Some friends and I are studying up on the women in the Bible   Recently one of us came across information about Jesus and Mary Magdalene or Mary of Magdala. Do you have credible sources of their relationship that you can share with us?  Thank you so much


As far as I know, the only real source we have on Jesus and Mary Magdalene or Mary of Magdala is what we have in the Bible.  Mountains have been said about this Mary (one of several Marys in the gospels), but nearly all of this is mere speculation and much of it is downright scandalous and totally false.

What Pope Gregory “the Great” did with Mary is a shame.  He made Mary Magdalene the same as the sinful woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and her hair.  There is no reason to believe this.  In fact, there is much reason to not believe this.  One gets the impression from the gospels that Mary of Magdala was a respected woman and a leader in her community of Magdala. She is one of the wealthy (or at least somewhat wealthy) women who supported Jesus’ ministry.  The idea that she was formerly a woman of ill-repute is almost certainly false.  The Catholic Church scandalously made her into a prostitute in an attempt to prove that women are the weaker sex and more susceptible to sexual sin than men.  We should reject the Catholic picture of Mary Magdala entirely.

Others have made her into a romantic interest of Jesus.  In the Da Vinci Code book and movie Mary was implicated in this way.   Again, this is scandalous, totally false, and is completely out of step with what the gospels tell us about this woman (see below).  There is zero evidence that Jesus had any romantic interest or that he had sexual relations or children or any kind of intimate relationship with any woman.  This is nonsense, created out of people’s own fantasy to suit their own agendas.  More than one of the gnostic gospels assign Mary Magdala with a particular relationship with Jesus, calling her his “companion.”  The Gospel of Philip is one of these.  This word could imply an intimate relationship or a special spiritual one.  In any case, the Gospel of Philip is a gnostic document of the late second century with no historical content at all.  It has no connection with the apostles or anyone who knew Jesus or Mary Magdalene, so we would do well to ignore this and other gnostic sources on Mary of Magdala.  We should give zero credence to these scandalous attempts to besmirch the character of one of the closest friends of Jesus.

Like I already said, we do not know a lot about this woman.  We know that she was part of Jesus’ inner circle of women who supported him both emotionally and financially.  We know that she was a respected woman with relatively high social standing–almost certainly higher social standing than Jesus.  She appears to have been the most influential in the group of women who ministered to Jesus’ needs, as her name is always mentioned first among these women.  We know that she honored Jesus and that she, obviously, lived a relatively righteous life once she came into contact with him. She certainly was not a former prostitute and it is absurd to propose a love interest or a physical relationship with Jesus.

Let us keep this biblical.   Here are all the passages in the gospels which mention this Mary by name:   Matthew 27:56, 61, Matthew 28:1, Mark 15:40, 47 Luke 8:2, Luke 24:10 John 19:25, John 20:1-18.  Of these, perhaps the key one is Luke 8:2, because it is where we first meet this somewhat enigmatic woman.  In Luke 8:2 we learn that Jesus had exorcised seven demons from Mary. We have no idea of the nature of her possession, but we can see why Mary was later so devoted to Jesus.  We also find her in the group of women who attended to Jesus while he was being crucified and who witnessed his being put in the tomb.  She was also one of the women who were the first to see the risen savior. In the Mark passage we learn that Mary Magdalene had taken care of Jesus’ physical needs–likely providing for food and perhaps a place to stay.  In John she is the one who declared the resurrection of Jesus to the apostles.

I hope this helps.

John Oakes

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