or “Is the premise of The DaVinci Code really true?”
The New Testament (revised version)
We’ve already covered Peter’s blatant hostility to Mary Magdalene in the Gospel of Thomas. His lack of status compared to Mary Magdalene is indirectly referred to in the bible as well. For example, Mary’s fidelity to Jesus is indisputable — but poor Peter is the one who suffers a panic attack and fearfully denies Jesus three times before the cock crows, in the courtyard of Annas, the High Priest’s father-in-law.
A question which has always bothered me: why do we revere such a coward and false friend, but ignore or denigrate Mary Magdalene — the person Jesus himself chose as the “Apostle to the Apostles”? Could it be we also are sharing in Simon Peter’s psychoses? Isn’t it time to drop that emotional sickness, and be more like Jesus himself?
Interestingly, Simon Peter had to have the disciple Jesus loved (Mary Magdalene?) intercede for him just so he could simply hang out with the servants in Annas’ courtyard. It was the disciple Jesus loved who was able to enter the house to talk to the also-nobly-born Annas. How this must have rankled to the “hot tempered” Peter!
Unfortunately, he posthumously has the last word on women — at least from a biblical viewpoint — stating flatly women should always be “submissive” to their husbands. Despite Jesus’ actual teachings, despite the presence of Mary Magdalene and other female apostles — to Peter a woman should have no more freedom or self-determination within the church than without.
I always wonder what marvelous religious teachings we lost due to the insecurities of Peter and other male religious teachers. It’s rather sad he had the metaphorical last word, in that Mary Magdalene (the most brilliant and enlightened of the apostles) has had her words carefully struck from the books of the bible, so this simple, rather childish peasant could be given pre-eminence.
The New Testament’s actual authors and editors
The New Testament is in the same stylistic situation as the Old Testament, regarding its various books being repeatedly rewritten. While it wasn’t created quite so long ago, it too was based on oral traditions and letters selected by the vagaries of time and various editors — as the textual examples above demonstrate.
Also, initially nothing was written down because everyone expected Jesus to return literally any day. This led to a surprising fact most people don’t know — none of the true authors of the New Testament actually met Jesus!
Paul was the closest chronologically to Jesus, although he also never met the man. What we have from him are extensive letters wherein he encourages various members of the new, fledgling little sect. He also scolds Peter for fence-sitting concerning some religious dogma squabbles Paul is having with Jesus’ brother James. Once again, in this argument between Paul and James, poor Peter demonstrates what a dreadful leader he is. He hasn’t the strength of will to do more than simply agree with whomever he’s last talked to.
It’s clear Paul wasn’t aware of the Gospels, nor were their authors aware of Paul’s work. Interestingly, the Gospels (and several of Paul’s purported letters) were written via “inspiration,” a common conceit of the time — someone would write down what they felt the spirit of an earlier, usually deceased famous person was dictating to them.
The lack of recognition between Paul and the authors of the Gospels isn’t surprising once you realize the large variance in the dates the Gospels were written. The earliest is Mark at about 65 CE (Common Era), while John is usually dated at about 95 to 100 CE. Here’s another Straight Dope article dedicated to the Pauline and Gospel scriptures, which is also well worth reading — as is their excellent review of how and when the various books of the New Testament were compiled.
We’ve lost whatever might have been written by Jesus’ brothers (such as James, who as we’ve noticed greatly disagreed with some of Paul’s teachings) due to the Romans practically leveling Jerusalem in 70 CE in retribution for rebellious activities. However, that incident has helped us more accurately date the writing time of the various Gospels. For a single, simple example, if they refer to the razing of Jerusalem, obviously they were written after that incident occurred.