mary magdalene she is one of the most mysterious and misunderstood figures in the bible remembered as the prostitute who walked with jesus she is said to have paid for her years of carnal delight with decades of isolation and tearful repentance recent archaeological discoveries.
However paint an astonishing new picture of mary magdalene as one of the most important leaders of the early christian church mary magdalene was invented in his alternative portrait as a prostitute precisely to counter this extraordinary strong portrait of her as an early leader.
And apostolic witness and prophet now the true story of mary magdalene is beginning to emerge and it is more amazing than any legend december 1945 egyptian farmers looking for fertilizer in a remote field make a startling.
Discovery beneath a boulder buried in soft soil they find an ancient jar filled with priceless treasures papyrus books nearly 2 000 years old these are lost gospels written by the first generations of christians believers hid them perhaps so they would.
Not be destroyed by other christians who branded them unorthodox and heretical perhaps so they might reveal to future generations their amazing teachings these ancient books contain unexpected information about one of jesus's closest associates mary magdalene.
Mary magdalene was a leader in the early church she appears to have been the leader of at least one wing of the early christian movement and her leadership was based primarily on prophetic authority the story of how mary magdalene became a prophet and leader begins around the time of the birth of jesus in the.
Village for which she is named magdala magdala was located on the sea of galilee in a remote province of the roman empire called judea today nothing remains of mary's hometown but in antiquity it was a bustling center of the fish trade.
The local fisherman's day began as the sun set heading out to sea they cast their nets and hauled in their living harvest they did not rest when the sun rose the catch had to be sold boats and nets needed constant maintenance and repair.
living in this jewish fishing village mary's family very likely had a deep regard for their religious heritage her life would have been marked by the cycle of the jewish year the weekly observance of the sabbath annual feasts such as passover in spring.
And the jewish new year in autumn i think she was deeply jewish and in touch with the powerful sources of jewish tradition and i think she must have been also politically dissatisfied with roman imperialism mary's homeland was under the military.
Control of the incomparably powerful roman empire but the jews made poor subjects for rome and mary's hometown of magdala was a hotbed of rebel activity the jews viewed their overlords with hostility and suspicion.
The romans worshiped pagan gods imposed heavy taxes and brutally punished those who opposed their rule when rome found its subjects guilty of sedition the penalty could be agonizing death by crucifixion the authorities sometimes executed dozens of jews at once leaving their.
Bodies to rot out in the open in an attempt to control the populace by terror but mary and her countrymen were fiercely devoted to their way of life and the brutality of roman tyrants did not subdue their spirit yet for many jews of mary's day the oppression was so overwhelming it seemed.
That salvation could come only from heaven they spoke of a messiah whom god would send to deliver them in the synagogues and streets the details of the savior's coming were hotly debated some believed he would be a general who.
Would lead a final cosmic battle to destroy this world of injustice and pave the way for eternal paradise others said the messiah would appear when the jews retired to the desert to fast and pray until then day-to-day life in magdala was simple young girls like mary learned from their.
Mothers to perform domestic tasks they spent many hours a day helping to prepare meals for the family they ground meal and baked bread drew water from the town well cleaned fish and bought provisions from local farmers life in a fishing village was hard but evidence suggests that mary's family.
Made a good living though some believe she learned the fishing business as a girl it is likely that mary was affluent enough that she did not have to work throughout her life what we do know about her from the gospel of luke probably meant that she was i guess we would say.
Independently wealthy that she in some sense had resources that would not have required her to work little else is known about her childhood as mary blossomed into a young woman her story becomes clouded by a legend that has haunted her for thousands of years the belief that she was a prostitute i think when we say the term prostitute.
It carries with the notion of profession that someone is actually making their living this way uh you know by selling sex but in antiquity it could be a term that would be thrown around the same as horror or adulterous it meant anyone who was sexually immoral meant any kind of sexual unchastity.
Mary magdalene's wealth was considered to be a downfall for her because it released her from having to work she had too much time on her hands and idleness led to the devil's work it led to sin and in mary magdalene's case it led to the very grave sin of luxuria that is an exorbitant sexual appetite.
The golden legend a medieval account of the lives of the saints asserts that her carnal sins were known throughout the region she was very rich and sensuous pleasure keeps company with great wealth renowned as she was for her beauty and.
