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Mary Magdalene as Apostle

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  • Mary Magdalene as Apostle

    The 10-part London Weekend Television series, which begins today and is presented by Melvyn Bragg, will surprise many Christians by including Mary Magdalene alongside the 12 Apostles, and suggesting that she should be regarded as the "Apostle of Apostles". Its attempt to "revamp" her image, from the remorseful sinner and counterpart to Jesus's perfect mother to a role model for modern women, will, however, be derided by many in the Church.

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  • #2
    April 15, 2001
    by Jonathan Petre
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    This article was published this past Sunday in the online version of the Telegraph. It is about a television series in England that features Mary Magdalene as an Apostle. Here is an excerpt from the article that I wish to discuss:

    Traditionalists said that the series, The Apostles, was influenced by dubious feminist theology rather than rigorous scholarship. Canon Edward Norman, the Chancellor of York Minster and a Church historian, said: "The only things we know about Mary Magdalene come from the Gospels. There is no other source." He said: "What we have there is an account of a repentant
    ex-prostitute who became a faithful follower of Jesus. These other speculations are absurd references to contemporary moral feeling."

    This is exactly the kind of hostile rejection that the prominent role of women in the early church has faced for hundreds of years.

    Canon Edward Norman, a noted Church historian in England, has defined this as a struggle between "dubious feminist theology" and "rigorous

    Notice that Norman says that the only things we know about Mary Magdalene come from the Gospels. Yet, he goes on to say that what we have there is an
    account of a "repentant ex-prostitute" who became a faithful follower of Jesus. If anyone's theology is dubious here it is Norman's. It is a fact that the Bible does not say that Mary Magdalene was ever a prostitute. I pointed this out in my essay. Yet, Norman can blatantly say that the Gospels portray her as a repentant ex-prostitute. Even as he is saying that "there is no other source" of knowledge about Mary Magdalene other than the Bible, he strongly asserts that she was an ex-prostitute even though that notion comes to us from extrabiblical noncanonical sources.

    Rigorous scholarship reveals that there is no reference to Mary Magdalene as a prostitute at all in the Bible. If anything, "dubious traditionalist theology" has thought it important enough to label Mary Magdalene as a
    prostitute even though the Gospels do not say that. It is the traditionalist view that engages in much speculation about Mary Magdalene. It is kind of
    amazing when you think of all the stories, homilies, and sermons that go on and on about Magdalene the "penitent whore." Most people think that this
    comes from the Bible simply because it has been repeated so often.

    Traditionalist church historians have no problem believing sources outside of the Scriptures IF those sources do not challenge their own notions. For
    example, most of them teach that Paul was beheaded by the Romans between 66-69 AD. They teach that Peter was crucified upside down. They teach that
    John lived to be 90 or 100 years old in exile. ALL of this information comes to us from noncanonical writings. And they are all probably true. However, noncanonical writings that challenge their own ideas are quickly and
    summarily discredited and not even seriously discussed.

    My point is that traditionalist scholars like Norman seem to believe that they are unbiased and objective while the scholars that they don't agree with are biased, slanted, and pushing an agenda with ulterior motives. In fact, we can see from Norman's statements that he seems to be pushing an agenda himself. He seems intent on perpetuating this image of Mary Magdalene
    as an ex-prostitute even though he knows that the Scripture says no such thing. And yet he says that this account comes from the Gospels!! He KNOWS
    that the Bible says no such thing. Well, I'm assuming that he knows. If he doesn't, then he can't be much of a church historian.

    It is "dubious traditionalist theology" that maintains that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute even though the Bible does not say that. It is the same "dubious traditionalist theology" that maintains that the Beloved Disciple is St. John even though the Bible does not say that either.

    The traditionalist view(s) are NOT free of all bias. Therefore, it is fair to scrutinize widely held beliefs even if they have been believed for a long


    • #3
      Dear Ramon,

      I loved your post! For me, the Greek "gematria" of "the Magdalene"clearly identifies her as the partner of Jesus--he the ICHTHUS, she the "Vessel of the Fish" (further explained in my book, "The Goddess in the Gospels" for anyone who wishes to pursue it).

      This "evidence" is rooted in the Gospels. The only other things we know of MMagdalene from the Gospels are that she was "healed of possession by seven demons," and that she was in attendance at the Crucifixion and at the tomb. Also, by the way, her name is mentioned first on seven of eight Gospel lists of women who were followers of Jesus. Only once is Mary the "mother of Jesus" mentioned first. That would seem to indicated that MMagdalene was considered "first lady" by those who wrote the Gospels.

