tv The Wonder List With Bill Weir CNN April 12, 2015 8:00pm-9:01pm PDT
yeah. >> watching and hoping. as it turns out, these are waters of destiny indeed. mary magdalene. the woman tradition calls a sinner but who becomes the most devoted follower of jesus. >> i see mary magdalene as one of the most compelling figures in the entire gospel. >> a witness to the crucifixion and the resurrection, she is one of the most misunderstood women in the bible. >> she was the first christian. >> known as a penitent prostitute, was she, in fact, the wife of jesus? >> there's an air of scandal about this. >> the bible tells us little about mary. is it possible that everything we've assumed about her is wrong
and could lost gospels help fill in the missing parts of her story and tell us who really was mary magdalen ♪ for many christians today, mary magdalene is revered for her compassionate love for jesus. >> i think jesus meant everything to mary. >> she was present at the crucifixion and, most importantly, she was present at the resurrection. she's the first person to whom jesus appears after his resurrection. >> do not weep nor grieve nor be irresolute.
for his grace will protect you. >> yet when it comes to the details of mary's life, the bible says very little. the new testament mentions her just 12 times. >> mary magdalene is remarkable. there's so few mentions of her in the gospels, but they're so central to the story of jesus. and they've filled our imagination for centuries. >> in reality, many of our ideas about mary are no more than myth. perhaps the most enduring one is that she is a fallen woman, a prostitute saved by jesus from a life of sin. >> she's very often seen as an extremely seductive, erotic -- erotically charged woman. >> 2,000 years on, it has become hard to separate legend from fact in the story of her life. who was mary really? where do these myths come from?
and what is the truth about her relationship with jesus? the myth that mary was actually a prostitute stems from one key event described in the gospel of luke. >> let's set the scene. jesus has been invited to lunch at the house of simon the pharisee. >> and a woman in the city who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the pharisee's house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. >> the bible describes how a sinner, someone believed to be a prostitute comes to visit jesus. >> get out of the way! >> go! >> go away from here! >> the fact that jesus allows this woman to just walk in and anoint his feet and touch him,
touch him is the big thing, he can't possibly be a prophet or a messianic figure. he'd never allow a person like this to touch him. >> to those present, it's a shocking provocation. but what's perhaps even more surprising is how jesus responds. >> stop! ♪ >> the disciples are outraged. when jesus rebukes them, he says that, no, forgiveness is accessible to her, too. she brings ointment she uses on his feet and she cries. and then wipes his feet and dries them with her own hair. sort of a symbol of penitence and forgiveness. >> the bible never names this fallen woman, but a myth begins
to grow that the sinner in this important story is mary herself. >> the idea of mary magdalene the prostitute who repented gives us a character who shows by her penitence that everybody can make it into the kingdom of heaven. >> all four of the cannonical gospels, matthew, mark, luke and john, tell us of a woman that comes to jesus and anoints his feet with expensive perfume. not one gospel of the four canonical gospels identifies that woman as mary magdalene. >> how, then, did mary's name come to be wrongly associated with this famous episode from the new testament? the answer, it seems, can be found five centuries later with this man, pope gregory the great. >> the reason why people think
that mary magdalene was a prostitute is because in the sixth century gregory the great gave a homily in which he equated mary magdalene with the sinful woman who anointed jesus' feet. since that day, christians thereafter have thought that mary magdalene was a prostitute. >> i think pope saint gregory the great was not trying to be mean to mary magdalene or women. i think it was probably the result of poor scholarship. >> by the time we get to gregory the great, we not only have a collection of four gospels that circulate together, we have a tradition that says it's okay to blend these stories together. >> it is from this mistake that the image of mary magdalene as a sinful prostitute emerges. it is a myth that has concealed the reality behind why she became so devoted to jesus and played a central part in his life and resurrection. instead, the truth is far more
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often locate activities, miracles, teachings of jesus. >> one of the coastal villages is magdala. was it here that jesus first met mary? >> mary magdalene means mary of magdala. she was from magdala which is just over the hill behind me. >> a woman in distress. what the gospel of luke calls a case of demonic possession. the woman is mary. >> what we know about mary is that she's possessed by seven demons. this would have been a very personally traumatizing condition to have, and she hasn't been able to find any kind of respite from it until she meets jesus. >> according to the gospel traditions, the way that jesus
dealt with specifically severe cases of demon possession is that he would get them to name themselves and then having named them, then demanding by name that they leave the person. ♪ >> it's difficult to imagine how profound that moment must be for her, to finally feel free and cured and whole. >> jesus cleaned up her life, and she became absolutely devoted to him.
