For almost 2,000 years the incorrect naming of the Fourth Gospel as ‘The Gospel According to John’ has misled its readers. It would be more correct to say ‘The Gospel According to John if you believe Irenaeus.’ The Fourth Gospel identifies its author as ‘The Beloved Disciple’, never as John.
The idea that Mary Magdalene wrote the Fourth Gospel is not new but generally supposes that the text was tampered with or deliberately changed to masculine. Such thinking misses the point that the Fourth Gospel was written from the perspective of a ‘Beloved Disciple’ – in other words, a person who is unidentified by gender. Koine Greek had to default to masculine when written from that perspective; it followed the rules of grammar for a ‘person in general’ .
There were many reasons for the author of the Fourth Gospel to write from the perspective of a ‘Beloved Disciple’. Perhaps the most encouraging is the message that in God’s eyes, gender, nationality, and worldly qualifications were of absolutely no importance. The qualifications of a Beloved Disciple are not whether you are born male or can prove a lineage back to the Twelve Apostles – qualifications important to men. The Fourth Gospel explains what is important to God – to believe in Jesus and follow Him.
“To all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” John 1:12-13
TRADITION OF JOHN
The traditional view has been that the apostle John wrote the Fourth Gospel. This attribution of authorship goes back to Irenaeus. Many scholars (such as Elaine Pagels) now doubt the traditions that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John wrote any of the gospels –
“Now, today, scholars of the New Testament wouldn’t agree with Irenaeus, because we don’t know who wrote the gospels we call Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, any more than we know who wrote the Gospel of Thomas. They’re all attributed to disciples of Jesus, but we don’t really know who wrote them.” (Elaine H. Pagels: The Harrington Spear Paine Foundation Professor of Religion Princeton University, Emergence of the Four Gospel Canon)
Marcion used the gospel known as Luke (minus some of the Jewishness) without any attribution of authorship. This drew scathing criticism from Tertullian (a ‘Church Father’) at the end of the second century –
“Marcion, on the other hand, you must know ascribes no author to his Gospel, as if it could not be allowed him to affix a title to that from which it was no crime to subvert the very body. And here I might now make a stand, and contend that a work ought not to be recognised, which holds not its head erect, which exhibits no consistency, which gives no promise of credibility from the fullness of its title and the just profession of its author.” (Tertullian, Against Marcion, Book 4)
There are no original gospel records, only copies of copies. The oldest complete copy of the New Testament dates to approximately 350CE. By this time the manuscripts complete with attributions of authorship were firmly established amongst the Orthodox Church. The question is, when were authors first attributed to the gospels?
The earliest attestation we have that John wrote the Fourth Gospel is by Irenaeus – one of the ‘Church Fathers’ . In his book Adversus Haereses (Against Heresies) c.180CE he said
“Now the Gospels, in which Christ is enthroned, are like these. For that according to John expounds his princely and mighty and glorious birth from the Father, saying, ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,’ and, ‘All things were made by him, and without him nothing was nothing made’ . Therefore this Gospel is deserving of all confidence, for such indeed is his person.” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3.11.8)
Irenaeus was making the point that the Fourth Gospel was worthy of confidence. It would be logical to assume that he needed to do this because there was uncertainty over which gospels should be accepted. If John were the author of the Fourth Gospel it would bolster its credibility amongst the Orthodox Church which wanted links to the apostles. Whilst the Fourth Gospel itself is deserving of confidence, Irenaeus and his opinion that John wrote it are not. His book ‘Against Heresies’ opposed those who did not conform to his own orthodox traditions. He maintained that the only safe way to understand the scriptures was via a line of approved male bishops who could trace their learning back to the first apostles. Thus it was important to establish the links to the apostles, especially regarding the unnamed gospels.
It is important to understand the influence Irenaeus had on the church. In 2005 Pope Benedict XV1 described him as the founder of Catholic theology –
“In the second century, the founder of Catholic theology, St Irenaeus of Lyons, described very beautifully this bond between catholicity and unity” (Pope Benedict XV1, Solemnity of Sts Peter and Paul, St Peter’s Basilica, 29th June 2005)
AUTHORITY OF BISHOPS
The following passage by Irenaeus demonstrates his belief in the authority of church appointed bishops –
“Wherefore it is incumbent to obey the presbyters who are in the Church, – those who, as I have shown, possess the succession from the apostles; those who, together with the succession of the episcopate, have received the certain gift of truth, according to the good pleasure of the Father. But [it is also incumbent] to hold in suspicion others who depart from the primitive succession, and assemble themselves together in any place whatsoever, [looking upon them] either as heretics of perverse minds, or as schismaries puffed up and self-pleasing” Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 4 Chapter 26
In response to the numerous groups of Christians, the Orthodox Church believed there should only be one group who could prove a holy lineage of male bishops.
The importance of establishing a line of orthodox bishops must have been more important to Irenaeus than establishing the truth of his statements. Irenaeus made the claim that Peter and Paul established the church in Rome but Paul specifically says he did not –
Claim of Irenaeus Concerning Roman Church
“It would be very tedious, in such a volume as this, to reckon up the successions of all the Churches, we do put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner, whether by an evil self-pleasing, by vainglory, or by blindness and perverse opinion, assemble in unauthorized meetings; [we do this, I say,] by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also [by pointing out] the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its preeminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere .” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 3, Chapter 3, Section 2)
In contrast to this is Paul’s Letter which affirms he did not establish the church in Rome with Peter or anyone else.
Paul’s letter to the Romans –
“From Jerusalem and round about even to Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ. Yes, making it my aim to preach the gospel, not where Christ was already named, that I might not build upon another man’s foundation. But, as it is written: They shall see, to whom no tidings of him came, and they who have not heard shall understand. Therefore I was hindered these many times from coming to you. But now, there is no need for me in these regions, and having these many years a longing to come to you, I hope to see you during my journey”. Romans 15:19-24
This passage shows that Paul did not establish the church in Rome, he did not wish to build on “another man’s work” – the church there was already established by someone else.
Paul was the apostle to the gentiles; Peter was the apostle to the Jews.
“When they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel of the uncircumcision, even as Peter with the Gospel to the circumcision (for he that worked through Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, worked through me also to the Gentiles.)” Gal. 2:7-8
The New Testament contains no evidence that Peter was ever in Rome. 1 Peter 5:13 indicates that Peter went to Babylon, where there was a very large Jewish community which continued for many years. The Babylonian Talmud was compiled between the third and fifth centuries in Babylon. Peter preached to the circumcised, the Jews. It would be logical for him to go to Babylon where a large group remained from the time of the exile.
Some say that Babylon was a code for Rome, but there seems no justification for this. The persecution of Christians at this time was sporadic and limited. There are no other examples of people or places resorting to code names. It seems a suggestion of the Orthodox Church only, to use as Biblical evidence that Peter was in Rome.
Just as Irenaeus wanted to establish a line of bishops going back to the church in Rome, so he also wanted to establish the apostolic ties to the unnamed gospels. Only bishops and books with connections to the first male apostles were to be accepted by the Orthodox Church. Irenaeus made sure two of the gospels were attributed to two of Jesus’ disciples (Matthew and John) and two gospels had connections to Peter and Paul, with these connections they would be above reproach and accepted. Irenaeus defined the gospel authors –
“Matthew also published a gospel in writing among the Hebrews in their own language, while Peter & Paul were preaching the gospel and founding the church in Rome. But after their death, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, also transmitted to us in writing what Peter used to preach. And Luke, Paul’s associate, also set down in a book the gospel that Paul used to preach. Later, John, the Lord’s disciple — the one who lay on his lap — also set out the gospel while living at Ephesus in Asia Minor.” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 3, Chapter 1, Section 1)
Yet this John, the one Irenaeus claimed lay on the Lord’s lap, was confused with another John who lived in Ephesus.
Eusebius, quoting from a lost work of Polycrates (c.125-196CE) cites his reference to the death and burial of John in Ephesus –
“Moreover, there is also John, who reclined at the bosom of the Lord and who became a priest wearing the high priest’s mitre, and a martyr and a teacher. He fell asleep at Ephesus.” (Eusebius, Eccleiastical History, Book 5, Chapter 24, Setion 2-3
John the elder was a priest of Ephesus, not John the son of Zebedee. John the Son of Zebedee would never have worn a high priest’s mitre which was against the teaching of Christ . Clearly there was confusion in the early church concerning the whereabouts of John the apostle.
