Mary Magdalene

According to the New Testament, Mary Magdalene was a disciple of Jesus from whom he cast “seven demons”; she followed him throughout his ministry, witnessed the crucifixion, and, with two other female disciples, discovered the empty tomb. Mary was probably from Magdala, a village on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee.

The Da Vinci Code alleges that the New Testament excludes an important fact: ‘‘The marriage of Jesus and Mary Magdalene is part of the historical record’’ (245). There is no evidence in any first-century record that implies a sexual or marital relationship between Jesus and Mary Mag­dalene. Additionally, even if Jesus had married—again, a proposition for which there is no reliable evidence—it wouldn’t be destructive to Chris­tian faith (as Dan Brown implies), for the Scriptures neither affirm nor deny that Jesus was married.

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The Da Vinci Code notes that Mary Magdalene was not a prostitute: ‘‘That unfortunate misconception is the legacy of a smear campaign launched by the early church. The church needed to defame Mary Mag­dalene to cover up her dangerous secret [i.e., Mary’s role as the spouse of Jesus]’’ (244).

There is no biblical evidence that she was a prostitute. Jesus cast seven demons out of Mary (Luke 8:2), but there is no biblical data to suggest she was sexually immoral. At the same time, there is also no evidence to suggest that anyone instituted a ‘‘smear campaign’’ to discredit her. A tradition arose in the third and fourth centuries that she was the sinful woman mentioned in Luke 7:36–50 and, perhaps, the woman caught in adultery in John 7:53–8:11; in 591, Pope Gregory I included this teaching in a sermon. Although such identifications were probably mistaken, they are far from a slander crusade launched to hide a dangerous secret.

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