I began this short thread with a discussion of the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, where she seems to be Jesus’ preferred follower; I then talked about the idea that there were women apostles in the earliest period of the church – according to Paul himself – and pointed out an old tradition that in fact Mary was the very first apostle.
I want to pick up there, and show how not just in the Gospel of Mary but in other parts of the early Christian tradition Mary and Peter were sometimes portrayed in controversy over who was Number One!
Here is how I discuss it in my book Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene.
As I’ve intimated, this view that Mary was the original apostle – the one commissioned to tell the good news of Christ’s resurrection – is found already in the books of the New Testament. In the Gospel of Mark, it is Mary Magdalene along with Mary the mother of James and Salome who come to the tomb on the third day, learn from a young man there that Jesus has been raised, and are told then to go tell the disciples. In this account, it is true, they say nothing to anyone “for they were afraid” (Mark 16:8). And there is no word here of Christ himself appearing to these women (or to the other disciples, for that matter). But in the later account of Matthew, Mary along with “the other Mary” not only learn of Jesus’ resurrection from an angel at the tomb, they are also instructed to tell the others. Jesus himself appears to the women and commissions them to “tell my brothers (i.e., the men disciples) to go to Galilee; and they will see me there” (Matthew 28:11). We are not explicitly told that the women did what they were told, but we do learn that the disciples made a trip to Galilee and that Jesus appeared to them there – so one can assume that the women fulfilled their commission.
It is in the last New Testament Gospel to be written, John, that Mary herself is…
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