Tertullian (another ‘Church Father’) also emphasized the connection of the gospels to the apostles –
“We lay it down as our first position, that the evangelical Testament has apostles for its authors, to whom was assigned by the Lord Himself this office of publishing the gospel. Since, however, there are apostolic men also, they are yet not alone, but appear with apostles and after apostles; because the preaching of disciples might be open to the suspicion of an affectation of glory, if there did not accompany it the authority of the masters, which means that of Christ, for it was that which made the apostles their masters. Of the apostles, therefore, John and Matthew first instill faith into us; whilst of apostolic men, Luke and Mark renew it afterwards.” (Tertullian, Adversus Marcion, Book 4, Chapter 2)
The Church Fathers created their own line of bishops going back to Peter in Rome, with the supposed authority of the Apostles. They also decided on who the authors of the four anonymous gospels should be – they wanted a tradition so they created one – and in so doing directly contradicted Christ who said –
“You have one teacher, and you are all brethren. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called masters, for you have one master, the Christ.” Matt. 23:8-10
The Orthodox Church only allowed its own bishops to explain the scriptures or indeed have access to them. This type of thinking created a church where the common people were led in their thinking by church bishops who interpreted the scriptures for them. Tertullian was one such bishop who believed that heretics should not have access to the Scriptures:
“We are therefore come to (the gist of) our position; for at this point we were aiming, and for this we were preparing in the preamble of our address (which we have just completed),–so that we may now join issue on the contention to which our adversaries challenge us. They put forward the Scriptures, and by this insolence of theirs they at once influence some. In the encounter itself, however, they weary the strong, they catch the weak, and dismiss waverers with a doubt. Accordingly, we oppose to them this step above all others, of not admitting them to any discussion of the Scriptures.
If in these lie their resources, before they can use them, it ought to be clearly seen to whom belongs the possession of the Scriptures, that none may be admitted to the use thereof who has no title at all to the privilege.” (Tertullian, The Prescrioption Against Heretics, Chapter XV, Translated by Peter Holmes)
DIVISIONS OVER WOMEN
Irenaeus and Tertullian were both opposed to house churches where women had equality. Irenaeus made his opinion plain in his writings about Marcion and the women in his church.
Tertullian’s opinion of women and their role in the church is evident from his writings below –
“And do you not know that you are (each) an Eve? The sentence of God on this sex of yours lives in this age: the guilt must of necessity live too. You are the devil’s gateway: you are the unsealer of that (forbidden) tree: you are the first deserter of the divine law: you are she who persuaded him whom the devil was not valiant enough to attack. You destroyed so easily God’s image, man. On account of your desert–that is, death–even the Son of God had to die.” (Tertullian, On the Apparel of Women, Book 1, Chapter 1)
“These heretical women how audacious they are! They have no modesty: they are bold enough to teach, to engage in argument, to undertake cures, and, it may be, even to baptize” (Tertullian, The Prescription Against Heretics, Chapter 41)
It’s apparent from their writings that the Church Fathers were opposed to the equality of women in church. Women only had equality amongst the groups they labeled as heretics – unlikely then that the church fathers would attribute any gospel to a woman.
WHY NOT GIVE A NAME?
The author of the Fourth Gospel writes from the perspective of a Beloved Disciple. They identify themselves as being the person who sat next to Jesus at the last supper – the place of honour. They leaned on Jesus’ chest as He confided to them who the betrayer was. They were a very close friend and confidante. They reveal the message of discipleship before revealing their identity at the cross.
Throughout the Fourth Gospel the Beloved Disciple often defines people by ‘what’ they are, not ‘who’ they are.
John the Baptist was a voice:
“I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’” John 1:23
Jesus was witnessed to by His works:
“If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me” John 10:24-24
Jesus revealed His identity in seven
‘I AM’ statements in 4th Gospel
‘The Bread of Life’ (6:35) The ‘Light of the World’ (8:12)
The ‘Gate’ (10:9)
The ‘Good Shepherd’ (10:11)
The ‘Resurrection and the Life’ (11:25)
The ‘Way, the Truth, and the Life’ (14:6)
The ‘True Vine’ (15:1)
These abstract ideas of Jesus are neither male nor female, although the words have masculine and feminine gender in the Greek. The author of the Fourth Gospel, in a similar manner, used the abstract idea of being an unidentified ‘Beloved Disciple’ to demonstrate ‘what they were’ not ‘who they were’.
The Fourth Gospel is the only gospel which makes the claim that the author was a witness of the events recorded. They were around at the time – they knew the truth of the matter –
“This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true.” John 21:24
Why does the author – writing in the third person – speak here in the plural? Nicodemus and Jesus spoke in the same way –
John 3:2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher who has come from God.”
John 3:10-11 “Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things? Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness.”
It seems likely that the use of the plural ‘we’ in John 21:24 could be the style of the Beloved Disciple speaking in similar manner as Nicodemus who used ‘we’ to incorporate those of similar thought (though not present). Or it could be that the beloved disciple spoke with the authority of Jesus as a witness in the same way that Jesus spoke with the authority of God as a witness in John 8:18
“I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me.”
The Greek word μαρτυρέω for ‘testify’ or ‘witness’ occurs 34 times in the Fourth Gospel. In the other 3 gospels combined it only occurs 4 times.
“This is the disciple who testifies of these things, and wrote these things; and we know that his testimony is true.” John 21:24
“And you also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning.” John 15:27
“The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe.” John 19:35
The author of this gospel is focused on being a witness so that others may believe. It’s a direct appeal to believe what this person saw and went to so much effort to leave on record for us.
WITNESSES IN FOURTH GOSPEL
John the Baptist – “This is the witness of John” John 1:19
Jesus – “We speak what We know and testify what We have seen.” John 3:11
Samaritan Woman – “And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified (witnessed)” Jn. 4:39
God – “I am One who bears witness of Myself, and the Father who sent Me bears witness of Me.” Jn. 8:18
The Works – “The works which the Father has given Me to finish – the very works that I do – bear witness of Me.” John 5:36
Spirit – “The Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify (witness) of Me.” John 15:21
The Beloved Disciple – “And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony (witness) is true.” 19:35
WHAT IF THIS WITNESS WAS A WOMAN?
This idea is not new but has been largely disregarded because the Greek text always describes the anonymous disciple (who Jesus loved) as a male.
If the author was a female she could have identified herself using the Greek word for female disciple (mathitria) which occurs 1 time in the New Testament to describe Tabitha (Acts 9:36).
This is the only time a female disciple is identified as such and named. Note: this word for female disciple never occurs in any of the gospels.
Male disciples (mathētēs etc) are referred to 269 times in the New Testament. This doesn’t mean there was only one female disciple. It means that the female disciples were generally included with the males, but not identified as females.
WAS IT DECEPTIVE?
The Beloved Disciple is not identified by name (such as Tabitha was), but by ‘what they are’ – they are ‘loved’. If the author deliberately chose to remain unidentified by sex, and write from the perspective of a ‘person’ (such as a Beloved Disciple), then they would have to write in the masculine.
I have heard it suggested that for a female to do this would be a deliberately deceptive action. Such thinking does not comprehend the gender free point of the Fourth Gospel which was in stark contrast to the thinking of the time. The Fourth Gospel tells us that we are born again and being male or female is of no consequence.
A woman writing as a narrator from the perspective of a ‘Beloved Disciple’ (an unidentified person), was legitimate and would default to masculine.
Koine Greek had no way of referring to a specific person without specifying gender. In other words, it didn’t have a word for ‘person’.
“The masculine is used for person in general” (Herbert W. Smyth, Greek Grammar (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1920), p. 271, section 1015)
– an unidentified ‘Beloved Disciple’ falls into this category.
A woman writing the Fourth Gospel would know she was a woman – but as a narrator she could choose to write as a ‘person’ thus defaulting to masculine. This was the writing style, the choice of the unidentified ‘Beloved Disciple’. She had a point to make. The theme of the Fourth Gospel is that discipleship is not about whether you are male or female, but whether you are ‘born again’. What better way to demonstrate this than to lose your own identity and take on the identity with which Jesus covers all His disciples?
