Bob Dylan And Gnosticism (Part III): The Gospel Of Mary Magdalene

by Larry Fyffe

Untold it is by Dylanologists that the singer/song writer makes quite a few references to Gnostic writings:

Hot chili peppers in the blistering sun
Dust on my face and my cape
Me and Magdalena on the run
I think this time we shall escape
(Bob Dylan: Romance In Durango)

Gnostic writers express, in their metaphorical and allegorical style, the search for Goodness that is to be found by getting in touch with the light of the One Spirit, the united God/Goddess, by escaping from the darkness of the physical world:

And God saw the light, that it was good
And God divided the light from the darkness
(The Book Of Genesis 1:4)

The mythological Apollo, the God of the Sun; his sister, Diana, the Goddess of the Moon; and Jesus, and his faithful follower Mary Magdalene of the Christian Bible, serve as symbols in these writings:

The soul answered and said, I saw you.
You did not see me nor recognize me
I served you as a garment and you did not know me
(The Gospel Of Mary Magdalene 8)

That Mary Magalene does not recognize Jesus, who is about to escape from the dark tomb of material existence, is present in the canon of the Holy Bible as well:

Jesus saith unto her, Women, why weepest thou
Whom seekest thou?
She supposing him to be the gardener
Saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence
Tell me where thou laid him, and I will take him away
(Book Of St. John 20:15)

God is depicted as the father of Jesus while his mother is human, in the Judeo-Christian Bible:

Touch me not, for I am not yet ascended
But go to my brethren, and say unto them
I will ascend unto my Father
And to my God, and your God
(Book Of St. John 20:17)

Gnostic authors write in a mystical manner that leaves it up to the reader to untangle meaning; so does Bob Dylan:

As I walked out tonight in the mystic garden
The wounded flowers were dangling from the vines
I was passing by yon cold and crystal fountain
Someone hit me from behind ….
As I walked out in the mystic garden
On a hot summer day, hot summer lawn
Excuse me ma’am I beg your pardon
There’s no one here, the gardener is gone
(Bob Dylan: Ain’t Talkin’)

A plausible interpretation of the above lyrics: On her second trip to the tomb, this time during the day, the person that Mary Magdalene had thought to be the gardener, has now completely escaped from his material body – an imaginative and creative reworking of a biblical story, typical of the singer/songwriter.

In the Gnostic piece, Mary Magdalene tells the disciples what the “Savior” reveals to her:

From this time on will I attain
To the rest of the time
Of the season
Of the eon
In silence
(The Gospel Of Mary Magdalene 8)

As for the physical Jesus, He ain’t talkin’ anymore:

And the disciples come to respect Mary Madalene because Jesus trusted her and confides in her:

My love she speaks like silence
Without ideals or violence
She doesn’t have to say she’s faithful
Yet she’s true like ice, like fire
(Bob Dylan: Love Minus Zero)

What else is on the site

1: Over 450 reviews of Dylan songs.  There is an index to these in alphabetical order below on this page, and an index to the songs in the order they were written in the Chronology Pages.

2: The Chronology.  We’ve taken all the songs we can find recordings of and put them in the order they were written (as far as possible) not in the order they appeared on albums.  The chronology is more or less complete and is now linked to all the reviews on the site.  We have also recently started to produce overviews of Dylan’s work year by year.     The index to the chronologies is here.

3: Bob Dylan’s themes.  We publish a wide range of articles about Bob Dylan and his compositions.  There is an index here.  A second index lists the articles under the poets and poetic themes cited – you can find that here.

4:   The Discussion Group    We now have a discussion group “Untold Dylan” on Facebook.  Just type the phrase “Untold Dylan” in, on your Facebook page or follow this link 

5:  Bob Dylan’s creativity.   We’re fascinated in taking the study of Dylan’s creative approach further.  The index is in Dylan’s Creativity.

6: You might also like: A classification of Bob Dylan’s songs and partial Index to Dylan’s Best Opening Lines

And please do note   The Bob Dylan Project, which lists every Dylan song in alphabetical order, and has links to licensed recordings and performances by Dylan and by other artists, is starting to link back to our reviews.

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