Encomium on Mary Magdalene

Encomium in Mariam Magdalenam

Standard abbreviation: Encom. Mar.

Other titles: On Mary Magdalene

Clavis numbers: CANT 73, CPC 0118

Category: Pseudo-Apostolic Memoirs

Related literature: Cave of Treasures, Lament of Mary

Compiled by Christine Luckritz Marquis, Union Presbyterian Seminary (cluckritzmarquis@upsem.edu).

Citing this resource (using Chicago Manual of Style): Luckritz Marquis, Christine. “Encomium on Mary Magdalene.” e-Clavis: Christian Apocrypha. Accessed DAY MONTH YEAR. http://www.nasscal.com/e-clavis-christian-apocrypha/encomium-on-mary-magdalene/.

Posted July, 2016.


The Encomium on Mary Magdalene is a sermon composed by pseudo-Cyril, likely written in the late fifth or early sixth century in the name of the fourth century bishop of Jerusalem. The text consists of three fragmentary manuscripts from two codices. The sermon begins by praising the virginity of the Magdalene and explaining that the text is based on a “Life of Mary” the author found in a library in Egypt. Pseudo-Cyril then begins to narrate Mary’s youth, including a note that she is the aunt of the Virgin Mary and acted as her niece’s nurse. The story then jumps forward to Mary’s role in Jesus’ feeding of the four thousand, and her subsequent part in acquiring and burying Jesus’ body. The story of both Marys at the tomb then is retold based on a blending of Gospel narrations. Notably, similar to the Lament of Mary, it is the Virgin Mary who confuses Jesus with the gardener rather than the Magdalene. The homily continues by relaying the death of the Virgin, with the Magdalene present at her deathbed alongside the other disciples. After this scene, the sermon shifts to the Magdalene and her custodian Theophilus beseeching God for clarification of a scriptural passage. Mary’s prayer is answered by the arrival of the archangel Gabriel who, at Theophilus’s request, begins to explain the entire history of the world. At this point, Mary disappears as a character, leaving Theophilus as the sole recipient. The remainder of the extant homily consists of Gabriel’s revelation, and seems to be a Coptic witness to the Cave of Treasures tradition. The material overlaps with the Cave of Treasures from the creation of Adam and Eve to the baptism of Jesus, with a lacuna from the begetting of Nachor to the death of King Herod.

Named historical figures and characters:

Geographical locations:



3.1 Manuscripts and Editions

3.1.1 Coptic

Cairo, Institut français d’archéologie orientale (IFAO), Copt. inv. no. 186–187, 190–197 (11th-12th cent.), contains the opening of the sermon on folios 186–187, and material related to Cave of Treasures on folios 190–197.

Chaleur fragment (now in the possession of Gérard Godron) (9th/10th cent.), contains description of the Magdalene’s childhood and familial relations.

New York, Pierpont Morgan Library, Ms. 665(4), consisting of two pages, 2 and 7, with pages 3–6 missing (9th/10th cent.), contains material related to Cave of Treasures.

Chauleur, Sylvestre. “Deux pages d’un manuscrit sur la sainte Vierge.” Cahiers Coptes 12 (1956): 3–5.

Coquin, René-Georges, and Gérard Godron. “Un encomion copte sur Marie-Madeleine attribué à Cyrille de Jérusalem.” BIFAO 90 (1990): 169–212. (Edition and French translation of the IFAO manuscript along with the previous manuscript discoveries.)

Poirier, Paul-Hubert. “Fragments d’une version copte de la caverne de tresors.” Orientalia 52 (1983): 415–23. (Edition and translation of the Pierpont Morgan Library manuscript.)

3.2 Modern Translations

3.2.1 English

Luckritz Marquis, Christine. “Encomium on Mary Magdalene.” Pages 196–216 in vol. 1 of New Testament Apocrypha: More Noncanonical Scriptures. Edited by Tony Burke and Brent Landau. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2016. (Introduction with translation.)

3.2.2 French

Coquin, René-Georges, and Gérard Godron. “Un encomion copte sur Marie-Madeleine attribué à Cyrille de Jérusalem.” BIFAO 90 (1990): 169–212.


3.3 General Works

Broek, Roelof Van Den. Pseudo-Cyril of Jerusalem, On the Life and the Passion of Christ: A Coptic Apocryphon. Supplements to Vigiliae Christianae 118. Leiden: Brill, 2013.

Depuydt, Leo. Catalogue of Coptic Manuscripts in the Pierpont Morgan Library. Corpus of Illuminated Manuscripts 4, Oriental Series 1. Leuven: Peeters, 1993.

Grypeou, Emmanouela and Helen Spurling. The Book of Genesis in Late Antiquity: Encounters between Jewish and Christian Exegesis. Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2013.

Hyvernat, Henry and J. P. Morgan. A Checklist of Coptic Manuscripts in the Pierpont Morgan Library. New York: Private Printing, 1919.

Louis, Catherine. “Catalogue raisonné des manuscrits littéraires coptes conservés à l’IFAO du Caire. Contribution à la reconstitution de la bibliothèque du Monastère Blanc.” PhD diss., École Pratique des Hautes Études, Section des Sciences Religieuses, Paris, 2005 (See pp. 285–87).

Ri, Su-Min. Commentaire de la Caverne des Trésors: Étude sur l’histoire du texte et de ses sources. CSCO 581. Subsidia 103. Leuven: Peeters, 2000.

__________. La Caverne des Trésors: Les deux recensions syriaques. 2 vols. CSCO 486-487. Scriptores Syri 207–208. Leuven: Peeters, 1987.

Suciu, Alin. The Berlin-Strasbourg Apocryphon: A Coptic Apostolic Memoir (WUNT 370). Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2017 (pp. 78–79).

__________. “The Berlin-Strasbourg Apocryphon.” Pages 165–83 in vol. 1 of New Testament Apocrypha: More Noncanonical Scriptures. Edited by Tony Burke and Brent Landau. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2016.

Toepel, Alexander. “The Cave of Treasures.” Pages 531–84 in Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: More Noncanonical Scriptures. Vol. 1. Edited by Richard Bauckham, et al. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2013.