Next, much has also been made of the “interval” between Jesus and the disciple to his immediate right. Believers ardently insist Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married and that she, not the Apostle John, is the one referred to as “the disciple Jesus loved” (Jn 13:23). Leonardo, it is claimed, in possession of this knowledge and knowing that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married deliberately painted the person to Jesus’ right as leaning away from him so as to provide a future clue to those who would understand it.
The “space” between Jesus and the disciple, proponents of this theory are quick to emphasize, is in the shape of a ”V”
Nothing is said, however, about the smaller but still just as much a ”V”
to the left
of Jesus as being symbolic on the basis of the same standards claimed for the one to his right.
shape, Dan Brown has us informed through his characters, is supposed to represent the ancient symbol of womanhood, the womb, and thereby the real
“chalice”. Mary Magdalene being thus proclaimed in “The Da Vinci Code” as the real
“Holy Grail”, is claimed to be the carrier of Jesus’ unborn child. Some will harken back to Sophie Nuvue’s comment towards the end of the movie relating to the prophesied appearance of the “male heir” that “they just got the pronoun wrong”. This is a story long carried along by the winds of Gnosticism.
Others will argue statements regarding the inclusion or exclusion of extant writings represent a “conspiracy theory” approach that the church went into the Greek Text and changed all those references from female to male. Again, it depends upon what one wants
to believe, but there is one sentence in the NT Gospels account against which it is much more difficult to mount such an attack. More on that at the end of the post.
Those that debunk the ministry and even the existence of Jesus of Nazareth consider the writings of the New Testament as having no more validity than the Gnostic gospels. To them, a great conspiracy occurred in and around 325 CE during which time Gnostic Gospels such as the ”Gospel of Mary Magdalene” (see notes 4 & 5)
and other such writings were suppressed and kept out of the bible “Canon” now expanded to include the grouping of “new testimonial” writings ultimately known simply as “The New Testament”.
The “discarded” writings, it was said by those doing the deciding, did not give evidence of being “inspired” (Gr: “theopneustos“ - God-Breathed”) whereas those accepted into the Canon did. To those in opposition and even to this day, this argument sounds disingenuous. They believe the real reason these writings were banned was because they contained material contradictory to the gospel accounts attributed to (even though the writings are anonymous) Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and other NT writers.
Who is right…and can anyone prove it to the satisfaction of either opposing side?
Probably not – but there are intriguing possibilities.
Gnosticism is the quintessential example of syncretism!!
The Gnostic concept of “belief” was always a “work-in-progress”, ever freely adopting, absorbing, and redacting whatever aspects of any religion they encountered. into their own belief-matrix. Elements of Gnosticism can be traced as being widely dispersed even before the Gnostics encountered and began the syncretism of Christian beliefs into their own doctrines. The interaction with Christianity and the writings discovered at Nag Hammadi date from about the second century.
One important element to consider regarding the application of either "set of gospels" in the effort to identify the "disciple Jesus loved", is to determine which group has the better pedigree, the better archeological and/or historically-based seniority.
The earliest fragments of any of the NT Gospel accounts date from as early as 65 CE to 100 CE whereas the earliest fragments of the “Gnostic Gospels” date around the Second Century (101 to 200 CE). That leaves us with the “Gospel Accounts” of the Christian New Testament traditionally attributed to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John as being older than the competing Gnostic Gospels.
This writer anticipates that the “elder status” of the Christian Gospel accounts being applied to the task of identifying the “disciple Jesus loved” will be accorded no great weight by some readers judging from comments here and elsewhere expressing their beliefs (or lack thereof) in the veracity of the Hebrew and Christian texts. The simple fact remains, however, that the Christian gospel accounts are the oldest record from which to “rule-in” or “rule-out” that Mary Magdalene was or was not the disciple seated to Jesus’ right as painted by Leonardo da Vinci in “The Last Supper”.
When we investigate the NT Gospel account regarding the “beloved disciple” or “the disciple Jesus loved” – we at once see the gender of the pronoun used is masculine.
- Jn 13:23: There was reclining on Jesus' bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved
- Jn 13:24: So Simon Peter gestured to him, and said to him, "Tell us who it is of whom He is speaking."
- Jn 21:20: Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; the one who also had leaned back on His bosom at the supper and said, "Lord, who is the one who betrays You?"
- Jn 21:21: So Peter seeing him said to Jesus, "Lord, and what about this man?"
- Jn 21:22: Jesus said to him, "If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!"
- Jn 21:23: Therefore this saying went out among the brethren that that disciple would not die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but only, "If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you?"
Now notice what the writer of this account says next:
This is the disciple who is testifying to these things and wrote these things, and we know that his testimony is true
So the writer of this account self-identifies by association with the preceding verses as the individual being referred to as “him
”, the “disciple Jesus loved”, who had leaned back towards Jesus and asked “Who is it?”. The writer goes on to assure that the testimony being given about all of this is true.
Knowing there are those who will still dispute on every point herein, it is again stated that the fact remains until textual evidence to the contrary is presented that is both older and more reliable than what has been discovered to date, the identity of the “disciple Jesus loved” cannot be established as being Mary Magdalene from Gnostic writings in contradiction to the older Christian text found especially in the Fourth Gospel as the following demonstrates.Finally, a separation of identity between Mary Magdalene and “the disciple Jesus loved” is plainly stated as follows:
Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb, while it was still dark, and saw the stone already taken away from the tomb. So she ran and came to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and said to them, "They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him."
What conclusion might we reach then - based upon everything considered thus far plus the oldest available documentation?
First, Leonardo often painted young men such as John the Baptist, Tobias, and the disciple to Jesus’ right with feminine features so this does not in and of itself identify that figure as being female as many propose. Leonardo da Vinci’s portrayal of the disciple to Jesus’ right in “The Last Supper, therefore, was a youthful male
apostle depicted with feminine characterics as he had done so often before (including a seperate painting of the John The Baptist previously demonstrated and referenced below).
Secondly - and piviotal
to the identification of the disciple in question, Mary Magdalene – did not run to herself
at Jn 21:1, 2, in announcing that Jesus’ body was missing from the tomb, she ran to “the disciple Jesus loved”
then, she was not one and the same disciple
who had leaned back upon Jesus’ chest from where he was seated at the table for “The Last Supper”.
Mary Magdalene - was not the disciple that Leonardo painted to Jesus' right, it was the youthful Apostle John.....and Grrr82CU .