A woman would not be recognised in the Ezra lists of male lineage in the Old Testament , nor were women listed at the last supper, but they were there. The Song of Solomon (Symbolic story of Christ and Bride/Church) gives a clue to the way Christ included those who others would send away or diminish –
“He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.” Song of Solomon 2:4
This Hebrew word for ‘banner’ – דֶּגֶל- in every other Old Testament reference refers to the flag of a tribe of Israel – of natural descent. The Fourth Gospel is about spiritual descent, the beloved disciple was brought to the banqueting table – the table of Jesus – under the banner of love.
MALE BY DEFAULT
When speaking of a man the Greek always uses masculine gender.
When speaking of a woman the Greek always uses feminine gender.
BUT – when speaking of a group of men and women it always defaults to masculine gender although there are both men and women there –
“Salute Andronicus and Junia my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.” Rom. 16:7
The ‘who’ and ‘apostles’ are masculine, and yet they relate to a man and a woman.
MORE TO THE POINT –
When a person is not identified by being male or female –
it defaults to the masculine gender – but they may in fact be female.
“The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord.” Matt 10:24
Here, ‘disciple’ is singular, but may be either male or female, but ‘disciple’ is the default masculine (as is the ‘his’).
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” Rev. 3:20
This passage plainly refers to one person who may be male or female (unless women are excluded from the kingdom) but it’s all in masculine gender.
If an unknown disciple is not identified – The text would default to masculine gender everywhere.
NARRATOR & SUBJECT
It would also be legitimate for the author to write about themself as a ‘she’ when talking of events in the narrative which identified her as Mary Magdalene and not ‘The Beloved Disciple’ the narrator. Paul also wrote about himself in two different roles –
“Of such a one I will boast; yet of myself I will not boast”. 2 Cor. 12:5
WOMEN AS WITNESSES
The Jews and Romans did not consider women to be reliable witnesses. Jesus had previously rebuked the male disciples for not believing Mary (and the others) when she testified that He had risen –
“Later Jesus appeared to The Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.” Mark 16:14
“He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven demons. And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept. And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not.” Mark 16:9
There are many examples where the witness of women was secondary to men even amongst the male disciples who were slow to grasp the gospel’s equality of both women and gentiles –
“They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found The Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Luke 24:33
NOTE: No mention here of His appearance to Mary first.
“Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brethren at the same time”. 1 Cor. 15:3-5
Again, no mention of his appearance first to Mary, it is Peter who is mentioned as the first witness. No doubt this is due to the audience these words were directed at not recognizing the witness of a woman, thus the appeal is made through witnesses they would accept.
Gnostic writings reflect the thinking of the time –
“Simon Peter says to them: “Let Mary go out from our midst, for women are not worthy of life!” Jesus says: “See, I will draw her so as to make her male so that she also may become a living spirit like you males. For every woman who has become male will enter the Kingdom of heaven.” Gospel of Thomas saying 114
This passage demonstrates the thinking that men were considered to be on a higher spiritual level – but that is not what Jesus and Paul taught.
The Bible itself records many more men than women. According to ‘Quora’ there are 1,770 men and 93 women named in the Bible. We have virtually no information of the lives of most of the women. Jephthah’s faithful daughter, who gave her life in sacrifice to obey her father – is not even named. Until the Kingdom we will only know her as ‘Jephthah’s daughter’. The faithful women who didn’t make the pages of the Bible are no less important than the men. The message of the Fourth Gospel is to see things afresh, to be born again. Being male or female doesn’t matter, but being a child of God does.
IDENTIFIED AS A DISCIPLE
As the sole witness to many of the events in the Fourth Gospel, the only way a woman would be believed, or have her writings accepted, is to be identified by ‘what’ they were, not what sex they were. The Fourth Gospel identifies its author as a Beloved Disciple. Where events in Mary Magdalene’s life are recorded in other gospels– then they also appear in the Fourth Gospel in reference to Mary Magdalene. But where there is no reference to events in the other gospels she refers to herself as ‘The Beloved Disciple’ –
Mary Magdalene – at the cross (John 19:25) Witnessed in Matt 27:56, Mark 15:40
First to the tomb – (John 20:1) Witnessed in Matt 28:1, Mark 16:1
Jesus appears first to Mary Magdalene – John (20:16) Witnessed in Mark 16:9
Mary first to report to apostles (John 20:18) Witnessed in Luke 24:10
Disciple Jesus loved leaned on his breast at last supper (John 13:23) No other record
Beloved disciple accepts Jesus’ mother (John 19:26) No other record
Loved disciple (not ‘The Beloved Disciple’ ) with Peter (John 20:2) No other record
Fishing after resurrection (21:7) No other record
Promise from Jesus to ‘abide’ (John 21:20) No other record
IDENTIFIED AT CROSS
Mary Magdalene – The Beloved Disciple – Author of the 4th gospel, finally reveals her human identity at the foot of the cross – whilst maintaining her symbolic identity.
This was the hour of Jesus’ glory.
The seed of the woman was bruised in the heel by sin.
The seed of the serpent was bruised in the head by righteousness.
Jesus died for ‘The Disciple He loved’ –
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us”. 1 John 3:16
The Beloved Disciple laid down their own life in service –
“And from that hour that disciple took her to their own.” John 19:27
Here at the cross was The Woman, The Seed, and The Beloved Disciple –
“Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother and His mother’s sister Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by (2 of those he just referred to), He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your Son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” And from that hour that disciple took her to their own.” John 19:25-27
At first reading this passage could be taken to mean that the beloved disciple was an extra person, however there are only three women listed at the cross with Jesus. All the words spoken at the cross were significant.
WORDS OF PILATE –
“Behold the Man” – Zech 6:12 “Behold the man whose name is the branch; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the LORD”.
“Behold your King” – an especially relevant quote for the women at the cross to hear – John 12:15 “Fear not, daughter of Zion; Behold your King is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt.” – quoting
Zech 9:9 “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.
WORDS OF JESUS –
“Behold your Son” –
“When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!”
The word ‘therefore’ means ‘these things being so’. Jesus observed those present, and spoke to them. He wasn’t referring to the beloved disciple as a son, He saw His mother and said to her “Woman behold your Son”- speaking of Himself. This was His hour, the time to die for ‘the disciple He loved’ – the absolute climax of His mission. His mother was the one promised who fulfilled the prophecy in Isaiah –
“Behold, a virgin will conceive in the womb, and will bring forth a son, and you will call his name Emmanuel (God with us).” Isaiah 7:14
Jesus was talking about Himself. He was the SON ON THE CROSS.
“Then” Jesus looked at the disciple He loved and said “behold your mother”.
BEHOLD YOUR MOTHER
Mary was not the real mother of the beloved disciple, she became their mother in a symbolic sense, she was the second Eve, the ‘Mother of all Living’- the ‘Mother’ of all ‘Beloved Disciples’. Because Jesus laid down His life for the Beloved Disciple, the Beloved Disciple at the cross laid down their life for the mother of Jesus –
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 1 John 3:16
SERPENT AT THE CROSS
All the elements of Eden were present at the cross. There was the ‘Second Adam ’, the ‘Woman’ (also referred to as the ‘Mother’ of the ‘Beloved Disciple’ – in a spiritual sense being ‘Mother of all the truly Living’) and there was also the serpent.
Satan/The Serpent is the voice of temptation which stops us believing in, and obeying God.
Previously Peter had been that voice when he said to Jesus – “You will not surely die/ this will never happen to you” –
“From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” Matt. 16:21-23
This is an echo of what the Serpent/Satan said to Eve – “Thou shalt not surely die”.
The temptations of Jesus by Satan (Satan being the personification of his own desires ) continued on the cross –
“And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging and build it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” Likewise the chief priests also, mocking with the scribes and elders said, “He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him. He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”Even the robbers who were crucified with Him reviled Him with the same thing.” Matt 27:39-44
This was an echo of Jesus temptation in the wilderness –
“If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down.” Matt. 4:5
The scribes and Pharisees are referred to as a brood of vipers or the seed of the serpent in Matt. 3:7
“You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? See also Matt. 12:34 and 23:33
Jesus was tempted by ‘The Serpent’ at the cross to come down from the cross, to prove He could save His own life then and there, but He chose to obey God.