♪ >> maybe that mary had some kind of mental illness, perhaps it was depression. who knows? but whatever it was, her encounter with jesus was a life-changing one. >> following jesus' intervention, she is one of several women who join him as followers. >> one of the things about jesus is that he has very inclusive group of disciples. it's a very open kind of movement and included women who a lot of the time might have felt themselves somewhat marginalized. being with jesus gave them a sense of identity and self-worth in a way that they often didn't
find in ordinary society. >> mary magdalene seems atypical for a jewish woman of her time. most jewish women in the galilee would have been in some kind of domestic setting, either as a daughter or a mother or a wife, but to be out in the wilderness with a itinerant preacher with a name that does not link her to any man is unusual. >> but in the case of mary, it seems her role goes well beyond that of a simple spiritual follower. >> one of the things that mary brought to the jesus movement was she had money, she had resources. she was one of several women who actually helped support jesus, who provided for him during his mission. >> fishing was big business in first century magdala.
so if mary had money, it came from fishing. >> perhaps she owns a fishing business and is using the proceeds from her fishing business to fund the jesus movement. >> we know that jesus was trying to reach out to women. so he's naturally going to have been looking for influential women in the community who had that credibility woman to woman as it were. ♪ >> luke describes these women who were supporting jesus. we have mary magdalene. but we also have joanna, the wife of herod and susanna and many others. so there are a lot of women supporting jesus.
which means that they're also following him. there's a name for people that follow jesus and that name is disciple. in any situation where someone's holding the purse strings, they have power. they're in control. so the fact that she's a backer of the jesus movement, it doesn't mean that she gets to shape jesus' teaching, but it gives her access to jesus. >> mary follows jesus during the many months that he preaches in galilee, but what happened during that time? an astonishing discovery made in egypt in 1945 points to one shocking answer. >> this is ground zero for those conspiracy theories that there was some sort of relationship between jesus and mary magdalene. >> could be it be that mary and jesus were married?
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makes an amazing discovery. inside an earthenware jar, he finds 13 ancient christian books that have been buried for more than 1,500 years. >> the discovery of all these other texts suggests that what we call christianity is really a small slice of what these traditions were. it was a much wider field in the beginning. and now, for the first time in over a thousand years, 1,500 years, we have a whole wider range. >> though known as gospels, they are not in the bible. they are written by different authors than the new testament. they depict a growing tension between mary magdalene and jesus's other followers.
>> the gospel of thomas, like other sources, suggests that mary's role among the disciples was deeply resented by some of them, particularly peter. the way peter is described is irate and hot headed and bad tempered, somebody that's a difficult person. >> the lost gospel of thomas points to a surprising explanation for this tension between peter and mary. dr. nicoladenzi lewis has come to the coptic museum in cairo to see these gospels. >> so there's this one particular saying that comes at the very end of the gospel that gives us some really intriguing information about the relationship between mary magdalene and jesus and the other disciples and that's the last folio which is in folio 51. so can we see that? there it is.
