rigour that we have given them in the past.
But there is a story here that I want to share with you – and it wants to be told. I was reluctant to write about it as it touches in a very painful way on something that I consider very dear – the alternative intepretations of Mary Magdalene. I do not want to delve here into the story of Mary Magdalene as the Grail which has been put forward by Michael Beigent, Richard Leigh, Henry Lincoln in Holy Blood, Holy Grail, then by Margaret Starbird in The Woman with the Alabaster Jar and in its fictional thriller rendition The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. I have never related well to these stories, although they definitely bring up for scrutiny the traditional version of Mary Magdalene as presented in the canonical gospels and their dogmatic interpretations, even if not really in scholarly terms. (I am much more interested in how the Gnostics portrayed her as a disciple and companion of Jesus. In my research, I have also found symbolic and mythological connections with the goddesses of the past such as Inanna, Isis and possibly even Hathor.)
However, these kinds of cultural events (for example, the interest in Mary Magdalene as the Grail) are very powerful and should not be disregarded. Some scholars like to compare them to ‘tectonic shifts in the sacred landscape’ and new spirituality.
They emerge in our consciousness and manifest in our reality for good reason and in this case, the revision of Mary Magdalene from the orthodox point of view and its obvious errors (such as the story by Gregory the Great who started the myth of Mary Magdalene as a prostitute). This cultural momentum has a lot to do with the awakening of spirituality which searches for the feminine aspect of the divine, as well as being an expression of a deep psychic rage among women who have felt either left out, repressed or have been presented with limiting versions of the feminine divine which are unacceptable for them. So, in a sense we are living in a time of feminist revisionism of the divine – which I support and even deem necessary for the common evolution of human consciousness which addresses the other half (the feminine) of the divine.
The question here is what are we willing to do to correct past errors – and this is where the main topic of this blog comes to light. Here comes a cautionary tale which has been published in the brilliant book by an investigative journalist, Ariel Sabar, Veritas: the Harvard Professor, the Con Man and the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife published only a month ago.
In his book, Sabar follows the controversial story of the famous Harvard professor Karen King, who joined the Harvard staff in 1997 and is a well-known and respected scholar of the Gnostic Gospels. For those who are not interested in the careers of academics, you probably saw her on TV or social media during the peak of interest in the Da Vinci Code, as she was a professor whose opinion was sought on the topic. More recently, the Hay House bestseller, Mary Magdalene Revealed by Meggan Watterson refers to Professor Karen King’s research.
So what is the controversy that was worthy of inclusion in Ariel Sabar’s book?
In 2012, Professor Karen King presented at a scholarly conference in Rome and announced that she had been given a fragment of a papyrus in which Jesus called Mary Magdalene his wife and his disciple. Although it was only a very small fragment with unknown missing parts, it may change the course of scholarly research on Mary Magdalene.
The fragment reads: ‘… The disciples said to Jesus … deny. Mary is (not?) worthy of it … Jesus said to them, “My wife … she is able to be my disciple … Let wicked people swell up … As for me, I am with her in order to … an image …
As you can imagine, Professor King’s announcement created a bit of a stir at the conference, as it neatly brought together two theories on Mary Magdalene: one propagated by Holy Grail enthusiasts (Mary Magdalene as the wife of Jesus) and the other based on the Gnostic Gospels (the theory I am interested in – that Mary Magdalene was Jesus’ disciple). Thus, although these two interpretations already existed, they now seem neatly weaved together in this fragment from the papyrus of mysterious origin.
Some scholars support Professor King’s claim but most have rejected it and are very skeptical of the papyrus – and with good reasons. For example (and Sabar explains this in a fascinating detail in his book), most of the lines from the papyrus can already be found in the Gospel of Thomas, with the exception of the line ‘my wife’, which in itself Sabar considers suspicious. As if this was not enough, the lines that are also in the Gospel of Thomas were taken from one particular copy of the Gospel of Thomas available online which contained some mistakes. The same mistakes are seen repeated in the fragment of the papyrus which Professor King calls the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife. Hmmm … right?
