Remember that 1980s cough syrup commercial when Chris Robinson said, “I’m not a doctor, but I play one on TV”? I wanted to paraphrase these immortal words when I read what actor Joaquin Phoenix of “Gladiator” fame said about his role as Jesus in the movie, “Mary Magdalene.” Phoenix is not the Son of Man, but he plays him on the big screen. His is a very different Jesus than the one we meet in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
Judging by the trailer and the press roll-out, the movie drew heavily on a second-century Gnostic text known as “the Gospel of Mary.” In a recent interview with Newsweek, Phoenix slammed early Christianity for not canonizing this and other apocryphal writings about Jesus, saying: “Why was Mary’s book not included in the Bible? The stench of blatant sexism,” he says, is “inescapable.”
Phoenix went even further in another interview: “Somebody made that decision to exclude [Mary Magdalene’s] observations and feelings about the life of Christ and her experience. There seems to have been an overt intention to exclude women from that process.”
The truth is, no one excluded Mary Magdalene’s experiences. Scholars universally agree that she didn’t write this so-called gospel. Along with other texts like “the Apocryphon of John,” and “the Sophia of Jesus Christ,” “the Gospel of Mary” was never recognized by the Church as part of the New Testament. The reason is that it is an obvious forgery. The Gospel of Mary is a work of fan-fiction by members of a false religion who attempted to co-opt Jesus for their own purposes. True to the pattern of other Gnostic texts, the “Gospel of Mary” claims that Jesus delivered a private revelation to its namesake that radically contradicts the canonical gospels.
Even more, the Mary Magdalene revealed in the Bible is the best response we have to the accusation that early Christianity was sexist. Recall that she is reported as the first witness of the risen Lord — a claim that would have scandalized first-century Jewish readers.
In that culture, the testimony of a woman was considered worthless, yet she and several other women were entrusted to take the message of Christ’s resurrection back to His disciples, and those disciples were hesitant to believe them. If the four gospels were written to make Jesus’ male followers look good at the expense of the women, they did a lousy job.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, John Stonestreet and G. Shane Morris