Skip to main content

Who framed Mary Magdalene?

Heidi Schlumpf

How the first witness to Christ's Resurrection was made into a prostitute,
and how women today are restoring her reputation.

It all comes down to the Resurrection. Twenty centuries of Christianity"”and the faith of billions"”rest on this singular event. And who is the primary witness to this momentous miracle, the first person to whom Jesus revealed himself? It would seem that fact would be such an essential element of the faith that all Christians should be able to respond without even thinking"”as they do to similar questions, like "Who is Jesus' mother?" or "Which apostle betrayed Jesus?"
Reducing one of the most important leaders of the early church to a prostitute has exacted a price for women by feeding into the notion that women are either madonnas or whores.

But the first witness to the Resurrection"”as all four gospel writers agree"”was a woman whose name and reputation have become so misunderstood, misinterpreted, and misconstrued over the centuries that she is more commonly, though erroneously, remembered as a prostitute than as the faithful first bearer of the Good News.

That woman is Mary of Magdala, and, finally, her centuries-old case of mistaken identity is being rectified.

Now that scripture scholars have debunked the myth that she and the infamous repentant sinner who wiped Jesus' feet with her tears are one and the same woman, word is trickling down that Mary Magdalene's penitent prostitute label was a misnomer. Instead, her true biblical portrait is being resurrected, and this "apostle to the apostles" is finally taking her rightful place in history as a beloved disciple of Jesus and a prominent early church leader.

"We're trying to right a 2,000-year-old wrong," says Christine Schenk, C.S.J., executive director of FutureChurch, a Cincinnati-based church-reform organization that launched nationwide observances of Mary Magdalene's feast day (July 22) two years ago. The idea quickly grew from a handful of celebrations to nearly 130 prayer services last year at Catholic parishes, Newman centers, schools, retreat houses, hospital chapels, motherhouses, and in small faith communities.

"People see this as a positive, constructive way to show they support women's equality," says Schenk, who believes reclaiming Mary Magdalene's reputation as an early church leader will have implications for women's leadership in the church today, including the ordination of women.

As part of a Women in Church Leadership project cosponsored by FutureChurch and Call to Action, the feast day celebrations were created to accomplish two goals: to provide opportunities for visible liturgical roles for women and to disseminate current biblical scholarship that counters the myth of Mary Magdalene as public sinner.

Badgered witness
Many cradle Catholics are shocked to learn that there is no biblical evidence that Mary of Magdala was a prostitute or public sinner. She is mentioned 12 times in the New Testament"”making her the second most mentioned woman, after the Virgin Mary. Most references are found in the Crucifixion and empty tomb narratives, where she is portrayed as a loyal disciple at the foot of the cross and as one of the first witnesses to the Resurrection.

Unlike other women in the Bible, Mary of Magdala is not identified in relation to another person; she is not anyone's mother, wife, or sister. Instead, she is called Mary of Magdala, a title that implies some prominence in the city, a center of commercial fishing on the northwest bank of the Sea of Galilee. She left her home to follow Jesus, and it is believed she was among several well-off, independent women who financially supported Jesus' ministry.

These female followers of Jesus"”disciples, really"”became central when everything started to fall apart. While others fled, the women were faithful, and they were led by Mary of Magdala.

Details differ in the four gospel accounts of the Resurrection as to the number of heavenly visitors at the tomb, which women accompany Mary Magdalene to anoint the body, and whether or not the women are believed when they run to tell the news of Christ's Resurrection. But on this all four gospels agree: Mary Magdalene was faithful until the end, and her faithfulness was rewarded with an appearance by the risen Lord.

"It's really remarkable that all four gospels have the same story," says scripture scholar Mary Thompson, S.S.M.N., adjunct professor of religious studies at Canisius College in Buffalo, New York and author of Mary of Magdala: Apostle and Leader (Paulist, 1995). "You can be sure that if it had been possible to eliminate those women who went out from the empty tomb, [the gospel writers] would have done it" because of the prevailing attitude toward women in those times, she says.

Despite the fact that legally a woman's testimony at that time was considered invalid, the authors of the four gospels all make women the primary witnesses to the most important event of Christianity. That leads Thompson and others to believe that detail has historical validity.

In Matthew's version (28:1-10) Mary Magdalene and "the other Mary" first learn of Jesus' Resurrection from an angel at the tomb, who tells them to "go quickly and tell his disciples." As they leave they are met by Jesus, who also instructs them to spread the Good News to the others.

Likewise in Mark's account (16:1-8) Mary Magdalene is accompanied by Mary, the mother of James, and Salome to anoint Jesus' body. But inside the empty tomb they find an angel who tells them Jesus has been raised from the dead. Again, Jesus first appears to Mary Magdalene, but when she tells the disciples, they do not believe her.

