Spiritual Perspectives


MARY MAGDALENE: MEDIA DARLING

Gary W. Summers

     What Biblical person has appeared recently on the covers both of Time and Newsweek?  Who has been the subject of six books in recent years?  Who has been the object of “several national television specials” and “sparked numerous Web sites,” according to the Orlando Sentinel (February 18th, E1)?  The answer is (as the title of this article indicates) Mary Magdalene. 

 

     Of course, the question is, “Why?”  The name Mary occurs only 54 times in the entire Bible; all but three of these are in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  These include (in addition to Mary Magdalene), Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus, and Mary the mother of James and Jude, Mary the mother of Cleopas, Mary the mother of John Mark, and a Mary whom Paul addresses in Rome.  These last three are mentioned one time each.  Mary, the mother of James and Jude, is mentioned 6 times—each time in connection with Mary Magdalene.  Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, is named 11 times, Mary Magdalene 14 times, and the mother of Jesus 19 times.

 

     So why is someone who is mentioned only fourteen times in the New Testament so popular, all of a sudden?  What do we know about her from the New Testament?  She is mentioned only once before the events of the crucifixion:

 

Now it came to pass, afterward, that he went through every city and village, preaching and bringing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God.  And the twelve were with Him. And certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities—Mary called Magdalene, out of who he had cast seven demons, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Suzanna, and many others who provided for Him from their substance (Luke 8:1-3).

 

     Nothing further is mentioned of her until the last evening of Jesus’ earthly life.  At that time we find her mentioned included by all four Gospel writers.  Mary Magdalene was among those present at the crucifixion, looking on from afar (Mat. 27:56; Mark15:40; John 19:25), among those who went to the tomb where Jesus was buried (Mat. 27:61; Mark 15:47), and among those who were present at the tomb on the first day of the week (Mat. 28:1; Mark 16:1, 9; Luke 24:10; John 20:1, 11, 16, 18).

 

     She is not specifically mentioned after this time peri-od, although we would not be surprised to learn that she was among the 120, who met shortly thereafter, or among the members of the church in Jerusalem.  This omission is not a significant fact, since few of the apos-tles are prominent in the book of Acts, either.  Attention is focused primarily on Peter and Paul. 

 

     The newfound emphasis on Mary Magdalene is in-teresting in light of the fact that she is specifically men-tioned on only three days, covering four events.  We know that Jesus cast out seven demons from her and that she (as well as others) followed Jesus.  She was present at the crucifixion, as well as the burial.  Her appearance at the tomb on the first day of the week is her last—and most significant—appearance. 

 

     Jesus appeared first to Mary Magdalene after He arose from the dead (Mark 16: 9); several, including her, had seen the empty tomb, but she was the first one who actually saw the risen Christ.  She went and told the others, but they did not believe her (Mark 16:10-11).  John records this event more fully.  Mary Magdalene returned to the tomb with Peter and John; after they left, she remained behind, weeping (John 20: 11).  She saw the two angels in the tomb; they asked her a question, and she answered it.  She then turned around and saw Jesus standing there but did not know  who He was (v. 14).  The Lord asked her the same question as the angels; she supposed Him to be the gardener and possibly one who had moved His body.  When He said her name, she realized His identity.    

   

 He told her not to cling to Him and gave her a message to give to His brethren, which she did (vv. 17-18).  This is her last appearance in the New Testament, although it would be absurd to think anything else than that she remained a devoted disciple.

 

     What we have presented is the totality of the information the Bible gives us about this woman.  The newspaper article does point out that Mary was mistakenly thought to have been a prostitute, thanks to “an erroneous sermon by Pope Gregory the Great. The pontiff, misreading the Gospel of Luke, confused Mary Magdalene with another woman described as ‘sinful.’ His finding was reversed by the Vatican in 1969” (E4).  From 591 to 1969 this mistake went un-corrected.  [The first person recognized as pope was Boniface III in A.D. 606.]

 

     Mary Magdalene’s rise to fame in recent years is based on what the Bible does NOT say.  One of the most outrageous books, rivaling The Last Temptation of Christ (which blasphemously mischaracterizes Jesus fantasizing sexually about Mary Magdalene while on the cross!), is The Da Vinci Code, a “fast-paced thriller” which claims that “Mary Magdalene’s role as Jesus’ wife has been systematically suppressed” (E1).  Hogwash!  We have no idea who Dan Brown is, but the six million copies of his book which are in print (not to mention a forthcoming Hollywood movie) will be a witness against him in that day of accountability (Acts 17:31; 2 Cor. 5:10).  Obviously, the man is as profane as he is ignorant.

