St Mary Magdalen, lost and found.

I’ve just been reading in the Independent about the ‘Gospel of Jesus’s Wife’, as this papyrus fragment has been known since its discovery two years ago. Dr Karen L King, Professor of Divinity at Harvard, unveiled it at the 10th International Congress of Coptic Studies in Rome in 2012.


The lines are written in Coptic – the Egyptian language that was the key to the Rosetta Stone inscription – and they include the phrases ‘she will be able to be my Disciple’ and ‘Jesus said to them, My wife…’

Cue deafening howls of excitement and/or outrage. It reminded me of something my brother said at his wedding: ‘the first time you say ‘my wife’ it really does bring the house down.’

Now the papyrus has been scientifically tested and dated to 600 – 900AD, establishing that it is not a modern fake, and – at the very least – suggesting that there was an Early Church tradition that Jesus was married.

I was glad to read it because Christ’s wife would be St Mary Magdalen; her potency as an image in Western Art feels like a ghost of the importance she may once have had in the Early Church, before the role of women was rigidly redefined by St Paul, or Saul.

I am, of course, especially fond of her (or Her?) because of the Magdalen by Thomas Hudson that I’ve used as the header on this site. I’ll post on it properly soon. I discovered the painting miscatalogued at an auction in Ireland last year. It is Hudson’s earliest known work, probably a portrait of his wife Mary Richardson painted before their marriage in 1725.

Hudson’s Magdalen seems to have vanished from the record after the artist’s posthumous sale at Christie’s in 1785. I contacted Christie’s to see if there is any information about the buyer. They very kindly replied, saying that the handwriting in the auctioneer’s book was difficult to read. The buyer’s name is Saul. Or Paul.

3 thoughts on “St Mary Magdalen, lost and found.

  1. Your world stretches so far around the globe and across time, you must have been one of my many successful English students in Cabot Cove, Maine.

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