Luke (24:1-12) says the three women are Mary Magdalene; Mary, the mother of James; and Joanna and that they first find the stone rolled away and are told by two men "in dazzling clothes" that Jesus has risen from the dead. The other disciples do not believe their "idle tale," and Peter runs to the tomb to see for himself the burial cloths.

In John's Resurrection account (20:1-18) Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb alone, sees that the stone has been rolled away, and runs to get Peter. What follows are parallel stories: Verses 3-10 describe how Peter and the disciple Jesus loved witness the burial cloths, but "they did not understand"; while verses 10-18 tell the story of Jesus' appearance to Mary of Magdala.

"Woman, why are you weeping?" Jesus asks his beloved friend, who is lost in her grief. Mary Magdalene initially mistakes Jesus for the gardener who had just asked the same question of her. But then she turns and in her recognition calls out, "Rab-bouni" (meaning "rabbi" or "teacher"). Then Mary of Magdala goes to tell the disciples, "I have seen the Lord."

A Mary mixup
If Mary of Magdala is consistently portrayed as a crucial player in arguably the most important event of Christianity, why is she not remembered for this role?

"Unquestionably and clearly, Mary of Magdala was the primary witness to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and our whole Christ-ianity depends on that," says Thompson.

The problem lies in the alternate image of Mary Magdalene as the fallen and redeemed woman, as the epitome of sensuality and spirituality"”an image that has become ingrained in the imaginations of centuries of Christians and one that continues to be fostered through depictions in art, literature, and even movies.

So how did Mary of Magdala become a prostitute some several hundred years after her death?

The short answer is that Mary Magdalene has been confused with several other women in the Bible, most significantly"”and ultimately problematically"”with the unnamed sinner in Chapter 7 of Luke. In that story, a woman bathes Jesus' feet with her tears, anoints them with ointment from her alabaster jar, and dries them with her hair. When the Pharisees object, noting that she is a known sinner, Jesus admonishes them and forgives her "because she has shown great love" (Luke 7:47). Nowhere does it say that this woman was a prostitute, and nowhere is she identified as Mary of Magdala.

The confusion may have come from the proximity of that passage to the one that identifies Mary of Magdala by name as a follower of Jesus who had had seven demons cast out of her (Luke 8:2). Although previously interpreted as referring to sexual sin, the mention of seven demons is now believed to mean illness, most likely mental illness.

The waters get even muddier when this unnamed sinner gets lumped in with another Mary"”Mary of Bethany, Martha and Lazarus' sister"”who also anoints Jesus' feet and wipes them with her hair, as described in Chapter 12 of John's gospel. An earlier version of this story in Matthew refrains from naming this woman. In Matthew this woman is a close friend of Jesus"”not a stranger with a reputation as a sinner.

Some believe the conflation of Mary of Bethany and Mary of Magdala results not just from their shared name but also from the presence of the alabaster jar of perfumed oil. It's easy to see why the sinful woman who anoints Jesus' feet is confused with Mary of Bethany, who does the same. It's possible that the shared symbols of incense and tears have historically united these women with Mary of Magdala, who was among the women who brought jars of perfumed oil to the tomb to anoint Jesus' body.

Sister Barbara Bowe, R.C.S.J., New Testament professor at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, says a similar thing happened to several "Johns" and the unnamed "beloved disciple." It was a tendency, especially in the earlier period, she says. "Characters get blended together and homogenized in ways that don't preserve the integrity of the texts."

Although the decline of Mary of Magdala's reputation as apostle and leader most likely began shortly after her death, the transformation to penitent prostitute was sealed on Sept. 14, 591 when Pope Gregory the Great gave a homily in Rome that pronounced that Mary Magdalene, Luke's unnamed sinner, and Mary of Bethany were, indeed, the same person.

"She whom Luke calls the sinful woman, whom John calls Mary, we believe to be the Mary from whom seven devils were ejected according to Mark," Gregory said in his 23rd homily. "And what did these seven devils signify, if not all the vices? ... It is clear, brothers, that the woman previously used the unguent to perfume her flesh in forbidden acts..."

Few ascribe malicious intent to Gregory ("Although I have a hard time with the 'Great' part," says Thompson), who most likely wanted to use the story to assure converts that their sins would be forgiven. Indeed, the gospel passage is a powerful one"”and can still be, without being inaccurately attached to Mary Magdalene.

"I have people who tell me, 'I liked her as a prostitute,'" says Schenk. "That story spoke very deeply of the profundity of forgiveness."