beautiful. so when saying 114, we see a little argument, a little dispute, a little scene unfolding. >> the gospel of thomas tells of an angry episode when peter vents his resentment against mary. >> why would he leave us for women. >> tell mary to leave us because she's a woman and not worthy of life, spiritual life. similar to the jewish tradition that women aren't supposed to be taught torah. >> another lost gospel, that of phillip, suggests a different reason for peter and the other disciples' apparent dislike of mary. >> so all those tantalizing theories about jesus and mary magdalene being lovers really jumped from this one passage, right? this is the juiciest stuff that we've got. this is ground zero for those
conspiracy theories that there was some sort of relationship between jesus and mary magdalene. >> in the early christian communities, for the most part, the missionaries were missionary couples. so it makes sense that jesus himself could have been part of a missionary couple. >> as a first century jewish man, it would have been incredibly likely that jesus would have been married during his lifetime. >> this is high stakes stuff. so if jesus, the son of god, was married, maybe he had children. if he had that kind of an intimate relationship, people would want to know. and if he had children, that means there might be people wandering around today with sort of holy blood in them. >> there's one page in particular i'm very excited to see. and that is 63, 64. there it is. yeah.
there are two moments in the gospel of phillip that really say something interesting about the relationship between jesus and mary magdalene. one is that he, jesus, refers to mary magdalene as his companion or consort. it says explicitly that jesus loved mary magdalene more than the other disciples. >> why do you love her more than all of us? >> why do i not love you as i do her? >> and there's another moment where he kisses her. he used to kiss her -- and then there's this hole. and so we've lost these words. and we don't know where he kissed mary magdalene. >> of all places for there to be a hole, it's there. what did it say? did it say that jesus kissed her often on the lips?
or is it something rather less racy, rather less potentially sexualized? is it just kissed her often on the forehead, kissed her on the feet. >> so if you happen to be a fan of dan broken "da vinci code," there's a scene where they quote from the gospel of phillip, jesus loved mary magdalene more than the other disciples and used to kiss her often on the mouth or on the lips. this is what they're referring to here. when we actually see the manuscript, it's just not that clear. >> in even in these gospels there's no reliable evidence of a romantic relationship between mary and jesus. but these alternative accounts do support the bible's story that jesus and mary were very close. >> the idea that the gospels would not mention a wife if there was one doesn't make any sense.
most likely, mary was a close friend of jesus and a follower, but not his wife. >> what the gospel of phillip clearly says is that there is some kind of a favored relationship between mary magdalene and jesus. that jesus does care for her more than the other disciples. and that's all it really tells us. >> but some scholars believe the texts do reflect a genuine tension between mary and peter. >> i think the tension that's reflected in some of the texts outside the bible, think they do really reflect a tension between peter and mary. >> the negative depiction of peter is consistent and the idea that mary is not properly heard or respected is also consistent across the sources, which leads many of us to suspect that there might be a grain of historical truth there. >> but whatever truth they may
contain, the texts are not considered as reliable as the new testament gospels written decades earlier. >> what's striking about matthew, mark, luke and john, is that they're first century documents. early on the christian movement crystallizes around those. as other ones pop up, they're not trusted and not in the sense authoritative like those first four gospels. >> what the new testament tells us is that mary is at jesus' side at the time of his crucifixion. >> mary magdalene, along with one or two others of jesus' female followers, were with him throughout. they never left his side. they followed him all the way from galilee to jerusalem all the way to the cross. >> she's a follower. she's a believer. she's committed to this. >> after following him for many
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just days before he will die on the cross, jesus takes his followers into jerusalem for the jewish passover. on the night that judas will betray him, jesus invites his disciples to share a last supper. >> jesus has to have the last supper in secret because he can't let the authorities know where he's going to be because it's very important that he finish his last teaching and his last supper before he is seized and arrested violently. >> mary magdalene, mary the mother of jesus, they're not there at the last supper, but the reason they're not there is because jesus knows that he's about to be betrayed. this arresting, this seizing could be very violent, it could be very dangerous.
