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Gospel of Philip, The

Late-third-century Gnostic writing; one copy found at Nag Hammadi; not actually a gospel, but a collection of brief excerpts from other Gnostic writings; summarizes the views of followers of Gnostic leader Valentinus. Unlike many Gnostic documents, Gospel of Philip does not claim to have been written by an apostle; the book is called by his name simply because he is the only apostle mentioned in it.

The Da Vinci Code presents Gospel of Philip as primary proof that Jesus had a sexual relationship with Mary Magdalene. According to one character, it includes these words: "The companion of the Saviour is Mary Magdalene. Christ loved her more than all the disciples and used to kiss her often on her mouth." To this Dan Brown adds, "Any Aramaic scholar will tell you, the word companion, in those days, literally meant spouse" (246).

The words "on her mouth" do not appear in the original text; however, Gospel of Philip does include sentences similar to the rest of the quotation above. This does not necessarily imply a marital or sexual relationship; kissing was—and continues to be—an accepted greeting in Middle Eastern cultures. Furthermore, the word translated companion does not imply that Mary was Jesus' spouse. (See "companion," Aramaic word for.)

Most important, even if Gospel of Philip did claim Jesus and Mary were married, its testimony would still be questionable. The book's origins can be traced to the Gnostic community that arose several years after the death of Valentinus (c. 160); written more than a century after Jesus walked the earth, the book cannot represent eyewitness testimony about him. Some of the brief excerpts found in Gospel of Philip may stem from the early second century; however, the date of the final form of the book is closer to the late 200s.

It is also from this document that Dan Brown apparently derives some of his description of Hieros Gamos; Gospel of Philip mentions a "mirrored bridal chamber" where persons can receive "a male power or a female power," yet it's uncertain whether these phrases refer to a sexual act or to a spiritual union between humanity and the divine. If the phrase does refer to a sexual act, Gospel of Philip shows that it's not a frenzied group ritual (as The Da Vinci Code describes) but a physical union shared between husband and wife: "If a marriage is open to the public, it has become prostitution, and the bride plays the harlot not simply when she is impregnated by another man but even if she . . . is seen by another man." No early Christian writer considered this document to have any authority for believers or any place among the canonical Scriptures. See also "companion," Aramaic word for; Gnosticism; Hieros Gamos; Nag Hammadi; Valentinus.

Printed with permission from Bethany House Publishers, South Bloomington, Minnesota from the book "The Da Vinci Codebreaker : an easy-to-use fact checker for truth seekers" by James L. Garlow.

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  based on Dan Brown's novel The Da Vinci Code