But Christians deserve to hear about the multiplicity of women in scripture, argues Schenk. And reducing one of the most important leaders of the early church to a prostitute has exacted a price, especially for women, by feeding into the notion that women are either madonnas or whores.

"This fans the flames of the stereotype of women as sinful," says Bowe. "For women today who look to the Bible for inspiration and liberation, their choices are limited enough. When we suddenly cut Mary Magdalene off at the knees and turn her into some evil sex pervert, we deprive men and women, but especially women, of a figure with whom they can identify."

Mary Magdalene's story and that of Luke's unnamed sinner need to be separated, Bowe says. "Then you can take them each in their integrity," she says. The passage in Luke is powerful, she says. "But it's not Mary Magdalene."

Lead us not
While no pope or other person deserves the singular blame, many feminist theologians have no doubt that Mary Magdalene's reputation was deliberately altered to suppress women's leadership in the church in those early centuries. Given the gospel accounts, her importance could not be denied"”but her character could be changed to be less threatening.

"To have silenced and suppressed the tradition with respect to the most prominent woman in Christian circles isn't an accident," says Jane Schaberg, a professor of religious studies and women's studies at the University of Detroit-Mercy who is writing a book on Mary of Magdala.

Schenk admits she wouldn't use the word conspiracy, but she says, "It's clear there wasn't much resistance to changing her image. I'm not sure we can understand the degree of resistance and anger and determination on the part of male leadership to put female leaders back in their place. Unfortunately, that continues today."

That women were leaders in the early Jesus movement is becoming clearer and more commonly accepted among scholars. Not only do several biblical passages describe them, but apocryphal, noncanonical writings also portray women as apostles, deacons, and co-workers. Studies of ancient burial inscriptions also have confirmed these titles"”as well as the feminine presbytera"”for women in the first centuries.

Women play a prominent role in the so-called gnostic gospels"”writings that, though not included in the official canon, provide important historical evidence about the church of the first centuries.

For example, in the Gospel of Mary"”the only apocryphal text named for a woman"”Mary Magdalene is depicted as a visionary who receives secret revelations from Jesus, much to the chagrin of Peter. "Mary Magdalene, by virtue of her encounter with Jesus in John 20, was regarded as someone who was a special channel of secret knowledge," Bowe says.

A more egalitarian, shared leadership was practiced among gnostic sects, with Mary of Magdala and other women figuring prominently. But as the early Christian church struggled for legitimacy, a male-dominated, hierarchical style of leadership prevailed. "The gnostic materials are full of the theme of opposition to Mary Magdalene's leadership," says Schaberg. "To put it simply, the people who opposed her won out."

Others believe the characters of Mary of Magdala and Peter represent not the actual historical people but rather are used as literary devices in many gnostic writings.

"Peter is the symbol of what he is today"”the power structure"”while Mary Magdalene represents the pattern for the role of women in the early church," says Thompson. "Two competing visions of church were jockeying for position, and it's obvious which one won out. Women were already being subordinated. Patriarchal forces were trying to quell them."

Thus the stage was set for Mary of Magdala to become denigrated as a sexual sinner and to lose her legacy as the first evangelist of the Good News of Jesus' Resurrection.

Thompson and other feminist Christians associate some of the loss of Mary Magdalene's legacy with the rise of a celibate clergy in the fourth and fifth centuries. "This seems to have been a creeping effect of patriarchy," says Thompson. "I think we have to ponder the enormity of what happened to Mary Magdalene. The implications are still with us today."

Interestingly, the Eastern church took a different tack with Mary Magdalene. "They never fell for the prostitute fallacy," says Thompson. "She is honored according to the biblical portrait."

A legend in the Eastern tradition has Mary of Magdala traveling to Rome and appearing before the court of Emperor Tiberius. When she tells Tiberius about Jesus' death and Resurrection, he challenges her story, saying no one could rise from the dead any more than an egg in a dish on the table could turn red.

With that, according to the legend, Mary picked up an egg and it turned bright red in her hand. To this day, icons of Mary Mag-dalene often depict her holding an egg, and Eastern Christians still color their Easter eggs a bright red.

In the West, however, the image of Mary Magdalene as sensual temptress is deeply entrenched. Even today the prostitute continues to be reinforced by popular culture.

Few can forget Mary Magdalene's character sensually singing "I Don't Know How to Love Him" in the '60s musical, and later the movie, Jesus Christ Superstar. Although the portrayal poignantly depicted the depth of her devotion and deep love for Jesus, it unfortunately tainted it with an oversexualization of her character.

