By T.K. Wilson (Rated G)
Among all the women in the Bible, none remain so controversial as Mary Magdalene, a mysterious female disciple who was very close to Jesus, almost as close as the Twelve. Judging by her name, she was born in the Galilee town of Magdal, (or Magdala), and began traveling with Jesus after he cast seven demons out of her (Luke 8:2). She was one of the women who supplied Jesus with money (so she was pretty well off for a single woman) and took care of him on the road. Being so close to him, Mary stood with the women at the Cross and was the first one to tell the others about Jesus’ resurrection after seeing him alive again and hearing him call her name (John 20:16).
Because so very little is known for sure about her, Mary was conflated with at least three different people: The prostitute who came to see Jesus at Simon the Pharisee’s house (Luke 7), Mary of Bethany (sister of Martha and Lazarus), and the woman taken in adultery (John 8). Theologians have come to reject all of these options, as there is no proof in cases one and three, and it’s very clear that Mary, sister of Lazarus, was never on the road full time with Jesus. Furthermore, only the Western church ever believed these legends about her; the Eastern church never affirmed these legends officially or even unofficially.
Because of the tantalizing lack of information about her, some have taken advantage of poor Mary. Certain authors like Dan Brown have exaggerated her sin and popularized the prostitute legend, and certain cults even believe she was Jesus’ wife! All orthodox denominations reject this proposition as Gnostic heresy.
Today, Mary Magdalene’s reputation has been restored to the point that she is called the “Apostle to the Apostles” and honored with a feast just like all the Apostles. According to Orthodox tradition, she traveled with Mary the mother of Christ and St. John the Beloved to Ephesus and is buried there. Some in the West believe she lived in seclusion in a cave located in France, and thus she has become one of the patronesses of the consecrated life. Whatever her ultimate fate, she is one of the most popular patron saints and an inspirational figure to many.
May we all be as brave as Mary Magdalene in proclaiming our faith and honoring Christ with our possessions.