Her riches she was no less known for the way she gave her body to pleasure so much so that her name was forgotten and she was commonly called the sinner some two thousand years after her death evidence suggests that this characterization is a case of mistaken identity.
Compounded by medieval sexism mary magdalene was an affluent and pious girl from galilee and yet she gained notoriety as a promiscuous seductress whose life of physical passion led to years of grief and repentance her reputation for licentiousness was unchallenged for millennia.
Contemporary experts however are reconsidering this portrait of mary as a prostitute it doesn't say anywhere in the bible that mary magdalene is a prostitute the fact that mary magdalene is handed down on the tradition as a prostitute who has been who has repented and reformed is probably a great injustice to the.
Character that lies behind this legend one reason for her bad reputation may simply be her common name mary was a very very common name over 50 percent of the women in palestine were named either mary or salome early christians confused mary magdalene saga with the stories of other biblical.
Mary's and even women whose names were never recorded at all in scripture mary of bethany sister to lazarus and martha the woman caught in adultery the anonymous samaritan with seven husbands.
In the later tradition their individuality gets lost and what emerges is one mary who has the characteristics of these several that appear in the gospel traditions the most important biblical tale associated with mary magdalene is from the gospel of luke.
the story of the sinner in luke 7 is not the story of mary magdalene but it is a story that becomes the keystone of the magdalen legends luke reports that jesus was dining at the home of simon the pharisee.
A prostitute brazenly entered the room and fell before jesus weeping inconsolably her tears were so plentiful that she was able to wash his feet with them she then dried them with her long luxurious hair jesus forgave this unnamed woman for her many sins.
For centuries the church declared this anonymous sinner was mary magdalene the legend is powerful and it seems to fill some kind of a need in the christian psyche actually for punishing women for their sexuality i think in 1969 the vatican revised its official position.
And said that it had been an error to ever say that mary was a prostitute or that she was the sinner from luke the historical mary magdalene was probably a prosperous and pious young woman from a fishing village yet the bible hints that she was.
Troubled according to the gospels the young mary was possessed by seven demons in the ancient world people ascribed physical and emotional afflictions to demonic possession when it says that mary magdalene has seven demons cast out of her it probably.
Means that she was healed of some kind of illness such as epilepsy or that she was healed of some kind of mental illness that is curable or at least a sporadic such as mania or psychosis that comes and goes to describe someone as having an evil spirit is to say they have some kind of obsession or addiction or physical or.
Psychological condition that's not understood and so the answer in the culture is they have an evil spirit some of the stories of demon possession could be people possessed by what we would call today an overwhelming overwhelming compulsion we talk about sexual addiction and.
Alcohol addiction and drug addiction and those really are spirits of unfreedom mary's destiny was about to change with one momentous encounter i think it's quite possible that mary magdalene met jesus the same way the other disciples are described as meeting jesus that she was by the sea that she was working.
And that he came upon her and met her in a very similar manner the most important moment in the life of mary magdalene i would think would be her initial encounter with jesus because it changed her life.
It set her free from whatever it was that oppressed her it gave her hope it transformed her made her a new woman in a very real sense the bible does not tell us how old mary was when she met jesus but it does say that jesus cast out the demons healing her in body and spirit what's clear is that in antiquity.
Demon possession was a sign of uncleanness a lack of the holy spirit the opposite of of holiness if you will by being unclean so having these demons cast out was a way of making mary holy and pure renewed and inspired by her encounter with jesus mary came to believe that he.
Was the messiah but joining his followers would be perilous the roman despots who ruled the holy land were suspicious of any of their subjects who assembled large public gatherings they were concerned that the people's.
Anti-roman sentiment might boil to the surface and public peace could be disrupted preachers such as jesus and their followers were in constant danger of attracting the attention of the foreign oppressors yet the very risk in joining may have actually increased the jesus movement's.
Appeal to mary's independent nature following her heart and flaunting tradition she boldly left the only home she had ever known to join the growing company of men and women who followed jesus although the group needed money to feed clothe and house dozens of people through the upcoming years of ministry.
