by Yuri Kuchinsky

This is Part 3 of my article

Now I will continue to present the new textual evidence that I've discovered. More support in Western/Peripheral texts is now found for the Secret Gospel of Mark fragments that Morton Smith had discovered in 1958 in Mar Saba monastery.

Similarly to the Secret Mark, in the Magdalene Gospel there's also a closer relationship between Jesus and Lazarus.

Just like in the previous case, this particular variant feature of the Magdalene Gospel also appears to be quite systemic and thoroughgoing, i.e. it is expressed in a whole range of passages within this episode. And, moreover, as we shall soon see, this particular feature of the MG also finds multiple support in some other versions of the Diatessaron -- the fact that has never been noted before specifically by any Diatessaronic scholar!

Now, of course, in his writings, Morton Smith tried to make a great deal out of this particular feature of the SMk. He really liked this idea that Jesus may have enjoyed some sort of special relationships with his chosen disciples.

And yet, even in the SMk, it's not really all that clear what sort of a special relationship it might really be. Much can be read into this SMk account, no doubt, if one so desired, but any explicitness is lacking there, on the whole.

So one can even say that this "special friendship" between Jesus and Lazarus is left largely undefined both in the SMk and in MG. And also, let us not forget that, even in the canonical Johannine account, some sort of special relationship with Lazarus is there as well... The differences that are there between all these accounts -- both canonical and non-canonical -- are often quite subtle, so this also needs to be taken into account.

And yet, still and all, it's clear that, compared to the canonical version of this narrative, both SMk and the MG put a lot more stress on this general theme of a special relationship between Jesus and Lazarus. Such a closer relationship is definitely there, in both SMk and the MG.

So let us first comb the canonical Johannine account for any indications of an intimate personal friendship between Jesus and Lazarus. The relevant phrases are underlined below.

(JOHN 11:3 canonical RSV) So the sisters sent to him, saying, "Lord, _he whom you love is ill_."
(JOHN 11:5) Now Jesus _loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus_.
(JOHN 11:11) Thus he spoke, and then he said to them, "_Our friend Lazarus_ has fallen asleep..."
(JOHN 11:36) So the Jews said, "See _how he loved him_!"

Thus, we have 4 such items here altogether -- that's quite a few...

And now, I will quote all such passages from the Magdalene Gospel, Chapter 80. Some of these seem exactly in parallel with the canonical text, but others are not, or only partially so.

The passages that touch upon this theme come in 3 large blocks of the Magdalene text. So here's the first block.

(THE MAGDALENE GOSPEL 80:1) Now, as Jesus was across the river Jordan in hiding, it came to pass that _one of his friends_, by the name of Lazarus, who was the brother of Martha, and of Mary Magdalene, _beloved especially by Jesus_, was lying sick and anguishing in Bethany, a mile from Jerusalem.
(2) And Lazarus' sisters sent to Jesus, and begged that he would come and comfort _his friend_.

-- So there are 3 items already in the above block; the first two of these are generally in parallel to the canonical John 11:3 and 11:5, while the third one, the reference to Lazarus as a "friend of Jesus" in MG 80:2 is unique to MG.

We can also take a note here, in the Magdalene text, of the unusual phrase "beloved _especially_ by Jesus", which seems to accentuate this special relationship that we're now analysing. There's no parallel in the canonical John for this word "especially".

And here's the second block.

(THE MAGDALENE GOSPEL 80:7) And then he told them that _his friend Lazarus_ was asleep, and that he will go and awake him.
(8) And they said that, if he was asleep, this was a sign of recovery.
(9) And then Jesus told them plainly that he was dead. And he told them that it was [even] better that he was not there [at the time], lest they would have been tempted, and shaken in their faith, [as may have happened] had they seen _his friend_ die in his presence.
(10) "But let us go to him now," he said
(11) And then, St. Thomas said to his fellows, "Let us go now, and die with our master. Because he will be _his friend_ [indeed], who will volunteer to go with him readily against his enemies."

-- Thus, we have 3 more relevant items above, only the first of which is paralleled in the canonical Jn 11:11.

And here is the last block, that contains two more such items.

(THE MAGDALENE GOSPEL 80:27) And then some of them said, It sure appeared like _he loved him a lot_
(28) But others there said that it was odd that he could not protect _his friend's life_, while being able to give eyesight to a stranger.

-- Thus, we have 2 more items above, the first of which is parallel to the canonical Jn 11:36, while the last remaining one is unique to MG.

And so, we find that, altogether, there is the total of 8 such items in the MG! The canonical text, on the other hand, features only 4.

Of course there's still a lot more that can be done to analyse each of these 8 passages in detail, and to compare them with their canonical parallels, but this would be a separate long essay in its own right. For now, it's enough to say that this special friendship between Jesus and Lazarus is definitely far more accented in the MG and in the SMk, compared to the canonical text of John.

And now, we will see that this unusual feature of the Magdalene Gospel also happens to be supported elsewhere in the Diatessarons, as well as in some other Western/Peripheral gospel MSS -- which makes it quite clear that this was not some sort of an accidental or quixotic feature of the Magdalene manuscript alone.

CASE #5 (APPENDIX): Additional supporting evidence for this same feature in other Western/Peripheral MSS

It sure seems like Morton Smith, even with such a pronounced interest as he had in investigating this particular theme in the SMk, still remained unaware on any of this additional relevant evidence that has been available in a variety of Western/Peripheral MSS.

