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Humanities Honors Program

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The Gospel of Mary: Reclaiming Feminine Narratives Within Books Excluded from the Bible

Creative Commons 'BY' version 4.0 license

Religious history is often preserved by the winners of ideological debates. The twenty-seven books composing the New Testament canon were selected by prevailing players in the battle for ideological supremacy within the early Christian movement and the emerging Catholic Church. The struggle culminated with an accepted definition of orthodoxy and a tradition of apostolic succession for legitimizing religious texts. The Gospel of Mary is an early Christian text deemed unorthodox by the men who shaped the nascent Catholic church, was excluded from the canon, and was subsequently erased from the history of Christianity along with most narratives that demonstrated women’s contributions to the early Christian movement. My thesis explores the intricacies of early canon formation within the context of the controversy surrounding women’s participation in authoritative roles within early Christianity and how the Gospel of Mary was labeled as an unorthodox text due to its pro-feminine narrative. I maintain that the motive for excluding the Gospel of Mary was not the text’s lack of conformity to the requirements of apostolic succession or orthodoxy, but was grounded within the struggle to suppress the agency and participation of women from the patriarchal hierarchy that defined the developing structure of the Catholic Church. I claim the exclusion of the gynocentric narrative of the Gospel of Mary facilitated the androcentric interpretation of religious doctrine and history that has predominated Christian scholarship for almost two millennia.

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