Did Jesus ever have a sexual thought

Mary MagdaleneThe misunderstood witness

"Maria Magdalena had a very high position in the early church, a high reputation in any case. It was a woman who was known by name and with whom one has something connected." (Katharina Ceming)

"At that time, Maria Magdalena was even more often referred to as the" partner "of Jesus. But one must not misunderstand that and reduce it to a sexual level: What is meant is a spiritual unit. (Philipp Luisier)

"The question is: Would there ever have been a Christian church without Mary Magdalene? Was she the decisive person who ensured that the movement founded by Jesus continued after his crucifixion and did not disintegrate?" (Silke Petersen)

The philosopher Katharina Ceming, the Jesuit Phillip Luisier and the theologian Silke Petersen: Three modern voices about a woman who belonged to the closest circle of Jesus almost 2000 years ago, but was more controversial in church history than any other biblical figure: Mirjam from the port city of Magdala in Galilee - Mary Magdalene for short.

Room for speculation

The Bible reveals few details about the life of Mary Magdalene. It just means that she followed Jesus and supported him, grateful that he had set her free from "seven demons," that is, from a great danger.

The historical gaps in the biblical texts have always given room for speculation, which artists filled with a lot of imagination. The writer Luise Rinser, for example, has Maria Magdalena tell of her last encounter with Jesus before his death on the cross in the novel "Mirjam":

He said to me: "Mirjam, strengthen me ... also tomorrow ... I will strengthen you in the days after". - He pulled me close and for the first, only, last time he put his lips on mine. More of a breath of breath than a kiss. Then gently pushed me away: "And now strengthen the others in their weakness. They need the shepherd dog who holds the herd together. I am counting on you Miriam!" - "Rabbi, let me follow you!" - "You can't follow me where I go yet." - He understood me and I understood him.

The Gospels do not convey a scene of this kind. However, they report that Miriam from Magdala stood under the cross of Jesus. When the disciples were still hiding in fear of death, Magdalena went to his grave. She found it empty, but suddenly heard his voice:

"Mirjam!" - Then she turned to him and said: "Rabbuni! My master!" - Jesus said: "Do not stop me! ... But go to my brothers and tell them:" I am going up to my father and to your father, to my God and to your God. "- Miriam of Magdala then went back to the Disciples and announced to them: "I have seen the Lord ...!"

Whether Magdalena met Jesus on that day in person or in the form of a vision is controversial in research, says Silke Petersen. But one thing is certain, according to the Hamburg theologian, who has published a monograph on the subject:

"The oldest traditions about Mary Magdalene all emphasize her role as witness to the resurrection of Jesus. That this was invented freely by the authors of the Gospels is extremely unlikely, if only because of the little glorious role that the male disciples of Jesus play in the same stories ... Rather it can be assumed that the experience of Magdalena really gave a decisive impulse which, after the crucifixion of Jesus, revived the movement that had arisen around him.

Gregor permanently destroyed the reputation

The Bible is silent about the further fate of the disciple from Magdala. Late antique texts show that she was venerated in many places as a "witness" to Jesus. But then the name Maria Magdalenas suddenly got a questionable aftertaste in Europe. The philosopher and theologian Katharina Ceming:

"Historically, we then have a development where we can determine: In this person of Mary Magdalene, different people have been combined. This goes back to Pope Gregory I in the 6th century, where various biblical passages are summarized in such a way that one suddenly finds Mary Magdalena as the "sinner" has ... "

Gregory I, also called Gregory the Great, destroyed Mary Magdalene's reputation for good.

On a whim, it seems, the Pope identified the disciple of Jesus with two other biblical figures: a wealthy woman named Mary and an unknown "sinner" who anointed Jesus' feet according to the Gospel of Luke. Gregor wrote:

From this, whom Luke calls a "sinful woman", we believe that she is the Miriam from whom 7 demons were cast out. And what do these 7 demons mean, if not all of the vices? Because the number seven represents the entirety. So Miriam of Magdala had 7 demons, which were from all vices.

