Mary Magdalene again, and a woman's right to know, rightly understood
Mary Magdalene’s role in the history of salvation
Is Saint Mary Magdalene worthy of high liturgical honour, the same honour the Church accords to the apostles? I have argued that the New Testament shows her playing only a minor role in the history of salvation.
Anne Lastman does not agree, so she has taken me to task for ignoring New Testament evidence (AD2000).
Let us begin by asking was she a saint in that she was exceptionally holy? Magdalene was not a martyr. What, then, makes her notable?
She cannot match Mother Teresa of Calcutta who spent a lifetime bringing comfort to the destitute under trying conditions and who established an Order of over 4000 women to continue her work.
What did Mary Magdalene do? Following the Lord's resurrection, in the garden near the tomb he told her to take a message to his disciples that he was going ahead of them into Galilee.
They had already heard that he was again alive. Magdalene was not the first to inform the disciples that the Lord had risen from the dead.
In the same chapter of the Gospel of John we learn that Peter and another disciple discovered Jesus was alive (John 20:3-10) prior to his exchange with her in the garden. So she was a messenger, nothing more, regarding the location of a future meeting place.
Anne Lastman makes much of the exchange related in the Gospel of John between Jesus and Magdalene in the garden after the resurrection. This account she says “speaks of an intimacy between them”.
Jesus calls her “Mary”. She addresses him as “Rabboni” (Teacher). He called her name because she mistakenly thought he was the gardener. Calling her name was a way of identifying himself. Addressing him as Rabboni shows she did so. Where is the intimacy? I thought only Dan Brown could find it.
Magdalene was a faithful disciple and is mentioned a number of times in the Gospels.
She deserves recognition in the liturgy with the rank of a memorial, as do other female disciples such as Mary wife of Clopas, (John 19:25), the unnamed group of women who followed him from Galilee (Luke 23:49), Joanna, and Mary mother of James (Luke 24:10), and Salome (Mark 16:1).
Rescuing Mary Magdalene’s history
The controversy between Frank Mobbs and Anne Lastman will have the benefit of drawing attention to a woman of great faith who was an integral part of the early Church, but whom we have lost sight of because she was not one of the 12 nominated Apostles.
In the four Gospels, she is mentioned directly 12 times – more often than most of the Apostles. What do we know of her?
Dan Brown, author of the Da Vinci Code, suggested that she was Jesus’ girlfriend, and later his wife (after his resurrection!!). But there is no biblical or historical evidence to support this wild claim.
She came from Magdala, a seaside town on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. We are told by Matthew and Luke that she had been cured of some illness by Jesus who had cast “seven devils” out of her. Whether this described demonic possession of some sort, or sins, or physical or psychological maladies is not revealed. But it is clear that Jesus cured her.
Later, she was reported as one of the group of women who supported Jesus and his disciples during their public ministry through Israel. This suggests that she was a person of independent financial means.
She was also present at the Crucifixion and was recorded by two evangelists as the first person to see Jesus after his resurrection.
Perhaps most significantly, she was referred by by name by all four evangelists writing between 10 and 60 years after Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension into heaven. If we accept the interpretation of Professor Richard Baulkham in Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, this indicates that she was one of those who gave public testimony to Jesus in the early church.
It is interesting that an apocryphal Gospel, known as the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, circulated in the 2nd or 3rd centuries. While this recently-discovered document, written in Greek, has no historical value (and does not contain any of Dan Brown’s allegations), its existence points to the fact that Mary Magdalene was revered among early Christian communities.
She is regarded as a saint by the Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran and Anglican churches.
Eric Lyons, an American Evangelical writer, after examining the evidence, wrote in Apologetics Press online, “Mary Magdalene apparently was a devout, faithful follower of Christ. Not a shred of solid biblical or extrabiblical evidence suggests she played the role of harlot, wife, mother, or secret lover.
“The New Testament, as the oldest, most reliable (and only inspired!) witness to her identity, testifies loudly and clearly about her genuine faithfulness to the Lord.”
Valuable unborn baby information
It is not often something attractive comes out on the subject of abortion, and can be accessed immediately on a computer.
The Texas Department of State Health Services did just that, by bringing out a booklet for women to read, and to help them make decisions regarding a very personal matter that can change their lives forever through unexpected pregnancy. It is available online from https://dshs.texas.gov/wrtk/
It is a 24 page beautifully produced booklet, with lots of information for a woman to read on options available to her.
Part of the contents is directed at people living in Texas, such as help phone numbers and other services that are available there.
But it would be good if a similar booklet could be produced for Australian women, to work in conjunction with abortion help phone lines in Australia. Positive information on adoptions would be highly appreciated.
If you do not have the web link, a search on Google by typing in “A Woman’s Right to Know”, will put you in the right area.
West Rockhampton, Qld.