Mary Magdalene’s Legacy

mary magdalene

Mary Magdalene is another Bible character whose name seems to create all kinds of fanciful assertions and controversies. One need only peruse well known books of the past decade such as Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code to hear that Mary Magdalene married Jesus and bore his children, and the Catholic church tried to cover this up.

Or, look at claims by the Western church that Mary Magdalene made a living as a prostitute. Poor woman. As if being possessed by seven demons wasn’t enough, she gets remembered in tradition and depicted in artwork as a remorseful woman of sin.

Yet, neither the claim of her being a prostitute nor of her marriage to Jesus have any shred of substantial proof.

The Marriage Claim—There is no mention in the New Testament or in any early Christian writings of Jesus being married. Writings which allude to this came several hundred years later and were proved to be fake accounts.

Additionally, if Jesus were married, then you would expect a mention of his wife during his ministry. After all, his mother is mentioned as well as his brothers and sisters and other women who followed him. During Jesus’ painful crucifixion, he instructed the apostle John to take care of his mother. If he were married, you might expect him to say something about his wife on the cross, but nothing like that is recorded. Finally, nothing is mentioned of a wife after his resurrection either. The text mentions several people to whom he appeared, but says nothing of him appearing to a wife.

You might allege that the NT writers tried to remove mention of a wife from the text as an elaborate conspiracy, but honestly the early Christians had far more things to deal with than worrying about how to carry out a plot to remove the mention of Jesus’ wife. When you are worried about being torn apart by lions in the Colosseum, you aren’t generally thinking, “I wonder if I remembered to double check John’s draft to make sure no one figures out he and Mary Magdalene were married when they read the last chapter.”

Finally, some state that he must have been married because his followers referred to him as “rabbi,” and rabbi’s were expected to be married. However, while Jesus performed the teaching role of a rabbi on many occasions, he was not officially a rabbi. This is demonstrated by the fact that Jewish leaders wondered “by what authority” he taught (cf. Mark 11:28).

The Prostitution Claim—This claim appears to come from splicing three separate passages together from the gospel accounts: (1) Luke 7:36–50, which talks about an unnamed sinful woman who anointed Jesus feet and is typically assumed to have been a prostitute; (2) Luke 8, which introduces Mary Magdalene and references Jesus casting out her demons; and (3) John 12, which mentions Jesus’ anointing by Mary of Bethany. So in summary, we have 3 different passages—one discussing an anonymous woman, one discussing Mary Magdalene, and one discussing Mary of Bethany.

The anonymous woman in Luke 7 couldn’t have been Mary Magdalene because she hadn’t been introduce in the text yet, and when she is mentioned in Luke 8, the text implies that this was the first mention. Second, Mary Magdalene and Mary of Bethany were two separate persons.

What we do know is that Mary Magdalene was respected by Jesus and the early Church. She was the first to see him raised from the dead and was hence called “the Apostle to the Apostle.”

Despite what fanciful rumors may say, she continues to be best known for her witness to the resurrected Christ. What a rich legacy!