In the 13th century the caricature was given further nourishment by the so-called "Legenda Aureum" - the "Golden Legend". In it a French Dominican invents numerous details about the life of some saints, including that of Mary Magdalene:

"She was of noble birth and came from a royal family ... After the Lord's Ascension, Mary Magdalene gave herself entirely to bodily lust. Because lust is always a companion of wealth. So she was finally only called the" sinner ". "

As the legend continues, Magdalena is said to have come to the south of France in an adventurous way by ship. There she regretted her sins and spent the last years of her life as a penitent hermit in a grotto.

Although there is no evidence for any of this, Magdalena's reputation as a vicious prostitute has been mercilessly attached to the disciple of Jesus in the Western Church ever since.

The end of the sinner

Amazingly, Magdalena's life in the eastern Mediterranean is portrayed completely differently: Here the woman from Magdalena was never identified with a "sinner" or "penitent", but was almost always recognized as an important "witness" to Jesus. Eastern church legends say:

"After the resurrection of Jesus, Mary Magdalene left Jerusalem with the other apostles to preach the gospel to the whole world. She first went to Rome, was even received by Emperor Tiberias and preached all over Italy. Then she traveled to Ephesus and helped John while writing his Gospel. Her grave is venerated there to this day. "

The Western Church did not begin to correct the character assassination of the disciple of Jesus until the 1960s: The Second Vatican Council officially put an end to Mary Magdalene's identification with the great "sinner" in its liturgical reform. Shortly thereafter, feminist theology brought Magdalena and other women who followed Jesus into positive conversation.

What caused the change of heart? The decisive factor was probably a sensational archaeological find in Upper Egypt in the middle of the 20th century. Through him previously unknown texts from the 2nd century came to light, which threw a completely new light on Mary Magdalene:

In 1945 the field worker Muhammed Ali Samman came across a large red clay jug in the mountains near Nag Hammadi. Hoping to find gold in it, he opened it. But the content was disappointing for Ali: dozens of old leather-bound papyrus books! They were stored in the stable and used to light a fire ...

Mariam, Mirjam, Maria

However, some papyri came into the possession of the Coptic Museum in Cairo via adventurous detours via monks and antique dealers. There you immediately recognized their inestimable value, explains the Egyptologist Phillip Luisier:

"These texts by Nag Hammadi are written in the Coptic language and come from the 4th century AD. Most are, however, translations of older Greek scripts from the 2nd century. Many reflect thoughts of the Gnostic spiritual movement that was widespread at the time."

Most of the texts on the papyri are so-called apocrypha, explains Philippe Luisier: writings that deal with the events surrounding Jesus, but are not or only to a limited extent recognized by the official church tradition.

"The problem is always to classify these Apocrypha correctly: Some fill historical gaps within the biblical writings and can be very valuable for the understanding of the Christian tradition. Other texts try to present the doctrine of so-called Gnosis. It was developed by leading theologians of the official church like Irenaeus of Lyon rejected. But one has to see that there were also great thinkers among the Gnostics. "

One of the apocryphal scriptures to which the discovery of Nag Hammadi became aware is a text called the "Gospel of Mariam". "Mariam" is the Coptic name of "Maria" or "Mirjam" and stands for "Maria Magdalena", explains the Coptologist Luisier:

"This" Gospel of Mary "is part of a collection of papyri that is now kept in the Egyptian Museum in Berlin. It is interesting that Mary Magdalene plays an important role here, as in other Gnostic writings, as a mediator of true doctrine and knowledge. "

Peter gets angry

The Augsburg theologians Katharina Ceming and J├╝rgen Werlitz recently made a selection of the Coptic texts available to a broad audience in German.

Only part of the gospel has survived, but this impressed the professional world. It begins with farewell words in which the risen Jesus urges the disciples to preach his teaching.

