“Was Martha of Bethany Added to the Fourth Gospel in the Second Century?”
Scholar of John’s Gospel, Elizabeth Schrader, will be at the Chapel with us on Sunday, April 30 at 4 pm. Libby will be presenting on her findings about Mary Magdalene in John’s Gospel. Read more below.
Biblical scholar Elizabeth Schrader discovered something fascinating. In John 11, Jesus is raises Lazarus, and our contemporary sources say that Lazarus two sisters, Mary and Martha. As Elizabeth began looking at the oldest copy of John’s Gospel available, Papyrus 66, she discovered clear tinkering with the text that suggests Martha was added to the text. When she began to look at other texts, Schrader saw that a full third of the most ancient manuscripts of the Gospel of John show clear evidence of tinkering with the text. Moreover, as she looked at ancient Christian art, it was clear that there was only one sister. In fact, the first edition of the King James version of the bible did not include Martha. Early Christian patristic writers also point at one sister. Could it be that Mary of Bethany is Mary Magdalene? There is evidence to suggest that Mary of Bethany is indeed Magdalene, and that would mean that Magdalene is the one who makes the Christological confession, “Yes Lord, we believe that you are the Christ, the one who is coming into the world,” in parallel to Peter’s Christological confession in the synoptic Gospels. John’s account of the resurrection of Jesus, with Mary Magdalene at the center already makes Magdalene take a preeminent place in John’s gospel. She is the first and primary witness to the resurrection who goes and tells the male disciples. And if indeed she is the sister who makes the Christological confession, we may have insight into an attempt to suppress the role and ministry of Mary Magdalene in specific, and women in general in the second century church that is rapidly adopting the norms of Roman society which has no place for the role of women. So important are Schrader’s findings, that the Nestle – Aland group that controls the base Greek text of the New Testament used across the world – is currently considering Schrader’s scholarship for their next edition of the Greek New Testament.