The sexy saint stirred up even more controversy in Martin Scorsese's 1988 movie, The Last Temptation of Christ. Based on the novel by Nikos Kazantzakis, the film includes a sex scene between Mary Magdalene and Jesus, actually a dream sequence of what might have happened if Jesus had not been crucified. The film also erroneously identifies Mary Magdalene as the woman stoned for adultery in John 8:3-11.

But 20th-century artists aren't the first to be misled into using the image of Mary Magdalene as temptress. In paintings throughout history, she is often pictured bare-breasted, and more often than not, clothed in red, the color of passion

The vamp revamped
Today, reclaiming Mary Magdalene's rightful role as apostle and leader remains an uphill battle, her supporters say. "The biblical scholarship is still relatively new," says Thompson.

The news is just beginning to filter down to people in the pews. The feast day celebrations sponsored by FutureChurch and Call to Action are one way many Catholics are getting reintroduced to Mary of Magdala.

"I've long been an admirer of Mary Magdalene," says Janelle Lazzo of Kansas City, Missouri, who once chose "sinner1" as her computer password because of her strong connection to the story in Luke.

"I thought if Jesus loved her that much with her various shortcomings, my own might not look so bad to him either. Once I realized what a pivotal role she had in his ministry, I was more than hooked."

Through the local Call to Action chapter, Lazzo helped organize and presided at a Mary Magdalene prayer service on her feast day at St. Francis Xavier Church in Kansas City. The service featured a proclamation of the Resurrection account from John, inclusive-language hymns and prayers, and time for personal sharing among the 60 or so gathered. Storyteller Sister Lillian Harrington, O.S.B. read a "Letter from Mary of Magdala," in which a fictionalized Mary describes her true role in Jesus' ministry.

In Indianapolis, Call to Action leaders organized seven observances last July. Organizer Lynette Herold, who attended several, including a Mass at her own parish, says the mood was energizing.

"It was very freeing, especially for the women," she says. "It can be hard to relate to women in the Bible. So many of the stories are so negative. With Mary Magdalene, we're finally getting another side of the story."

Although she noticed that some participants wanted to hold onto the image of the penitent prostitute, Herold believes the "woman as temptress" monopoly must be broken. "We just don't hear the women who were leaders and disciples proclaimed very loudly. Many people can't admit that women had a key role in Jesus' time. Because if we admit that, we have to ask why it isn't happening now."

It's precisely that connection between the reinterpretation of the Mary Magdalene story and contemporary calls for expanded roles for women in the Catholic Church that has some Catholics concerned.

Although nearly all modern scripture scholars agree that the prostitute label is mistaken, not everyone is comfortable with the way her story is being retold. Some say feminists are hijacking Mary Magdalene's story to serve their own agendas.

A 1998 article in the ultraconservative Catholic newspaper The Wanderer compared the new scholarship about the "historical Magdalene" to the "historical Jesus" movement in biblical studies. The church reformers"”blatantly described as "heretics""”are said to be "distorting the historical figure of Mary Magdalen[e] in their crusade for a laywoman-run church."

While feminist theologian Schaberg certainly isn't in the same camp as The Wanderer, she nonetheless cautions against contemporary legend-making that is not grounded in serious biblical scholarship.

"I hope the efforts to reclaim Mary Magdalene will look more carefully at her tradition," she says. "These efforts have to take into account the serious struggle New Testament scholars have with this material."

But Schenk and others insist they are merely trying to right a centuries-old wrong"”a correction that happens to provide a positive role model for contemporary women in the church. "I just think this has been a terrible injustice," says Schenk. "I think of all the Christian women who need positive role models from scripture."

With the prostitute baggage properly disposed of, Mary of Magdala can emerge as a model of a faithful, devoted follower of the Lord, as well as a strong, independent leader in the early church. Her leadership can motivate women of the 21st century, says Thompson.

"Mary of Magdala didn't ask anybody whether or not she could lead. She simply led," she says. "And that's what women have to do today. Just do it."
Original Post

Replies sorted oldest to newest

Mary Magdalene: Saint or Sinner?
A new wave of literature is cleaning up her reputation. How a woman of substance was 'harlotized'
Aug. 11, 2003

The gorgeous female cryptographer and the hunky college professor are fleeing the scene of a ghastly murder they did not commit. In the midst of their escape, which will eventually utilize an armored car, a private jet, electronic-surveillance devices and just enough unavoidable violence to keep things interesting, our heroes seek out the one man who holds the key not only to their exoneration but also to a mystery that could change the world. To help explain it to them, crippled, jovial, fabulously wealthy historian Sir Leigh Teabing points out a figure in a famous painting. "'Who is she?' Sophie asked.

