Religion: Who Was Mary Magdalene? – Newsweek Society – MSNBC.com

Religion: Who Was Mary Magdalene? – Newsweek Society – MSNBC.com
An Inconvenient Woman
She witnessed the resurrection, then vanished, leaving popes and painters and now 'The Da Vinci Code' to tell her story. In search of the real Mary Magdalene.

A friend posted this to one of my groups this morning, and I wanted to share some comments.  Mary has always been one of the most interesting characters to me, and this article is one of the first ones I've seen that actually treats her as the fully mature character she deserves.

There are enough clues in the canon even to reach the conclusion that Mary of Magdala was an important figure in Jesus' life, improperly maligned by history.  That she is the first witness to the risen Christ is certainly clear in the canon, as is the fact that she stayed for the crucifixion while all the disciples fled.  Its odd, then, that the only person not related to Jesus with the courage of witness, should get practically no mention after his resurrection is complete.

That's a point the Bible makes clear, though it tends not try not to focus on it.  All the male disciples fled, refusing to name themselves brothers of Jesus .. the women stayed at his side till the end and beyond.  And yet, after the resurrection, when the Mission truly began, its all the male disciples we see back at the front.

Is the modern Christian church … be it Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, or Protestant … so much a church of Jesus as it is a church of Peter?  It was Peter who organized the new church, even though he wasn't around during the crucial period, as Mary was.  Even more, we see Peter openly distrusting Mary, even though there's good evidence she was doing very solid missionary work.  Its interesting that a modern Catholic Cardinal (can't recall his name) on the CNN documentary The Two Mary's called the notion that Mary might have been the first Pope "Truly bizarre."  He even admitted that she was the first witness … though he neglected to mention why, lol … but his attitude shows a closed mindedness towards early church figures that I find distressing.

The reality is, the modern church can be called Peterian as much as Christian.  There's no doubt Jesus was the guy at the centre, but it was Peter who set forth the tone of the early church.  To paraphrase MLK Jr from my recent Gandhi post, Jesus was the message of the early church certainly, but Peter was the man with the method.

The fact is, though, Mary was more important than history has made her out to be, and as this Newsweek article points out, there is a lot of non-canonical texts that point to her being an equal disciple of all the others.  Its clear that by describing her as Mary of Magdala, and never in reference to a man, she was an independent person in the eyes Jesus and those around him.

I think one of the early battles in the church was between Mary and Peter, over the form that future worship would take.  Peter campaigned for, and essentially got, the church we see today, while Mary argued for a more introspective and individual faith. One of the key differences, I think, would have been than Peter's vision involved more organization … Peter's vision was always about control of the Christian flock, more than anything else, while Mary was about promoting control of ourselves.

In today's terms, We'd recognize Peter, I think. in the men in the Vatican for one.  Mary would be a far more 'Pagan' worshipper … she might even be attracted to Buddhism.  She'd be more interested in getting people to look inside themselves to find the meaning of Jesus' words, rather than to a book, or a Priest.

I think its worth asking ourselves what we might look like today if Mary HAD been the first Pope, instead of Peter.  I know some people will find that preposterous, and that's fine … in a way, Newsweek is right and Da Vinci actually helps them by keeping Mary nothing more than a sexual body, transformed from prostitute to mother (hooker to MILF?), but still ignoring the person who Mary was.  She was a single woman from Magdala, a harsh fishing village.  She had means to minister unto Jesus' of her substance, and she was there through the end and beyond.  That we know so little of her full role in the Ministry is our severe loss, IMO. 

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3 Responses

  1. Very interesting! Wish I saw the show!

    One thing that would completely support this thesis is the biblical teaching that Jesus renamed his disciples. He chose the name Peter (petris to mean Rock).
    In one of his sermons, I remember Jesus reportadly said that nothing can grow on rock.

    I always felt that was a little inside joke. You know for those who have ears or those who have eyes kind of thing. Because really why would Jesus support such an edifice as his “church” to be founded on rock rather than loamy mother earth? I don’t know where Mary got the epithet of Magdala but the word means Tower. A more suitable name for the founder of a church, I would think.

    The early battle within the Christian church that you mention possibly being between Mary and Peter for followship? I have for some time wondered about the stories of battles between Peter and Simon the Magician. Seeing as Mary was unceramoniously cut from the cannon as you mention, and HIStory has a habit of leaving HERstory on the cutting floor, I wonder if Simon was actually Mary?

    PS the earliest Trot decks out of Southern France had a female pope rather than the modern deck’s heirophant. It has been widely suggested that the south of France was a foothold for Mary’s followers, and that Tarot was a subversive way of teaching her story. Hmmmm?

    Anyway, great post, enjoyed it!

    Hazel.

  2. Thanx for the comment. I tend to agree about Peter and “the Rock” and I think Thomas was named in a similar way. “The Doubter” was used to show someone willing to question everything, and its no surprise that Thomas’ Gospel is one of the most Gnostic documents in all of early Christianity.

    As for Mary’s name, Magdala, that comes from her home village. Its highly unusual for ancient literaure to describe a woman in this way … nearly everywhere else we see women in ancient writing and records, she is name in reference to a man. Mary Mother of Jesus can also be Mary Wife of Joseph … but that Mary is ALWAYS described and named as she related to the men in her life. But the Magdala is different … she is never described in relation to any man … she is simply Mary of Magdala. Though we know little about her life, we do know that Magdala was a small fishing village in Gallilee. That she is described only as Mary from Magdala, to me, indicates that she was a single woman of means from Magdala, likely part of a powerful fishing family, who took her part of the family fortune to follow Jesus. I’d guess she didn’t make her parents proud by doing so, lol. We don’t really know who she was, but the simple fact that she is named differently than practically any other woman in ancient literature is telling to me.

    Thanx again for the comments 🙂

  3. Nice site, thought this is a fascinating interview about the Magdalen…
    http://www.futureprimitive.org/NIHI.html
    Warm Regards
    JL

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