Mary Magdalene in the history of Christianity and Contemporary Culture Series 1, No.6

Mary Magdalene has been sexualized and called the consort of Jesus, a holy vessel for his seed. As a result, her real influence has been distorted, reducing her importance to the argument over whether she was a wife to Jesus and bore him a child or not. A myth variant claims the Holy Grail was not a Cup but that the Grail was Mary’s womb – the holy vessel that gave birth to Jesus’ Child. Dan Brown’s ‘The Da Vinci Code’ constructed an elaborate fictional and anti-Catholic conspiracy around the so-called cover-up of the alleged fact that Mary bore Jesus’ Child and raised her in Provence, France.

The most destructive piece that some upheld in Christendom and was characterized in the film ‘The passion of Christ’ was what Pope Gregory the Great said in a Sermon on an autumn Sunday in 591 to the assembled that Mary Magdalene had been a whore before her redemption by Jesus Christ. Mary’s identity as a prostitute stems from that Homily 33 of Pope Gregory 1, delivered in the year 591, in which he declared that she and the unnamed woman in Luke 7 are, in fact, the same and that the faithful should hold Mary as the penitent whore: (a total misnomer – my word). In the words of Pope Gregory 1:
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. 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[1].

It is interesting to note that the Greek word interpreted as ‘sinner’ in the verse of Luke to which Pope Gregory 1 referred was ‘harmartolos,’ this word can be translated in several ways. It could mean one who has transgressed Jewish Law; it might also mean someone who perhaps did not pay their taxes. The word itself does not imply a street-walker or a prostitute. The Greek word for a harlot, ‘porin’, which is used elsewhere in Luke, is not the word used for the sinful woman who weeps at Jesus’ feet.

There is no direct reference to Mary Magdalene as a prostitute anywhere in the Gospels. In 1969, the Catholic Church officially repealed Gregory’s labeling of Mary Magdalene as a whore, thereby admitting their error – the image of Mary Magdalene as the penitent whore has remained in the public teachings of all Christian denominations. Can Mary Magdalene be rescued from centuries of terror and fear? Mary Magdalene has suffered in her reputation; the Church confused her with another woman, apparently a prostitute, who encountered Jesus. Mary Magdalene herself was stigmatized for centuries as a whore.

Christendom embraced this false identity. No wonder that by the late 19th century, according to “Secrets of Mary Magdalene” written by Dan Burstein and Arne J. De Keijzer, Wagner, Rilke, and a few other Cultural figures began to revive the suggestion that Mary had been an erotic partner to Jesus. In 1969, the Vatican bowing to the new Scholarship emerging from within, reversed the verdict that had stood for fourteen hundred (1400) years. By directing that, Mary Magdalene should be identified with her role as a witness to the Resurrection and not the sinful woman in Luke. It is an understatement to say that the Portrait of Mary Magdalene has become the Mirror of many Images. She was a metaphor cast in many roles and robed with so many unfitting attires. To get the truth about Mary Magdalene, we need to examine what we know, not invent what we do not know, and refrain from maligning her image. No one can take from Mary Magdalene her proper place in history.

Jesus Christ is gender-friendly; male and female; He chose His disciples while on earth. So why can’t He choose a female to replace Judas Iscariot? Understanding the past determines our ability to understand the present and unravel the future. The Apostolic Church authority exiled Mary Magdalene from authority and imprisoned her theologically based on her gender. How then do we sift truth from belief? How do we penetrate years and centuries of historical distortion to find the original truth? Thanks to God for the Holy Spirit. He will surely guide us to the truth in our quest to establish this truth. That is my quest.

[1] Leloup, Jean-Yves, The Gospel of Mary Magdalene, (Vermont: Inner Traditions), p.xvi/ – Haskins, Mary Magdalene: Myth and Metaphor, 93

***join me as I unravel Mary Magdalene, the apostle of Apostles in Part II: Series 2 – 1 from Saturday, May 7, 2022


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