>> following his betrayal by judas, jesus is arrested, tried and sentenced by pontius pilate to be scourged and crucified. >> the men had fled because the men could have been arrested with jesus for insurrection as he was. they could have been crucified as well. >> jesus called the disciples to follow him. and the one thing that they have failed to do, many of the disciples, is to follow jesus at the most crucial moment of all, which is to the cross.
but mary has understood this and she's followed him to the cross. she succeeded where many of the male disciples have failed. >> how difficult it must have been for mary, the mother of jesus, mary magdalene, the last they saw jesus probably in the temple teaching in public, healthy, vibrant, alive. >> it says a lot about the commitment of mary and the other women and their dedication to jesus and their willingness to be with him in these tough moments. they do go to the crucifixion scene. ♪ >> i think mary and the other women demonstrated their willingness to go even unto
death with jesus. they were -- they were there for him. and they weren't sure that there was going to be life after jesus for them. ♪ >> mary sees his shredded flesh. mary sees the crown pressed against his brow. mary sees his blood pouring over his skin. she hears him cry. she feels his agony. and somehow knows that this is all for love.
♪ >> i don't think that anyone wants to die alone. and i know that jesus didn't want to die alone because the stories of the crucifixion have him asking god why he's been abandoned. so having mary and the other women there, that has to be a comfort, that has to be reassuring. it has to be good to know that when you've been abandoned, there's still people there who care. ♪ >> mary magdalene does something that all of us can do when we're faced with suffering, which is she brings her presence. she can't solve jesus' suffering, she can't take him from the cross, but she can be
present to him. i think a lot of times when we're struggling with people who are dying or ill, we can take comfort from mary magdalene and use her as our example, kind of ministry of presence. >> he may well have been abandoned by his closest male disciples, but mary magdalene is still there. >> thank god they were there to go through it with him. she wasn't alone. in the end because of the bravery of these women. and i think it must have brought him some comfort at the end. ♪ >> mary magdalene's deep love for jesus will go beyond his
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two days later, on sunday morning, mary visits jesus' tomb. >> mary magdalene goes to the tomb because we've just completed the sabbath. so she can't go during the entire time of the sabbath to anoint or do any work with the body according to jewish custom. >> we can see her wanting to try to continue to love him by wanting to care for his body after he's died. she clearly thinks that he's really gone. >> anointing jesus and lamenting over his death is the key part in the grieving process. the stone's rolled away.
♪ >> she looks in again, weeping. as she looks out of the tomb she sees the person she supposes to be the guard. >> sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you have laid him. i will take him away. >> mary. >> it's this stunning moment where she hears her name spoken by the one she loves and immediately she recognizes this is jesus.
"my rabbi. my lord." >> when she finds him, it's hard to imagine how joyful that must have been. especially on the heels of such devastation. >> it's this incredibly touching, intimate moment of recognition between these two people, teacher and the student. >> do not hold onto me. >> the first thing she wants to do is to hug the person that she followed and loved. so jesus has to tell her, i'm not ready yet to be clung to. mary magdalene is the first one to whom the risen christ appears. so she is of immense importance to christianity. for that hour or two, mary magdalene was the only one who knew about the resurrection. and so mary magdalene was the church. >> for all her central role at
the time of the resurrection, mary then disappears from the story of the early church. >> one of the great mysteries of early christianity is what happened to mary magdalene? because there she is on the pages of the gospels in all the key moments at the end of his life, at the tomb and experiencing the resurrection, and then we don't hear any more about her. ♪ >> it's very difficult to know what happens to mary magdalene after the resurrection. she seems to drop out of the story of the early church. >> instead, it is peter who goes on to become one of the leaders of jesus' movement. >> peter emerges as a powerful figure in the church. he is the one to whom jesus entrusted the keys of the kingdom.
he will travel around the roman empire much like paul did. he will wind up in rome as the tradition has it as the first bishop of rome, first pope. >> look what happens to mary magdalene. she's known only as the penitent prostitute and her story and her importance fades away. >> centuries later, the discovery of another historic text offers a tantalizing explanation for what might have happened to mary magdalene after the resurrection. in 1896, a german scholar purchases an ancient book. it languishes in the egyptian museum in berlin until it is finally published in 1955 and revealed to be the gospel of mary. why do we do it? why do we spend every waking moment, thinking about people?
