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Who Was Mary Magdalene?

Perhaps the most mysterious of all women in the New Testament, Mary Magdalene remains a challenge and a quandary for many to this day. Her name, since she was Jewish, was probably Miriam. It is also very probable that she came from the village of Magdala, since she was known as Magdalene-a common way to refer to someone from a specific place in those days. These are things we can be relatively sure of, as well as knowing she was involved in the life of Jesus in a noticeable way.

The Mystery Lady Was First To Arrive

Apart from a few points where we might be confident of which Mary or Miriam is being spoken about in the New Testament, much of the information we have is uncertain, due in some part to the filters through which the New Testament was handled. The New Testament indicates she was the first person to visit the tomb of Jesus and see that it was empty. It was this Mary who ran back to tell the others, who were hiding for fear of being killed as "co-conspirators" of Jesus, that the tomb was empty. Whenever the story of the empty tomb is told, her name is related in connection with the event.

Who Gave Her Such A Bad Name?

Probably the most maligned person in the gospels, Mary Magdalene has been viewed for centuries as a prostitute and a woman who did her bad deeds publically. The portrayal continues that she was the one who had seven devils cast out of her, repented, washed Jesus' feet with her hair and went on following him wherever he went. This picture of Mary of Magdala, the harlot, sinner and shamed woman, seems to have had its origins in the cultural conflict that surrounded the establishment of the Christian faith as the religion of Constantine's empire. In that same time period, when house churches-often lead by women-where replaced by large churches where only men were allowed leadership, Mary lost her place as a woman of honor and became the harlot, as she has been depicted in church literature.

It Turns Out She Was A Lady Of Stature And Good Repute

There is nothing to substantiate the view that Mary of Magdala was the type of woman depicted by the church fathers in the fourth century. Contrary to this, it appears from the New Testament that she, along with two other well-to-do women, was a financier of Jesus' ministry and worked with him, helping financially and doing what she could. Magdalene was present at the crucifixion of Jesus and was, for all intents and purposes, a strong, devout and faithful disciple who was also a prominent leader in the fledgling church.

Her True Legacy Lives On

Today there is a resurgence of the importance of Mary Magdalene and, along with it, a strong desire of many women to know the truth about her. Her story is appealing and encouraging as a point of contact for women within religious society to be strong and take their place as leaders. The publication of "The Da Vinci Code" lit the fires of controversy in many areas, including that of Mary Magdalene. Part of the controversy has morphed into a determination on the part of many women to model Mary of Magdala as the strong leader she no doubt was.


Jesus of Nazareth Mary Magdalene: Mariamne Early Christianity
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