WAS JOHN AT CROSS?
It seems likely that the Romans and Jews were less concerned about a group of women at the cross than a group of men. It seems highly unlikely that a lone male disciple would be amongst them when it’s not mentioned in the other gospels, and we are told that the male disciples had fled earlier. Peter later followed at a distance to the courtyard, but there is no record in the other gospels of John doing the same.
“Then all the disciples forsook him and fled.” Matt. 26:56
“And He took Peter, James, and John with Him Mark 14:33 … “Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.” Mark 14:50
– John was amongst those who fled.
For Mark and Matthew to say that ‘all the disciples fled’ means they are equating disciples with men. We know that it was the women disciples who stayed at the cross.
John’s gospel doesn’t say the disciples all fled. One disciple accompanied Jesus to see Caiaphas. Three female disciples were present at the cross. The other gospels would surely have mentioned John at the cross if he had been there. The Fourth Gospel doesn’t separate ‘disciples’ and ‘women’. The word ‘women’ doesn’t occur in the Fourth Gospel – ‘disciples’ includes women.
If the Fourth Gospel had been written by the apostle John, you would expect it to include the encounters between John and Jesus, yet it leaves out these key events.
Though never in John’s Gospel, Peter, James and John appear together five times in the synoptics:
At the Transfiguration (Mt 17:1; Mk 9:2; Lk 9:28)
In the Garden of Gethsemane (Mt 26:37; Mk 14:33)
At the raising of Jairus’ daughter (Mk 5:37; Lk 8:51)
As the audience (along with Andrew) for the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law (Mk 1:29)
For Jesus’ “Little Apocalypse” (Mk13:3) – thus appearing “alone” with him only three times.
In contrast to the missing records of John’s encounters with Jesus, the Fourth Gospel includes the detailed records of Mary’s encounters with Jesus – both at the cross and after the resurrection.
Surely only Mary herself would have known the details written about her in the Fourth Gospel, even her thoughts are recorded (supposing Him to be the gardener).
“But Mary stood outside by the tomb weeping, and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. Then they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?”She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” Now when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, “Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him,“Rabboni!” (which is to say, Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that He had spoken these things to her.” John 20:11-18
LAST SUPPER (See also ‘Missing Women at the Last Supper)
Did Jesus only share the last supper with his twelve male disciples? This would be unusual when the Passover was an event which included the entire family. We know that the mother of Jesus was present in Jerusalem at the time of the Passover; it would seem almost unthinkable that Jesus would share this special time without her. Logic says that the ‘disciples’ at the last supper comprised a large gathering of men and women – the twelve being singled out because it was “one of the twelve” who would betray Jesus as opposed to one of the others –
The disciples left, went into the city and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover. When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me—one who is eating with me. They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, “Surely you don’t mean me?” “It is one of the Twelve,” he replied.” Mark 14:16-20
The fact that twelve disciples are mentioned does not mean they were the only ones present any more than the mention of the five thousand men who were fed by Jesus with five loaves and two fish. We know from one of the four gospel records that an unknown number of women and children were also present . It would also seem obvious that an unknown number of women and children were also present in the large upper room at the last supper. It’s a fact that women are not mentioned in many of the records – it doesn’t mean they weren’t there.
FURNISHED AND READY
The Fourth Gospel is the only one which omits to mention the preparation of the last supper and the story of the man carrying a pitcher of water. It is recorded in Matt. 26:17-19, Mark 14:12-16 and Luke 22:7-13.
Perhaps the reason for the omission is that Mary was not present when Jesus told Peter and John to follow the man with the water jar. It would seem reasonable to suppose that she wasn’t present because she was already in the house preparing for the Passover. Jesus explained to his other disciples that they would find it already prepared.
“The Teacher says, “Where is My guest room in which I may eat the Passover with My disciples?”’ And he himself will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; prepare for us there.” The disciples went out and came to the city, and found it just as He had told them; and they prepared the Passover.” Mark 14:14-16
There is no mention here of the men buying food. They are to find a person and follow him to a place already furnished and ready. Perhaps it was the house mentioned in Acts 12:12 which belonged to Mark’s mother. A house which could accommodate one hundred and twenty in its large upper room. This would make the unidentified ‘goodman’ of the house a woman – again defaulting to masculine in the Koine Greek as she was unidentified –
“He went to the house of Mary, the mother of John who was also called Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying.” Acts 12:12
It could have been the same house of Acts 1:12-15 which was a Sabbath day’s journey from the Mt. Of Olives – being significant as Jesus went to the Mount of Olives after the last supper and was followed by a lad wearing a blanket who could have been Mark –
“Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. When they had entered the city, they went up to the upper room where they were staying; that is, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James. These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers. At this time Peter stood up in the midst of the brethren, a gathering of about one hundred and twenty persons was there together.”
WHO CARRIED THE WATER?
MARK & LUKE VERSION
Mark and Luke mention an unidentified man carrying a pitcher of water. They were to follow him to the house of an unidentified person. Both passages use the word ἄνθρωπος – anthropos – ‘a man’ meaning – ‘a human being’ referring to the person carrying the water. As they are unidentified it could be a woman who was carrying the water. The fact that an UNIDENTIFIED person carrying a water jar is called a man – and men didn’t carry water jars – could be an example of an unidentified person defaulting to masculine in the Greek. This word for ‘man’ (Strong’s 444) is generally better understood in English as ‘human’. For example when Balaam’s ass spoke the meaning is that the ass spoke with a human voice as opposed to the sound an animal makes – in other words – the dumb animal spoke.
“But was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man’s 444 voice forbad the madness of the prophet”. 2 Peter 2:16
The common use of this word translated as “man” can be misleading when taken to mean ‘male’ rather than ‘human’ where that is the intention.
Another example is ‘Jesus the Son of Man’. He was literally the Son of a WOMAN – Mary – yet she was a representative of humankind –
“The Son of man444 has nowhere to lay his head”. Matt 8:20
But this word doesn’t have to apply to representative people, it can apply to unidentified individuals as in Matt. 17:14 –
“And when they were come to the multitude, there came to him a certain man 444, kneeling down to him, and saying, Lord have mercy on my son.” This word means a person – unidentified as to whether they are male or female.
MESSAGE FOR HIS MOTHER?
THE MATTHEW VERSION
The gospel of Matthew only mentions one person the disciples are to find –
“Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house (should read “toward you”).’” Matt. 26:18
In this passage the phrase ‘certain man’ or ‘certain one’ is deliberately not identifying who the person is. It’s not entirely clear if it’s the water carrier or the house owner referred to or another person. This word for ‘certain one’ occurs only once in the New Testament. This is Strong’s definition: such a one, a certain one, i.e. one whose name I cannot call on the instant, or whose name it is of no importance to mention.
The disciples are to give this deliberately unidentified person the message that “my appointed time is near”. Who would this statement be most relevant to? Surely it would be to Jesus’ mother. At the wedding in Cana Jesus said to her “what have I to do with you, my hour has not yet come”. How appropriate to tell her now– this is it – now is the time – my appointed time is near.
The rest of Jesus’ message was that He would celebrate the Passover with this person. The phrase “at your house” is not correct. The word ‘house’ does not appear in the original Greek in the Matthew account. It would be more correct to say “I will keep the feast of the Passover with you or “toward you” with my disciples”. Youngs Literal Translation reads –
“Go away to the city, unto such a one, and say to him, The Teacher says, My time is nigh; near thee I keep the Passover, with my disciples”.
This shows that this person was an ‘extra’ at the Passover, there were not just the 12. It would seem right that Jesus told His mother his hour was near and He would share this Passover with her, she was part of the destiny – the Woman and the Son together.
We also know the mother of Jesus stayed in ‘the upper room’ of the house in Acts 1:13-14 –
“When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying… along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus.”