"'That, my dear,' Teabing replied, 'is Mary Magdalene.'

"Sophie turned. 'The prostitute?'

"Teabing drew a short breath, as if the word had injured him personally. 'Magdalene was no such thing. That unfortunate misconception is the legacy of a smear campaign launched by the early Church.'"

Summer page turners tend to sidestep the finer points of 6th century church history. Perhaps that is their loss. The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown, now in its 18th week on the New York Times hard-cover fiction best-seller list, is one of those hypercaffeinated conspiracy specials with two-page chapters and people's hair described as "burgundy." But Brown, who by book's end has woven Magdalene intricately and rather outrageously into his plot, has picked his MacGuffin cannily. Not only has he enlisted one of the few New Testament personages whom a reader might arguably imagine in a bathing suit (generations of Old Masters, after all, painted her topless). He has chosen a character whose actual identity is in play, both in theology and pop culture.

Three decades ago, the Roman Catholic Church quietly admitted what critics had been saying for centuries: Magdalene's standard image as a reformed prostitute is not supported by the text of the Bible. Freed of this lurid, limiting premise and employing varying ratios of scholarship and whimsy, academics and enthusiasts have posited various other Magdalenes: a rich and honored patron of Jesus, an Apostle in her own right, the mother of the Messiah's child and even his prophetic successor. The wealth of possibilities has inspired a wave of literature, both academic and popular, including Margaret George's 2002 best-selling historical novel Mary, Called Magdalene. And it has gained Magdalene a new following among Catholics who see in her a potent female role model and a possible argument against the all-male priesthood. The woman who three Gospels agree was the first witness to Christ's Resurrection is having her own kind of rebirth. Says Ellen Turner, who played host to an alternative celebration for the saint on her traditional feast day on July 22: "Mary [Magdalene] got worked over by the church, but she is still there for us. If we can bring her story forward, we can get back to what Jesus was really about."

In 1988, the book Mary Magdalene: A Woman Who Showed Her Gratitude, part of a children's biblical-women series and a fairly typical product of its time, explained that its subject "was not famous for the great things she did or said, but she goes down in history as a woman who truly loved Jesus with all her heart and was not embarrassed to show it despite criticism from others." That is certainly part of her traditional resume. Many Christian churches would add her importance as an example of the power of Christ's love to save even the most fallen humanity, and of repentance. (The word maudlin derives from her reputation as a tearful penitent.) Centuries of Catholic teaching also established her colloquial identity as the bad girl who became the hope of all bad girls, the saved siren active not only in the overheated imaginations of parochial-school students but also as the patron of institutions for wayward women such as the grim nun-run laundries featured in the new movie The Magdalene Sisters. In the culture at large, writer Kathy Shaidle has suggested, Magdalene is "the Jessica Rabbit of the Gospels, the gold-hearted town tramp belting out I Don't Know How to Love Him."

The only problem is that it turns out that she wasn't bad, just interpreted that way. Mary Magdalene (her name refers to Magdala, a city in Galilee) first appears in the Gospel of Luke as one of several apparently wealthy women Jesus cures of possession (seven demons are cast from her), who join him and the Apostles and "provided for them out of their means." Her name does not come up again until the Crucifixion, which she and other women witness from the foot of the Cross, the male disciples having fled. On Easter Sunday morning, she visits Jesus' sepulcher, either alone or with other women, and discovers it empty. She learns "” in three Gospels from angels and in one from Jesus himself "” that he is risen. John's recounting is the most dramatic. She is solo at the empty tomb. She alerts Peter and an unnamed disciple; only the latter seems to grasp the Resurrection, and they leave. Lingering, Magdalene encounters Jesus, who asks her not to cling to him, "but go to my brethren and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father ... and my God." In Luke's and Mark's versions, this plays out as a bit of a farce: Magdalene and other women try to alert the men, but "these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them." Eventually they came around.

Discrepancies notwithstanding, the net impression is of a woman of substance, brave and smart and devoted, who plays a crucial "” perhaps irreplaceable "” role in Christianity's defining moment. So where did all the juicy stuff come from? Mary Magdalene's image became distorted when early church leaders bundled into her story those of several less distinguished women whom the Bible did not name or referred to without a last name. One is the "sinner" in Luke who bathes Jesus' feet with her tears, dries them with her hair, kisses them and anoints them with ointment. "Her many sins have been forgiven, for she loved much," he says. Others include Luke's Mary of Bethany and a third, unnamed woman, both of whom anointed Jesus in one form or another. The mix-up was made official by Pope Gregory the Great in 591: "She whom Luke calls the sinful woman, whom John calls Mary [of Bethany], we believe to be the Mary from whom seven devils were ejected according to Mark," Gregory declared in a sermon. That position became church teaching, although it was not adopted by Orthodoxy or Protestantism when each later split from Catholicism.