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19th century, it was tremendously exciting because this is the first gospel that actually bears the name of a woman. >> nicola denzey lewis has come to berlin to see it for herself. >> this is a hugely important document. and i'm so excited to see it for the first time. the opening of the box. there it is. look at it. so few pages remaining. it was once a long book. >> this is the first. >> the beginning. it's not really the beginning, of course, because we're missing the first few pages. >> could this extraordinary lost gospel throw light on the mystery of mary's disappearance after the resurrection?
>> having a brand new text to tell us about mary magdalene and the relationship between mary and jesus is really, really, exciting for us. >> the gospel picks up her story after jesus has risen from the dead. >> peter, i have seen the lord. >> tell us the words of the savior, what you remember. what you know but we do not. you have heard them. >> what is hidden from you, i will proclaim to you. >> the key point is that mary is the instructor. she's the teacher and the revealer to the other disciples, and she's somebody who speaks with authority. so much so that it troubles the male disciples. >> do not weep nor grieve nor be irresolute, for his grace will protect you and will entirely be with you for he has -- >> the gospel of mary suggests that mary's relationship with jesus is resented by peter.
>> once mary's finished instructing, a full scale argument breaks out between mary and peter. >> did he prefer her to us? >> what do you think? that i made this up in my heart, that i am lying about the savior? >> this is clearly a fight between the disciples for supremacy, for who is going to be the chief disciple and who properly carries on jesus' teachings and missions. >> peter might have felt that it was his rightful role to be the leader and it might very well have had to do with the fact that he was a man than any other factor. >> the conclusion of this gospel is that mary is the primary disciple, more than peter, and that she should be teaching the message. she should be preaching like the men. and at the end of the gospel of mary she goes out and preaches
with the rest of them. >> i saw the lord jesus christ in a vision. >> the gospel of mary is the only known gospel that depicts mary magdalene as a leader in the early church, but how seriously should we take it as a record of actual events? >> we know that mary of magdalene did not write this gospel. we can tell from the style of the text, from the language, the vocabulary that's used that it really dates to the middle of the second century. by that time the historical mary magdalene was long gone. >> even if this gospel can't be taken as a serious historical record, it points at something else. a possible dispute over the role of women in the early church. >> what i think this really speaks to historically is a tension between male and female leaders in the church. >> the gospel of mary shows that early christians were still trying to hash out what really the role of women was in the church, what the role of the apostles were, whether they
should only be men. >> over time what we see is women being pushed from a very central role in church organization and leadership to sort of marginal figures on the sidelines. >> if the gospel of mary is not a reliable account of her life, could there be another explanation for mary magdalene's disappearance from the story of the early church? >> when people think of mary magdalene, they often imagine an attractive woman with flowing hair sort of the same age as jesus and undeniably good looking. but she might not have been any of those things. >> could it be that she was, in fact, far older and that the way we have imagined mary magdalene for more than 1500 years has been wrong all along? >> she might have been a very
successful, independent businesswoman who is maybe in her 60s who's worked hard and now in the later years of her life is sort of focused on spirituality and spiritual growth. >> i think that mary magdalene was probably a wealthy woman. i think she was probably elderly or older woman who had the financial means to support jesus and the jesus movement. maybe she doesn't live very long after jesus, and for that reason, we just don't hear about her. >> it's an extraordinary notion, but whatever the final truth about her age, what we can be sure of is how jesus reached out to this possessed woman, how she became his closest female follower, and an example to all who would come after her. >> she was the one who had the deep spiritual connection with
jesus, who understood his mission and who then carried it out and proclaimed it. she was the first christian. well gone, mate. >> thanks, man. there's an old eskimo proverb that goes, you never really know your friends from your enemies, until the ice breaks. well, this is a story of friends and lovers. atop melting ice. and their distant enemies who refuse to believe their worries over a changing
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