Why didn’t Jesus identify the owner of the house and the person carrying the water to his disciples? Perhaps it was done this way because the Jews were looking for Jesus to kill Him, it was not time for any of his disciples to be lost. They were also looking for Lazarus to kill him which could explain his absence (and that of his sisters) from the crucifixion story –
“The chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and believing in him.” John 12:10
SEAT OF HONOUR
The gospel of Mark records the request of James and John to sit beside Jesus in His glory –
“They said to Him, “Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory.” But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” They said to Him, “We are able.” So Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink the cup that I drink, and with the baptism I am baptized with you will be baptized; but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared.” Mark 10:37-40
The ‘hour of Jesus’ glory’ began in John 12:23 –
“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified”
And continued until His death on the cross-
“Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You” John 17:1
John wanted the place of honour – to sit beside Jesus – was it really John who was given that place of honour at the last supper? Jesus demonstrated that the least are the greatest. The person who sat beside Him at the last supper – the only person to be noted as sitting beside Jesus – was the ‘Beloved Disciple’. A woman would be the last person the male disciples would expect to take such a position.
The Beloved Disciple leaned on Jesus’ breast at the last supper.
“He then lying on Jesus’ breast said to him, Lord, who is it?” John 13:25
The image here of a man lying on Jesus breast somehow seems less likely than a woman who is a close companion. There is an echo here of Mary Magdalene when she ‘clung’ to her risen Lord .
We are also told that this disciple was ‘in the bosom of Jesus’ –
“Now there was reclining (at the table) on (in) Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved.” John 13:23
This beloved disciple was ‘on/in the bosom’ of Jesus in the symbolic sense that Jesus was ‘in the bosom’ of His Father –
“The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.” John 1:18
And so this disciple, in the bosom of Jesus, would declare Jesus.
There is no evidence that John sat next to Jesus at the last supper. Jesus sent John – who wanted a place of honour, as a servant to prepare the Passover.
“And he sent Peter and John, saying, Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it.” Luke 22:8
Jesus told the disciples that if they looked for the place of honour they would be demoted, but if they were humble they would be elevated to honour. It would not seem fitting at that time for John to have the place of honour having just asked for it. The disciples argued about who was the greatest on a couple of occasions (Luke 9:46, Luke 22:24). Jesus had previously told them –
“When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place, … go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, go up higher.’ …For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 14:8-11
In contrast to John wanting to be first – Mary Magdalene as the author of the Fourth Gospel put herself last. The Fourth Gospel is the only one which has Mary last when listed with other women. The three other gospels always list her first – on 7 occasions (Matt 27:56, 27:61, 28:1, Mark 15:40, 16:1, Luke 8:2, 24:10). It would be appropriate for Mary – who put herself last, to be asked to take the seat of honour at the last supper, and for others to list her first in the other gospels.
Luke 8:2 tells us that Mary was ‘called’ Magdalene; we are not told that she was ‘from’ Magdala.
“And also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out.”
In a similar way we are told that Simon was ‘called’ Peter, Jesus was ‘called’ Christ, and Thomas was ‘called’ Didymus.
The existence of first century town called Magdala where it is now, on the shores of Galilee is disputed. There are no first century references to it. It seemed to appear from the 4th century onwards first mentioned by Eusebious in his book of Holy sites. In the first century the area was called Magadan or Dalmanutha – although the KJV refers to the place as Magdala which is explained as a copyist error in Strongs. In other words, the copies the King James translators used for translating Matt. 15 were dated to around the 4th century when there was a place called Magdala probably substituted for Magadan.
It doesn’t really matter if there was or wasn’t a place called Magdala because the Bible says Mary was CALLED Magdala not FROM Magdala. It seems to be a church tradition dating from Eusebius and his mother Helena which began the rumour that Mary was FROM Magdala.
Magdalene means TOWER. ‘Mary called Tower’ would indeed go on to be a tower of the flock. Perhaps the prophecy in Micah has an application to Mary called Tower –
“And you, O tower of the flock,
The stronghold of the daughter of Zion,
To you shall it come,
Even the former dominion shall come,
The kingdom of the daughter of Jerusalem. Now why do you cry aloud?
Is there no king in your midst?
Has your counsellor perished?
For pangs have seized you like a woman in labour.
Be in pain, and labour to bring forth,
O daughter of Zion,
Like a woman in birth pangs.” Micah 4:8-10
What is the ‘former dominion’ that would come to the tower of the flock? The word for dominion is rule – The first thing in the bible to have rule over something is the sun and moon in Gen 1:16 – They had dominion over darkness.
The daughter of Zion was given that same dominion – The first dominion – light conquering darkness – 7 demons cast out.
This tower person of Micah had a counselor but he perished – Mary Magdalene had a companion – a counseller – He also perished. This tower woman was in labour – she was bringing forth children. The Beloved Disciple who left us the Fourth Gospel also brought forth children born of faith. The struggle of a woman in a man’s world to preach the gospel and be accepted, was, and still is, akin to the pain of childbirth.
Jerome (translator of Bible into Latin) also referred to Mary Magdalene as ‘The Tower’.
“Mary Magdalene – called the tower from the earnestness and glow of her faith – was privileged to see the rising Christ first of all before the very apostles”.
JOHN IN FOURTH GOSPEL
It has been argued that John wrote the Fourth Gospel and left his name out because of his modesty – not wishing to name himself as the disciple Jesus loved above all the others. This is strange when none of the other gospels give John such a place in Jesus’ affections. At one point the ten are angry with him for wanting a seat of honour –
“And when the ten heard it, they began to be greatly displeased with James and John” Mark 10:47.
John was rebuked with the other ten for his hardness of heart –
“Afterward He appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at the table; and He reproached them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who had seen Him after He had risen.” Mark 14:14
John is only indirectly mentioned in the book of John in chapter 21 –
“After these things Jesus showed Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and in this way He showed Himself: Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, (NOTE: John was one of the sons of Zebedee) and two others of His disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing”. John 21:1
WEDDING AT CANA
The Fourth Gospel is the only one which mentions the wedding at Cana. On the surface the miracle of turning water to wine seems extravagant and almost pointless. Yet this miracle has far greater meaning than to keep wedding guests supplied with wine. The story begins with Jesus addressing his mother as ‘Woman’.
“Jesus said to her, Woman, what have I to do with you? My hour has not yet come.” John 2:4
The hour would come when Jesus ‘The Son’ had everything to do with ‘The Woman’.
Jesus was talking of the culmination of the symbol in Eden. Mary was the ‘Woman’ who had brought forth ‘The Seed’. Their destinies were interwoven – those of ‘The Woman & the Seed’. Jesus said “What have I to do with you? My hour has not yet come”. Jesus was saying that the time wasn’t yet for their destinies to play out the actions of the final hour. That hour came later and Jesus speaks of it in John 12:27 –
“Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!”
Although the time of the final hour had not arrived, nonetheless Jesus’ first miracle at Cana would point to it. The water jars, which used to be used for purification now held wine – the symbol of Jesus’ blood. The water for purification would no longer be needed.
God was not the real father of the beloved disciple, yet became their father in the symbolic sense. Part of Jesus’ commission to Mary Magdalene was to tell the others that He was going “to my Father and your Father”.
“Tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” John 20:17
This theme of a new family is continued in 1 Tim. 5:1NIV
“Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters”.
Jesus told Mary Magdalene at the cross that she had a new MOTHER, and at the tomb that she had a new FATHER. She refers to other believers as her “dear children” in the Epistles of John – continuing the theme of the spiritual family.
WHO LOOKED AFTER MOTHER OF JESUS?
We don’t hear of John literally looking after Jesus’ mother in the New Testament, but in Mark 15:47 we are told that it was Jesus’ mother and Mary Magdalene who saw where the body of Jesus was laid (no mention of John being with Jesus’ mother)
“Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph (Joses)* saw where he was laid.”
If John had taken Mary to his own home ‘from that hour’ as is commonly understood, it is strange that it is the two Marys without John who watch where Jesus is laid. The word ‘home’ does not occur in the Greek. The beloved disciple took the mother of Jesus to their own – to be their own. This is about ‘who is the family of the beloved disciple’ and being ‘born again’.
*A comparison of verses shows that ‘Mary the mother of Joseph’ who was with Mary Magdalene at the tomb, is ‘Mary the Mother of Jesus. It would seem that when Jesus died His mother was referred to as ‘Mary the mother of James and Joseph’, or just the mother of Joseph (so there was no confusion with James the son of Zebedee). It would seem it was a custom not to refer to people as the mother or father of dead children but of the living children. When it was established that Jesus was alive she was again referred to as ‘Mary the mother of Jesus’ in Acts 1:14
Matt. 13:56 Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren’t all his sisters with us?
