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Mary Magdalene or Mary of Magdala (original Greek Μαρία η Μαγδαληνή, Heb., Miriam)is described, both in the canonical New Testament and in the New Testament apocrypha, as the most important woman in the movement of Jesus. She also was the most prominent female disciple of Jesus. According to the gospels, she was one of the few witnesses to his crucifixion, and the Gospels say she was the first person to see him after his resurrection. Because she played such an important role in these events, she is one of the best-known figures in the New Testament.
Consistently in the four Gospels, Mary Magdalene is distinguished from other women named Mary by adding "Magdalene" (η Μαγδαληνή) to her name. Traditionally, this has been interpreted to mean that she was from Magdala, a town thought to have been on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. Luke 8:2 says that she was actually "called Magdalene." In Aramaic, "magdala" means "tower" or "elevated, great, magnificent".
Early Christian writings offer literary representations and preserve historical memories of strong female figures who had leading roles in proclaiming the word of salvation. They affirm that in some Christian circles, men and women were able to exercise leadership on the basis of their spiritual maturity and not on the basis of their gender. Furthermore, these writings contain traces of a conflict between Mary Magdalene and the leading male disciples, especially Peter. This conflict can be detected already in Luke’s resurrection account and the list of authoritative witnesses in 1 Corinthians 15:3–7. Major non-canonical writings that mention Mary Magdalene also offer a glimpse into the nature of the conflict concerning her, which seems focus on two themes: (a) her gender and (b) her remarkable understanding and appropriation of Jesus’ teaching. This controversy most likely reflects a developing tension between those who claimed authority based on the idea of succession and those who claimed authority based on spiritual gifts, especially prophetic experience. Greater awareness of Mary Magdalene’s exceptional role in the events surrounding Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection and her leadership in the early church should not only help us do justice to her memory.
Source of name
Her name indicates that she came from Magdala, a town on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus taught in that area during the early period of his ministry, and she may have become a disciple at that time.
Few people mentioned in the New Testament have been more misrepresented than Mary Magdalene. In a 6th century sermon, Pope Gregory the Great confused her with the unnamed sinful woman, presumably a prostitute, from Luke 7:36–50. She is also often associated with the woman caught in adultery described in John 7:53–8:11, even though the text never mentions her name. Because of misunderstandings like these, Mary Magdalene is usually remembered as a woman of questionable reputation rather than as the first witness of the resurrection. Some early Christian writers identified Mary Magdalene with various other women mentioned in the New Testament, particularly with Mary of Bethany (sister of Martha and Lazarus). She has even been identified with the woman that Jesus rescued from being stoned (John 8:1-11). However, none of these misidentifications are considered valid today.
Another likely mistaken belief about Mary is that she secretly married Jesus and had a child with him. This idea has been promoted by several modern books and movies, including the best-seller The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. This book also associates Mary with the legend of the Holy Grail, and with a secret society which is said to be protecting some modern descendants of Jesus. But most scholars regard all of this as fiction.
Mary Magdalene first at the Resurrection
All four Gospels tell us that women were the first people to discover the empty tomb. God chose women to be the first ones to proclaim the most essential truth of the Christian faith: that He is risen! Mary is best-known for her role in the accounts of the resurrection, especially the account of John 20:1-18. This passage says that she went to the tomb early on Easter morning and saw that the stone had been rolled away. She immediately ran and told this to Peter and the unnamed beloved disciple. She returned to the tomb with these two men, who looked inside and saw that it was empty. After they left, Mary stayed nearby and began weeping. Then she looked around and saw Jesus himself, but initially didn't recognize him. Finally he addressed her by name, and she immediately knew who he was. He told her not to touch him, but to go announce his resurrection to the other disciples.
The Bible doesn't say anything about Mary's later life. According to a legend, she eventually went to southern France with Lazarus, who became the first bishop of that region. Other legends say that she visited Italy, England and Ireland.
Several fragments of an ancient "Gospel of Mary" have been discovered in modern times. The longest fragment appears to be a Coptic translation of a Greek source, and the work was probably originally written in Greek. The main character is called "Mary", and because she is depicted as a prominent disciple of Jesus, most scholars assume that she is Mary Magdalene. However, this book probably wasn't written until the second century, and therefore is unlikely to contain any valid historical information about the real Mary Magdalene.
- ↑ 1,0 1,1 Μαρία η Μαγδαληνή in Matthew 27:56; Matt 27:61; Matt 28:1; Mark 15:40; Mark 15:47; Mark 16:1; Mark 16:9 replaces "η" with "τη" because of the case change). Luke 8:1 says "Μαρία ... η Μαγδαληνή" and Luke 24:10 says "η Μαγδαληνή Μαρία." John 19:25; John 20:1 and John 20:18 all say "Μαρία η Μαγδαληνή."
- ↑ She was named Miriam after the Jewish prophetess of the Old Testament (see Exodus 15:20-21).
- ↑ See Marvin Meyer, with Esther A. de Boer, The Gospels of Mary: The Secret Traditions of Mary Magdalene the Companion of Jesus (Harper San Francisco) 2004;Esther de Boer provides an overview of the source texts excerpted in an essay "Should we all turn and listen to her?': Mary Magdalene in the spotlight." pp.74-96.
- ↑ 4,0 4,1 Lidija Novakovic. "I Have Seen the Lord: Mary Magdalene in the New Testament and Early Christianity." (PhD, Princeton Theological Seminary, professor at Bethel University in St. Paul, Minn.) Mutuality. Spring 2006
- Was Jesus Married? A Careful Look at the Real Evidence, by Mark D. Roberts