 

     He is not the first to attempt to see a romance where none exists.  In the extremely inaccurate Jesus Christ Superstar Mary Magdalene sings a song titled, “I Don’t Know How To Love Him.”  Obviously, Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Weber, Martin Scorsese, and Dan Brown have no fear of God whatsoever, which does not speak favorably of them.

 

     The evidence for a romantic relationship between Jesus and any woman does not exist and is nothing more than foul fiction.  Jesus has a holy bride awaiting Him (the church), and He is not a fornicator, adulterer, or a bigamist.  He nourishes and cherishes the church (Eph. 5:28-29), and she be will given to Him (Rev. 21:9-21).  Perhaps it is no coincidence that this description of Christ’s one and only true bride follows the verse that says “all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone….”

 

     Another emphasis on Mary Magdalene involves destroying the very purpose for which Jesus came to this earth (which the previous theory accomplishes in a different manner).  There is a second-century (way too late) work called The Gospel of Mary of Magdala: Jesus and the First Woman Apostle.  In it Jesus is presented merely as a teacher “rather than as a savior who dies to atone for humanity’s sins” (E4).  How intelligent is that?  Christians had suffered and been put to death because Jesus was a teacher!  No, they were killed because they refused to deny His Deity. 

 

    

      No wonder this writing was largely forgotten, since it is absurd on the face of it.  One reads only a little ways into the book of Matthew to discover that the name Jesus means “Savior” (1:21).  He was not cruci-fied because He was a teacher—but rather for what He taught—particularly about Himself (Mark 2:1-12)!  His coming to save us from our sins is taught all through the New Testament.  If all the passages were removed that teach this doctrine explicitly or implicitly, there would be little remaining.

 

     “Mary Magdalene’s account is also the ‘strongest argument for women’s leadership…’”; “‘It lets us hear an alternative voice,’ she says, in contrast with I Corinthians and I Timothy, which urge silence and submissiveness of women” (E4).  In other words, this spurious work contradicts the Scriptures.  We are reminded of those who, when confronted with texts about baptism for the forgiveness of sins, run to other passages to find something they think will contradict the ones we show them.  Wait a minute!  If the Bible contradicts itself, saying that baptism is both essential and non-essential, then the atheist’s case has been demonstrated.  True believers seek to harmonize the Scriptures—not look for contradictions.  The fact that someone would look for a way to “get around” 1 Timothy 2:8-15 reveals a flawed heart.  A true disciple of Christ gladly receives the Word (Acts 2:41).

 

     But those who are taking this approach do not have any respect for the Scriptures to begin with.  They posit that Mary Magdalene “may have been” a rival to Peter and “may have been excluded by the male church leaders who compiled the New Testament…” (E4).  Right!!  One’s first thought should be, “If God created the world out of nothing, worked all manner of miracles, and inspired the Scriptures to be written (2 Tim. 3:16-17), why could He not preserve what had been recorded?”  The fact is that those who collected and compiled the New Testament books had more reverence for God and what was written in their little fingers than these loop-hole lookers have in their entire bodies. 

 

     They give themselves away in statements that lack any manner of subtlety:

 

“I think that people are realizing now that the Bible did not arrive by e-mail from God, and that it’s very much the work of man—and man with his own agenda,” says, Picknett, author of Mary Magdalene: Christianity’s Hidden Goddess (E4).

 

     If the Bible is the work of man, we may as well pitch it, because it first of all lies to us in claiming to be Divine.  If part of it is from God and part from man, it is still worthless—because we cannot ascertain which is which.  If it is what it claims, then we had better pay attention to it and quit trying to find ways of minimizing or destroying it.  Mary Magdalene was an outstanding disciple of Christ—not a lover—not an apostle.  God did not allow foolish men to demote or silence her.  Her significance is just what the Bible presents—nothing more or less.  We ought to be content with the Truth. 

 

 

 

*Send comments or questions concerning this article to Gary Summers. Please refer to this article as: "Whatever the article name from above is (12/14/04)."

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