Matt. 27:56 Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph.
Matt. 27:61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb.
Mark 6:3 Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?
Mark 15:40 Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the less (younger) and of Joseph, and Salome – a few verses later shortened to – Mary the mother of Joseph (v 47)
Mark 15:47 (After the crucifixion) Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where he was laid.
According to Eastern tradition Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Jesus lived together at Ephesus. The Fourth Gospel and epistles of John traditionally came from Ephesus.
There seems to be a pattern in the gospels of only naming the male disciples. If a wife or a female disciple were present as well, they were often not named. We know from 1 Cor. 9:5 that the wives of many of the male disciples accompanied them.
The genealogies of the time reflect the male bias. Mary the mother of Jesus doesn’t get named in her own family tree. Joseph was not the son of Heli but the son-in-law
“Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry (he was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph) the son(son-in-law) of Heli, the son of Matthat” Luke 3:23
The ‘son’ of Heli here should say ‘son-in-law’ to be more easily understood in modern culture. Even more helpful would have been to explain “Jesus was the Son of Mary, the daughter of Heli”. No women were included in this genealogy of Jesus through His mother Mary. There are many things that become clearer with a bit of searching out.
It seems very likely that unnamed/unidentified disciples in some key events in the gospel records were women.
WHO FOLLOWED JESUS?
Two disciples of John the Baptist followed Jesus. One male is named – Andrew. Only the author of the Fourth Gospel records this event, being a witness to it. It’s possible this unnamed disciple who left John to follow Jesus was Mary Magdalene, a witness from the very start.
John 1 records Jesus’ baptism and the call of first disciples but not the call of the twelve. The call of the twelve is only mentioned in the other 3 gospels.
“The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?” They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?” “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about the tenth hour.” John 1:35
There is amazing attention to detail here – “it was about the tenth hour”. It would seem that the author of the Fourth Gospel was one of the 2 disciples to know such detail.
SISTER OF PETER AND ANDREW?
1 Cor. 9:5 indicates that Peter had his unnamed wife and his unnamed sister with him as he preached. The context of 1 Cor. 9:5 dictates that ‘sister’ does not mean a sister in Christ, but a sister of the flesh – a literal sister, just as it talks about the literal brothers of Jesus. It would not have been appropriate for unmarried men and women to be travelling together unchaperoned in those times unless they were family. The suggestion has been made that this passage is really saying ‘sister/wife’. The term ‘sister/wife’ is never used anywhere in the Bible, and it’s not used here.
“Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Peter?” 1 Cor. 9:5
The Greek words for ‘a sister’ and ‘a wife’ are both given as ‘noun accusative feminine singular’. The sense of this passage would be that other apostles, the brothers of Jesus and also specifically Peter, were leading about or travelling with sisters and wives and this was quite permissible.
Why should we suppose that Peter was only leading around a wife and not a sister? 1 Cor. 9:5 seems to allow for any combination. To lead around a sister, to lead around a wife, or to lead around a sister and a wife as I believe Peter did.
The point of this passage is to say that it’s ok for families to travel together preaching. We know that such was the case with Jesus himself, his mother and sisters and brothers sometimes accompanied Him.
“And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things?” Mat. 13:56
“Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us?” Mark 6:3
If Mary Magdalene was the sister of both Andrew and Peter, then lots of small details make more sense. It would have been respectable for her to be travelling in the company of her brother Andrew to follow John the Baptist. It would make sense of her running to tell Peter and his wife (another disciple Jesus loved) about the empty tomb – they were family.
“Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. Then she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved (another disciple Jesus loved but not THE beloved disciple), and said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.” John 20:1-2
It would also explain why she’d be in a fishing boat with brother Peter and her sister in law in John 21, and the close bond which made Peter ask her the question at the last supper –
“One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, “Ask him which one he means.”
It also explains the episode in the fishing boat in John 21 – “Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” And Peter’s special interest in the beloved disciples’ fate –
“ Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”
Peter would have special interest in knowing what was to become of his sister.
Perhaps the words in the ‘Gospel of Mary Magdalene’ are referring to the brother and sister in the flesh as well as spiritual ‘brethren’. Although this is not a canonical gospel it still gives an insight into the thinking of the time.
“Then Mary stood up, greeted them all, and said to her brethren (perhaps this is to spiritual brethren), Do not weep and do not grieve nor be irresolute, for His grace will be entirely with you and will protect you. But rather, let us praise His greatness, for He has prepared us and made us into Men. When Mary said this, she turned their hearts to the Good, and they began to discuss the words of the Savior. Peter said to Mary, Sister we know that the Savior loved you more than the rest of woman. Then Mary wept and said to Peter, My brother Peter, what do you think? Do you think that I have thought this up myself in my heart, or that I am lying about the Savior?”
‘My brother Peter’ is an especially close greeting, perhaps reserved for a brother in the flesh.
As the unidentified disciple with Andrew in John 1, Mary would be in a position to record the personal events which she witnessed and were omitted from other records. For example, a fuller picture of the call of Peter and Andrew is given in the Fourth Gospel (by a firsthand witness who even records the time of day).
Jesus Calls Peter and Andrew
MATTHEW 4:18-22 “Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee. He saw two brothers. They were Simon (his other name was Peter) and Andrew, his brother. They were putting a net into the sea for they were fishermen. Jesus said to them, “Follow Me. I will make you fish for men!” At once they left their nets and followed Him.”
JOHN 1:39 “This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing…They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?” “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.”So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about four in the afternoon. Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter).”
This fuller account shows that Andrew and the other disciple (assuming it was Mary) began to follow Jesus before Peter. “When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus” John 1:37. This may seem trivial but shows that Mary Magdalene did not follow Peter but followed Jesus. The fact that Jesus called Peter a ‘rock’ was no more important than Mary being called a ‘tower’.
The church – the bride of Christ – is built on the foundation of all true disciples, symbolized by 12 (Rev. 21:14). The one we are to follow is Jesus.
“You are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called teachers, for you have one Teacher, the Messiah.” Matt. 23:8
ROAD TO EMMAUS
Two disciples are mentioned on the road to Emmaus. Only one male is named, Cleopas. It’s likely the unnamed disciple was ‘The wife of Clopas’ who had been present at the cross – another case of an unnamed disciple being a woman.
There is some variation of the Greek manuscripts in both John 19:25 and Luke 24 as to the spelling Κλ[ε]οπᾶς, and the John “Clopas” is rendered “Cleophas” in the KJV, so Cleopas and Clopas were likely the same.
IN THE COURTYARD
The Fourth Gospel is the only one, which records the presence of the extra disciple with Jesus when He was taken to Caiaphas. It records extraordinary detail. It’s the only record which mentions that He went to see the High Priest Annas first. It mentions a charcoal fire and that a girl ‘stared’ at Peter. Also, the name of the servant with his ear cut off is known (Malchus) and that he was related to the other servant. Only someone with firsthand knowledge could know these things.
KNOWN TO CAIAPHAS
“And following Jesus was Simon Peter and ANOTHER disciple, and that disciple was known to the chief priest, and he entered with Jesus to the hall of the chief priest, and Peter was standing at the door without, therefore went forth the other disciple who was known to the chief priest, and he spoke to the female keeping the door, and he brought in Peter.” John 18:15
Note: The beloved disciple of the cross and last supper is not referred to as ‘another’ disciple using the Greek word for ‘another’ used here.
We know that the disciples went from the last supper to the garden and then Peter and an unnamed disciple followed Jesus further. The disciple known to Caiaphas had been at the last supper, but I don’t believe they were ‘of the twelve’. We know from Acts 4 that this mysterious disciple was not John. John appears before Caiaphas and Caiaphas doesn’t appear to know him and is amazed at the learning of such an uneducated man. He only then notes that he had been with Jesus. This is not talking about a disciple known to Caiaphas.
“And it came to pass, on the next day, that their rulers, elders, and scribes, as well as Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the family of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem. And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, “By what power or by what name have you done this?…V 13 When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” Acts 4:5
It seems unlikely that any of the twelve disciples would have been known to Caiaphas. It is far more likely that it was Joanna whose association with Herod would also mean an association with the priests.