What prompted Gregory? One theory suggests an attempt to reduce the number of Marys "” there was a similar merging of characters named John. Another submits that the sinning woman was appended simply to provide missing backstory for a figure of obvious importance. Others blame misogyny. Whatever the motivation, the effect of the process was drastic and, from a feminist perspective, tragic. Magdalene's witness to the Resurrection, rather than being acclaimed as an act of discipleship in some ways greater than the men's, was reduced to the final stage in a moving but far less central tale about the redemption of a repentant sinner. "The pattern is a common one," writes Jane Schaberg, a professor of religious and women's studies at the University of Detroit Mercy and author of last year's The Resurrection of Mary Magdalene: "the powerful woman disempowered, remembered as a whore or whorish." As shorthand, Schaberg coined the term "harlotization."

In 1969, in the liturgical equivalent of fine print, the Catholic Church officially separated Luke's sinful woman, Mary of Bethany and Mary Magdalene as part of a general revision of its missal. Word has been slow in filtering down into the pews, however. (It hasn't helped that Magdalene's heroics at the tomb are still omitted from the Easter Sunday liturgy, relegated instead to midweek.) And in the meantime, more scholarship has stoked the fires of those who see her eclipse as a chauvinist conspiracy. Historians of Christianity are increasingly fascinated with a group of early followers of Christ known broadly as the Gnostics, some of whose writings were unearthed only 55 years ago. And the Gnostics were fascinated by Magdalene. The so-called Gospel of Mary [Magdalene], which may date from as early as A.D. 125 (or about 40 years after John's Gospel), describes her as having received a private vision from Jesus, which she passes on to the male disciples. This role is a usurpation of the go-between status the standard Gospels normally accord to Peter, and Mary depicts him as mightily peeved, asking, "Did [Jesus] really speak with a woman without our knowledge?" The disciple Levi comes to her defense, saying, "Peter, you have always been hot-tempered ... If the Savior made her worthy, who are you to reject her? Surely, the Savior loves her very well. That is why he loved her more than us."

Them's fightin' words, especially when one remembers that the papacy traces its authority back to Peter. Of course, the Gnostic Gospels are not the Bible. In fact, there is evidence that the Bible was standardized and canonized precisely to exclude such books, which the early church leaders regarded as heretical for many non-Magdalene reasons. Nonetheless, feminists have been quick to cite Mary as evidence both of Magdalene's early importance, at least in some communities, and as the virtual play-by-play of a forgotten gender battle, in which church fathers eventually prevailed over the people who never got the chance to be known as church mothers. "I think it was a power struggle," says Schaberg, "And the canonical texts that we have [today] come from the winners."

Schaberg goes further. In her book, she returns to John in light of the Gnostic writings and purports to find "fragments of a claim" that Jesus may have seen Magdalene as his prophetic successor. The position is thus far quite lonely. But it serves nicely to illustrate the way in which any retrieval of Magdalene as a "winner" inevitably shakes up current assumptions about male church leadership. After Pope John Paul II prohibited even the discussion of female priests in 1995, he cited "the example recorded in the Sacred Scriptures of Christ choosing his Apostles only from among men ..." That argument would seem weakened in light of the "new" Magdalene, whom the Pope himself has acknowledged by the once unfashionable title "Apostle to the Apostles." Chester Gillis, chair of the department of theology at Georgetown University, says conventional Catholics still feel that Mary Magdalene's absence from many biblical scenes involving the male disciples, and specifically from the ordination-like ritual of the Last Supper, rule her out as a priest precedent. Gillis agrees, however, that her recalibration "certainly makes a case for a stronger role for women in the church."

Meanwhile, the combination of catholic rethinking and Gnostic revelations have reanimated wilder Magdalene speculations, like that of a Jesus-Magdalene marriage. ("No other biblical figure," Schaberg notes, "has had such a vivid and bizarre postbiblical life.") The Gnostic Gospel of Philip describes Magdalene as "the one who was called [Jesus'] companion," claiming that he "used to kiss her on her [mouth]." Most scholars discount a Jesus-Magdalene match because it finds little echo in the canonical Gospels once the false Magdalenes are removed. But it fulfills a deep narrative expectation: for the alpha male to take a mate, for a yin to Jesus' yang or, as some neopagans have suggested, for a goddess to his god. Martin Luther believed that Jesus and Magdalene were married, as did Mormon patriarch Brigham Young.