Jesus was not concerned do not be anxious saying what shall we eat what shall we drink what shall we wear strive first for the kingdom of god and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well matthew 6 31.
These staples were indeed provided mary magdalene had money from her family mary called magdalen from whom seven demons had gone out and joanna the wife of herod steward kuza and susanna and many others provided for them out of their resources luke.
8 2. in this culture mary and others supporting jesus meant that they were his patronesses that is to say that they were in the position of supporting him not in an inferior secondary role but he really actually places them in a socially superior position.
At first the group stayed in galilee visiting the region's synagogues and proclaiming that the kingdom of god was at hand as jesus continued to heal the sick and perform other miracles the crowds grew ever larger when the multitudes grew too numerous.
For the sanctuaries jesus preached in the open air with mary magdalene at his side she must have been a a pretty brassy woman you know going around the country with a man and so forth i see her as someone who would choose a spiritual teacher.
Who was very much interested in the spiritual life in the days to follow mary magdalene would take on a stunning and vitally important role in jesus's life both public and private.
In mary magdalene's fishing village the people had long prayed for a messiah to come and free them from foreign oppression miraculously mary had met a charismatic man whom she believed was that divine savior jesus had come into her life healing her of whatever demons plagued her and.
Earning her steadfast devotion mary magdalene left the only home she had ever known to travel with him preaching the good news of the kingdom of heaven to the people of galilee during these days of the ministry there were times of peace and contemplation when mary and the other disciples.
Listened with wrapped attention as jesus taught them alone as they came to understand his message jesus urged them to spread the word of god these jesus send out charging them go to the lost sheep of the house of israel and preach as you go saying the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Heal the sick cleanse lepers cast out demons you received without paying give without pay matthew 10 6 surprisingly mary magdalene was one of the first to preach the message that would become known as christianity.
I think it's very possible that mary magdalene was teaching or preaching along with the men when the men were sent out the women were sent out some scholars make a stunning assertion that her evangelical role was of unparalleled importance mary magdalene may have been.
A co-prophet with jesus she may have been a colleague we could think of her in terms of a partnership someone who preached alongside of him someone who learned from him and also someone from whom he learned though mary may have been a leader in.
The community during jesus's ministry she was not exempt from everyday tasks along with the other women she was responsible for traditional household duties such as washing the clothes preparing the lodgings and cooking and serving meals but these apparently mundane chores were actually rich with meaning.
And mary's duties were particularly significant table service was a very important activity for the jesus movement because eating at table and sharing a meal together was a symbol for the kingdom of god she is the only one that's said to have served jesus.
In this capacity in the ancient papyrus gospels that were uncovered in egypt after being lost for nearly two millennia astonishing new information is revealed about this time of fellowship and ministry three always walked with the lord.
Mary his mother her sister and magdalene and the companion of the savior is mary magdalene the gospel of philip according to the ancient texts mary and jesus developed an especially close bond jesus took her aside for private moments and gave her secret teachings.
That she alone had the capacity to understand the close friendship between them caused resentment among the male disciples they said to him why do you love her more than all of us the savior answered and said to them why do i not love you as i love her the gospel of philip.
some scholars make the shocking assertion that jesus's love for mary was physical as well as spiritual this extraordinary claim may be supported by the rediscovered papyrus texts christ loved her more than all the.
Disciples and used to kiss her often on the mouth the gospel of philip the gospel of philip which is a text that's corrupt that is it has holes in it and gaps in it says that jesus kissed mary magdalene often on her blank it doesn't say on her what.
But most scholars fill in the word mouth the kiss in that literature is ambiguous it could include a sexual relationship or it could not and one scholar emphasizes something that i think is really important that it just has to stay ambiguous we would love to think that mary magdalene and jesus were lovers it's so.
Romantic but i think it's unlikely simply because i think it's unlikely that jesus himself was in any kind of sexual relationship most experts flatly reject the possibility there's absolutely no historical or biblical evidence that mary magdalene jesus were.
Anything other than very good friends whether or not there was a romance between them mary was jesus's closest companion and his favorite disciple soon she would play a vital role in the most profound mystery of christianity the death and resurrection of jesus.
For three years mary magdalene had been traveling with jesus but jesus's public ministry would soon end in agony and an amazing transformation would have a profound effect on mary's life jesus told mary and the other disciples that they would leave the galilee and go to jerusalem to celebrate the festival.
