Mary Magdalene — scandal in the Gospels?

Last week we speculated whether Mary Magdalene may have penned the Gospel of Mark. That was fun. This week we are going to explore how the different gospels described Mary Magdalene.

  • Several references. Mary M is mentioned in eleven different New Testament texts. Mark and John generally cast her in a favorable light. She was there at the cross (while the disciples were hiding). She prepares the Jewish burial rituals. And she was one of the first witnesses to the Resurrection.
  • And then there’s the feet story. Because we like scandal here at 3BT, let’s look at the story of Mary M in the Gospel of John when she pours oil on Jesus’ feet and wipes them with her hair. What’s that all about? It would be highly unusual (i.e. scandalous) in those times for a woman to touch a man who was not her husband in this manner. Plus that hair thing was considered to have sexual connotations. And finally there’s the metaphysical interpretation of feet. Yep, we better stop there. 
  • Then there’s Luke. Luke especially seems to have had a burr up his arse about her. Luke takes some of the same stories (remember he has Mark’s version open on the kitchen table while he is writing his version) but recasts them to insinuate that Mary M was a “sinner” (i.e. whore). Luke describes her as possessed by demons (or at least that’s how the church leaders decided that’s what Luke meant). He also does not mention Mary M as being at the crucifixion, at the tomb, or in any post-resurrection appearances by Jesus. 

By the time we get to the second century, the Christian church leaders (all male) kinda pieced together the verses they wanted to use to cast Mary M as a prostitute. It was good marketing — everyone likes a little sex innuendo. And it made Jesus even more pious because he interacted and forgave the sins of people like Mary M. Even today the 

Question of the week:  Was Jesus married? We bet that never came up in Sunday School.

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