The notion that Magdalene was pregnant by Jesus at his Crucifixion became especially entrenched in France, which already had a tradition of her immigration in a rudderless boat, bearing the Holy Grail, his chalice at the Last Supper into which his blood later fell. Several French kings promoted the legend that descendants of Magdalene's child founded the Merovingian line of European royalty, a story revived by Richard Wagner in his opera Parsifal and again in connection with Diana, Princess of Wales, who reportedly had some Merovingian blood. (The Wachowski brothers, those cultural magpies, named a villain in The Matrix Reloaded Merovingian, filming him surrounded by Grail-like chalices. His wife in that film was played by Italian actress Monica Bellucci, who will also play Magdalene in Mel Gibson's upcoming Jesus film ... Sorry, this stuff is addictive.) The idea that Magdalene herself was the Holy Grail "” the human receptacle for Jesus' blood line "” popped up in a 1986 best seller, Holy Blood, Holy Grail, which inspired Brown's Da Vinci Code. When Brown said recently, "Mary Magdalene is a historical figure whose time has come," he meant a figure with a lot of mythic filagree.

Ellen Turner was 48 years old when she first learned that Mary Magdalene was not a whore. Through Catholic school and a Catholic college, she attests, "I thought about her in the traditional way, as a sinner." But eight years ago, the 56-year-old technical writer tapped into a network of neo-Magdalenites through her connection with the liberal Catholic groups Call to Action and Futurechurch. The discovery that, as Turner puts it, Magdalene "got the shaft" started her thinking about how to change the situation. She was happy to find that the two organizations, which see Magdalene's recovered image as an argument for their goal of a priesthood open to all those who feel called, coordinate celebrations around the world on her feast day.

Last month Turner and her husband Ray played host to such a celebration at their home in San Jose, Calif. About 30 participants drove in from as far away as Oakland. After meeting and greeting and strolling the meditation labyrinth in Turner's backyard, the group held something resembling a church service, with an opening hymn, a blessing over the bread and wine and readings about Magdalene from the four Gospels. There was no priest, but Turner herself read what, if this were a Mass, might be a homily. "From the beginning," she intoned as the sun sank over Silicon Valley, "her view has been ignored, unappreciated. The first to see the risen Lord "” those with more power have sought to marginalize her. Yet she is faithful. She remains. She cannot be silenced."
With the exception of Deborah, Esther, Ruth, Naomi and Mary, mother of Ayesu--the portrayal of women in general in the "biblical instructions before leaving earth" is negative.

Even that bogus painting by Da Vinci reveals some hidden truths...

Where there is smoke there is fire;
I believe there is more to the story than meets the eye;
Ask yourself why would the authors lie?

Originally posted by Empty Purnata:
The Council of Nicea did a piss-poor job trying to erase their marriage from the Bible.

Here is BIBLICAL proof that Jesus and Mariam of Magdala were married:

Where's the proof? There's not one biblical reference. Confused

Jesus sole purpose was to "enter the battlefield" and win the reigns of death. His focus was on God's work. He was a eunuch, unmarried (Matthew 19:12). Think Elijah, Elisha, Daniel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Paul, etc... Focused on God's work, without distraction.
Originally posted by DivineJoy:
Originally posted by Empty Purnata:
The Council of Nicea did a piss-poor job trying to erase their marriage from the Bible.

Here is BIBLICAL proof that Jesus and Mariam of Magdala were married:

Where's the proof? There's not one biblical reference. Confused

Jesus sole purpose was to "enter the battlefield" and win the reigns of death. His focus was on God's work. He was a eunuch, unmarried (Matthew 19:12). Think Elijah, Elisha, Daniel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Paul, etc... Focused on God's work, without distraction.

1. Hippolytus, a Christian leader from the late 2nd Century, was followed by Origen in the 3rd Century in saying that the Song of Solomon was a prophecy of a marital union between Christ and Mary Magdalene. Although they believed Mary was symbolic of the Church, nevertheless, the notion presupposed a real, albeit a spiritual (meaning non-sexual), marriage between Mary and Jesus.

2. There are hints scattered in the Gospels of a special relationship between Jesus and Mary. If she is the same Mary of Bethany in John 11, then we can explain why Martha arose to greet Jesus and not Mary. Some scholars say she was sitting shiva according to Jewish custom. "Shiva" was when a woman was in mourning. Married women were not allowed to break-off from their mourning unless called by their husbands. In this story, Mary does not come to Jesus, until He calls her.

At the Resurrection, when Mary meets Jesus in the Garden, there is a degree of intimacy (see the Aramaic here) which one would expect between lovers, not friends.

