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Thread: Aspects of Mary Magdalene.

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    Aspects of Mary Magdalene.

    Aspects of Mary Magdalene.

    I had been meaning for some time to look further into the story of Mary Magdalene and have eventually got round to it.

    At first glance, the story can be briefly summarised as a Jewish woman who traveled with Jesus as a follower and was witness to the crucifixion, burial and resurrection. She gets mentioned twelve times in the canonical gospels, but the shame is that we will never get to hear her account.

    When we look at gender roles in the Gospels, we have of course; Mary, (the mother of Jesus) and Elizabeth who dominate the infancy and adolescent narratives in the earthly life of Jesus. But Mary Magdalene comes to prominence, among the other Galilean women in the latter part of the story. They seem almost to stand in a similar relation to one another as the Twelve Apostles and the Lord's brethren. Yet even among this group of women Mary Magdalene seems to stand first, as did likewise Peter among men. Last at the cross, first at the tomb, and it is to her that Jesus appears first after his resurrection.

    We are introduced to her by Luke and Mark as having had seven demons driven out of her, presumably by Jesus. One cannot underestimate the magnitude of her prior demonisation, as in Semitic interpretation the number seven is linked with the character of totality. Even today, when exorcism is undertaken by a priest in the Catholic faith, there is an understanding that several weekly exorcisms over many years are sometimes required to expel deeply entrenched demons. A reference to seven demons also coincides with the Stoic view of the soul as having seven parts difficult to control: the capacity to feel, hear, touch, taste, see, desire and speak. The eighth part of the soul is believed to be the "commander" which has the task of keeping these different capacities in check and giving direction. To achieve a life of harmony with the Divine, it is felt that one should free oneself from the claims of the seven more sensual parts. If this is the context of Mary Magdalene's demons, Jesus apparently taught her to control them.

    The next thing we should surmise about her was that she was not married, ( perhaps divorced as a result of her affliction) as she was never referred to as "Mary, the wife of ------." She was in fact named after her town, where it was believed that she was a woman of some financial substance. Thus with a number of other women, she followed, "ministered" and helped provide for Jesus's ministry. These other women came from a wide variety of backgrounds, especially Joanna, the wife of Herod's steward and Susanna.

    It was in fact unconventional, even scandalous in being public travelling companions to a male itinerant preacher. Apart from the home, a woman was not to be seen in the presence of a man unless accompanied by a male family member. Yet it becomes increasingly apparent that it was an intended part of His ministry that women benefit from His teaching, healing and to be witnesses until His death.

    It is important not to confuse in the case of Mary Magdalene, a state of demonic possession (an illness) with a state of moral corruption. There has been over the years a greater focus on the perceived stigma of Mary Magdalene's past ( reformed prostitute?) than on her cleansed state after healing. Only in 1969 did the Catholic Church officially repeal Pope Gregory's ( 540-604) labelling of Mary as the penitent whore.

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    Four of the canonical gospels agree that Mary Magdalene either alone or as a member of a group was the first person to discover that the tomb of Jesus was empty, though the details of the accounts differ considerably.

    One can understand why she, ( with the other women) were present at the crucifixion as the male disciples were likely in hiding from the Roman authorities. But it begs the question as to why Mary, as a woman (and not a male disciple like Simon Peter) should be the first to witness the resurrection and appearance of the risen Jesus?

    Was it just Christ entrusting divine truths to women as well as men?

    In the later Gnostic Christian writings, especially the Gospel of Thomas ( that I've looked at in another thread) Mary Magdalene is portrayed as the closest disciple of Jesus and the only one who truly understood His teaching. There is a school of thought that this closeness resulted in tension with the male disciples, especially Simon Peter. Is this why she is never mentioned in any of the later Pauline epistles which became one of the main foundation stones in the ascendency of the established Church?

    This tension is captured well I think by a Irish poet Eaton Stannard Barrett in 1810:

    " Not she with trait'rous kiss her
    Saviour stung,
    Not she denied Him with
    unholy tongue;
    She, while apostles shrank,
    could danger brave,
    Last at His cross, and earliest
    at His grave..
    Last edited by MANICHAEAN; 01-20-2019 at 12:46 PM.

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    Interesting. It occurred to me yesterday that we have probably only a portion of Jesus' sermons in the gospels as he spent a lot of time preaching to large groups but what he said at those times is seldom recorded. There are gaps that we can only make hopeful guesses at. Our lack of knowledge of those around him is similar. We know a little.

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    MANICHAEAN MANICHAEAN's Avatar
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    You might like to consider some of the early Christian writings. Many of them were suppressed because they were believed to be heretical and rejected documents. But I prefer to keep an open mind, and anyway, even for their own sake they are interesting as being a record of early Christian thinking I.e Pre-established and pre-Constantinian Christianity.

    I've been working my way through The Gospel of Thomas, (on another thread) where many of the sayings start with "Jesus says". These can then be compared with the sayings of Jesus in the canonical gospels of Mark, Matthew, Luke and John.

    Unfortunately most of the research to date seems to centre around where the Gospel of Thomas fits into other Gospel material, as opposed to what this Gospel says.

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