This observation sent Sabar on a journey first to Florida, then to East Germany to find out who was the possible forger (if there was a forger) that had presented Professor King with the fragment. The story becomes bizarre when Sabar manages to identify the forger as Walter Fritz, a Florida resident, who in his earlier years studied Egyptology in Berlin and has even published a scholarly paper in a respected academic journal. Fritz quit his studies but forged his degree when later applying for a job. This would probably be enough to make the story of one of the great forgeries embarrassing to a scholar, except that Fritz and his wife also had a porn business on a side, to make the indignity complete.
In the end, Sabar pretty much proves that Professor King has been shown a forged papyrus and here, as far as I am concerned, the real value of Sabar’s book can be found, where he asks the question: Did Professor King know that she had been given a forged manuscript but decided to use it anyway? And if she did, why did she use it? To prove her theories? Out of scholarly ambition or to bring attention back to Mary Magdalene – or even herself?
What Sabar did not take into consideration in his analysis is the deep hurt, the immense psychic wound that women have carried for millennia at being edited out of anything of real importance except for the vague ideal of the virginal mother. That psychic and spiritual wound is real and one day most institutionalised religions will have to deal with it.
Personally, I do not think ambition or the desire to be in the spotlight again were King’s main motivations. I also do not think that anything needed to be proved in this area, as we already have the Gospel of Mary Magdalene and Pistis Sophia which describe Mary Magdalene as a disciple. We also have the Gospel of Philip, which describes Mary Magdalene as Jesus’ special companion.
But the question remains: why? It is doubtful that King did not notice what other scholars were concerned about or what any investigative journalists could find out by themselves. So why would she endanger her own career and bring into question the research of many other scholars who work with the authentic Gnostic Gospels such as the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, Gospel of Thomas or the Gospel of Philip?
The best way to approach this is to ask ourselves: why would we do something like this?
- We can want something so much that we will desire it at any cost and stop thinking about the consequences. We have all been at this point at some stage in our lives and have made (or almost made) such a mistake. All the great stories of crimes of passion fall into this category.
- Or is this a simple case of temporary blindness, as often happens in love, when we (blindly) believe someone/something is the one, even if signs to the contrary are all around us?
- Or – and I believe that this is the case here – we can choose to accept something knowing it is not true (for example a forged piece of papyrus) because we believe it SHOULD BE TRUE.
Why should this be true? Following this line of reasoning, the papyrus could be authentic because we know that the canonical gospels were edited too, that what is called ‘holy’ and ‘orthodox’ and what is determined as ‘heretical’ is due to nothing but particular points of view. We know that the old powers often played with the gospels for political reasons – these actions are documented. We know that the old powers gave themselves the authority to decide what is God’s word and what is mere heresy. They gave this authority to themselves and took it away from those who did not fit in with their version of what was divine or politically convenient for them.
One can, I suppose, sympathise with Professor King’s temptation to make her announcement about the ‘ancient papyrus’ only a street away from the Vatican. I can relate to this on an emotional level, even if I personally do not care whether Mary Magdalene was married to Jesus or anyone else, for that matter.
But as a truth seeker and scholar I do agree with Ariel Sabar. Just because something could have been or even should have been true, does not mean it necessarily is, or can be proved, true. Past injustices cannot be fixed by pretending that a forged document has not been forged.
What we can do though, it occurs to me, is to focus on the present and the future. The past has never been what it should have been. The goddesses were called prostitutes and abominations by the powers who came after them. The feminine was dispelled from religions – and religions suffer because of it. So even when we try to reconstruct the repressed past, we also have to reconstruct ourselves from within. The old wounds need to be healed not used as points to take action from.
For me, Professor King has become a major player of the tragic expression of these wounds – a cry of fury that has led her to accept what is scholarly unacceptable. And this makes me very sad.
I would love to hear your thoughts.
Dr Joanna Kujawa
If you would like to learn more, I recommend Ariel Sabar’s book or an excellent interview with him on Aeon Byte Gnostic Radio: https://thegodabovegod.com/a-harvard-professor-a-con-man-and-the-gospel-of-jesuss-wife/?fbclid=IwAR1A9xwNL3GGx7hoDaAAy2OoORfaXSZaGAbJlVP-KQLvtnAPdhdxmiQzp2c
I also attach my most recent video created for Peace Weekend – an international event with many luminaries such as Deepak Chopra, Mirabai Starr, Jane Goodall and many others. This is my contribution to this event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a3CdPdJ2UgY&t=1982s
If you prefer something more conservative on Mary Magdalene I recommend my first video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DwESV8oskrU&t=88s