The Greek word for "woman" and "wife" is the same. Translators must rely upon the context in deciding how to translate it. Sometimes, the translation is arbitrary. When Mary is referred to as a "woman" who followed Jesus, it can just as easily be translated as "wife".

4. The story of Mary with the alabaster jar anointing the feet of Jesus is cited by some scholars as the most direct witness to their marriage. It is in all four Gospels and was a story in which Jesus gave express command that it be preserved. This ceremony was an ancient one among many royal houses in the ancient world, which sealed the marital union between the king and his priestess spouse. We find it mentioned briefly in the Song of Solomon. Although we may not understand its significance, Jesus and Mary knew exactly what they were doing. To be the valid Messiah, He had to be anointed first by the Bride. They were by-passing the corrupt Jewish establishment.

There is more support for the marital status of Jesus. However, it involves a discussion of the Old Testament prophets which would be too tedious to undertake, here. It is important to realize, however, that belief in a married Jesus does not require any more faith than a resurrected Jesus. And if you know where to look, you can find just as much biblical evidence for both.

Also, Jesus was supposed to be married to the Church, many early Christians believed that Mary Magdalene was symbolic of the Church, or the human incarnation of the Church, as Jesus was the incarnation of the Logos.
Originally posted by DivineJoy:
These are assumptions. The biblical proof I was looking for would be a chapter/verse stating it as fact. We know Abraham was married to Sarah, Moses to Zipporah, David to Bathshea, etc.

Jesus was not married in this way. He was married to the church of believers.

The Greek word for "woman" and "wife" is the same. Translators must rely upon the context in deciding how to translate it. Sometimes, the translation is arbitrary. When Mary is referred to as a "woman" who followed Jesus, it can just as easily be translated as "wife".

That's an assumption? Eek So an explanation of the Greek language of the Bible is an assumption?

There are hints scattered in the Gospels of a special relationship between Jesus and Mary. If she is the same Mary of Bethany in John 11, then we can explain why Martha arose to greet Jesus and not Mary. Some scholars say she was sitting shiva according to Jewish custom. "Shiva" was when a woman was in mourning. Married women were not allowed to break-off from their mourning unless called by their husbands. In this story, Mary does not come to Jesus, until He calls her.

That's an assumption? It even says the verse for you to look it up. Just because it doesn't quote the verse word-for-word doesn't make it an assumption.

This is real ancient Jewish culture, Jewish men were not allowed to become teachers of men unless they were married. Jesus was called "rabbi" by his followers and was talked to as a rabbi by the Pharisees. You couldn't have been an unmarried rabbi back then.

It does seem to be true that many Christians reject this notion simply on theological reaons, not actual historical reasons. You even said that you reject this notion simply because you don't agree with it theologically, not because you have actual proof against it. The fact is that only married Jewish men were rabbis, and foot annoiting by a female to a male was only done as a wedding ceremony.

Also, I might add that the Aramaic word that Jesus addressed Mary Magdalene as was the Aramaic word for "wife".
orginally quoted by Empty Purnata--There are hints scattered in the Gospels of a special relationship between Jesus and Mary

Mary Magdalene washed the feet of Jesus with perfumed ancient custom performed by the wife to/on her husband.

Of course, if modern day folk don't know ancient customs they will overlook this 'huge' detail...

Again I am off but....

The original language, custom and ethnicity of the "biblical instructions before leaving earth" is not Greek, European nor Jews/Hebrew.

Here in lies the concealment, the confusion, the blind leap into untruth.
Originally posted by Fine:
Mary Magdalene washed the feet of Jesus with perfumed ancient custom performed by the wife to/on her husband.

Of course, if modern day folk don't know ancient customs they will overlook this 'huge' detail...

The woman who annointed Jesus with oil was never named. We are to take note of what she did, not who she was. Its mentioned in two gospels...

Matthew 26:6-13
6-Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, 7-There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat. 8-But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste? 9-For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor. 10-When Jesus understood it, he said unto them, Why trouble ye the woman for she hath wrought a good work upon me. 11-For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always. 12-For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial. 13-Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her.

Mark 14:3-9
3-And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she brake the box, and poured it on his head. 4-And there were some that had indignation within themselves, and said, Why was this waste of the ointment made? 5-For it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor. And they murmured against her. 6-And Jesus said, Let her alone; why trouble ye her? she hath wrought a good work on me. 7-For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but me ye have not always. 8-She hath done what she could: she is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying. 9-Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her.
Found another verse of a woman who cried at Jesus' feet, and annointed him with oil. Different time from above - still not mentioned as a wife, or by name.

Luke 7:37-38
37-And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, 38-And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.

Add Reply

Link copied to your clipboard.