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The Christian Scriptures (New Testament)

The Gospels of Mary and Judas.
The infancy gospels of Thomas & James

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The Gospel of Mary (Magdalene):

This is a gospel that was written by a member of a Gnostic Christian group. It contains many Gnostic ideas, including the concept that evil powers in the world were attempting to keep people ignorant of their true spiritual nature. It describes a conflict in which  Peter and Andrew argue with Levi and Mary Magdalene over some of Jesus' teachings.

About 10 pages, half of the total gospel, have been lost. What remains are portions of the original text - some in the original Greek and the other in Coptic. The gospel demonstrates the leadership that women gave during the early decades of the Christian movement. The earlier Greek version indicates that the teachings of Mary were rejected, but that her leadership was not. The later Coptic version indicates that the text has been changed. Mary's leadership was being challenged because she is a woman. It is highly critical of Peter's inability to accept "the leadership of spiritually advanced women." The differences between the two translations may well indicate how women were accepted as equals during the very early years of the Christian movement, but that they started to be excluded from leadership roles later.

The date when the Gospel of Mary was written is unknown, but is suspected to be late in the first century or early in the second century CE. Its author is unknown.

The Gospel of Judas:

This Gospel was also revered by Gnostic Christians, one of the three main movements within early Christianity. A partial copy was discovered in the Egyptian desert near El Minya during the 1970s. It contains an alternate explanation of the role of Judas among Jesus' closest followers. New Testament scholar, Bart Ehrman, said that Judas is: "...the good guy. He's the only apostle who understands Jesus. In this gospel it turn out that Judas does turn Jesus over to the authorities, but according to this gospel, this is what Jesus wanted." Some of the early Gnostic faith groups taught that Jusdas was the most enlightened of all of Jesus' followers. More information.

The Infancy Gospel of Thomas:

This is one of a number of gospels which were written about the life of Jesus as a child. They attempt to fill in the gap between the birth stories of Luke and Matthew, and the visit of Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem at the age of 12 (Luke 2:41-50). A church father, Irenaeus rejected the gospel as heretic about 185 CE. Other early Christian leaders condemned the gospel as well, during the late 2nd and early 3rd century. Jesus is portrayed as a human child with super-human abilities. It survives in at least 4 versions in various languages. The oldest copy dates to the 6th century. The text indicates that the gospel was written by "Thomas the Philosopher". But the actual authorship and date of writing is unknown. Some of the events described by the gospel are:

bulletAt the age of 5, Jesus formed twelve sparrows out of mud, clapped his hands and told the birds: "Off you go!". The flew away.
bulletLater, Jesus collected some water. Another boy, Annas, scattered the water. Jesus cursed Annas and he instantly withered up.
bulletLater, Jesus and Zeno were playing on the roof of a house. Zeno fell to the ground and was killed. Jesus restored him to life
bulletAt the age of 8, he planted a single seed of wheat. It yielded 100 bushels of grain. He distributed most of it to the beggars of the village.
bulletChapter 19 of the Infancy Gospel describes the visit to the temple when Jesus is 12 years old. It parallels the account of Luke 2:41-52.

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The Infancy Gospel of James:

This describes the birth of Mary, her childhood and adulthood. Her parents, Joachim and Anna, are rich, but childless. They pray to God for a child and Anna becomes pregnant. They are so grateful that they promise the child to the Lord. At the age of 3, she is sent to the temple in Jerusalem to live. When she reached the age of 12, the priests became concerned that she might soon reach puberty and pollute the temple with her menstrual flow. So they conducted a lottery among all of the men in Judea to determine who would take her. A dove flew out of Joseph's staff and landed on his head. This miracle was interpreted as a sign that Joseph was to take Mary to his home and enter into a celibate relationship with her, as guardian and ward. Mary and Joseph were separately visited by angels, who informed them of the future pregnancy. After Mary's pregnancy is noticed, they are hauled before the priests who accuse them of having sex. Both pass "the drink test" and a trial in the wilderness. They travel to Bethlehem to take part in the census. Mary gives birth in a cave. A local midwife, Salome, appears and performs a gynecological exam to verify that Mary is still a virgin. She loses her hand during the examination but later has it healed by an angel. This scene became a popular theme for later Christian artists. Later, astrologers from the east visited Mary and Jesus in the cave. Herod commanded that all infants in Bethlehem be killed. Jesus survived because Mary hid him in a feeding trough used by cattle. Elizabeth hid John in a mountain with the help of an angel. Herod's agents kill John's father, Zechariah.

James, a brother of Jesus, claims to be the author, and to have written the gospel shortly after the death of Herod in 4 BC. But this does not hold water. The story of the birth and subsequent events shows a knowledge of the Gospels of Luke and Matthew. Thus, this infancy gospel must have been written after the canonical gospels, late in the first century or perhaps as late as the mid-2nd century CE.

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Copyright © 1996 to 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2009-SEP-22
Author: B.A. Robinson

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