Ceming: "But they are incredibly afraid and ask themselves: Who will hear us if the master has not been heard and he has been killed? And this is where Maria appears: She is the person who fearlessly encourages others to do this task to be accepted because it is connected in a special way with Jesus, the Master. "

"Then Mary stood up, hugged them all and said to the disciples:" Do not cry or be sad and do not allow any doubt in your heart! For his grace will be with you in abundance and it will protect you. "... As Mary said this, the hearts of others turned for the good ..." (Gospel of Mary ")

Peter then asks Mary Magdalene to tell of her encounters with Jesus:

Magdalena now reports on her visions and conversations with Jesus. They give instructions on how to gradually attain true knowledge and how to overcome obstacles such as "desires", "ignorance" or "anger". The aim of all efforts is a state of "calm", assures Magdalena. When she is silent afterwards, Peter reacts angrily. In the Gospel of Mary it says:

"Did the Savior really speak to a woman without our knowledge, not in public? Should we repent and all listen to her? Has He preferred her to us that much?" - Then Mary wept: "Peter, do you think that I made this up in my heart and that I am telling untruth about the Savior?"

The "love" between Mary Magdalene and Jesus, which the text expressly names, gave rise to flourishing speculations in modern novels and films:

In "The Last Temptation", for example, Nikos Kazantzakis made Jesus dream of a marriage to Magdalena on the cross. Dan Brown made headlines years later with the thriller "Da Vinci Code". In it, the author claims that there is historical evidence that Magdalena, as the wife of Jesus, gave birth to a child of his.

According to the philosopher Ceming, all these literary works completely ignored the fact that the Gospel of Mary is in the tradition of Gnosis. This attitude of mind wants to enable man to ascend to the divine through insight.

Kisses and jealousy

Ceming says: "Magdalena is the one who has permeated this world of the spiritual. Her soul has gone through this ascent into deep realizations. She is the person who encourages others fearlessly because she is in a special way with Jesus, with the Master, connected is."

The motif of a great spiritual or platonic love between Magdalena and Jesus can also be found in other apocryphal texts from the environment of Hag Hamadi.

Fragments of the so-called Gospel of Philip, which Magdalena call "Koinonos" in Greek - as "partner" or "consort" of Jesus are particularly impressive.

It says:

The consort of the Savior is Mary Magdalene. The Savior loved her more than any of his disciples, and He often kissed her on the mouth.

The theologian Silke Petersen has worked out the complex meaning of the "kiss" in ancient and early Christian traditions. She concludes:

"Kissing on the mouth is not to be understood primarily erotic in this context. Rather, it creates community and spiritual exchange, yes, it stands for the passing on of spiritual knowledge to the chosen ones."

To give the kisses between Jesus and Magdalena, of which the papyri speak, a purely sexual dimension would in no way do justice to the texts, emphasizes the Coptologist Luisier:

"In the Gnostic tradition, Mary Magdalene is often symbolic for the" spirit "- Pneuma in Greek - and Jesus for" knowledge "- Nous in Greek. So when it is said that Mary and Jesus" kiss ", it means that the spirit and knowledge become one. In this sense Mary Magdalene was called "sister" or "partner" of Jesus. "

Protagonist with male opponent

The gospel of Mary is the only known "gospel" whose protagonist is a woman: Magdalena symbolizes love and knowledge, her opponent Peter represents power and dominance.

"The one thing that shines through here is the question of the leadership position of women in the church. We are dealing with classically patriarchal societies. Through Jesus we have an appreciation of the feminine. In the first few decades, women were probably involved in church formation played an important role. There were probably church leaders. But we can see that the moment Christianity is becoming more and more established, there are clearly efforts to push women back. "

Mosaic of the Apostle Peter in Monreal Cathedral (dpa / picture alliance / Friedel Gierth)

The devaluation of Mary Magdalene by Peter, which is echoed in the apocryphal Gospel, was repeated in many different forms in the course of church history. Pope Gregory's frivolous judgment on the disciple of Jesus is just one example. Until well into the 20th century, women were taboo in church leadership positions - in almost all churches.

Only then did one slowly begin to rethink some church traditions. In 2016 Pope Francis officially recognized Mary Magdalene as "Apostle of the Apostles" - as "Apostola Apostolorum". This name came to it more often in late antiquity. For example, in the 4th century Bishop Jerome wrote with a wink in a Bible commentary:

"When Jesus was risen, he first appeared to women. They became" apostles of the apostles ". And the men should be reddened with shame because they did not look for the one whom the gentler sex had already found."