Indeed, it turns out that some Diatessarons, as well as some other Western/Peripheral gospel MSS also support this feature of both the Secret Gospel of Mark, and of the Magdalene Gospel -- the theme of a specially close relationship between Jesus and his disciple Lazarus.

Most of the evidence that follows has already been itemised by D. Plooij in his textual commentary on the Dutch Diatessaron -- a work of immense learning and scope. Yet, unfortunately, so far, hardly anybody has studied this nearly 800 page volume in detail, or appreciated its true significance, or at least that's how it seems to me... With his _many thousands_ of detailed comparisons, Plooij had thoroughly demonstrated that it is the ancient Aramaic gospels that happen to be the closest surviving relatives of these very unusual medieval MSS, the Dutch Diatessaron, and the Magdalene Gospel. While the exact historical explanation for these extraordinary textual connections may still remain unclear, the hard evidence for them is right there, as laid out by Plooij, for all the world to see... If only the NT scholarship world at large was paying attention...

So here's the list of 5 such items -- the passages that, on the whole, tend to indicate a stronger and closer relationship between Jesus and Lazarus, compared to how their relationship is portrayed in the canonical John. (These items will now be numbered consecutively from 1 to 5.)

1. (JOHN 11:3 canonical RSV) So the sisters sent to him, saying, "Lord, _he whom you love is ill_."

(THE MAGDALENE GOSPEL 80:2) And Lazarus' sisters sent to Jesus, and begged that he would come and comfort _his friend_.

Now, in this case, on the surface of it, it may look like the canonical version here isn't really all that different in meaning from the Magdalene version. They both say more or less the same thing, although in different words.

But it's this difference in wording that is especially important now, from my perspective, because it is this specific wording in the Magdalene text -- namely, the words "his friend" -- that also finds textual support in some other Diatessarons.

And so, the main value of this particular comparison, then, is to demonstrate the antiquity of this specific divergent passage in the Magdalene Gospel. The words "his friend", that are found here in the MG, were not really something that an immediate author or translator of the MG might have just added on his own volition. Because it now turns out that the following 2 Diatessarons also feature the word "friend" in this passage.

(DUTCH DT, pp. 540-541 in Plooij) These [the sisters] sent to Jesus and summoned him thus, "Lord, _thy friend_ Lazarus is sick."

(PERSIAN DT, p. 235 in Messina, ed.) "O, Lord, _your friend_ is ill."
("O Signore, il tuo amico e infermo.")

(Taking into consideration, as was already mentioned before, that the MG typically prefers to use the third person narrative, rather than direct narrative, "his friend" in the MG can be seen as an exact equivalent of "thy friend" in the Dutch DT, and "your friend" in the Persian DT.)

Plooij didn't comment on this unusual similarity between the Dutch DT and MG. But, of course, he didn't as yet have access to the Persian DT, so, without any further backing, he may have thought that such a similarity might have just been accidental.


Next, let us consider the following two unusual Western/Peripheral parallels to the canonical Jn 11:5.

(JOHN 11:5 canonical RSV) Now Jesus _loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus_.

It turns out that Plooij discovered, and listed in his Commentary the following two features among various Western/Peripheral MSS that are relevant to our theme.

2. Plooij notes that some Old Latin MSS of Jn 11:5 (e a d) read /amabat/ instead of the canonical /diligebat/. The word /amabat/, of course, is generally thought to express a more intense form of love, as compared to /diligebat/. And, along the same lines, the Greek Codex Bezae -- this very important Greek WP text -- also uses the word /efilei/ in this passage, instead of the canonical /egapa/.

3. Also, Plooij notes that in certain Old Latin MSS of Jn 11:5 (e a c ff2), the canonical order of "Martha, her sister, Lazarus" has been reversed, and Lazarus is listed first, rather than last. This certainly tends to imply that Jesus' affection for Lazarus was stronger than for his sisters.


Now, the following divergent feature is found only in the Venetian Diatessaron.

4. (JOHN 11:11 canonical RSV) Thus he spoke, and then he said to them, "_Our friend_ Lazarus has fallen asleep...

And this is what the Venetian Diatessaron has in this passage.

(VENETIAN DIATESSARON, p. 117) "Our _dear_ friend sleeps..."
(Le nostro _caro_ amigo dorme...)

Thus, once again, a closer relationship between Jesus and Lazarus is indicated in yet another important Diatessaronic version, the Venetian Diatessaron. (Plooij didn't note this interesting variant in his Commentary.)


5. (JOHN 11:14 canonical RSV) Then Jesus told them plainly, "Lazarus is dead..."

But, also, according to Plooij, the following very important Western/Peripheral witnesses happen to add the words /amicus noster/ = "our friend" to this passage,

Ephrem the Syrian
Codex Bezae (both Greek and Latin sides of it)
Old Latin MS p

Thus, once again, we see that the Western/Peripheral versions of the Raising of Lazarus tend to indicate a closer relationship between Jesus and Lazarus. And, in this last comparison, we have the support from Ephrem the Syrian, which indicates that this feature was very ancient indeed.

This concludes our textual analysis of the Raising of Lazarus episode in the Secret Mark, and in various Western/Peripheral texts.

What will follow next will be some additional analysis of the Secret Gospel of Mark fragments, as supplied in Clement's letter. There are actually some more connections there between SMk and a variety of Western/Peripheral texts of the gospels.

[End of Part 3]

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