JOANNA & THEOPHOLIS
Joanna lived in Herod’s palace – the wife of Chuzza who was in charge of the household. She was wealthy and would have moved in the circles of the rich.
“And the twelve were with Him, and certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities—Mary called Magdalene, out of whom had come seven demons, and Joanna (Johanna) the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others who provided for Him from their substance.” Luke 8:2
The Herodians and Pharisees moved in the same circles so Joanna – part of the Herodian circle – would almost certainly be known to Caiaphas.
“Then the Pharisees went out and immediately plotted with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him.” Mark 3:6
It’s possible that Joanna was the granddaughter of Theopholis – the high priest a year or so after Caiaphas. This would explain her wealth and ability to move freely even to the hall of Caiaphas. This suggestion is based on the findings of an ossuary – speculative but interesting-
“Archeological evidence confirming the existence of Theophilus, as an ossuary has been discovered bearing the inscription, “Johanna granddaughter of Theophilus, the High Priest” . The details of this ossuary have been published in the Israel Exploration Journal. (D. Barag and D.Flusser, The Ossuary of Yehohanan Granddaughter of the High Priest Theophilus, Israel Exploration Journal, 36 (1986), 39-44)
Assuming this is the same Joanna, she would very likely have been in a position of familiarity with the palace of Caiaphas both from her connection to Herod’s palace, and as the granddaughter of Theopholis and great granddaughter of Annas. She would have no trouble entering the court of Caiaphas nor requesting that her fellow disciple came too. She would know that the servant who lost his ear was called Malchus – she would share this information with the narrator of the Fourth Gospel who may have accompanied her to see Caiaphas though not mentioning herself in the record.
If Joanna is the unnamed disciple who accompanied Jesus to see Caiaphas then she would be of note among the disciples, having been with Jesus from the beginning and a prime candidate as the ‘Junia’ of Romans 16. (Junia being the Latin form of Joanna)
It seems likely that there were several anonymous female disciples in the Fourth Gospel including Mary Magdalene, Joanna, the unnamed wife of Peter at the tomb and the wife of Cleopas on the road to Emmaus.
AT THE TOMB
Luke 24:11 gives the impression that Peter went to the tomb alone. If John had accompanied him it is strange that Luke doesn’t record it – Peter “wonders to himself”. Compare it to the record in the 4th Gospel where another ‘loved’ disciple outran Peter –
It seems logical that the other disciple in this passage who doesn’t get named is a woman, Peter’s wife. Mary Magdalene went to them in the early hours of the morning and they were together, staying in the same house. We know from 1 Cor. 9:5 that Peter’s wife accompanied him –
“Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?”
Jesus loved both Peter and his nameless companion. The word here for ‘loved’ is phileō. When it talks of ‘the disciple Jesus loved’ at the cross and last supper, the love is agapaō. ‘The Beloved Disciple’ was not the only loved disciple in the Fourth Gospel. They are identified from the other loved disciples by being the one who was close to the breast of Jesus at the last supper.
These are the first few verses of John 20 re-written with the presumption that Peter was with his wife – not from the Koine Greek perspective that unidentified people are males. My thoughts in brackets –
“Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. Then she ran and came to Simon Peter and to the other disciple Jesus loved (Peter’s wife), and said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.” Peter therefore went out, and the other disciple, and were going to the tomb. So they both ran together, and the other disciple outran Peter and came to the tomb first. And she, stooping down and looking in, saw the linen cloths lying there; yet did not go in (perhaps Peter carried a light which slowed down his running, she waited for him and she was scared to go in alone). Then Simon Peter came, following her, and went into the tomb; and he saw the linen cloths lying there, and the handkerchief that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself. Then the other disciple (a woman), who came to the tomb first, went in also; and saw and believed. For as yet they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead. Then the disciples went away to/by themselves (the word home is not in original).” (Mary Magdalene stayed at the tomb)
Note the early hour here. Mary went while it was still dark. It would be logical for Peter and his wife to be together.
Why would the author of the Fourth Gospel make disciples with prominent roles anonymous? I conclude it’s because, as women, their testimony would not count in a patriarchal society and they are not ‘witnessed’ by the authors of the other gospels.
JOHN HARDHEARTEDLY DISBELIEVED MARY
If John wrote the Fourth Gospel you would expect him to include his mistake of not believing those who proclaimed the risen Lord, not omit it.
Mark 16:9-16 records the details –
“He first appeared to Mary Magdalene, from whom He had cast out seven demons. She went and reported to those who had been with Him, … When they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they refused to believe it.”
Mark then explains that Jesus appeared to another two on the road to Emmaus who were also not believed. Then in v 14 he records the condemnation of those who didn’t believe and makes it clear it’s the eleven disciples (John being one of them) –
“Afterward He appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at the table; and He reproached them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who had seen Him after He had risen. And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.”
This incident is not about disciples who disbelieve for joy, (as in Luke 24:41) – It’s about disciples having ‘hardness of heart’ who refuse to believe those given authority by God to proclaim Him. As the author of the Fourth Gospel Mary omits the hurtful account of the eleven male disciples disbelieving her. Sometimes the evidence is in what is not said – a Beloved Disciple keeps no record of wrongs.
IN THE BOAT
John 21 records the fishing trip of seven disciples.
“Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.”
There are seven disciples in the boat. Five male disciples are named, two disciples are unidentified. It would seem likely that one of the unidentified disciples is Peter’s wife – unidentified here just as the extra disciple was unidentified at the tomb with Peter. The other disciple was Mary Magdalene the ‘Beloved Disciple’ in the boat. This was a spontaneous fishing trip amongst friends and family who were together.
It is unrealistic to believe that Peter was naked in the boat as some versions poorly translate this passage . It is more realistic that he put his outer garment back on which he had taken off for fishing. There is no reason why Peter’s wife and sister couldn’t have been in the boat with the men, just as women had travelled with them in Luke 8:1
“He went through every city and village, preaching and bringing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with Him, and certain women.”
EARLY CHRISTIAN WRITINGS
Early Christian writings apart from the New Testament indicate the importance of Mary Magdalene amongst the disciples. Regardless of the teachings, they are ancient texts showing the thinking of the time –
FROM THE GOSPEL OF PHILIP
“There were three who always walked with the Lord: Mary his mother and her sister and Magdalene, the one who was called his companion.”
“And the companion of [the saviour was Mar]y Ma[gda]lene. [Christ loved] M[ary] more than [all] the disci[ples, and used to] kiss her [?] on her [?]. The rest of [the disciples were offended by it and expressed disapproval]. They said to him “Why do you love her more than all of us?” The Saviour answered and said to them, “Why do I not love you like her? When a blind man and one who sees are both together in darkness, they are no different from one another. When the light comes, then he who sees will see the light, and he who is blind will remain in darkness.”
FROM THE GOSPEL OF MARY (Magdalene)
“Peter said to Mary, Sister, we know that the Savior loved you more than the rest of women. Tell us the words of the Savior which you remember – which you know (but) we do not, nor have we heard them.” Mary answered and said, “What is hidden from you I will proclaim to you.”…“I have left no commandment but what I have commanded you, and I have given you no law, as the lawgiver did, lest you be bound by it.”
Pistis Sophia, possibly dating as early as the 2nd century, records a long dialog with Jesus and a woman who is referred to as Mary or Mary Magdalene. Jesus says of Mary:
“Mary, thou blessed one, whom I will perfect in all mysteries of those of the height, discourse in openness, thou, whose heart is raised to the kingdom of heaven more than all thy brethren”.
The gospel of Mark tells us that seven demons had gone out of Mary Magdalene.
“When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons.” Mark 16:9
Why make this point? She is already identified by the title ‘Magdalene’. Perhaps there is a clue in Luke 8 where Mary Magdalene is the first named woman listed. This is due to her importance and does not mean that the infirmities cast out of the other women were the same thing as the ‘demons’ cast out of her.