Of passover as they approached the gates of the city jesus followers began to sing the people of the city lined the streets and joined in and those who went before and those who followed cried out hosanna blessed is he who comes in the name of.
The lord mark 11 9 with joy and celebration mary magdalene entered jerusalem in her lord's company little did she know what lay ahead as the week began mary and the other women scurried about the city preparing a passover dinner although women are omitted from most.
Depictions of the last supper female disciples were very likely present mary magdalene would have served jesus at the holiday meal after the religious rituals were fulfilled and the dishes cleared away some say mary accompanied jesus for prayer and meditation in the nearby.
Garden of gethsemane if so it was the last time they would pray together a mob arrived armed with swords and clubs to arrest jesus he went calmly with his captors who turned him over to the despised.
Roman authorities mary knew the romans could be merciless and that jesus might be tortured or even killed it must have been a long and horrible day for her full of doubt terror tears and desperate attempts to find out what was happening to her beloved friend.
when she learned that jesus was to die on the cross she must have been utterly devastated she longed to be by his side throughout the terrible ordeal but there was great risk the romans would see her devotion to jesus and might mark her.
As a traitor as well but mary's love for jesus was greater than her fears she rushed to golgotha where jesus was being crucified through the long agony of his death mary magdalene remained faithfully by jesus as she had throughout his life the gospels tell us that she watched as.
He was laid in a rocky tomb it was the eve of the sabbath and jewish law forbade his loved ones to attend his body on that holy day but the first moment it was permitted mary magdalene hastened to his burial site to anoint the corpse as she approached the tomb at dawn she discovered that it was open.
And jesus's body was gone she believed the grave had been robbed racked with grief she collapsed in tears she did not know that she was about to experience one of the most significant encounters in history she turned around and saw jesus standing there.
But she did not know that it was jesus jesus said to her woman why are you weeping whom are you looking for john 2014 even mary magdalene who loved him in john's account does not recognize him all of these are.
Ways of saying that there is something very different about the risen jesus from the jesus they knew during his historical life and ministry jesus then called mary by name hearing his voice she recognized her teacher and beloved friend.
Overcome by emotion she reached forward to embrace him but jesus gently rebuked her jesus said to her do not touch me because i have not yet ascended to the father john 20 17. if you look at it in the greek it's in the imperfect tense and it doesn't say.
Don't touch me it says don't keep hanging on to me don't keep holding on to me and what john is trying to say and telling the story is that jesus is saying you can't cling to this experience i'm present in a new way i'm present in the community i'm present through the spirit i'm in your hearts i'm in your midst.
The risen christ gave mary magdalene a unique responsibility go to my brothers and say to them i am ascending to my father and your father to my god and your god mary magdalene went and announced to the disciples i have seen the lord and she told them that he had said these things to her.
John 2017 this is the last time that mary magdalene appears in the bible but because jesus gave her authority to announce his resurrection to the apostles mary gained a new title among early christians mary magdalene is called the apostle of the apostles because she fits.
To achieve what it means to have been an apostle an apostle is someone who has seen the risen lord and who has been sent as an apostolic witness to his resurrection in the years after the death and resurrection of jesus some say mary.
Magdalene's life took a little known and unanticipated turn she traveled to unexpected far corners of the ancient world in her special role as apostle and evangelist according to the bible mary magdalene.
Had watched as jesus died on the cross and soon after she had encountered the risen christ he had entrusted her with the task of spreading the good news of his resurrection the early christian gospels recently rediscovered in egypt revealed that the community of jesus's followers was.
Discouraged and frightened after the death of their lord the men feared that if they publicly preached the teachings of their executed leader roman authorities would kill them it was mary magdalene who inspired the apostles and kept the jesus movement alive.
Mary magdalene leads a life of leadership she becomes a leader she becomes an encourager of the discouraged and fearful apostles in several instances she speaks boldly she explains visionary experiences that she had had.
And secret teachings that were given only to her again some of the men became jealous and resentful of her peter was her main detractor the gospel of mary clearly portrays mary magdalene as a leader not only among the other disciples but of the other disciples.
