Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Blessings on this feast day for Mary Magdalene!

I feel particularly close to Mary Magdalene this feast day since I just finished writing an article on her for the forthcoming Talpiot Tomb volume edited by James Charlesworth. The article is called "The Memorial Mary Meets the Historical Mary: The Many Faces of the Magdalene in Ancient Christianity". In the paper, I cover the foundational memories of Mary, counter memories of the encratite Mary, counter memories of the gnostic Mary, and the master narratives of the apostolic Mary.

I finally discuss what emerges from these memories as likely historical memories. What are they? Our oldest recoverable memories know her to be a single woman and an important woman disciple of Jesus' movement who was a public Christian leader after his death. The public nature of her mission and the authority that she commandeered as a woman disciple of Jesus became a real liability for her memory in a movement that was initially unconventional and that gradually conformed to the norms of its society, norms which often stereotyped public women as prostitutes and closed public offices to women.

Illustration: "Christ Appearing to Mary Magdalene" (anon., early 15th c.; AMICO Library Image)


Jared said...

Will this discussion appear in your upcoming book?

kaicevy said...

, early 15th c

Geoff Hudson said...

We have a multiplication of Marys in the NT. It helped to hide the truth about the real one. Multiplication of names was the most common literary device used for dissimulation. Today, someone recognises it, but believes it was to protect individuals. Eisenman certainly recognised it in relation to John 19:25. On page 770, James The Brother of Jesus, Eisenman states:

"True to some of these garbled parallels between the Gospels of Luke and John, there is a reference to this 'Clopas' (thus) in John - not in John's version of the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus, but his presentation of the witnesses of Jesus' crucifixion preceding these (John19:25). For John all these are called 'Mary':'his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene', so instead of one Mary, we now have three! Aside from this ephemeral 'Mary Magdalene' - out of whom Jesus cast 'seven demons' -PROBABLY ANOTHER OF THESE FICTIONAL OVERWRITES (caps mine) over something - one can imagine the contortions indulged in by theologians and apologists over the millenia to reconcile Mary having as her sister another Mary -and this, even more germane, the wife of that Clopas clearly meant to be the same individual as that 'Cleopas' or Cleophas' again!"

April DeConick said...


Yes. I will rewrite this chapter for a broader audience and include it in the Sex and the Serpent book.

Richard Fellows said...


do you discuss the significance of the name/apithet "Magdalene"? I have argued here http://members.shaw.ca/rfellows/My_Homepage_Files/Page11.html that she was named "Magdalene", meaning stronghold, because of the protection that she gave to the Jesus movement through her benefactions. I think the name needs to be understood in the light of early Christian naming conventions.

Geoff Hudson said...

Richard, I don't know where you get Mary Magdalene's benefactions from, but you are implying she came from a wealthy background, are you not? It is my view that there was only ever one Mary, and she was a high priest's daughter.

I have fairly good reaon to think that Mary of the stronghold, or Mary of the tower recalls a time when Mary was imprisoned, possibly in the Antonia - Joseph (Caiaphus) 'put her away', not because she was pregnant, but because of her religious affiliation with the prophets.