“Now it came to pass, afterward, that He went through every city and village, preaching and bringing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with Him, and certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom had come seven demons, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others who provided for Him from their substance.” Luke 8:1-3
This passage lists the people who were with Jesus as He went through every city and village preaching the gospel. It includes –
Certain women healed of evil spirits and infirmities
Mary Magdalene – out of whom had come seven demons
Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward
Many others who provided for Him out of their substance
All the people in this list did not have illnesses cast out. Mark 16:9 also mentions Mary’s demons
“Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven demons”.
Casting out demons doesn’t have to mean casting out physical illness. It can also mean a wrong way of thinking.
Acts 17:18 translates the word ‘demons’ as gods –
“He seems to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached to them Jesus, and the resurrection.” Demons in this context means a type of belief, not an illness. In the same way the demons in 1 Cor.10 do not refer to an illness –
“You cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of demons: you cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of demons.” 1 Cor. 10:21
If these demons refer to a physical illness, then sick people cannot participate at the Lord’s table.
It makes sense that the demons cast out of Mary were not 7 illnesses, but were symbolic of her completeness as a Beloved Disciple. She could sit at the Lord’s table, in the place of honour, because her seven demons were gone.
Surely ‘Seven Demons’ is symbolic language. I think even Pope Gregory the 1st (591CE) almost got it right when he said “And what did these seven devils signify, if not all the vices?”
The number seven in Scripture often has the figurative meaning, ‘God’s perfect, finished work’. We are told that God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh, setting the pattern for seven to mean completion and perfection. In a similar manner, when the seven nations were wiped out of Israel it was the finished nation – God’s witness (it didn’t last, they failed).
“And when He had ‘destroyed’ (meaning to pull down – demolish) seven nations in the land of Canaan, He distributed their land to them by allotment.” Acts 13:19
The land of Israel had seven nations cast out of it by God. It was in a sense the wife of God who failed.
“Then I saw that for all the causes for which backsliding Israel had committed adultery, I had put her away and given her a certificate of divorce”. Jer. 3:8
Mary Magdalene – as the beloved disciple, was finished. Her seven demons were cast out and replaced by her seven lights. Israel had seven lights on their lampstand to be a light to the seven nations in the land they went into (they were supposed to ‘wipe them out’ by converting them to God). The record of seven miracles is in the Fourth Gospel “that we might believe”. Mary Magdalene represented the beloved disciple – the symbolic bride of Christ. She didn’t fail as Israel had.
When Jesus cast out her seven demons they were replaced with seven lights. She revealed seven insights with her ‘Seven Signs of the Gospel of John’.
The following table compares the seven miracles of the Fourth Gospel with the seven “I AM” statements. There seems to be a deliberate connection which demonstrates that the miracles themselves had a fuller symbolic meaning.
7 MIRACLES 7 ‘I AM’s
Water Into Wine 2:1-11
Water jars for the purification rituals now held wine I AM ‘The True Vine’ 15:1 15:3 “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.”
Healing the Official’s Son in
“Galilee of the Gentiles” 4:43-54
I AM ‘The Good Shepherd’ 10:11 Bringing in the Gentiles 10:16 “Other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.”
Healing at Pool of Bethesda at Sheep Gate 5:1-9
“There is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool” 5:5 “It is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your bed.” (Misapplication of Law by “those who came before”)
Sheep Gate = entry for God’s sheep into fold
Jesus was the Gate = the way into the fold
I AM ‘The Gate’ 10:9 10:8-10 “All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”
Feeding of the 5000 6:1-5
I AM ‘The Bread of Life’ 6:35 “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst”.
Walking on Water 6:16-25
Peter’s attempt to do what Jesus did I AM ‘The Way, the Truth, and the Life’ 14:6 14:12 “He who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also”.
Healing Man Born Blind 9:1-41
“As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world… and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay.” I AM ‘The Light of the World’ 8:12 “Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Raising Lazarus 11:1-44
“I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” I AM ‘The Resurrection and the Life’ 11:25 “Whoever lives by believing in me will never die”.
WHEN WAS IT WRITTEN?
John 5:2 speaks of the pool in Jerusalem in the present tense –
“Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool.”
Jerusalem was destroyed in AD70. The present tense indicates that the 4th Gospel was written before AD70 when there was still a pool near the sheep gate – not after the events of AD 70 when the sheep gate was destroyed with the rest of the city.
SYMBOL OF THE BRIDE
Most people are familiar with the symbology of the Last Supper which depicts Jesus as the Passover lamb. A second symbol is also present – that of the wedding betrothal as depicted by first century Jewish customs. The Father (God) paid the bride price with the blood of His Son. At the betrothal ceremony (Last Supper) the marriage covenant was established and the groom drank of the cup of wine. He gave it to His prospective bride and she too drank of it acknowledging her acceptance – she would drink the same cup he drank (the Beloved Disciple also laid down their life at the cross in service – see ‘At the Cross’) and all ‘Beloved Disciples’ must also drink the same cup.
It was fitting that the Beloved Disciple – in symbol also the Bride – should sit next to Jesus as the last supper. It was fitting that Jesus would say to Mary Magdalene at His resurrection “Don’t hold on to me yet, I haven’t ascended to my Father”. In other words – according to Jewish custom He had to go to His Father’s house to prepare the bridal chamber and return for the wedding ceremony before she could ‘cling’ to Him – the time was not yet. The marriage supper of the lamb is yet to be – the time when Jesus will again drink of the fruit of the vine as the final part of the wedding ceremony.
DISCIPLE JESUS LOVED – A SYMBOL
In symbol, we can all be ‘The Disciple Jesus Loved’ –
“Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.” John 14:21
Whenever Jesus refers to a woman by the title ‘Woman’ in the 4th gospel, there seems a strong connection to the pronouncement in Eden:
“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; it shall bruise your head, and you will bruise his heel. Unto the woman he said your desire (turning) will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” Genesis 3:15-16
What happened in Eden was a breakdown of relationships, especially with God, and it led to disobedience and sin.
The consequence for Eve was her pain in the child bearing process. She would turn to (desire) her husband. The logical meaning here would surely be that she was the one having children and caring for them. She would turn to her husband for help. He would give her help, but she would find herself dependant on him and ruled over.
The following passages in the Fourth Gospel seem to have the fate of the woman in mind, and also offer a way out of the curses of Eden by turning to Jesus.
John 2:4 “Jesus said to her (His mother), “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.”
-The destiny of the seed and the woman would play out at the right hour; it was the way of escape from the consequences of Eden. Compare this passage to John 19:26 –
“When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he said to his mother, Woman, behold your Son!”
-This was the hour of destiny for the woman and the seed. He was the Son who would free all people. Jesus also referred to the Samaritan woman as ‘Woman’ –
“Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.” John 4:21-21
-Place, race, gender no longer mattered, this woman was free in Christ, no longer ruled over.
John 8:10 “When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?”
-Jesus, the righteous judge, forgave rather than condemned. He freed her from these men.
Jesus also referred to Mary Magdalene as ‘Woman’
“Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking? … Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him, “Rabboni!” (Which is to say,Teacher).” John 20:15-16
She turned to Jesus – her desire was for Jesus – she was seeking Jesus – she was the Beloved Disciple who got it right.
As the ‘Beloved Disciple’, Mary Magdalene was the ‘bookends’ of Jesus’ ministry. She was the first of His disciples to follow Him, (based on the assumption that she was with Andrew at the start) and the first to see Him risen. On both occasions she addressed Him as ‘Teacher’ – showing she was a disciple wanting to learn. Jesus’ first recorded words in John are to her, (after noticing that he was being followed).
“They followed Jesus. Then Jesus turned, and seeing them following, said to them, “What do you seek? They said to Him, “Rabbi” (which is to say, when translated, Teacher), “where are You staying?” John 1:37-38
Jesus’ first words after His resurrection are also to Mary Magdalene, “Woman, why are you crying, who do you seek?” Jesus was making the point that she was seeking Him. She followed Him from the beginning to the end of His ministry. This is what beloved disciples do, they seek and follow Jesus. They do not seek the place of honour, they are given it. “The first shall be last and the last first”. To understand the real message of discipleship one has to see beneath the surface, to be ‘Born Again’.
At the cross, Mary Magdalene laid down her own life in service. Perhaps her most lasting act was to write the Fourth Gospel so that all Beloved Disciples who read her words would BELIEVE, and by believing have life in the name of Jesus.
See also: Case for Manaen as Author of Luke-Acts