The gospel itself has this very intriguing scene in which peter challenges mary and says surely that the savior would not have told her things that he didn't tell to us surely he would not have loved a woman more than us and levi responds basically yes he would and he did.
Mary magdalene's role in the church began an argument that has remained passionate from that time to this so from the very first century from the very beginnings from the earliest literature of the christian movement we see women functioning as leaders and we see that leadership opposed this is true for every century of the.
History of christianity since including our own the ancient papyrus texts do not reveal mary magdalene's ultimate fate but the golden legend a medieval collection of stories about the lives of saints reports that mary stayed to preach in her homeland for 14 years the story continues that she then.
Traveled halfway across the ancient world to marseille a port city in what would later be the provence region of france though the golden legend was written more than 1200 years after mary's death there is other evidence that supports her presence in france a church in the french town of vaselay.
Maintains that it possesses her earthly remains this claim was taken seriously by thousands of medieval pilgrims who flocked there to touch mary's tomb and pray to her for miracles a legend was created to explain how uh how she made it to provence and that legend stated that after the crucifixion.
Of christ after his ascension his disciples and apostles were persecuted mary magdalene among them she and her family and friends were put into a rudderless boat and set adrift at sea providentially they washed up in provost.
When the castaways finally made it to shore no one would take them into their home mary magdalene and her companions found shelter in a pagan temple and there watched the locals gather to worship distressed by the spectacle of idolatry mary magdalene began to preach.
She came forward her manner calm in her face serene and with well-chosen words called them away from the cult of idols and preached christ fervently to them the golden legend mary had begun to convert the pagans but it would take patience perseverance and help from heaven to complete the task.
If she could convert the rulers of the region the rest would follow suit but the king and queen were skeptical challenging mary magdalene to prove the power of the new faith mary had to provide them with a miracle for years the royal couple had struggled unsuccessfully to conceive an heir to.
The throne they were desperate and so willing to bargain with the foreign evangelist they said to her we are prepared to do whatever you tell us if you can obtain a son for us from the god whom you preach the blessed mary prayed the lord to dane to grant them a son the golden legend.
Mary's prayer on their behalf was answered the queen became pregnant and gave birth to a healthy baby boy the little family accepted baptism and mary was able to convert the entire region but now mary was finished with her public life wishing to devote herself to heavenly.
Contemplation she retired to an empty wilderness and lived unknown for 30 years in a place made ready by the hands of angels the golden legend in her isolated grotto mary is said to have cast off all earthly things including her clothing.
Her hair grew long and covered her unclothed body she went without food or drink fasting for 30 years every day she was carried aloft by angels and with bodily ears heard the glorious chants of the celestial hosts and she was conveyed back to her own place by the same angels and needed no.
Material nourishment the golden legend now it's never exactly spelled out what she was doing up there in the ether but i think that we can safely say that in a certain sense she was doing as a medieval mystic might do she was in a sense communing with the divine.
And probably receiving a foretaste of the heavenly rewards one day a christian hermit saw angels returning mary to her cave in awe and terror he approached the grotto and mary called out she said to him because it has been revealed to me by.
The lord that i am soon to depart from this world please go to the archbishop and take care to inform him that he is to go alone to his church and there he will find me waited upon by angels the golden legend the hermit delivered the message.
And on the appointed day the bishop indeed found mary magdalene herself in his church on the brink of death there he performed her last rights and here was this very very powerful female saint coming to the church to show her obedience to the masculine institutional authority of the church in the very last hours of her life.
The earthly life of mary magdalene jesus's intimate friend and much-loved disciple had finally drawn to a close perhaps the least acknowledged and most important of jesus's followers she left behind a legacy that has profoundly influenced christians of.
Every generation and every social class for thousands of years she can stand for several unfinished agendas in christianity the integration of the sexual and the spiritual and the question of whether men and women can ever be real partners for women she has been through the.
Centuries an important figure to whom we could appeal for legitimacy for the exercise of speech for the presence in ministry for discipleship for stewardship and so forth this is a woman who knew jesus in a very close and personal way and that's the desire of all christians to have this.
Very close and intimate relationship with jesus leader and evangelist mystic and prophet to this day mary magdalene continues to inspire both veneration and controversy.