      More and more I am becoming convinced that Christ and Magdalene modelled the "sacred marriage" to their community. In Paul's 1 letter to Corinthians, he states that "the brothers of Jesus and the other apostles travel with their 'sister-wives.'" The term "sister-wife" has always fascinated me--I think it comes straight from the "Song of Songs" where the Bridegroom refers to his Beloved: "How fair is thy love, my sister, my spouse." I think one of the most fundamental of all the teachings of Jesus was probably this (unique for his time!!) honoring of the feminine/Beloved and that this was modelled later by the early community of couples in ministry. There is no doubt in my mind that the Beloved of Jesus was Magdalene. (Which is why I love Easter above all feasts--for me, it represents the reunion of the Sacrificed Bridegroom and his Bride in the Garden...for "Love is stronger than Death.")

      with best wishes,
      Margaret Starbird
      (Author of: The Woman with the Alabaster Jar, The Tarot Trumps and the Holy Grail, Great Secrets of the Middle Ages)


      • #4
        At a young age we develop a view of the world based on what we are told and "learn". It is hard for a lot of us to break that reality and see things as they are.

        For example, in Leonardo di Vinci's "Last Supper", if you look closely (and forget what you were told) you'll see that the person next to Jesus in the painting (the one wearing the same colors) is actually a woman. But we have been told over and over that these are the 12 disciples (none of which were women). Well, until last year all i saw were 13 men. Now i see a woman (the Magdalene) next to Jesus.
        Last Supper

        Click here


        • #5
          Sandy, Did you notice in the picture of the Last Super that Iesous doesn't have a beard and also looks like a woman. It looks like at one time a beard had been added then at some point removed leaving a residue on the left side. Check it out.


          • #6
            Hi Marietta
            Yes, Iesous looks very feminine as do most of the others. Hard to believe that these were sword carrying radicals. They look like a bunch of wisses.

            And what are those brown things on the table. They look like dog do-do or rocks.


            • #7
              Sandy, Have you noticed that the person on the right hand end of the table is the one in the priestly garment. Also notice that something is pouring forth from his/her bowels. Also notice that the head of this being is unrecognizable. Another thing is that the one in the middle seems to have a looking glass or a bowl of a clear liquid on the table in front of her/him. Are they practicing alchamy? Are the rocks on the table metals that they are changing into Gold?
              I believe that the clothes were all added later by the puritans.



              • #8
                Hi Marietta
                Those are some interesting comments and questions.

                The only thing I can say for sure is that it certainly does NOT look like a Passover meal.
                The Last Supper is an interesting painting that is full of hermetic symbols. Leonardo was not a Christian. Like Botticelli, he was a hermeticist. His beliefs are made apparent in his painting of Christ's Last Supper.

                It is agreed by most art historians that the second man form the right is Leonardo himself in the guise of Thaddeus. Note this charater's beard and hair, and compare the nose to the two self-portraits below - the Gioconda and the one of Leonardo as an old man. Note also that Thaddeu-Leonardo is leaning away from, thus ignoring, the central Christ figure.

                Although invisible in this reproduction, at the opposite end of the table, on the viewer's left, there is an anomalous feature: a disembodied hand holding a dagger. Could this be a hermetic symbol?

                Another rarely noted feature of Leonardo’s Last Supper is the lack of food on the table.

                Look at the figure immediately on Jesus’ right (on the left for us). This is supposed to be John the Beloved who according to Biblical tradition, leant on Jesus’ bosom. In Leonardo’s painting, the figure leans away from Jesus. It also bears distinctly feminine features and is dressed identically to Jesus himself except that the colours of the cloak and tunic are switched. The fact that the figure is connected to Jesus by a large M shape suggests that Leonardo was insinuating that this was none other than Mary Magdalene, in Leonardo’s view, Jesus' female counterpart and companion. A hand cuts across Mary’s / John’s throat. This gesture is an ancient hermetic tradition indicating a dire warning.

                Note also another gesture that occurs in several of Leonardo's paintings: the raised forefinger on the figure standing in the background to Jesus’ left. This gesture is always associated, in Leonardo's work, to John the Baptist. It is Leonardo's way of saying: "remember John the Baptist".
                Click here


                • #9
                  For me, the most interesting point about the various anointings is that John corrects the version in Luke--the woman who anointed Jesus and "dried his feet with her hair" was not "a sinner from the town," according to John 12, but "Mary the sister of Lazarus."

                  Since Mark and Matt do not mention the drying of the feet with her hair, but both have the story take place at the dinner at Bethany just a few days before the crucifixion, it seems that "John" is deliberately trying to set the record straight: the anointing by a woman occurred, but the woman who performed the act was one of the little family "whom Jesus loved" (John 11)! .

                  Since the narrative of the Gospels bears such a close resemblance to the "sacred marriage" rite of the 'Sacrificed Bridegroom' whose sister/spouse finds him resurrected in the garden, it seems (IMO) to provide a link between the woman
                  who anoints (a prerogative of the Bride) and the one who finds the Bridegroom alive at the tomb. I suspect that anyone hearing the Gospel preached in the first century recognized the "hieros gamos" connection of this "other" Mary and Christ.

                  I think the epithet "Magdalene" was later attached to her name---(for reasons more fully explained in my book "The Goddess in the Gospels.").

                  The basis for this epithet was found in Micah 4:8-12--the lament of the "Magdal-eder, the stronghold/watchtower of the flock"--a metaphor for Jerusalem.

                  with best wishes.
                  Margaret Starbird